2020 Annual Report

Change in perception and behaviour
Networking for resilience
Devices that are sustainable and effective regulation
Organisational structure and development (including fundraising)
Plans for the Future
Finances

Main Activities & Achievements for 2020

Like all organisations, the pandemic had a huge impact on The Restart Project in 2020 and we would like to thank all our volunteers for their fantastic support over the year.

Covid-19 has effectively put a halt to all in-person community activity open to the public and we have not been able to hold Restart Parties since February. At the same time, the pandemic highlights the importance of repair when we are unable to visit shops to buy new, or to access the services of professional repairers. Since the first lockdown, we’ve offered assistance and support to people who want to try out a repair at home, asking people to tag us on social media and providing advice through our network of volunteer repairers. We have also shared information on how community groups around the world are exploring moving their events online.

Our grant funding from Nesta and the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) came to an end in 2020. This was a grant to actively promote Restart Parties and spread community repair across England with a particular interest in how repair events help create a special space for sharing of skills, especially of people over 50. This was a successful relationship and Nesta has now joined the European Right to Repair campaign as a member.

We became a partner of “Sharepair”, a new EU-funded project to help build a “digital support infrastructure for citizens in the repair economy”. It runs through 2023. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the amount of waste from electrical and electronic goods. A significant part of the project revolves around the development of digital tools for community repair networks, and Restart plays an important role within the project, with activities and deliverables across all our strategic objectives.

Inspire a culture change

We want to encourage more people to start thinking about the entire lifecycle of their electrical devices, from resource extraction to disposal and to see this awareness reflected in their behaviour and decision-making.

Increasing our media presence

This year saw Restart in some strong media performances including:

  • Appearing as a guest on Reasons to be Cheerful podcast hosted by Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd in March 
  • Writing a fortnightly column for the Big Issue during the first lockdown on simple repairs with our volunteers generating the content 
  • Being interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC World Service following the release of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on e-waste in November
  • Appearing on BBC World News TV programme in February discussing the increase in e-waste

Our weekly fix it page in Big Issue, this one on sewing machines

Radio show & podcast

Our podcast continues to attract a good number of listeners who enjoy the variety of topics discussed, with between 1,000-2,000 listens per episode in the first month.

In 2020, we continued to expand the range of perspectives on repair covered, including: featuring the work of professional repairers; frontline medical professionals; the need for diversity in tech; the importance of climate education; an exploration of the shoe industry and comparisons with electronics. We have received the following encouraging feedback from listeners:

I found this engaging, informative, and it felt right on target and relevant to the current situation.

Your podcasts are fantastic: so stimulating. Learn something new from every one.

I admire what you all do and I love restart radio.

The podcast can be heard on our website, Spotify, iTunes or you can listen live on London’s Resonance FM. We invested in making our entire catalogue of past episodes (over 190 in total) searchable. In 2021, we will add transcripts for most episodes. 

Education

As part of our work on the REFER project (Raw Engagement for Electronics Repair), funded by KIC Raw Materials, we delivered an online event for Earth Day disassembling a smartphone combined with animated graphics looking at the raw materials needed to build the phone.

We worked with a group of science museums across Europe on a project called Re-Play, also funded by EIT Raw Materials. The project aims to incorporate repair and reuse into the museums’ programme of activities. In light of Covid, we created an interactive online activity called Materials Matter aimed primarily at 8-12yrs, for use in science museums and at community repair events.

Materials matter landscape image

People can access stronger local repair networks

The Restart Project is working towards growing repair networks in the UK and internationally, including community repair groups, repair SMEs and companies, to promote repair best practice and to forge links between them.

Community Repair

Sadly we could not run our regular Restart Parties for much of the year, community events where participants bring along their broken electrical items and repair them collaboratively with our teams of volunteers known as ‘Restarters’. 

At the start of the year, we ran in-person events for our London community including skillshares, first aid training and volunteer welcome sessions. Since Covid struck, we have put on several online social events and skillshare sessions, and have been sharing information on how community groups around the world are exploring moving their events online.

