The Restart Project Celebrates One Year Helping Londoners Repair Electronics
June 21, 2013
Last week, The Restart Project celebrated its first year helping Londoners move beyond the throw-away culture, by fixing their electronics.
“We aim to radically improve our relationship to electronics. We need to fully own our gadgets, like we would our cars or bicycles. Would you throw those away and upgrade the moment you had a problem?” says co-founder Ugo Vallauri.
The Restart Project came to life one year ago with its first gathering in a pub in north London, where volunteers with more knowledge in electronics helped people with broken electronics to fix them. This was the first “Restart Party”, convened by co-founders Janet Gunter and Ugo Vallauri.
Since then, the group has sponsored 27 of these free community events, popping up in libraries, community centres, markets, galleries and pubs in its focus areas of Brixton and greater Camden. Among the most common fixes have been laptops, printers, lamps and other small household electricals.
More than 500 people have brought broken items and learned from personalised repair advice, and approximately 393 kilograms of electronic waste have been prevented.
The Project has had requests from individuals and groups in 23 cities in the UK to replicate the “Restart Party” model, and from 11 countries around the world.
“The Restart Project successfully taps into a Zeitgeist of overlapping concerns, for the environment, for thrift and into a growing desire to resist consumerist excess,” says trustee Tony Roberts, who founded Computer Aid. “I am really excited by the potential to build a global community of fixers through Restart parties to bring about more sustainable gadget use.”
The lifeblood of the group are its keen volunteers, with all kinds of professional backgrounds, ages and origins.
Restarters like David Mery, a former software engineer, get involved, because as he says “The Restart Parties are an occasion for collaborative repairing, where there are no geniuses. The confidence some attendees gain to fix things on their own is the most rewarding part of the experience.”
The Restart Project is a registered charity but describes itself as a “social startup”. Founders Janet Gunter and Ugo Vallauri, who met through a professional network of people using technology in global development, are clear about their desire for the Project be self-sustaining and scale in a way that traditional charities do not.
Gunter and Vallauri have been invited to guest lecture and host repair events at major London educational institutions, including more than one campus of the University of the Arts London, City University, and Goldsmiths. Additionally, Brent Council has invited The Restart Project to conduct workshops on computer and electronics maintenance in its libraries.
All of this has been achieved on a total shoestring. In its first year, The Restart Project received one small grant of £2000 from Project Dirt and Timberland Europe, and small donations from individuals and Patagonia Europe.
In its second year, The Restart Project plans on scaling by helping others to replicate its model, creating a strong online platform to promote electronics repair, and guaranteeing its sustainability. One way towards sustainability will be a corporate “team-building” event, which will spread the spirit of resilience and problem-solving into the private sector.
About Restart Parties
These are fun and free community events, lasting three hours, where volunteers experienced with electronics help others learn to repair and perform maintenance to their broken or slow devices, as well as share tips on how to take back control of what they buy. The focus of the events is on skill-sharing. Attendees with broken electronic equipment take an active part in the repair and have a direct responsibility in the troubleshooting and repair of what they bring, supported by an experienced technician.
About The Restart Project
The Restart Project is a charitable incorporated organisation based in London promoting positive behaviour change by encouraging and empowering people to use their electronics longer. The Restart Project is helping prepare the ground for a future economy of maintenance and repair by reskilling communities, supporting repair entrepreneurs, and helping people of all walks of life to be more resilient.