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Recognising the volunteer contributions of Restarters

restarters together

We’ve always said that the most amazing thing about The Restart Project is the volunteer pool of Restarters that emerged from our monthly community events here in London. When we started, we had no idea there were so many talented people just waiting for an opportunity to share their skills with their neighbours.

We now have 45 active Restarters in the London area.

Eleven Restarters have volunteered over 24 hours each in the events we’ve hosted in the past year.

Restarters have volunteered 567 hours to showing Londoners how to fix their broken electronics, in total in just Camden and south London Restart Parties alone (not counting Hackney, Harrow, and Kilburn events) in the past year.

In thinking about how to recognise their achievements, we first thought it important to acknowledge the significant time they have volunteered. Some might think it appropriate to somehow quantify their skills, or even assign levels to their skills – in fact we get asked all the time if we somehow accredit our volunteers.

But to start, we feel it’s important to recognise the time that Restarters dedicate to sitting with people in their community. In some fixes, there is no glory at all – it is literally taking something apart and putting it back together again, or reconfiguring some settings that are driving a user mad.

But this is exactly the point of our work: by spending time, and by caring enough to sit down with others, people are making a difference. So many people have commented on the unique community space this creates at our events. All of this time is valuable, especially given the economic pressures almost all of us experience here in London, in earning enough to simply survive here.

We’re convinced also that the learning is two-way, that by having to explain a repair, and the repair process, our more talented Restarters are benefitting by learning new communication skills.

And the social aspect of repair is actually a big motivator. Many Restarters tell us they keep coming back because they like going to new places and meeting new people. (A recent Nesta study on makerspaces revealed socialising is one of the top reasons people join them.)

Acquiring new skills

As for our more novice Restarters, we want to encourage them to keep coming to events and getting involved. We offer skillshares for Restarters who need structured learning opportunities – like this one shared by Restarter Philip Leriche on Youtube – but we strongly believe that most learning happens in a hands-on way, in context and is experiential.

We like to say that troubleshooting and higher-level repair skills are acquired much like higher-level language skills: by being social and practicing, not through a text book!

We just launched our Wiki, where Restarters have begun to share their skills online. There, soon Restarters will have the option of getting a badge recognising their contribution of over 24 hours – we would like to encourage people to reinforce their knowledge online, but practice in real life, in their community.

In the near future there will be a similar recognition for Restart Party Hosts, whose often invisible work in organising events can go unrecognised.

All of these measures of social impact are being incorporated into our exciting Fixometer project, on the request of volunteers themselves.

And lastly, as resources allow, we will add “badges” for other unique achievements by Restarters. Our volunteers are keen to discuss this, and they will lead on defining these.

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