As part of our efforts in this pandemic, we have been promoting computer reuse projects across the UK that accept individual donations for reuse in the local community. We have also worked with some of these projects based in London to run fixing events with our volunteers working on repairing some of the devices donated. These were not open to the public, but allowed our volunteers to get fixing again.

We hosted the second edition of Fixfest UK as a series of 11 online events. Fixfest UK is a gathering of repairers, activists, policy-makers and thinkers, and session topics included a demonstration of a component tester, how repair data is useful and adult learning. There was strong engagement with 300+ people attending. Participants showed a keen interest to follow up and continue sharing best practice and advice & support. 

Restarters.net is our international platform for repair volunteers and activists. We improved its design and have continued to develop features including recording data about non-electrical items brought to community repair events.

Commercial Repair Business mapping

We are continuing to build and strengthen our relationships with businesses in London, as they are an integral part of our community and a vital part of our vision for a future in which repair is thriving.

We have continued to work on our Repair Directory, a web-based app allowing members of the public to look up details of reliable repair businesses in their local area in London. We have developed an online form to allow people to submit a repair business in their local area. To further expand the coverage across London, we are developing partnerships with local authorities. At the end of 2020 over 150 repair businesses were listed in the Directory.

Devices that are sustainable and effective regulation

Restart’s work on influencing policy-makers at UK and EU level aims to raise the profile of issues around product lifetime and repairability. We use our work on repair data to provide evidence in support of our campaigning work.

UK advocacy

Restart was asked to appear and give evidence as part of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry on Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy. The resulting report was released in November and is strongly in favour of longer lasting products, asking the government to take urgent action. The EAC took many of our recommendations to implement legislation bringing the Right to repair to the UK, giving additional visibility to our positions. In 2018, we co-drafted the Manchester Declaration calling on policymakers, product designers and manufacturers to make repair more accessible and affordable. This has gained traction and has now been endorsed by over 60 community repair groups and 20 ally groups. The network has also secured endorsement from nearly 20 political figures from all the main English political parties.

International Repair Day

Repair Day slogans in many languages

This year’s theme was “Repair is Essential”. We produced a video talking to repairers, hosts and businesses on why repair is essential to them. We also coordinated the production of resources in 9 languages that were used by groups on social media around the world.

European Right to Repair

Restart sits on the steering committee and plays a very active role in the European Right to Repair campaign. The goals of the campaign are

  1. products that are designed to be repairable,
  2. everyone has access to spare parts and repair manuals, and
  3. consumers are informed about product repairability.

We employ a Campaigner who is based in Brussels. Thanks to her work, membership to the campaign is growing steadily, with 40 member organisations across 15 countries. Membership is open to groups and organisations across Europe and includes non-profit organisations, networks of community repairers, professional repairers and public institutions. 

As part of the #LongLiveMyPhone campaign in February, we helped coordinate groups in Germany, Belgium and the UK with organised protests, creating a crime scene with a mobile phone as the victim to raise awareness of the fate of many smartphones in Europe that last on average 3 years. At the same time, the campaign launched its petition asking the European Union to give people the Right to Repair their smartphones by requiring manufacturers to design repairable devices and provide spare parts and repair information to all repairers and consumers. This has reached over 25,000 signatures. Alongside the petition to engage the public, the campaign also wrote a letter to the European Commission which was also signed by other organisations. The campaign contributed to the EU’s decision to prioritise working on smartphones regulation as a pillar of its Circular Economy Action Plan.

Campaign action dead smartphone

To coincide with International Repair Day in October, the campaign released a video entitled Repair Heroes which featured individuals, organisations, businesses nominated by members for their achievements in the repair sector, and the inspiration to provide to others.

In November, Right to Repair Europe successfully campaigned for the European Parliament to vote in favour of ambitious measures on mandatory repairability labelling and future legislation to prevent premature obsolescence of products. This means the European Commission has the support of the Parliament to move forward with laws to extend the lifetime of products and improve consumers’ information on repairability when making a purchase.

Collecting data to support advocacy

We continue to collect data on barriers to repair with repair activists from around the world. We use this evidence to push for longer-lasting products and our Right to Repair in future policy. While Restart Parties came to a halt in 2020, we focused on collecting data from past events and analysing data already collected.

