We hope you have all had a great Christmas and a happy new year. With the BitFIXit project running community workshops and engaging with events run by other groups for over 16 years now, we feel that now is a good time to set out how we can move the BitFIXit project forwards, going into the future.
- Encourage reuse, repair and repurpose
As new and upcoming iterations of computers and mobile devices are becoming increasingly locked down in terms of specs and repairability, and the business models of ingrained planned obsolescence on the part of manufacturers become evermore unsustainable, we believe that being able to reuse, repair and repurpose IT equipment and hardware components are more important than ever before.
While reusing and repurposing computers, mobile devices and other IT equipment goes a long way in reducing the amount of e-waste we produce, we feel that we can further reduce e-waste by finding other different (and creative!) ways of reusing and repurposing individual parts that make up the equipment. We already shared some repurpose and reuse ideas here on this site, but we are interested in being more ambitious and creative with reuse and repurpose by working on various different projects, based on ideas we discussed during recent workshop sessions (and of course, finally giving Gareth a good reason to make use of all the laptop batteries he has been hoarding all that time!)
The overall gist of promoting reuse, repair and repurpose is to encourage people to be more resourceful by maximising the useful life of technological products through refurbishment, upgrades and optimisation. And where those items could no longer be used for their original purpose, their individual components can still become parts of other useful items, instead of just becoming e-waste.
- Collaborate with other community groups
Collaboration is going to be important going forward, as we are better able to promote sustainability by working together. We understood that this can be done as demonstrated in March 2019, when the fine folks at Repair Sheffield and People’s Kitchen Pitsmoor came together with us for the relaunch of Green City Action’s Community Tool Bank at Abbeyfield Park House. What is in the pipeline right now, is for collaborative events to take place around every three months.
We currently work alongside Repair Sheffield at their repair cafe sessions at Heeley City Farm and Strip The Willow, and we will be working alongside them more frequently at Abbeyfield Park House. We’re starting regular Repair Sheffield sessions every month, on the first Saturday of the month. Combining our IT-oriented workshops with their more generalised repair cafes will result in a more unified community repairs hub that is capable of fixing a broad range of everyday items and sharing advice, tips and ideas.
We would be especially interested in collaborating with other community groups and repair cafes from further afield. What would also be great is to be able to work with the folks at Access Space again; we regrettably haven’t been able to maintain contact with them since they were unable to keep repair cafes going there last year.
- Reach out to the wider public
We do have a lot of people from within the local community come to our Saturday workshops since we first started, but attracting interest in folks from further afield is something we believe can only help in the long term.
At present, Gareth and myself have been running the community repair workshops as mostly a two-person operation, with a few other people dropping by to help us out from time to time. What this means is that we can only do so much ourselves in the 3-4 hour workshop sessions while also taking on full-time work commitments elsewhere. And so going forward, we want to encourage more people to join us and help out at our workshops in Abbeyfield Park House, as well as repair cafe sessions held by Repair Sheffield at Heeley City Farm and Strip The Willow.
To attract interest in what we do at our workshops, we will aim to work with organisations such as Voluntary Action Sheffield, the Doit.Foundation and the Sheffield Students Union to advertise volunteering opportunities, as well as make better use of social media platforms to spread the word about what we do at our workshops. We will also aim to spread the word out to local communities and advertise the volunteering opportunities at our community workshops at Abbeyfield Park House, and at repair cafes run by other groups we are working with at present.
- Evolve the repairs workshops
At present, we focus primarily on diagnostics, repairs and clean-ups of desktop PCs and laptops, along with some work on phones and tablets. The potential is there, though, to diversify the pop-up workshops and make it into more than simply a computer repair cafe; as well as developing it into an inclusive community repairs hub where anyone can come in and learn how to fix their tired and clapped-out everyday items, why not offer a pop-up internet cafe for example?
Internet cafes were once quite popular in the days before tablets and smartphones became ubiquitous; you could have a coffee and a bite to eat while watching online videos, catching up on the latest news or applying for jobs in the local area. Nowadays, people find that they could simply do just that on their phones, tablets or laptops in a typical chain coffee shop, which meant that over recent years, internet cafes have been gradually dying out across the country.
We believe internet cafes still have a place in local communities, where there are people who can’t afford access to home or mobile broadband services.
These are just a few different ways we can take to develop the repair workshops and inspire local communities to fix their items and help others do the same.