Posted in The Restart Project Blog, Community Follow our work

How we helped Islington to get fixing

An important part of our work in London is supporting and building the network of repair groups. There are currently over 30 groups in London, but some boroughs aren’t represented yet. One of our goals is to ensure there is a group in every area in London so people from all parts of London can access repair!

Here’s how we did it in Islington…

Islington fixers

We worked with Islington Council to jump start the community led repair group ‘Islington Fixers’. The group is now led by the wonderful Bel from Islington Climate Centre, who will be hosting repair events at the Climate Centre and other locations around the borough.

Before this, Islington Council’s waste minimisation team were organising repair events around the borough to celebrate key dates like Repair Week and Earth Day. However, they recognised that supporting a community group to take ownership would encourage local residents to get involved more – both with volunteering to fix and bringing stuff in for repair.

 Image of fixer and resident at the first event CC: The Restart Project / Mark Phillips
Image of fixer and resident at the first event CC: The Restart Project / Mark Phillips

Step 1: Scoping potential partners

Using our experience of supporting community repair groups in London and the council’s knowledge of the borough, we mapped out potential partners, which included sustainability groups, community associations, and universities. 

The group needed to be part of a larger constituted organisation so they could apply for funding, claim expenses etc. 

It took around 6 months to find the right partner.  Part of the process was gaining insight into what could be done to remove barriers for groups who wanted to get involved. 

Image of fixer and resident at the first event CC: The Restart Project / Mark Phillips
Image of fixer and resident at the first event
CC: The Restart Project / Mark Phillips

Step 2: Addressing concerns

1. Organisations with a fixed location weren’t willing to do pop up events across the borough.

It was important that the entire borough could access the events, so we wanted to find an organisation able to do this. A secondary option was to go with an organisation that had a central and easily accessible location. 

2. Organisations didn’t feel like they had enough capacity to take something like this on.

We organised a community engagement event to bring more volunteers in to share the work, and to find members who are able to host and organise events. 

3. Organisers were worried about finding and managing volunteers

Our solution was to get the group set up on Restart’s community platform Restarters.net which gives events visibility and access to volunteers.

To address this in the short term, the council agreed to pay for fixers via Restart until the group has established a team of volunteers.

4. Groups were worried about securing funding to run events

The council agreed to contribute a small amount of funds towards the running of each event for things like refreshments and travel expenses

5. Groups wanted to have a first aider to ensure the events were run safely.

The council put one person from the group through first aid training. This person will attend every event. 

6. Groups wanted to have some basic repair tools to get started with

Fixers usually have their own toolkits which they bring along to events. But we didn’t want a lack of tools to be a barrier for volunteers, so the council contributed towards purchasing a small toolkit. We provided a voucher to purchase tools from ifixit (this offer is open to all new community groups) and we lend out a PAT testing machine to groups in London. 

Step 3: Engaging the wider community

After finding a fantastic organisation that was willing to take the lead, Islington Climate Centre, the next step was to hold a community engagement event. Interested groups and individuals were able to get to know each other, find out more about the group and get involved. 

There was a lot  of interest: 20 people attended including  several new fixers who hadn’t previously engaged in community repair before and people who wanted to help host, collect data and be part of the organising team. 

Step 4: The first event

Islington Fixers ran their first event on Jan 20th 2024. There were 6 fixers and 2 hosts, and 30 people brought in items for fixing. Out of the 31 items brought in, a whopping 48% were fixed, and 45% had their faults diagnosed but will need a spare part or extra time to get them up and running again. This translates to 22 kg of waste and 391 kg of carbon emissions being prevented! 

You can read about how it went over on Islington Climate Centre’s website

Image of two fixers at the first event CC: The Restart Project / Mark Phillips
Image of two fixers at the first event  CC: The Restart Project / Mark Phillips

Step 5: Regular fixing events in Islington

Islington Fixers will now run at least 6 repair events each year. The council will support them with promotion, finding a venue and choosing the dates. Islington Council will put a core volunteer through first aid training so there is always someone able to administer first aid, and they’ll provide the refreshments and supply a toolkit so new fixers popping in can get stuck in straight away! 

Our learnings

  • A key requirement for starting a volunteer community group is to have a core organising team to plan events, recruit and manage volunteers. 
  • You need to have a good understanding of the borough to build local connections. 
  • The most difficult part of this process was finding a group of volunteers able to take the lead on the project, so you’ll need to allow plenty of time for this. 
  • It’s important to discuss what the strengths and needs of the group are and tailor support accordingly. 
  • The group needed to be constituted to allow them to apply for funding, send invoices etc. 
  • If the ideal lead group isn’t constituted , then the repair group could come under another organisation. For example Hackney Fixers operates under the Sustainable Hackney umbrella. 

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