Citizens on the barricades for repairable products
In order to move towards a circular economic model, it is important to improve the quality and repairability of products. A gap in this process is the lack of balanced and active communication between producers, consumers and repairers. There is, however, an enormous potential for information about the repairability of products among consumers.
With the Repairable project, Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken wants to build an active dialogue between producers, consumers and repairers. We want to explore how users, with their experience in repairing products, can become an equal discussion partner with industry, distributors and policymakers.
Specifically, through an action research project, the Great Repair Study, we investigated the repairability of items and the bottlenecks that consumers experience. Based on that, we designed and tried out different methodologies to involve different stakeholders in the debate. With the results and learning lessons from these tests, we can go to policy makers, midfielders, repairers and producers. In this way, we hope this project will stimulate smart product design on the one hand and conscious consumer behaviour on the other.
Our developed methods aroused interest and enthusiasm among the participants. We collected a lot of useful information on thresholds, levers and attitudes regarding reparability.
The expertise and knowledge acquired during this process formed the basis for drawing up various policy recommendations, follow-up processes and partnerships.
The process with a diverse group of stakeholders and knowledge institutions culminated in the organisation of an international conference 'Repair is the Future'.
The policy recommendations that were developed within our trajectory are being incorporated into policy work at regional, national and international levels.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
A diary method among families (the Great Reparation Study) was positively evaluated by the participants. The relatively high commitment was not an obstacle; on the contrary, it proves that many people feel involved in this topic. Repairability as a theme is alive and well.
The co-creation sessions with consumers, producers and retailers were interesting in terms of content, but the participation of companies was limited to those who were already convinced. The efforts to involve a wider group of companies, e.g. through direct calling, is especially useful in the medium term.
The methods tested for collecting product-related advice produced mainly indirect results, such as an increased sense of community among repairers. In order to collect useful technical information, we need to focus more on a specific product.
The importance of repair in the circular economy is recognised by a growing group of stakeholders. This is evidenced by the high level of interestin the conference. To achieve real change, there is a need for concrete investment in follow-up processes that involve all stakeholders.
30in-depth interviews with repairers
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Our project showed the potential of the tested methods and aroused interest among partner organisations, both in Flanders and beyond. Together with some of these organisations, we worked on a European project, Sharepair. That project was approved even before the end of Repairable, allowing us to cash in on the results immediately and take action on a larger scale.
Sharepair aims to support the repair ecosystem, among other things by developing digital tools in cooperation with users. The questionnaires and methods (IVOX, diary method, etc.) of our project functioned as a starting point for knowledge development within Sharepair. We shared our research findings, contributed to a good practices report on citizen panels and play an active role in a coalition of European cities that wants to roll out new citizen panels.