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.

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Hi Bonnie!
Thank you for your feedback. My path has parallelled yours in many aspects…
The las RC went better with regards to diversity of attendees. The event has been held at 5 different venues (I went for whoever wanted to host). I always favored non-religious places and tried to stay at a neutral area with regards to race and wealth. I tried the HS twice but they charged for Custodial services, so that was not sustainable.
I finally partnered with Y.O.U. (https://youthopportunity.org/about-us/mission-vision) a space that empowers local youth. It is located next to the HS, in Evanston’s 5th Ward, a traditionally African American area. I think this and the fact that I have had more time to advertise (it’s been 3 events here thus far), I’ve created a flyer that I have distributed at events and digitally to key community partners. I think that sending it to the School Disctrict´s EvanSTEM Program Coordinator, (it’s a program that wants to improve access and engagement for students who have traditionally underperformed or have been underrepresented in STEM programs) and him e-blasting it to all his network has helped a lot in getting a more diverse crowd…
The next one is Jan 11th. I plan to follow the same plan and also to keep track of who attends and where they have got the information from, so I can better advertise next time.

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Hi,
I think that Y.O.U., our host, does promote it, but I don’t think much of the attendees come because of this. I think the City Calendar, the local newspaper and, in the last event, an e-mail blast to parents on African American, Latinx and other underrepresented minorities) has help a lot.
Thanks for the suggestion:):blush:

HI Katie,
Your words have resontated with me in terms of “access to access.” You are so right, not everyone has the priviledge to attend a free event. Actually, at last week’s RC I realized this. An African American lady came with what seemed to be her 3 children and asked if we could take a look at their bikes. We said yes and she said she’d be back. She did not return and I was left feeling something similar to what you wrote: “maybe she couldn’t get back to the venue in time with her 3 young kids and their bikes.” I also told a friend of mine who works for the school district as a lunchroom supervisor/childcare assistant… but she told me she was working on Saturday morning, so she could not make it.
So yes, I am refecting a lot on what you wrote and I also brought it the Environmental Justice group I am part of… As a White person, I have big blindspots that I am working on hard to reduce. Thank you for sharing.
BTW, I am happy to see that I am starting to follow the speaker’s advice. I have to now focus more on community leaders! And I would be very interested in knowing how your work with local the housing association goes, as I might try to replicate your actions here.

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Hi James,
Thank you for your encouraging words and suggestions.
At last week’s RC we got some regulars again but the Repair Coaches were much more capable of getting most of them to work. I think that how we distributed the working space helped A LOT. Instead of lining tables in parallel with chair at both sides, we made a U shape with the tables, so that the volunteers were on the inside and attendees on the outside. That helped in that we had more space for attendees than for us (so 5 -6 people could start working on their appliances while volunteers helped them or others). This model “forced” the volunteers to be more fluid in who they were helping, and it made most attendees intuit that they were going to have to work, too.
With regards to sewing, the “Sewing 101” workshop did not attract attention but we did get people to use our sewing machines in a pretty spontaneous way…
Overall, it seems like our RC is heading in a new and exciting direction. Now, my main interest is to have the RC be represent the city’s demographics, expand the volunteer pool, particularly for appliances, try a new approach for the sewing workshop (maybe make produce bags?), find someone who would be willing to teach people how to repair their smartphone screens, find “experts” in other areas (book binding, tool sharpening…), and start thinking about starting a Tool Library (there is one in Evanston but they want to stay as a neighborhood service), finding someone to help me do all of this and, in a perfect world, finding an organization that would pay me to do this full-time:star_struck:

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Really appreciating this thread and super grateful for the input from Evanston and the Bay Area @Bea_Echeverria @Bonnie_Borucki.

We find that literally going out into the community, and introducing ourselves at key community sites, handing out posters can make a difference. Also we find that some community centres use WhatsApp now and a shareable “flyer” for Whatsapp travels better than social media.

Sneakers - trainers

One other aspect of “repair” that we’ve been musing about is how urban fashion has an element of repair: shoes. Young people put a lot of effort into refurbishing shoes. It’s quite incredible all of the sharing and bragging that goes on online. There is no shame in bringing back vintage and stained shoes from the dead. And few young people see this as an environmentally positive activity.

We’re imagining a “shoes and smartphones” event… we are trying to refocus and meet young people where they are. :athletic_shoe: :iphone:

Thank you Janet, I am very happy to have a community where I can find support and ideas on how to make the RC better!
I love the idea of working on refurbishing shoes!
I am going to start another thread on iphone screen repair and of pop-up Repair Clinics, as I would like to know what the community feels about these two topics.
Again, thank you:)
Bea

Here in Belgium after 6 years of Repair Cafés the focus was very much on “We do it for you”. I didn’t like the approach. Always tried to get the visitor interested… (irritated me if people dump their stuff at our desk… sorry)

But a while ago the amount of vistors was exceeding our volunteers while we were running out of time. Therefore, i suggested that i would assist those who wanted to repair themselves.

Turned out a small success

  • Increased our throughput
  • Got two visitors engaged in our RC and
  • Even a subscription for our Repair workshop

Actually I 'm thinking of organising a small “DIY” corner really focussing only on vistors repairing themselves! While being moderately assisted by a dedicated volunteer.

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Hi Tom, That is so cool! I also feel irritated when people bring their stuff and just watch while we fix or, even worse, they go on their phones!
For me, a Repair Clinic’s purpose is to empower people to take on repair, to help them loose the fear to repair and to break that unconscious limitation about the things “we don’t do.” By offering a space where the repair is done with an “expert” (someone who one day decided to “give it a try” ) most people find it fun, easy and ultimately, empowering and even exhilarating, ha!!
So I am with you; having a space for the brave ones that decide to take on repair is the way, particularly because resilient communities are those where members share skills, ideas and experiences.
BTW, since this DIY corner will be an optional space, you might want to find fun strategies to convert regular visitors into active repairers… Maybe an “I fixed it myself” diploma (or an “I almost fixed it myself” one) or a cup of hot cocoa, a discount for the repair workshop… Sometimes we need that extra push to try new things!

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This is very different from all the Restart Parties I participated in. If someone tried to dump something at the registration desk it would be refused. That’s just not an option. They would likely be pointed to local professional repairers (and I don’t mean one attending the party!).

Everyone is involved in the repair. This can range from involving the person in unscrewing some or all of the screws to doing most or all of the repair themselves. Many visitors don’t know how to handle a screwdriver properly and as a result damage screws. This is a skill that will likely be useful to them even if they are not very adventurous. Even if they’re not that hands on, it’s always an occasion to engage them in the repair and make then realise they likely know more than they realise (everyone who has changed a fuse knows about continuity, everyone who has touched an incandescent lightbulb knows electricity generates heat, etc.)

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Fully agree Panda! It’s time that we rattle the cage over here! :smiley:
We discussed yesterday that our repair Cafés need more focus on repairing together. And actually everyone was in favour! I’ll keep you posted whether we will be able to make this U-turn…

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