This phone repair service fixes more than just your screen.

Ready cash, self-worth and a sense of belonging. These are just some of the reasons young people become enmeshed in gang culture. Now a UK initiative has come up with a novel way of providing at-risk youngsters with a legal means of reaching those goals: repairing smart phones.

Cracked It’s teams go into London’s social housing estates to train youngsters to repair broken screens. The best candidates are brought into the business, either at the social enterprise’s online store, on their City of London market stall, or in their new arm where Cracked It’s crack team offer repairs on-site at major businesses including Lloyds Bank HQ and Universal Studios.

CEO Josh Babarinde was employed as a youth worker when he founded Cracked It last year. The former assistant to Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd came across US initiative Homeboy Industries, which employs citizens returning from prison, and saw how the model could help address the challenges kids faced gaining employment in London.

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There are a lot of initiatives designed to support vulnerable people, whether they are at risk of offending or homeless, but they present the beneficiary of the intervention as needy and vulnerable still,” Babarinde says. “What I liked about Homeboy was its asset-based approach, how it looked at the potential skills or talents waiting to be unlocked, so the beneficiaries could generate their own income and self-worth.

While Homeboy’s services range from silkscreen printing to a bakery, Cracked It has focused on a different skill set. It’s influenced by Tower Hamlets’ proximity to three hi-tech hubs: the financial centre around Canary Wharf, start-ups attracted to London’s Olympic Park and the longer established Tech City in Shoreditch. Babarinde originally looked at teaching coding, but realised it would take 180 hours for trainees to become proficient, while phone repairs can be taught in a five-day period and take around half an hour to accomplish.

Coding was a pretty sexy topic, but didn’t work for the young people I was dealing with. A lot of them look for immediate gratification,” he explains. Also, there was a ready market to be tapped: 29 per cent of smart phone users had a damaged device and three-quarters did not get them repaired for at least six months due to lack of convenience.

From early pilots, Cracked It is expanding as organisations such as local authorities and housing associations around London invite Babarinde to visit economically deprived areas to recruit or find vulnerable young people. Also, his team are expanding opportunities for them to work, especially via in-house clinics, setting up stalls in the lobbies or cafeterias of major organisations to save employees time. Alternatively, you can still find Cracked It most Fridays at Spitalfields Market in London, providing a service that benefits in both directions.

Find out more about Cracked It here.

The above article by Chris Mugan first published on in Mar, 2017.