Coronavirus: how can my repair group respond and adapt? (updated 23 Apr)

The current coronavirus pandemic is a scary and unprecedented moment 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: 23 Apr 2020

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.


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?

Running online repair events

Running repair events online has the potential to help our communities stay connected and continue to learn and repair things in a collaborative way.

- Moving events online

A number of groups are working to reproduce their usual repair event format online, including:

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

- Other types of online event

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:

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 - is now scheduled to happen online as a series of events starting in late May and running through to early July. Learn more about this and register your interest here.

Providing online repair advice

At Restart, we’re stepping up our repair advice here on the forum and are beginning to offer 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.

-> Learn more about this and how you and your group can join in here.

Portsmouth Repair Café are also offering repair advice over email and through Facebook (questions to @Clare_Seek).

The Repair Café Foundation, Restart and numerous other organisations and companies have joined iFixit’s #FixAtHome campaign to encourage people to use this time to fix any broken possessions lying around the house.

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:

- Upload repair data from past events :chart_with_upwards_trend:

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 :wink:

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.

- Get CATegorising :smiley_cat:

Have a go at improving the network’s repair data with our latest online activity. It’s super easy to do, and even 2 mins is enough to help out:

- Join a repair research study :mortar_board:

@Felipe_Fonseca is looking for volunteers from the UK to keep a repair diary for a couple of weeks to help his research into ways in which materials that are broken, obsolete or otherwise inadequate can be repaired, adapted or transformed in urban contexts. Learn more and sign up here.

- Support your local repair businesses :hammer_and_wrench:

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.

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]( 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:

  1. :mega: 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.

  2. :translate: 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.

  3. :wrench: 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:

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.

How can repair groups help the local community?

You'll likely know your own community better than anyone, but here are some extra ideas:

- Join and publicise a local mutual aid group

Local mutual aid groups are popping up all over the world to support vulnerable people who live nearby. There’s a directory of UK :uk: mutual aid groups here and an additional collection of mutual aid lists including the USA :us: here. If you’re aware of other national directories, please add them here.

- Run online events

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.

- Check in with your people

Even if we can’t meet in person, a phone call, instant message or email can really help someone feel valued and cared for.

- Donate electronic devices to people in need

Some charities 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:


Or having the right physical tools (if any at all)

@Tom_Van_Breussegem was thinking lately about the online event too

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Totally agreed Angel, good point!
You (and Tom) are welcome to join in the main conversation about online events :+1:

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What if we had a toolkit celebration where we share images and stories about our tools? Not everyone will have multigenerational stories about their tools, but even sharing who introduced you to getting your first toolkit, or when you bought your first screwdriver is definitely worth sharing. :hammer_and_wrench: :toolbox: :woman_mechanic: :man_mechanic: :woman_factory_worker: :man_factory_worker: :woman_technologist:

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