We have designed and hosted a number of online microvolunteering tasks over 2020. The idea of these tasks is to engage our volunteer community to help ensure the accuracy of the collected data, and to analyse it to provide insights we can then feed into policy discussions.

We have continued to work with Open Repair Alliance partners who have shared their data on items repaired. The aggregated dataset of electrical and electronic repairs at community events is now around 42,000 items. In December we led on releasing an updated version of the Open Repair Data Standard, aimed at increasing the quality of the data collected by community repair initiatives.

Public Appearances

In spite of the pandemic, we had a very busy year of speaking engagements, albeit online

  • We gave oral evidence to the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee investigation on electronic waste.
  • We spoke at the UK Internet Governance Forum, the London Design Festival “Planted Unplugged” series with Oliver Heath, the Next Generation Internet Policy Summit and the Electrical Safety First Conference.

Organisational structure and development (including fundraising)

Organisational Structure

Day to day management of the charity was overseen by the two co-founders. One works full-time, and another was part-time for part of the year due to Long Covid. The two lead a core staff team: Tech & Data lead, Online Community lead, Operations lead, Right to repair campaigner, London Network lead and Communications assistant. We also worked with a growing network of freelance consultants to deliver projects.

The Restart Project continued to be a member of the Small Charities Coalition and Good Electronics.

Risk management

The Trustees considered the major risks to the organisation in regular board meetings, in light of updates from the core staff team. The full risk register is considered every six months at trustee meetings to re-evaluate if the risks have increased or decreased. These included governance risks, financial risks, staffing risks, organisational risks and external risks.

All activities run by the Restart Project were covered by its public liability insurance. Staff team and experienced volunteers regularly reviewed and improved the safety guidelines and the model risk assessment for running events.

Funding

We received the final instalment of our grant from Nesta / DCMI towards our community development work. We received the next instalment of our grant from KIC Raw Materials towards our educational work on critical raw materials and payment of the grant for our work with science museums across Europe on incorporating materials on the importance of repair into their programme of activities. At the end of the year we received the first payment of the Sharepair EU Interreg funding, for work carried out in the first half of 2020.

Unrestricted funds came from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, including a Covid fast response grant, which significantly helped reduce financial uncertainty caused by the reduction in sponsorship and income from paid events, as well as the changing fundraising landscape due to the pandemic. 

An additional source of unrestricted resources was the Shuttleworth Foundation, due to their last donation made in 2019, for use in 2020 and beyond. 

Due to our involvement with a range of European-funded projects, we currently receive funding for these initiatives with a significant delay – in some cases, up to 9 months after spending. This was not a problem in 2020, thanks to our reserves, but will require careful management in the future.   

 

Plans for the Future

Visit to a local repair business by Rosemary (Friends of the Earth Hillingdon) and Ugo (Restart)We expect a busy 2021. While in-person community repair events are unlikely to resume at least until the summer, we will continue to support our community and move forward with other parts of our work. Among the projects we are working on are:

  • In light of the new lockdown, promote all community reuse initiatives around the UK addressing digital exclusion for students and people in need.
  • Launch a London-focused campaign promoting donations of under-utilised computers and supporting with our network of volunteers local initiatives in need of help with repairs of donated equipment
  • Expand our Repair Directory, signposting users to reliable repair businesses in more areas of London, and work with Welsh partners on building a local version of the Directory.
  • Help facilitate the creation of a decentralised network of electrical repair groups in the UK, bringing together organisations and regional networks to expand our collective effectiveness and impact.
  • Increase our focus on data analysis, working with existing volunteers and citizen scientists to create ongoing engagement exploring repair data to gain insights on barriers to repair to be used to shape future policies at UK and European level
  • Work with volunteers on updating our reference data, based on product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data. This is the data we use to calculate the environmental impact of repairs at community repair events.
  • Continue to campaign on Right to repair in the UK and to help steer the development of the European Right to repair campaign

Finances

[We will publish this data as soon as our accounts are finalised]