The Fixers’ Collective: Fixing Phones and Fixing the World

Repair is more than just an act. It’s a culture. It’s a mindset. It’s a mission.

Repair is a movement.

All around the country—and all around the world—groups of tinkerers are building up passionate communities around the concept of repair. There are Repair Cafés, Fixit ClinicsRestart Parties and other mending events sprouting up everywhere: in high schools, in libraries, in community centers—all of them teaching people how to fix broken stuff.

Just yesterday, The Verge did a great profile on one of those repair groups: The Fixers’ Collective in New York City. Founded in 2008, the Fixers’ Collective is staffed by volunteers who help members of the local community resurrect all kinds of things. They fix busted phones, sew ripped sweaters, and rewire lamps. With every thing they fix, the group also helps to rewire the relationship patrons have with broken stuff—giving them a more powerful alternative than just the landfill.

Fixing phones at the fixers' collective
Fixing things keeps them in use and out of the landfill. And teaching people how to repair empowers them to see past broken to a possible solution.

Check out the scene at a recent Fixers’ Collective workshop, as rendered by Lindsey J. Smith of The Verge:

It was approaching 10:00 pm on a Wednesday, but dozens of people were crowded around several long wooden tables in the center of a cluttered workshop in Chelsea. Some stared intently at lines of code, others hunched over a soldering iron or sewing machine.

One evening a month, the Fixers Collective convenes at the Hack Manhattan workshop to repair busted phones, computers, and other gadgets brought to them by the stumped public. These Fixers are not paid professionals; they do this for fun. That night, by the time Carey Tan arrived, they had already seen broken reading glasses and an espresso maker that shorts the circuit. Tan, a fresh-faced and bubbly 30-year-old with a network-attached storage device under her arm, beelined for Vincent Lai, a member of the Fixers Collective, seated at the end of the table closest to the door.

Save me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!” she cried as she placed the NAS on the table. She bought it a few months ago, but it recently stopped turning on. Immediately the problem draws other Fixers and they cluster around the device. Tan seems more excited than stressed about the issue.

Be sure to check out the whole piece over at The Verge. It details not just the group’s mission to fix broken things in their community, but also how they are helping to make the world a more fixable place in general—from fighting against anti-repair clauses in US copyright law to fighting for your right to repair everything you own.