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Changing attitudes and actions: research with Nottingham Trent University

We don’t measure the success of our Restart Parties simply by the number of objects fixed – although this information is incredibly valuable, and the reason we created our Fixometer. Success also comes in the form of changed attitudes, greater confidence, more enthusiasm for repair, or a more nuanced understanding of the ways our devices and appliances fit into wider patterns of resource use.

Together with a Nottingham Trent University (NTU) School of Architecture Design and the Built Environment research team led by Tim Cooper, we’ve been working to research these less tangible effects: the ways in which Restart Parties lead participants to think or act differently.

Scope and research questions

In 2016, we spoke to 99 people (out of a total of 316 who attended Restart Parties in London between September and November) about their confidence repairing things, their habits as consumers of electronic items, and their attitudes to repair events – you can read the full report of the first round of research. Eight months later, we conducted follow up research with 25 of these participants, comparing their new responses with the original interviews.

The research sought to answer four major questions:

  1. Does attending a Restart Party lead people to repair more at home, or to become more involved with community repair events?
  2. Do Restart Parties provide people with new skills and knowledge, or inspire them to learn more about repair and related issues?
  3. Does attending a Restart Party lead people to change their views or actions concerning the decision to buy new products or repair existing ones?
  4. How do people interpret the way in which Restart aims to tackle broader social and environmental issues?

The findings

The results obtained are largely positive, but must be read with caution as a very initial and limited sample. We have the first evidence on how engaging in on hands-on repair may make a real difference to the way we think about repair, how we act as consumers, and how we reflect on wider systemic context.

Between our first survey and our second, we found among those who responded to the second:

  1. Most people were more likely to attend a community repair event (75%).
  2. Most people felt more confident about conducting repairs themselves, and 68% felt that they had gained new skills or knowledge.
  3. Participants reported taking action independently “as a result of attending the Restart Party”, for instance by searching for repair information online (48%), recycling non-working electrical products (40%) and joining as volunteers (12%).
  4. While most people were aware of the broader environmental significance of repair, more work remains to be done on communicating Restart’s aim to encourage people to think about entire product lifecycles.

Additionally, we tested how people rank various factors when making a purchasing decision. At the time of attending an event, price ranked as number one. When asking the same question 8 months later, it dropped to number 4, behind: reviews; how long it will last; reliability.

Read the full report

Download the full report and please leave us a comment below. (You can also find an embedded version of the report at the end of this post.)

Future work

Due to the sample size, it is hard to draw conclusions that extend beyond those who we talked to — more than anything, the result is just calling out for further research.

We get contacted by so many researchers of all areas, with all kinds of interests. It is hard for us to accommodate all of the requests. So we’d like to set out here: this is one of the areas we are most interested to pursue, potentially with a larger study in terms of scope, but also with qualitative work that might go into greater depth.

It’s important that we continue measuring the less tangible impact of our Restart Parties, alongside numerical data like the number of items fixed. As a small organisation, we plan to continue working in this area in the future, for example by embedding some of these questions in regular monitoring of our work and by expanding its reach beyond the events we run directly in London, in order to develop even wider conclusions about the broader impact of community repair events.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the researchers who surveyed Restart Party participants: James Diamond in 2017, Grit Hartung and Yin Chung Au in 2016.

Community Repair Research 2018 Report - NTU Restart

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