2011-2012: Founders Janet and Ugo began discussing this project at a meetup in London of people working in ICT for “D” (d meaning development). We have worked cumulatively for 15 years in places where communications technology can make a massive difference – where simple mobile phones can often literally save lives in everyday situations. And we’ve seen that people relate with gadgets and technology in a completely different way in most of the places we worked – people have a greater sense of control and ownership over technology and a resilience in the face of problems. Everything is hackable and fixable.
What was troubling us more and more was not actually injustice and struggles of the “underdeveloped” places we worked in, but instead the attitudes and behaviours of people here back in our northern homes.
Watching people discarding devices because they ran “slow”. Watching people upgrade by simply buying new phones every nine months. We started asking ourselves: have we become passive, flabby consumers of technology? Have we lost our “repair muscle mass”?
June 2012: With no funding we began throwing “Restart Parties”, free community events that empower participants to extend the lifespan of the electronics they own, actively reduce e-waste. We realised that the only way to change things was to simply roll up our sleeves and get started, and to learn, evolve and grow alongside people who like what we do like the Transition Towns and Freecycle movements.
August 2012: We receive a crucial small grant from Project Dirt and Timberland Europe, without which we would not be here today.
January 2013: Our first dinner with our growing network of volunteer repairers, and creation of an email listserv for Restarters.
February 2013: Eight months later, we have had 16 events in a number of different venues – always concentrating on two communities, where we live, north Camden and Brixton. Every week, we are contacted by people from Mexico to Sutton to Sweden who would like to run “Restart Parties”.
March 2013: We are registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and we launch our first paid services, including sponsored Restart Parties, public speaking and trainings.
Summer 2013: We celebrate our first birthday, where the only thing we fixed were drinks! After our fair share of disappointments, we are recognised by Untld, the Transition Network and Lloyds Bank School of Social Enterprise for our work. And our dedicated volunteer base in London just keeps growing.
September 2013: We begin promoting the scaling-up of the “Restart Parties” concept globally, starting with a workshop for future hosts in London. And we move into Makerversity in Somerset House, a place we hope to stay.
October/November 2013: The first autonomous Restarter groups starting hosting events, from Florida to northern Italy. And we relaunch our paid services, focusing on workplaces, all the while maintaining our local community events and public speaking.
2014: We do not want to be an old-style charity spending all our time writing grants. We prefer instead to spend that time engaging people in their workplaces. It is our plan to support our community work through paid services. Our goal: to either be standing on our own two feet by June or to have a very accurate picture of how long it will take us.