The current coronavirus pandemic continues to be a scary and unprecedented period for most of us. Like most organisers in the network, we’ve been following the situation closely and assessing how we can best respond to keep our communities safe and adapt our activity to help us all stay connected and repairing.
This post is a growing collection of best practice we’re compiling specifically for community repair groups. It’s a work-in-progress that we’ll update regularly based on the changing situation and the conversations that happen on this forum.
Last updated: 08 November 2022
Note: this post sits inside a wider forum category for more detailed conversations about many of these topics: #coronavirus. We’ll link to those conversations here where appropriate.
- How can we make in person events safe? - last updated: 08 Nov '22
- When should we resume in-person repair events? - last updated: 08 Nov '22
- Running repair events online - last updated: 08 Sep '21
- Providing repair advice online - added 14 Apr '20
- How can groups keep building the repair movement? - last updated: 07 Feb '22
- How can repair groups help the local community? - last updated: 01 Apr '21
How can we make in person events safe?Almost all repair groups have now resumed in person events. But COVID is still circulating and the long-term health impacts of the virus are still emerging. Despite vaccines, it remains a potentially serious risk to people's health, so we have a responsibility to make sure our events are as safe as possible.
Here is a crowd-sourced list from the community of potential measures you can take to protect everyone at your events:
- Reduce the size of events and run them more often (e.g. you could split them into type of repair: electrical only, bicycles and textiles only etc.)
- Work with a reservation system (use an online tool such as Calendly, Eventbrite, Tito or phone reservations) to give participants a time slot and ensure you can control the number of people who show up.
- Ask volunteers to RSVP in advance and only offer a limited number of spaces.
- Is it possible to run your event outside?
- Signage at the entrance outlining the measures in place and asking visitors not to enter if they have listed covid-19 symptoms (based on NHS guidance & wording in the UK).
- One-way system for entrance & exit
- Leave doors open as much as possible (to maximise ventilation and reduce usage of “high touch” surfaces such as door handles).
- Set up a spacious waiting area that allows participants to maintain social distancing. If there isn’t enough room to allow social distancing, remove the waiting area entirely.
- Make sure that there are 2 meters of distance between all repairers and visitors at all times. Place repair tables far apart and where possible, place boundaries on the ground.
- Ask volunteers to keep an eye on whether the distance is respected by everyone and speak to people if necessary
- Enforce a maximum number of people per table policy to keep numbers low and maintain social distancing
- If you cannot guarantee the safe distance, you can place partitions between repairers, and between repairers and participants.
- Don’t provide refreshments. Volunteers can provide their own.
- Ask participants and repairers to disinfect their hands. Provide disinfectant gel with at least 70% alcohol and make sure there are enough bottles of disinfectant, for example 1 at the entrance, 1 in the toilets and 1 per repair table.
- Ask participants and repairers to wear a face mask. Or provide plastic faceshields for repairers.
- Decontaminate all objects brought in first. If this is not possible (e.g. textiles), you can also leave the objects in place for 72 hours before they are repaired. And again 72h before they are picked up again.
- Avoid sharing objects and thoroughly clean/disinfect any shared tools. Repairers should ideally only use their own tools.
- Leave cash donations untouched for 4 days.
- Provide contactless donation option if possible.
- Is contact tracing required in your area? (e.g. NHS test & trace in the UK) - how can you manage this?
- Many of your volunteers and wider community may not want to return to in-person events yet. This is fine. How can you keep the rest of the community engaged?
- In your communications, be sensitive to the fact that not everyone will feel comfortable coming to in-person events
- Don’t pressure volunteers to attend in-person events
- Maintain an active online presence and where possible, maintain any additional online activity you’ve started since lockdown began.
Find the full conversation here:
When should we resume in-person repair events?
It’s undoubtedly hard not being able to see everyone in person and it’s probably safe to say that we’re all missing our repair events
Naturally, most of us are now wondering when and how we should resume in-person events. In almost all countries groups have now resumed events. But it’s a complicated question that’s likely to have different answers depending on where you’re based, how your volunteers feel and the kind of venue(s) you can access (i.e. how easy would it be to introduce anti-coronavirus measures).
Running online repair eventsRunning repair events online has the potential to help our communities stay connected and continue to learn and repair things in a collaborative way.
A number of groups now run repair events online, including:
- Repair Café Malmo (questions to @Jessika_Richter)
- Reading Repair Café (questions to @Stuart_Ward)
- the Fixit Clinic network (questions to @Peter_Mui)
- Marlow Repair Café (questions to @Frank)
Most of these groups use Zoom for this. However, there are a number of issues to overcome such as insurance, liability and finding the right digital platform to use. For more on this, see the full conversation here: Moving events online
Back in May 2020, we wrote a blog post looking at how groups around the world have adopted different types of online repair events:
Restart is running a few different types of online event to replace our offline activity and make the most of an online format. So far, this includes:
- a hackathon (questions to @james)
- a spare parts skillshare
- an educational workshop for kids on Earth Day
- An online social event for the London Community
- A webinar about running online repair events (summary here)
We’ve also been following Repair Café Bengaluru’s work to run a summer repair school for kids in Bangalore (questions to @Purna).
