This is a 2-part discussion about improving practices in community repair. The introductions to both discussions are the same, but they then focus on different topics. This conversation is about making it inclusive
Community repair spaces are special. They create unique opportunities for learning about technology and reimagining our relationship both to it and to each other. They can bring people from all walks of life together and enable them to connect over a share desire to learn and repair broken things.
We create these spaces in world of structural inequality and in the context of an economy and a legal framework which doesn’t fully embrace repair (to put it mildly). On top of this, people expect things to be done fast, slowing down to learn and problem-solve is almost counter-cultural. Against this backdrop, creating a community repair space that promotes learning and inclusion is tricky but all the more necessary. It requires us to pay attention to lots of aspects of how we plan and run our events.
As a global community of repairers we have rich and varied experiences which can be brought together to help us accomplish this. Below are some of the themes discussed at this at Fixfest 2017, summarized in this blog post, and ideas for actions we can take to keep learning and improving.
Making it inclusive
Repair events tend to attract a real cross-section of people, this is one of the best things about them! They are a fantastic opportunity for people to meet who might otherwise never interact. However when we all arrive at the door with different abilities, needs and identities which need to be acknowledged and catered for to enable us to participate. Making repair events inclusive and positive experiences for all takes a bit work.
Think about the groups of people who might want/ need to access your event - what are their expectations and needs?
Who are your volunteers and participants do they reflect the local community?
Address the sensory of experience of people at events
Think about mobility range and accessibility of venues
Next steps & questions:
Having identified a gender imbalance in our volunteer base we began running Rosie the Restarter skillshares in London which are aimed at up-skilling women and non-binary people
Have you organised any specific activities to include under-represented groups? What has the impact been?
Do you feel you need more understanding of special educational needs, neurodiversity or mental health? Mental Health First Aid is useful training on awareness and first response. Are you aware of others?
Have you have any processes in your group for training and managing SEN, neurodiversity or mental health?
Your starting expression ‘Community repair spaces’ really resonates with me. I think the notion of space is key and we may want to work on a list of what are the qualities that define a (good) community repair space, many of which are in your post. I have recently been reflecting on a completely different type of environment with possibly one commonality with ‘community repair space’, how can they be comfortable for different types of persons. In the case of community repair spaces, what are the qualities of the spaces to make them comfortable for both the expert restarters and a participant who has never repaired anything? And this may be an occasion to revisit the default Repair Parties’ layout, which I find divisive, of being on opposite sides of the tables.
(It may be that qualities are not enough to create a good space, and the relationships between the qualities being as important, i.e. a language may be what’s needed. This has been the evolution of the work of Christopher Alexander in the architecture realm, which has also inspired the software design pattern movement.)
I’m starting a repair cafe where I live, and I don’t want to unintentionally/unwittingly/ignorantly exclude anyone or make it difficult/uncomfortable for them to volunteer and participate. Seems to me it’s entirely the person’s decision whether they want to repair, or whether to request some change or adaptation of the setup to make it more compatible with their needs, but what’s a good way of signalling that I’m open to requests/suggestions to accommodate different needs without actually coming out and saying it? Or should I just say it up front: “please ask if there’s anything you need that will make you more comfortable - we will try to help.” Or what? Open to suggestions.
Being upfront is good, and your suggested sentence works fine. You may want to check not just at the start of the event but also during and after.
It’s worth spending a few minutes thinking how to organise the tables in the space. Of course you’ll want to get close to electrical sockets, but you may also try to get some tables that are quieter and/or with natural lighting if possible. Basically increasing the sensory options will create better opportunities for everyone to find a table well suited to their needs.