Maakbaar Leuven is an organization in Leuven that supports Leuven’s sustainability with various initiatives of their members. One of the already existing initiatives is a recurring Repair-café, an event where people come together, share tools and knowledge, upcycle and repair things instead of throwing them away. This way Repair-cafés contribute to a longer lifecycle of products which helps to reduce the use of precious raw materials. It is a place for people to roll up their sleeves themselves and contribute to a more sustainable Leuven, together.
Kunlabora strongly believes in corporate social responsibility and actively empowers employees to realize social impact and reach out to the community, preferably starting with our local community. This is exactly why we decided to sign the Maakbaar Leuven Charter and commit to help out where we can.
Every month Maakbaar Leuven organizes a Repair-café in various locations, in order to include a more diverse crowd and bring repair activities in everyone’s neighbourhood.
These Repair-café events revolve around repairing together, so there are tools and materials available to perform all kinds of repairs. Volunteers - coloquially called repairders - are present, with repair knowledge and skills in all kinds of areas. Some of the repairders keep a log of their repairs, others don’t. Some keep track of where useful repair instructions were found, others don’t. Every repairder has his own personal method of recording however. Sharing knowledge is difficult this way and mostly happens ad hoc. Maakbaar Leuven and the repairders of the Repair-cafés want to give a boost to the repair movement and include more and more people. Therefore sharing repair knowledge and making it easily accessible is important.
During some discovery workshops with some of the repairders the first problem to solve was identified : How can a repairder obtain an overview of the most interesting repairs of the thing they’re trying to repair right now?
During a meeting with the repairders, our team created a Story Map. With a Story Map we discussed which solutions could solve the problem and how we could prioritize them.
Together we came to a solution: The Repair App would provide a way for the repairders to store their repairs in a central system. A scoring system helps to order the repair instructions according to usefulness. To help identify a product more easily we introduced some computer vision technology with the help of KU Leuven. Repairders just need to take a picture of the label of the product to retrieve information on the corresponding device.
This first version of the Repair App was built by Kunlabora with the help of some students and a PhD of KU Leuven. For Kunlabora this development offered the opportunity not just to contribute to a more sustainable world but also to learn. In this project one of the main challenges was finding a way to make an application with a low running cost, even with inclusion of machine learning technologies. A citizen-driven organization like Maakbaar Leuven doesn’t have a large budget to spend on IT-solutions. A low running cost solution is for this kind of project an interesting way to go.