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More than 220 Repair Café repairers and organisers attended the third international Repair Café webinar on January 26. There were inspiring presentations by and lively discussions among the participants on a variety of Repair Café-related topics. Volunteers joined from many different countries: from the United States and Canada, but also from Ukraine, Portugal, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Denmark and more.

The three hour online event was organised by Repair Café International in the Netherlands and the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts in the UK. It was recorded in its entirety and can be watched back on YouTube. Please note that during the webinar something went wrong with a video by MEP Anna Cavazzini; this can be watched back separately, see below. In the following article you can read which topic was discussed in which hour.

Introduction by Martine Postma and Martin Charter

In the first hour, Martine Postma of Repair Café International highlighted several developments in society which indicate that repairing is becoming more important across the globe. She mentioned, for example, the continuous growth of the number of Repair Cafés worldwide, as well as the increasing interest for repair activities within education and the growing focus on reparability in product design studies. Martin Charter of the Centre for Sustainable Design talked about a variety of measures that are currently being taken in Europe to promote repair. He also shared ideas for circular design of products.

MEP explains what’s happening in the EU around the right to repair

After that, there was a section on right to repair developments. Anna Cavazzini, a member of the European Parliament who has been working on right to repair legislation for several years, had recorded a video to explain what’s happening in the EU in that area. She said she hopes that the European right to repair will be enshrined in a law before next summer. Watch this video here.

After Anna Cavazzini’s video, Martin Charter commented on the issue from a UK point of view. Marit Quist-Corbett of Repair Café Ottawa talked about right to repair developments in Canada. There, an existing law is being amended to provide for the right to repair electronics, household appliances, and farm equipment.

How to assess the skills of new repairers

The second hour was focused on skills assessment, more specifically on the question how to assess the skills of new repairers when they join the Repair Café. Günter Neubert of Repair Café Überlingen in Germany, talked not only about repair skills that volunteers should have, but also about personal skills, like friendliness and politeness.

Repair Café Überlingen, Germany, focuses not only on repair skills, but also on personal skills

Sébastien Petit of Repair Café Sophia Antipolis in France said that his Repair Café does not follow a specific procedure to assess the skills of new repairers. However, by teaming new volunteers with existing experienced repairers, they are always capable of finding out what a new repairer can and cannot do.

Repair Café Saint-Egrève, also in France, follows a stricter procedure. This Repair Café has written an extensive charter with rules and guidelines for new volunteers. Founder Nicolas Sadoine could not join the webinar in person, but he sent his views on the subject, including the actual charter, to Repair Café International by email. Download this charter here.

John Pearce, of Farnham Repair Café in the UK, took the audience through the recruitment process of his Repair Café, from finding volunteers to ‘on boarding’ them and monitoring their progress.

Recruiting younger repairers

In the third hour, three Repair Cafés shared their views on the recruitment of younger repairers, that is: people under 40. For many Repair Cafés this is a challenge, but not for Repair Café Kyiv, Ukraine. Volodymyr Babii and Olha Ivanchenko explained that they have their Repair Café in a hackerspace which attracts mainly people in their twenties and thirties.

Armin Geluk from Utrecht, the Netherlands, told a similar story: his Repair Café is located on the campus of Utrecht University and works with university employees and students. This makes the Repair Café more attractive for younger people.

Don Fick, of Repair Café North Carolina in the city of Cary, US, stressed the importance of understanding the motives of under 40 volunteers and shared a number of do’s and don’ts when trying to recruit such people. He stressed the importance of meeting them where they are (“less on Facebook, more on Instagram and Reddit”) and providing repair solutions for the kind of things that they use.

Don Fick, of Repair Café North Carolina, US, shared his advice on working successfully with younger volunteers

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