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Second-ever global Fixfest in Berlin

Having run the first-ever Fixfest two years ago, we were thrilled that Runder Tisch Reparatur (German Repair Round Table) ran such an inspiring event in Berlin this past weekend. 

The event embodied everything we’d hoped: DIY spirit, free programme and space for exchange, thought-provoking keynote speakers, and two “fringe” events (the Climate Strike march and a repair data dive).

In creating Fixfest, we were inspired by past global gatherings of farmers and bloggers that we’d participated in (and helped organise). These created a new space, allowing people who were engaged in production in their own local context to link with others and get inspired, share common experiences and come away ready for more.

Meeting people from six continents, and people from the German repair initiatives network itself, the second Fixfest met and exceeded our expectations. Thank you to our dynamic international delegation for joining us in this adventure.

In terms of the questions we bring with us, and wanted to explore with others, we had a number of interesting take-aways. You can read more in-depth notes on our forum. Check out our favourite photos from our trip to Berlin. 

Are our community repair events embedded enough in local economies, and social and economic structures and systems?

Purna (Bangalore) shows her calendar featuring local repair pros
Purna (Bangalore Repair Café) shows off her calendar featuring local repair pros
  • Professional repairers are a part of Runder Tisch Reparatur and were represented at Fixfest. Repair Café Bangalore features local repair people through their efforts. The US Right to Repair campaign shared that engagement of local repair business is a key to its success. But this seems an area many groups need to do more!
  • We learned about a truly radical, experiential education programme in Munich – and more about Club de Reparadores’ work in Buenos Aires schools called the “minor league”. In Hong Kong, we heard about a small university student repair group that is working against the odds to engage students in assisted DIY repairs.
  • In terms of linking with maker communities, we heard from German activist Andreas, who had advice on how maker and fixer communities can help each other out. He’s an excellent example of someone who bridges between these communities.
  • Montreal’s Insertech talked about how they added community repair “Réparothons” to their computer refurbishing social enterprise, working with youth seeking employment. Their youth and employment-focused approach has helped them to link with government and to reach further into the community.
  • We had a number of interesting side chats with people about sustaining our activity, avoiding burnout and learning how to pass on leadership. Like many social movements, there is no “business model”. But there may be ways to sustain our work better. And we can learn from each other on this.

How can we help accelerate a culture change, given we are up against such a massive, consumerist marketing machine? Are we reaching outside of our bubble? 

A colourful wall of Splitter fanzine pages
A colourful wall of Splitter fanzine pages
  • We enjoyed hearing from YouTuber She*Fix, from Berlin’s Technical University (our hosts). She aims to show that fixing and repairing is not just for men. 
  • Repair Café Jena’s story of creating a repair bus because they couldn’t find a permanent home was really inspiring. Having community repair mobile and popping up around town sounds like a really good way of reaching people we might not otherwise reach. Now the bus is being lent out to the network of repair cafes in Germany and may reach more remote areas too.
  • We were inspired by Felipe Fonseca’s experience of going with the grain of Brazilian culture, using practices of improvisation (“gambiarra”) and the fluid collective (mutirão) to organise computer repair and reuse – making upcycled computers cool even while the country was being flooded with new, cheap equipment. (Listen to him on our podcast.) Meanwhile in Bangalore, Purna and Himadri use their events as a platform to demonstrate how India is a country of repair, and it’s something to be proud of.
  • A great idea from Runder Tisch Reparatur was to work with footwear and refurbishers – we look forward to a partnership with The Footwearists – we see this as an excellent way to link with new, young urban demographics. 
  • We absolutely loved Anstiftung’s “Splitter” a fanzine for repair cafes that shares stories, wisdom and helps people see the bigger picture. We think this could be a great method of spreading the message in a way that appeals to a broad audience. We’d love to see more DIY material, including stencils and poster designs.
  • We were intrigued by a radical talk by Nico Paech encouraging our movement to position itself as post-growth, that there is no “green growth”. So basically, a rejection of the status quo. The implications for the economy and society are huge. 

How can we transform enough of ourselves from fixers and menders to campaigners? How can we leverage the power of our grassroots network to change the system? 

Halte à L'Obsolescence Programmée presents on their work
Halte à L’Obsolescence Programmée presents on their work
  • There was really exciting engagement in the workshop that served as the launch of the multi-year coalition Right to Repair campaign in Europe. We discussed in detail how to build a large movement to influence Brussels, but also influence at the national level, including in countries that are not fully in the EU. 
  • We enjoyed hearing HOP (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée – End Planned Obsolescence) talk about its innovative work pushing for repairability scoring in France. They remind us that the repair movement needs to link with new, disruptive consumer rights organisations.
  • We made real headway in interpreting our repair data, and helping those who collect data together using the Open Repair Data Standard to see its value. We focused on fault categorisation and learning from our laptop data, as we hope this has immediate value in policy in the near future. There is renewed dedication to the data standard and collaboration.

After all of this, plus breaking bread, drinking beer and marching together, we left Berlin absolutely convinced more than ever of what we put to participants at the beginning of the gathering:

In the end, we have what the companies and marketers will never have and cannot buy. We have social ties, authenticity, care for each other. They know this. Some are scared, some try to co-opt us, and some (we hope more!) are changing and taking action because of us.

One journalist recently told us that a lobby group for manufacturers declined to comment on Right to Repair because it’s an “emotional” issue — proof we’re going to win, that’s for sure — but when?

Politicians and policymakers know too that ultimately what moves people is feeling connected. What we hope they realise, is that the most important parts of the “circular economy” and the Green New Deal are in fact social, about links between people.

Fixfests future

Watch this space for a more sustainable, permanent arrangement to promote global and national Fixfests, and one that links with the global coordination around International Repair Day and global collaboration on repair open data.

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