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Organizing a repair café

Repair Cafés are local gatherings where people repair broken items (together), from clothing to electrical appliances, furniture, bicycles, computers.... Visitors bring broken items to the event and receive help and advice in repairing them from expert volunteers. Repair Cafés upgrade repair in our society and are also a contemporary answer to the growing mountain of waste.

What are the basic principles of the Repair Café?

  • Repairs happen together. The visitors follow along with the repair and the repairer explains what he/she is doing so that people learn how to repair something themselves.
  • Repairs are done for free. So the volunteers are not paid for the repair work. If a spare part is needed (e.g. a brake pad), the visitor is asked to buy or pay for the part.
  • Repairers do their best, but are not magicians. At a Repair Café, we row with the oars we have. If a repair requires special tools or a spare part,it cannot be repaired at the Repair Café. That's totally ok. Often someone is already helped by a good diagnosis or advice on what spare part is needed and where they can buy it.
  • Repairers are not liable for damage to items. You can print out the Repair Café house rules and ask people at the reception desk to sign them. You can find these house rules here.
  • You work best with a reception desk. There you can explain to visitors how the Repair Café works, when it is their turn, and ask them to sign the house rules. Are you expecting a lot of people? If so, it's best to work with serial numbers to keep track of who is taking their turn and when.

How long does a Repair Café last?

Most Repair Cafés opt for 2 to 3 hours. A repair quickly takes half an hour. In 3 hours, a repairer can take care of about five items on average.

What is the ideal location for a Repair Café?

Choose a place with good lighting, good electricity and plenty of electrical outlets. If you want to make it a real Repair Café, you will also need a bar.

As for the size of the location, you should provide one table and 2 chairs per repairer, one table for reception and then some space where people can have a drink and wait their turn if it's busy.

Who do you need for a Repair Café?

Essential:

- Some handy Harry's and Hanna's to repair appliances;

- Some volunteers for the bar and reception;

Organize a meeting with the repairers and other volunteers to agree on the date, duration of the activity, location and method.

A repair café flow

A typical flow to organize and run a live repair event starts before the actual event, with its preparation, then the event itself and finally the wrap-up or evaluation. We advise the use of a checklist for Repair Cafés that reflects this flow:

Preparation

  • Confirm location
  • Call for volunteers
  • Arrange insurance
  • Promote the event
  • Organize drinks/snacks
  • Organize side activities

Event

  • Building up the event
  • The repair café: receiving visitors and repairing
  • Cleaning up

After the event

  • Evaluation with volunteers
  • Communication via social media

Build a Repair Café Mobile to organize special repair events

With a Mobile Repair Café you can organise a Repair Café everywhere.

A first example was developed by Repair Together and is used to promote Repair Cafés in Wallonia and Brussels (BE). Each year about 30 repair events are organised with the Mobile Café.

As a city, a Mobile Repair Café is a great tool to give visibility to local repair initiatives and add repair activities during local markets, events or festivals. The Mobile can also be used in schools, to raise awareness about the importance of repair.

The Mobile Repair Café is a 3m x 1m60 trailer that provides a small reception area, a bar with a sink and facilities to make coffee or tea, two repair tables and a large storage space for tools.

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International Repair Day

In 2017, the Open Repair Alliance launched International Repair Day to highlight the importance of making electric and electronic devices more durable and easier to repair. Since then, International Repair Day occurs annually on the third Saturday in October.

The Open Repair Alliance is an international group of repair organizations including:

What can cities do during International Repair Day?

International Repair Day is a perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of repair and put a spotlight on repair initiatives or professionals in the city. To give you inspiration, we gathered some examples from Sharepair partners or other cities:

  • organize a technical workshop with a local repairman or handy volunteer;
  • organize a debate or and lesson with an academic, NGO and/or a politician who is involved in this field;
  • put repair at the center of the library by highlighting books on repair, DIY projects, the circular economy in the spotlight;
  • organize a film screening on the importance of e-waste;
  • organize a Repair Fest;
  • organize a circular walk in the city and visit repair initiatives or professionals;
  • organize a repair marathon together with local repair initiatives or professionals;
  • organize an exposition on repair or circular economy;

Examples in the repair cities

Repair Fest in Hasselt

Repair&Share organized a Repair Fest in the city of Hasselt for International Repair Day 2022.
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The Repair Marathon in Leuven

For International Repair Day 2022, the city of Leuven, Maakbaar Leuven and MAAKbar (two local repair organizations) organized a repair…
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Expo 'Beautiful Piece! - ode to repair' in Roeselare

During International Repair Day 2022 the city of Roeselare hosted the expo 'Beautiful Piece!', developed by Repair Café International.
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