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Cracked It grew from a crazy idea in 2015 to become one of the UK’s most prominent social enterprises by 2020. The journey involved many twists and turns, shifts and shocks, and touching and going!
The below details a short history of Cracked It’s journey from inception to legacy beyond closure.
Cracked It (or ‘Phones Cracked’ as it was then) emerged in response to our Founder, Josh Babarinde’s, work with at-risk youth in East London as part of his Year Here Fellowship.
It was clear that many local young people were seeking income, belonging and self-worth but didn’t perceive the opportunity for such value to be derived via legitimate means. They felt backed into crime’s corner as a result. At the same time, levels of violent crime in London were increasing, with 85% of it committed by young people under 30.
Josh sought to develop an intervention that would provide at-risk young people with skills to aid their participation in a newer sector of the economy - digital technology - that would also appeal to their need for instant gratification, income generation, gaining self-esteem, and being sgents at society’s core, not the margins.
Josh sought to trial phone repair as the vehicle to empower young, at-risk Eastenders.
After learning to repair broken smartphones on YouTube and roping in the tech company iCracked to provide technical support, Josh developed a one-off phone repair employability programme to equip a group of at-risk youth with the repair skills they needed to make cash from fixing phones - and enhance their sense of self-worth as a result.
The pilot programme was a short-sharp intervention called the ‘Phones Cracked Bootcamp’, a five-day course consisting of repair masterclasses and soft skill workshops that culminated in the particulants running their own repair stall at Spitalfields Market, selling their services to the public.
While rough and ready, in those five days, the programme significantly enhanced the young people’s repair skill-set and they generated income as a result. Impact measurement surveys indicated that they felt a greater sense of belonging in the legitimate economy as a result.
It was clear that this idea had both impactful and commercial legs.
Supported by Year Here, Josh sought to build some infrastructure around this one-off programme so that it could be repeated again and again, bigger and better, with more young people across more areas of London.
That infrastructure became the social enterprise Cracked It.
Scaling the Bootcamp Programm
We crafted our Bootcamp Programme into a product commissioned by housing associations and local authorities across London, including Islington Council, Barnet Council, Barking and Dagenham Council, One Housing, Genesis Housing, L&Q and more.
As a result, we reached over 200 young people across London and became part of the fabric of some communities’ offer for at-risk/ex-offender youth.
Up until this point, our model involved releasing our repair graduates into the big wide world to make cash through repairs on an informal ad-hoc basis. But in so doing, we were missing the opportunity to efficiently harness their talents and channel their skills into consistent custom that we had the contacts, profile and expertise to broker for them.
As a result, we launched a regular Spitalfields Market smartphone repair clinic, staffed by our young technicians all year round.
The success was mixed.
The pros: we were in one of the most central trading spots in The City and so close to lots of City workers who came to Spitalfields for lunch.
The cons: As with any market, footfall was unpredictable, which sometimes made for a bad experience for our young people. Repair quality also took a hit - when it hit the winter months, technicians’ fingers froze and some mistakes were made...
We needed a re-think.
Corporat Repair Clinics
It was clear that the ideal solution would involve being stationed in one spot on any given day - but ideally indoors (in the warm!), and even closer to our City worker target customer. Market research indicated that 76% of people don’t get their phone repair within six months because it’s too inconvenient to get a repair usually (travelling to the high street and mail-in options are too much hassle), so we had to support consumers to overcome convenience-based barriers to repair.
Our solution: the workplace repair clinic - versions of the our Spitalfields Market repair stall that popped up in large workplaces across London.
We struck partnerships with over thirty of London’s (and the world’s) largest workplaces to run our repair clinics, staffed by our young technicians, on a regular basis including Barclays, UBS, Deutsche Bank, River Island, The US Embassy, Ministry of Justice and many more.
Repairs were completed on the spot in under one hour and customers didn’t even have to leave their buildings to access a repair - we were down in their foyer, reception area or cafeteria ready to fix. Workplaces promoted our service through their internal communications channels, which drove significant numbers of bookings.
58% of our customers access our service on the basis that we were the most convenient repair service available to them. This is one of our proudest commercial successes; most customers chose us because of the quality of our service provision (and not through charitable sympathy or altruism).
Our service was growing into more offices month after month, creating new opportunities for our young people - until coronavirus hit.
Our workplace repair clinic business model relied on a large volume of highly-concentrated individuals all being in the same place at the same time - the antithesis of the coronavirus direction of travel. We therefore sought to reinvent our business model, keeping hyper-convenience at its core.
Our solution: Repair Rescue - an on-demand repair service that roamed London collecting customers’ broken devices and repaired them at our HQ, before returning them back within the day.
The service was fairly convenient for our customers but couldn’t match the speediness of our workplace-based repairs. It was also a logistical nightmare for Cracked It and there were no serendipitous opportunities for the ‘walk-in’ customers that our clinics provided. Withstanding many tweaks and changes, Repair Rescue wasn’t doing our balance sheet nor social impact justice. We discontinued it.
During the lockdown, though, we were especially proud to donate refurbished smartphones to care homes to enable elderly folk to video chat with friends and family - and to attend video GP appointments.
In September 2020, we announced our bold and radical decision to ‘achieve, not survive’ and close our doors on 1st January 2021. We launched a series of legacy projects to seed long-term change empowering with convictions to thrive.
You can read more about this decision here.
You can read more about our legacy projects here.
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