Community repair events are a social and enjoyable way to shift mindsets toward repair and extend the useful life of products.
Repair Cafés and Fixit Clinics are free events where people get together to fix their broken possessions. Visitors bring things they want fixed and work collaboratively with volunteers to repair them. The types of items that might be fixed at repair cafés include computers, clothing, furniture, appliances, bicycles, toys, and more. When the volunteer repair work is coupled with teaching, visitors can become more self-reliant and re-learn an oft-forgotten ethic of fixing instead of throwing things away and buying new. Volunteers who provide repair skills and services range from professionals with repair businesses to tinkerers who love the challenge of getting an item up and running again.
Value Proposition for Sustainable Consumption
Repair events offer a means of extending the useful life of consumer goods and slowing the purchase of new goods. They also help to shift mindsets to consider repairing items before buying something new and empower residents to learn to perform their own repairs. They help to rebuild a repair ethic which could lead people to consider repairability in purchasing in future purchasing decisions. Similarly, by exposing participants to local repair services they may not otherwise know of, these events may also serve to shore up the repair industry, driving customers to repair businesses instead of defaulting to purchasing new items. Where reuse organizations and repair organizations partner, the reuse organizations gain repair skills to make minor repairs to the goods so they can be recirculated in the public for use.
Potential City Roles
- Promote—celebrate and profile repair events
- Fund—provide grants and other financial support
- Support—other resources including space, in-kind advice, capacity building, leveraging others to provide support, volunteer recruitment
- Educate/outreach—support programs by spreading the word to the public and community partners
- Develop programs/services—incubate programs in partnership with other organizations to be handed off to another organization in the future
- Manage and operate—government staff serve as coordinator for programs
Implementation Challenges and Potential Solutions
- Volunteers get busy and sometimes “things fall through the cracks.” Having the programs coordinated by an established organization (such as a local government or non-profit organization) can help by providing paid staff to coordinate volunteers.
- Lack of funding. Approach repair and reuse organizations that may be willing to fund a program that furthers their organizational values and goals.
The City of Eugene, Oregon conducted a 2-year study to evaluate best practice for designing and executing community repair events. In a comprehensive review of community repair events, the researchers found that these events consistently report a successful repair rate of approximately 70%. The research also indicates that several factors can improve the success of the events including 1) offering repair for a wide range of product types, 2) providing both repair services and a chance to do-it-yourself, 3) using appropriate participant registration approaches for the scale of the event and 4) cultivating local partners that can help organize and promote the events and provide resources such as space and volunteers.
The study also looked at the effectiveness of these events in fostering more repair activities and promoting a shift in attitudes and behaviors related to repair. The evaluation report highlights some of the challenges with collecting longitudinal data for this type of local research.
- Community Repair Events: Common, Best and Better Practices for Building Community Through Repair
- Eugene: Fix-It Fair Event Evaluation
- Eugene: Evaluation of Fix-it Fair Impacts on Repair
- Shareable: How to Start a Repair Cafe
- Additional resources at RepairCafe.org
- One Earth: Local Governments and the Sharing Economy Report
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