Making community repair truly collaborative/interactive

Yesterday I volunteered at an exciting, very well attended Restart Party organised by Hackney Fixers in London. Here are some thoughts about participation, inspired by this event, but probably true for many other Restart Parties or Repair Cafe events.
I would love thoughts and comments from other Restarters volunteering or organising events

Here are my “findings”:

  • As the event was very popular, there was a long waiting queue, and quite a few people were simply looking at their phone, or reading the newspaper while waiting (including people who then got very engaged once repairing). This is an opportunity to engage people even while they wait, whether with educational materials, or trying actively to involve people with other repairs while they wait. However it’s an extra effort in hosting, during an already fairly demanding event

  • Repeat-participants: I’ve helped 3 participants at the event. All of them had been to a Restart Party before. And I’ve spotted at least 3 other people who had been to previous events, I’m sure there were more. I wonder how many people attend regularly, as opposed to new people coming one time then never returning?

  • Repairing with participants: I’ve made a specific effort to get participants as actively involved as possible: actively disassembling devices, cleaning them, reassembling them, and more. It was very rewarding, both for myself and for them. In one case, the participant told me (without me asking) that he had not dared opening the device before, and now he has a lot more confidence to do this in the future. Feedback such this is not easy to capture, but it’s at the heart of our mission

  • Time: doing all of this in a participatory way takes time, a lot of time. I’ve worked on 4 devices within 3hours. I think if we’re after this kind of impact, it’s not very likely one can help that many people within the course of an event.

A bit of context: my comments might not be surprising for some of you. And Restart is already working on some of these topics, for example in two ways:

  • by developing educational resources which could be used while waiting at events (with partners from the Refer Project)

  • working on gathering better feedback from participants, with a focus on events held in the UK

This said, it’d be great to hear views from others running events elsewhere as well!