Beyond fixing: taking apart and tinkering

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We’ve got an interesting couple of events planned for coming weeks, beyond the usual frenzy of activity of Restart Parties from Dalston to rural Wales, and our workshop to help others replicate our model.

We’re partnering with Fairphone at London Design Festival (September 19) and some friends to run some fun sessions at Mozilla Festival (October 25-27).

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September Workshop: Start your own Restart Party!

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You have contacted us from all over the UK and well beyond. Some of you have plenty of repair skills you want to share. Others love the concept and would like to see it happening nearby. We have created a list of initial guidelines to help you run your event, but we know sometimes a friendly get-together can do wonders in supporting a new community activity.

So we’re organising a special one-day event in London on Saturday 14 September to help up to 15 people get started running a Restart Party or community repair event in your town. We’ll have a session on logistics, tools, venues, health & safety – and a Restart Party for you to attend and get stuck in.

If you’d like to get involved, please fill this form as soon as possible – we only have limited availability.

Dear makers

A creative fix at Central Saint Martins

A creative fix at Central Saint Martins

We thought we would share some thoughts with you. We’ve spent a year heavily invested in building communities of repairers. During this time we’ve attended a few Makerfaires, admired your work on Instructables, supported your work on Kickstarter. And we look forward to meet many more makers at Makerfaires in Manchester this weekend and in Rome in Europe.

We noticed a couple of articles on fixing and making (most inspired by this piece in Wired), and we thought we might just go ahead and start a conversation between makers and fixers.

Making is a primal instinct – in some ways more primordial than fixing. Who doesn’t remember “making” with sticks and mud as a child, or with empty yogurt containers, used toilet paper rolls, shoe boxes, playdoh, rubber bands. We made cities, robots, space ships, animals. We made art and presents for each other. Utility was rarely our motivation. Joy and wonder seemed to drive childhood making.

Perhaps it’s so obvious it doesn’t need stating, but everybody was a maker until our rigid educational systems drubbed it out of some of us.

These systems taught us utility tied to growth – about being successful, being productive and that accumulating ever more and better stuff was the ultimate reflection of one’s worth. Now some of us did not ever really buy into this – some kept on dreaming, making and creating for the sake of it. And some of us were even able to convince others of the indirect “utility” of this, and were able to make a living off of this. Both of these groups might identify as “makers”.

Yet others found ourselves, perhaps in their late 20s, perhaps even later, scratching our heads wondering where our profound alienation with “stuff” came from.

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Building a new economy, one repair at a time

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This week the Transition Network‘s Reconomy Project featured us along with 19 other fantastic projects in their newly published report: “The New Economy in 20 Enterprises”.

We were delighted to be selected among such inspiring innovators striving to invent new meaningful local economies: reskilling and creating jobs in our communities, while developing much needed services and products truly respectful of the environment. As the Transition Town movement has been advocating for a long time, achieving real change in our communities also requires creating new livelihoods for people, in food production as well as in transport services, renewable energy and retail.

Where do we fit in this picture? Repair and reuse of small electrical and electronics have been neglected for a long time, replaced by a throw-away culture and often wasteful recycling. In just over a year, with almost no funding and no paid staff members, we have demonstrated that a different approach in not only possible, but it is necessary and a lot of fun too.

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Redesigning the inkjet printer – work in progress

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This week we participated in the first of three workshops organised by the People’s Design Lab. It was an opportunity to learn from others with a background in design about their frustrations with printing. Interestingly, initial conversations revolved around a deeper question: why should we print at all? Why is it that certain airlines and railway companies do not allow for simpler e-ticketing practices? Why do we need to pay a premium at times for an sms-based ticket, which would save ink, paper, paper recycling, etc etc?

When we started to look at options for improving inkjet printers, a key element was participants’ frustration with wasteful ink cartridges: expensive, containing very little ink, too often hard to refill and therefore simply “recycled”. We want to see much more interoperability among cartridges: less wasteful design, less unnecessary chips embedded in cartridges and the adoption of systems such as continuous ink supply in standard consumer printers.

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A big thank you

Just a quick post to thank people for all of the messages of support, donations and other morale boosts we have received over recent weeks. Especially since the excellent BBC Tech coverage, which was really important for us! (We’re still having trouble responding personally to all, so please bear with us.)

We’ve received kind messages from all over the world, including requests from over 23 cities in the UK for help replicating our “Restart Parties”.

We now have a volunteer Training Coordinator, which we are super excited about. We’ll introduce him to you soon, when we’ll be announcing a workshop in September open to those who would like to start Restarting their community in the UK.

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In other news, we are also happy to announce that your support has been matched by some important institutional support. We are grateful to Unltd, who chose Janet as a social entrepreneur grantee and will be providing valuable mentoring and support to The Restart Project as well as a £2000 grant. They will help us think through how we build our network and spread our repair revolution sustainably.

Let’s rethink and Restart the inkjet printer

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This inkjet printer is still functional, but was open by our volunteers Jack and Ben and is part of the Open Institute’s exhibit The Future of Open in London until July 3

Inkjet printers have been very common at our Restart Parties, since the very beginning. In many occasions, the meticulous work of our wonderful Restarters has helped to clean, repair, defeat planned obsolescence and give a second life to printers that were just about ready to be taken to a recycling centre.

However, we know that fixing broken printers is not enough. This week we are exhibiting a “transparent” open printer as part of the The Future of Open‘s exhibition in London, to help visualise how printers work.

Next week we begin working on rethinking future inkjet printers, particularly how they could be made better, with better durability, ease of maintenance and less wasteful operation.

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