Repair Cafe

Sponsor: University of Worcester IMG_7376
Sponsor Liaison: Katy Boom
Student Team: Rosemary Lindsay, Connor Mattson, Rachel Smith
Abstract:  Our project goal was to investigate and determine characteristics of stable structures to support repair café sessions in Worcester and Ledbury, England.  Using interviews, surveys, and personal investigations, we found approximate locations, demographics of interest, and potential strategies for creating the Worcester and Ledbury Repair Cafés.  We developed recommendations based upon our research and a flexible formula for developing a successful repair café. Our findings should be useful to our sponsor, the University of Worcester, and the Malvern Hills Repair Café in creating these new repair cafés.
Link: Final IQP Paper
Repair Cafe Presentation

Executive Summary

I.       Introduction

A repair café is a place where people can bring their old or broken, unwanted items to be used and recycled by others or to potentially be fixed by volunteer experts for free. Repair cafés allow people to interact with their community, as well as pass on and gain knowledge about general repairs.

Jan and Chris Dyer, founders of the Malvern Hills Repair Café, and Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability at the University of Worcester, reached out to Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s London Project Center. They requested assistance in finding the background information necessary to create two new repair cafés: one in the city of Worcester and the other in the town of Ledbury. We took on the task of finding ideal locations for repair cafés in the city of Worcester and the town of Ledbury, while simultaneously raising awareness of the option to repair items rather than discarding them.Repair Cafés can help people facilitate reduction of waste while learning new skills and relaxing. Repair Cafés are run by volunteers who have a particular specialty of repair. While some repairers are able to do a little of everything, most stick to their main area of expertise. The repair café volunteers offer their services to the community at no cost (About the Repair Café, 2010).

II.      Project Goal and Main Objectives

The goal of our project was to investigate stable structures and location(s) to support recurring repair café sessions in the city of Worcester and the town of Ledbury. In order to accomplish our overall goal, we developed four (4) objectives:  (1) Research previous repair cafés; (2) Research stable repair cafés’ methods, structures, and successes; (3) Identify possible locations for repair cafés using information from the first two steps; and (4) develop marketing ideas for attracting volunteers and attendees to repair cafés and for informing the community of repair café benefits.

For the first step, we asked Chris Dyer, one of the creators of the Malvern Hills Repair Café (MHRC) who we worked with for this project, to help us find other stable repair cafés in England.  We identified the Goodlife Centre in London and the Farnham Repair Café as recurring and consistent repair cafés.  To accomplish our second step, we conducted participant observation at the London Goodlife Repair Café and the MHRC, and interviewed the founders of all three repair cafés in order to understand how they constructed their respective repair cafés and compare the atmosphere, demographics, and features of each.  We then used this information to create surveys to conduct in Worcester and Ledbury.

In order to identify possible locations for the Ledbury and Worcester repair cafés, step 3, we conducted surveys in three (3) areas of Worcester (St. Johns, Crowngate Plaza, and Blackpole), and in the market center of Ledbury.  The intent of this survey was to:

  • Gather information about people’s repair habits
  • Gather information about people interested in repair and repair cafés (e.g., age, gender, where they live in the city or town, likeliness to volunteer)
  • Inform the community about repair cafés and repair culture

Using the survey data and the list of repair café characteristics developed in step two (2), we identified areas for the Worcester Repair Café and the Ledbury Repair Café.  Our final step was to use the information we found in the first three steps, as well as our participation in the June 4th, 2015, Skills for Tomorrow conference[1], to suggest methods to increase interest and knowledge about repair cafés.

III.     Findings and Recommendations

From our research, we assembled a four (4) step outline of how to create a stable repair café. These four (4) steps include:

  1. Identify target demographics
  2. Identify possible locations for repair café sessions
  3. Find volunteers
  4. Attract repairees

This four (4) step outline provides the necessary steps we found through our research that could help create a stable repair café. Following the steps, we made recommendations of where a repair café should be located in the city of Worcester and the town of Ledbury.

From our interviews, participant observation, online research and over 200 surveys in Worcester, our team found that residents expressed the highest interest level in repair cafés in the WR2 area (St. John’s). Therefore, we recommend that a repair café be set up in the area of St. John’s. In the town of Ledbury we discovered that the highest interest level was from the Northeast area of Ledbury. However, on our visit to Ledbury we realized it is much smaller than the city of Worcester. Ledbury has a population of 9,900 people and one postcode district, compared to the 98,000 people in Worcester. The smaller size of Ledbury makes it easier to choose a general area for holding repair café sessions. We recommend that in Ledbury the repair café sessions be held along the street of the Market House, High Street.

To identify a specific venue within these locations we recommend organizers consider the criteria in the checklist we developed. We developed this checklist after visiting the Malvern Hills Repair Café and built it up over our time working on the project.

After researching all three (3) repair cafés we found that the most common characteristics of successful repair cafés were available parking and being near public transport, as well as having a friendly atmosphere, seating, heating, a sense of community, and available refreshments.

Our survey data from 250 respondents revealed that most of the Worcester and Ledbury residents (190) did not know what a repair café was. We recommend that the organizers of the Ledbury and Worcester repair cafés, advertise the sessions throughout the creation process in order to attract repairers and repairees.

Overall, we got a very positive response towards repair cafés from Worcester and Ledbury residents, with more than 50% of those who originally would bin or recycle their old, broken items professing interest in repair cafés. We recommend continued advertisement for running sessions to continue spreading the word about repair and increase attendance.

IV.     Conclusions and Final Recommendations

From these findings, we recommend that in Worcester, the repair café be located in WR2 (St. John’s) and that the repair café in Ledbury be located along High Street near the Market House. We recommend that within these areas, potential locations are judged on the following criteria:

  • Parking availability or accessibility by public transport.
  • Atmosphere and sense of community
  • Seating and accessibility of refreshments
  • Safety

We also recommend that the locations chosen are medium sized (room for 50-75 people) and either allow animals, or have a nearby location for people to safely and comfortably leave their animals. Additionally, because of the success of multiple monthly repair cafés, we recommend having repair sessions approximately once per month and on weekends as the FRC and MHRC do.  By increasing the quantity of successful repair cafés in England and across the world, we can do our part to reduce waste and fix our broken belongings in the process.

[1] Skills for Tomorrow is a two day conference for 10 to 15 year old school children where they meet businesses and take part in workshops to learn about green careers, the green economy and sustainability skills.