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Celebrating 2021: digital access, learning from our repairs and the Right to Repair

Hackney Fixers in November 2021 - socially distant Restart Party

As 2021 draws to a close, it’s time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished together this year. Again with the challenge of not being able to meet in public for much of the year. Here are some highlights:

1. Community repair gained new purpose

As the pandemic forced more of our daily lives online, it brought the digital divide into sharp focus. People without access to devices were left even further behind.

So in January, we launched our ‘laptops for lockdown’ campaign. Thanks to your support, we helped local projects collect, repair and distribute laptops to school children.

In the process we realised how important repair is for digital access. Also, crucially and for the first time, the public made the connection between issues of social inequality and waste. We’ve been working with Digital Access West Yorkshire and Nominet to learn more about this work across the UK, and we’ll present the results of our research in the new year, and continue to support this work. So watch this space.

2. Our movement got louder in 2021

Repair really is becoming mainstream, with numerous television shows promoting repair. The Right to Repair grew in profile all over the world, from the US to Australia and New Zealand, and gaining a profile in India, and garnering media attention in Hong Kong and China.

In spite of the pandemic, International Repair Day saw hundreds of events around the world.

We were invited on television every time repair made headlines (which was a lot this year!)

We’re also proud to be teaming up with other community projects across the UK as part of the new Community Repair Network. We’re keen to see this network provide regional support to new groups getting started, and help super-charge community repair in the UK into the future.

3. We learned lots from our repair data

Throughout the year we invited you to embrace your inner scientist and help us explore our rich repair data. And wow did we learn a lot!

First we revealed the true environmental impact of our electronics and updated our community platform to let everyone estimate the environmental benefits of repair events. This work taught us how scarce good information is about the environmental impact of electronics. And how much more needs to be done for carbon literacy on our consumption.

Diving into nearly 50,000 repair attempt records, with your help, we identified many of the reasons our electronics break in the first place. We focused on printers, tablets and batteries, and already started using our findings to push back against industry lobbyists!

4. The Right to Repair started to become a reality

This year has seen unprecedented pressure on policymakers around the world to pass Right to Repair laws. Right to Repair measures even came into force in the UK and EU for the first time.

The government made great fanfare about this, and presented these rules as “job done”.

While these rules do create a very important precedent — most importantly, that a few products be designed with disassembly for repair in mind — they are far from the universal Right to Repair we need.

So we launched a petition to keep up the pressure here in the UK. With over 5,000 signatures, our next milestone is 7,500 or even 10,000. Please share via email with your networks.

We’ll present this petition to Defra (our Ministry of the Environment) and BEIS (our Ministry for Energy and Industry) in the new year. And we’ll keep playing our part in the UK and in the EU through the European campaign we co-founded.

This year has been tough for many

We’d also like to observe and recognise that like 2020, this past year was also difficult for many members of our community. Some lost loved ones, some experienced ill health both mental and physical, many were forced to shelter and feel alone. And this has been made all the more difficult this year, as opposed to 2020, by the sense that many people have “moved on”.

While we continue to invest energy and caring in our online community, we know this is not a substitute for offline activities. And no amount of activity can “solve” certain problems.

To those we’ve missed these past two years, we “see” you and we’re sending light and love to all. We miss you.

Bring on 2022

We’re tentatively hopeful for 2022. We have big plans, which we hope will be possible: another global Fixfest (fingers crossed!), the biggest ever International Repair Day, and a very special new project we’re launching in London.

As we look ahead to our 10th year, we’re incredibly proud of how far we’ve come and thankful for your help getting us here.

If you are able to support our work, please consider giving what you can.

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