Finally, the second Fixfest UK - a gathering for anyone involved with community repair in the UK - touched on these topics. Find our notes and recordings here.
Providing online repair advice
At Restart, we’ve stepped up our repair advice here on the forum and are offering repair advice to people through social media. Anyone can get our attention on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SOSRestart and we’ll post the request in the Repair Help category.
How can groups keep building the repair movement?Even though repair events have had to be cancelled or moved online, there are things we can do to keep momentum going:
Are you sitting on piles of paper slips from previous repair events? Now is the perfect opportunity to digitise them by adding them to the Fixometer. Learn how to do this here. The same applies if you’ve got repair data sitting in spreadsheets
Why digitise your data?
Adding your repair data to the Fixometer will automatically calculate your positive environmental impact, which can be a great way to motivate your volunteers, local community and even potential funders! Learn how this works here.
What’s more, all the data recorded will be added to the Open Repair Alliance’s growing data set from repair cafés, Restart Parties, Fixit Clinics and other groups from around the world. This data has already started to be used in policy reports to help shape pro-repair policy at the EU level.
Local independent businesses are key pillars of the wider repair movement and are being hit hard by this emergency. We can do our bit to help them out by referring people with broken devices to local repair shops (if they’re still open) and generally helping to raise their profiles in our communities.
Take a look at our research into how repair businesses in London are coping and which ones are still open for repairs. And if you’re based in London, you can recommend a repair business for inclusion on our Repair Directory
International Repair Day is coming up on the 21st of October 2023. Planning is still underway, but keep an eye on this page for more info in due course:
How can repair groups help the local community?You'll likely know your own community better than anyone, but here are some extra ideas:
Local mutual aid groups are popping up all over the world to support vulnerable people who live nearby. There’s a directory of UK mutual aid groups here and an additional collection of mutual aid lists including the USA here. If you’re aware of other national directories, please add them here.
Our repair events can be important touch points for people in our communities. Inviting them to connect online can help keep everyone connected and provide some continuity.
Even if we can’t meet in person, a phone call, instant message or email can really help someone feel valued and cared for.
Some charities, community organisations and repair groups are collecting devices to help digitally disconnected people reconnect with their support networks, whether friends, family, schools or essential services. Learn more about this here:
Should I cancel my repair events?
Should I cancel my repair events?If the authorities in your country haven't prohibited public events, this is ultimately your decision. However, we strongly advise you to cancel or postpone all in-person repair events until at least early May (this will likely be extended in most places). This is especially true in any region with one or more confirmed case; cancelling events can reduce the rates of transmission and protect those who are most vulnerable.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to communicate your decision with your volunteers and community more broadly.
If you do decide to go ahead with an event, click/tap here for some things to consider
Communicate & minimise the risks
We believe it’s important to be open and to communicate with the people who make our events happen. If you decide to go ahead with an event, what are the best ways to minimise health risks? How can you reassure both volunteers and participants that you’re taking the risks seriously but that it’s ok not to come if they feel unsure?
Be able to contact everybody who attend an event
If you do decide to run an event, how can you collect contact information for everyone who attends in way that’s compliant with data-protection laws (such as GDPR or CCPA), just in case you need to get in touch with them after the event?
How can repair groups help medical staff?
How can repair groups help medical staff?As community organisers, the most important thing we can do is communicate and follow the [advice of the WHO](https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) and local health authorities to help keep our communities safe and reduce transmission of the virus.
However, a number of repair, making and engineering initiatives are springing up around the world to provide assistance to medical staff.
Here are some concrete actions you can take to join the effort:
Restart has put out a call for information about broken hospital equipment.
If you have contacts in a public healthcare system anywhere in the world, please pass on this form to help us understand how broken equipment is impacting the ability of healthcare systems to cope with this crisis and how the repair movement can help.
iFixit is working to collect and translate service manuals for medical equipment and make them accessible on the web. They’re looking for people to help with translation, internet research, SEO, graphic design, medical knowledge and more. Learn more here.
The RAENG (UK) is looking for technicians and engineers to help with set-up, maintenance and repairs of medical equipment under the supervision of clinical engineers from NHS England. Learn more here.
Here are a few other initiatives we’ve come across:
- designing and producing… open source ventilators
- 3D printing valves in Italy
- 3D printing face shields
- 3D printing face masks
- sewing face masks
- the Fixit Clinic Network’s rapid response repair project in the USA
Due to anti-repair practices by manufacturers of medical ventilators (also see here), The Right to Repair may also come to play an important role. Keep an eye on this forum for updates.