Community Repair Events

 

The Vision

Our vision has been to support the development of ongoing Community Repair Events in The East Bay. Consistent with our mission and the nature of our work, those programs would ultimately work independent of The Culture of Repair Project.

The success of our four Community Repair Events in 2018 brought that vision to fruition much more quickly than expected!

After organizing the inaugural Berkeley Repair Café in May 2018, we supported Transition Berkeley’s assuming leadership of ongoing Repair Cafés.

After organizing the first three Fixit Clinics at Berkeley Public Library, we worked with the Library to establish Fixit Clinics as ongoing programming, run by the Library.

The content of our support included helping our partners establish processes and resources for ongoing events through transferring extensive operational material we had developed, making seed grants, and providing logistical support. The flavor and format of events are emerging as our partners discern the needs of The East Bay's many communities.

 
 

In supporting development of Community Repair Events in The East Bay our purpose is:

  • To cultivate awareness of the bigger picture and of the pronounced impact reuse has on the environment, on personal well-being, and on our community's resiliency;

  • To cultivate motivation to extend the life of the things we have through repair; and

  • To cultivate the capacity to repair, through learning to fix things ourselves, or finding out how and where to have them repaired.

 

 

Variations on a Theme

Community Repair Events across the country and around the globe have different emphases and take various forms. 

The common and critical objectives are teaching and emboldening people to fix their own things; encouraging a shift in how we think about our possessions; and raising awareness around the profound impact extending the life of what we already have makes.

The common format is volunteers who know how to fix things getting together with people who don't to bring broken things back to life. 

The common thing that a Community Repair Event is not: They are NOT free repair services.  People are involved, participating, not leaving their broken items for someone else to take care of for free.  We're in this together.

Speaking very generally, beyond those critical commonalities are slightly different emphases and structures:

  • Fixit Clinics lean into educating and empowering people to fix things themselves and has a strong STEM orientation. As of February 2018 there had been over 400 Fixit Clinic events across the US.

  • Repair Cafes are more heterogeneous, often leaning into community building around fixing. Some Repair Cafés encourage people to fix their own things; in others, volunteer fixers repair items in the presence of participants. Repair Cafés frequently incorporate other elements, such as children's tinker zones, ecology resource libraries, social bars offering coffee, tea, bagels and croissants; and even massage and blood pressure stations. (Repair Cafe International Foundation was founded in 2009 in Amsterdam to support communities develop initiatives. As of April 2018 there were over 1500 affiliated groups worldwide, each holding multiple events.) Repair Cafe Palo Alto and Hudson Valley Repair Cafe are good examples.

  • The Restart Project works exclusively with electronics, teaching people how to repair their own electronics at Restart Parties and offering considerable online resources to do so. (There are over 20 groups in the UK and on the Continent holding ongoing "parties".)

Many other unaffiliated groups host variations on the theme.  For example:


Less Evident Benefits of Community Repair Events

Local economy:  Community Repair Events are not about competing with or supplanting local repair shops.  Rather, events support them through raising people's awareness and inciting their motivation to fix.  Fixers and organizers make referrals to local repair shops and suppliers, which means good jobs.

Personal benefits include:  individual empowerment, personal satisfaction, developing critical thinking skills, and changing the way people relate with material objects. 


More on Berkeley Fixit Clinics:

Founded in Berkeley by Peter Mui!
Over 400 clinics held nationwide
Locally organized by and at Berkeley Public Library
Details on the Fixit Clinics website

What Fixit Clinic Events Are:

Do-it-together, hands-on, STEM-based fix-n-learn, community-based exploration and discovery workshops for all ages.

→  A Free Workshop! 
NOT free repair services.
Fixit Clinics are participatory events.

Participants bring broken things for help assessing, disassembling, and possibly repairing.  Fixit Clinic provides: 1) workspace, 2) specialty tools, and 3) volunteer Fixit Coaches to help repair all kinds of things — from lamps, clothing, and toys, to mechanical, furniture, electronics, and appliances ... pretty much anything that can be brought through the door. 

Whether fixed or not everyone learns something about how it was made and worked.  And then didn't!

How is a Fixit Clinic different from a Repair Café?  The heart of both is fixing.  Fixit Clinics are explore-and-discover STEM workshops focused on learning through fixing.

Short video from The News Hour
Longer video interview of Peter Mui at eTown eChievement Awards, on larger vision for Repair
Information on Volunteering to be a Fixit Coach
Fixit Coach Howdy Goudy is a champion of repair:  Lawrence Berkeley Lab Newsletter


More on Berkeley Repair Cafés:

Repair Cafés are half-day participatory events where community members come together to help each other repair what’s broken. See this Berkeleyside video from the inaugural Berkeley Repair Café in May 2018.

Neighbors get to know each other over coffee, snacks and repair projects, learning about repair, sharing knowledge and skills, and squeezing more life out of the things they have. These events are intended to educate and are not a free drop-off repair service.

A team of volunteer “fixers” will be on hand who know how to repair all kinds of things and will work together with attendees to diagnose and repair broken items. The fix rate runs about 60-70% — everyone gives it a good try and learns a lot about fixing along the way.

Participants can bring all kinds of household items including - lamps, clothing, toys, furniture, electronics, appliances and bicycles ... pretty much anything that can be carried through the door.

How is a Repair Café different from a Fixit Clinic? The heart of both is fixing. Repair Cafés are just larger and have lots of ancillary activities around repair, reuse and community well-being.

Excellent video from Al Jazeera
Short video from NBC Nightly News
48-second video from The Netherlands
New York Times article
The Guardian, London article
The Mercury News, San Jose article

Palo Alto Repair Cafe was the first in the US and offers a good example of the vision.
Repair Cafe International Foundation

Yet more information is available under:
"Resources for Community Repair Events"