How can we make our events more diverse at Evanston Repair Clinic?

Hello, My name is Bea. I founded and organize the ERC in Evanston, IL (USA). Tomorrow we will have our 8th event and, so far, we have served 150 people and fixed 120 items, from lamps and toasters to jackets and bikes… and a nose hair trimmer;)

We are now transitioning to a more “fixit clinic” model, in which tools and coaches are provided, but attendees are the ones actively fixing their stuff… we’ll see how that goes!
A problem that I am finding is that we are getting “regulars” who use the event as a free source of repairs, with no intention of learning or contributing in any other way… I don’t know how I feel about this, but I hope that our new hands-on model deters them from abusing the RC concept.
Another issue that is important to me is the demographics of the ERC. Evanston is quite diverse (well, basically Latinx, African American and White), but this diversity does not translate at our events. I wonder to what extent that is due to the advertising, maybe not attractive to all… or maybe the RC concept is not attractive to people of all ethnic groups? Anyone out there have any similar experience and/or suggestions?

BTW, at tomorrow’s event, we will have a free sewing workshop, a local group that will sharpen garden tools and a new coach-expert in computer diagnosis and repair.

That’s all for now! I’m reachable at webuildcommunityevanston@gmail.com

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Hi Bea,

It’s really cool to hear you’re already up to 8 events! How did the latest one go on Saturday?

Interesting that you’re getting these “regulars” and a shame that they don’t seem to be interested in being involved whatsoever! My first suggestion would be to invite them to help out at events, but it sounds like that that wouldn’t really work?

Certainly moving towards a more collaborative ‘do it together’ approach sounds like a great idea; that’s the approach we advocate ourselves, partly because it discourages people treating events like a free repair service.

Making sure events a truly representative of the local community is a constant challenge for us and for most groups I think. While I don’t think we’ve totally figured it out yet, there are groups doing great work to move in this direction.

@ssebti and @Nebojsa_Adzic over at Insertec in Montréal seem to be really good at including people from different backgrounds - do you guys have any suggestions for Bea?

@nfavrod and @Vincent_Delaleu over in Switzerland have worked with a refugee organisation called EVAM to open events up to volunteers from different ethnic groups and promote integration.

While not necessarily related to ethnicity, at Restart HQ in London, we’re trying to tackle gender imbalances by running Rosie the Restarter events, which are special repair events or skillshares open to women and non-binary people. These are mostly organised by @hkoundi and @Monique. @Vanessa_Ternes has also just started a conversation about encouraging gender diversity, drawing lessons from research done by Coder Dojo.

Hi Bea,
I have a lot to say about both the issues you bring up, getting participants involved in the repair and diversity of the participants and volunteers. We recently hosted our 3rd Repair Café (4th if we include the 1st one we co-hosted with the Culture of Repair in Berkeley CA.

For us, our location and venues had a lot to do with both of the issues above. Our first co-hosted RC event was in a Unitarian church (mostly white and more people coming to get repairs rather than learn. The 2nd was in the school district’s adult school, so a bit more successful in drawing a crowd anxious to learn and somewhat more ethnically and culturally diverse. Our 3rd RC was in a maker space and brought a younger crowd, very much involved in taking the tasks on and adding their own knowledge, but less ethnically diverse even though the neighborhood is very diverse and historically black, though that is changing.

Our last event on Nov. 2nd was the most diverse and hands-on event and may grow into something more. We held this event on a Saturday in the local high school where students that don’t fit into the typical classroom situation are sent. The teachers at the school were extremely supportive and showed up with students and the community felt invited because this is a space where very diverse community meetings also take place. I think the built-in vocational education venue held in a familiar space was a key aspect. Much of our publicity was word of mouth ad flyers at the local library (which happens to be the neighborhood tool lending library.

Like I said, there is a lot more to share on these issues and I look forward to hearing more from others.

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Hi Bea,
Both your problems really resonate with me over here in the UK!
Our fixers have started to employ the ‘guided’ repair model too. We had people who are regulars and also people sit on their phones/ etc while repairs are carried out. So the guided repair route has been great. Our fixers have also found it much more satisfying too!

I have also desperately been trying to achieve a more diverse demographic (although primarily I have wanted to focus on people of lower income, I hope the principle translates: essentially we have regular people come who are white and middle class).

I attended a brilliant conference a few years ago: one of the speakers answered some (very privileged) questions about engaging with a diverse audience. Her answer was a huge wake up call: not everyone is privileged enough to have time or money to attend a free event. Childcare, shift work, travel, are all barriers. Although this may not translate directly to your problem, the issue of privilege has certainly opened my eyes to reaching audiences in general. The speaker’s advice for this problem was to bring events to peoples’ doorsteps, use a trusted venue, and work with community leaders.

On a personal level as a solution I am trying to work with a local social housing association to reach out to people in different ways.

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Hi Bea,
We have a lot of our regular customers + followers who come to our events, plus people from various backgrounds.
As we organize Restarts Parties in different venues accross the city of Montréal, we ask our hosts to promote our common event and the recruiting of volunteers in their own networks, so that we maximize the attendance and the number of Restarters.