I know the Olympics are over but last Friday I felt like we had won the gold medal!
We found out that that we had been successful in securing funding from the EC for a three year project. Practical Action will be managing the project with partners in Cyprus (CARDET), Poland (CCE) and Italy ( Oxfam Italia) as well as Engineers without Borders ( EWB) and the Centre for Science Education (CSE) in the UK.
Our project Technology challenging poverty: Make the link will focus around integrating issues around technology justice into science and design and technology education.
Students at both primary and secondary school will ‘make the link’ between:
- science and technology and global poverty reduction
- their own behaviour and the impact on the developing world
We are really exciting about what we will be able to achieve with this funding. It will enable us to not only produce a fantastic new range of support material for teachers but also include teacher training and a real opportunity to shape the policy and practice of science and D & T teaching within a large number of schools throughout Europe.
Watch this space!!
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We recently carried out a survey to find out how teachers use on-line resources and what they think of our resources in particular. We were thrilled that over 400 teachers took part. Thank you so much if you were one of them.
We found out really useful information that will help us work out more accurately how many students our material reaches and how it shapes students attitudes towards global poverty and subsequent behaviour.
14% of teachers share resources through social media
On average a teacher will share a resource with 53 students
23 % of teachers said our resources often increased students understanding of the role of technology in reducing poverty
35% of teachers said our resources often led to students leading a more sustainable lifestyle, a further 60% saying it they did ‘sometimes’
We also found out that once they know about us they become strong supporters, visiting our site on on average once a month
What was most heart warming was all the quotes from teachers saying how much they value our material.
‘ ..flexible yet detailed, simple to access and adapt with enough information that you can write a lesson plan in a few minutes using the information available. I frequently use Practical Action’s resources when being observed. Topical, up to date and best of all the students love them!
‘When using the tomato challenge students were surprised to see how technology can really help the poor.’
There is often an ‘aha’ moment when students make a connections between theoretical subject specific knowledge, a real work example and how it works for good’
‘..using the resource Moja Island I received an ‘outstanding’ observation’
We also asked teachers if they would be willing and able to introduce the concept of technology justice – the right of every one to have access to the technologies they need to live a life they value, without harming others now or in the future – into their teaching. To our delight a whopping 65% said they would definitely or be quite likely to do so. As Practical Action begins a movement towards technology justice we take this as a really good sign and will begin including it in our future educational material.No Comments » | Add your comment
I’ve been very short-sighted since I was 8 years old. An optician seeking somebody to blame told me it was my own fault – I’d read too many books when I was younger. As my mum is also very short-sighted, I think it was more a case of bad genes.
So for the last 17 years, I have worn contact lenses and glasses. There is nothing more excruciating than losing a contact lense behind your eyeball, and nothing more infuriating than losing your glasses in the middle of the Indian Ocean when you’re on holiday. My short-sightedness has meant a lifetime of horrible eye infections, irritated eyes after long days of writing, and innumerable pairs of lost lenses and glasses.
Six months ago, after a particularly severe eye infection, I was told by an eye specialist that I would never be able to wear contact lenses again. I have spent the first half of 2012 wearing very big glasses. They were cool glasses, but mostly they felt like a huge barrier: between me and the rest of the world. So I decided to do something about it.
12 days ago my life was utterly transformed by laser eye surgery.
Waking in the morning and being able to see – actually see – the world in all its magnificence feels miraculous. Everything is more beautiful, more colourful, more perfect than before. I have had 12 whole days of 20/20 vision but it still seems unreal, as if tomorrow when I wake, my world might be a sleepy blur once more. I feel so overjoyed – and very lucky – that modern day technology has fixed my broken eyes.
When I was in Sudan I met a woman, Randa, who also couldn’t see. But her poor vision was nothing to do with short-sightedness. She was going blind because of the smoke caused by cooking on an open fire in her kitchen.
Randa is from a small village in North Darfur called Kafut, and has cooked with wood for her whole life. This means walking for maybe three or four hours to collect firewood, which she then carries on her head.
Cooking with firewood means that Randa’s whole house is constantly polluted by toxic smoke. Her house is made of hay, and the inside is burnt black. Randa’s lungs are also blackened by smoke, and like all the other women in her village she has suffered from countless chest problems.
But the cruelty of the smoke is that it is stealing her sight, and Randa is beginning to go blind.
Since working with Practical Action, Randa has been introduced to a new kind of cooking, using a stove which uses a clean energy source: liquid petroleum gas. The benefits of this are multifarious: not only is it cheaper for families, it also reduces the pressure on the dwindling supply of trees in North Darfur.
But for Randa, the most wonderful thing about her new stove is that it does not aggravate her eye problems:
“The LPG stove has totally eliminated the smoke… I think it has saved my sight. Before my eyes would stream constantly but now this has stopped. And I can breathe easily.”
Randa belongs to the Women’s Development Association in her village, and she is now educating other women about the benefits of cooking on an LPG stove, and also helping to distribute 19 stoves to families across her village, and 61 to other communities nearby.
Meeting the beautiful, determined Randa , and listening to her story, confirmed to me that simple technologies – such as a new stove – really can be life-changing. I know Randa was thrilled that the stove had saved her sight.
But how I wish that she’d never had to lose it in the first place. And that like me, she could benefit from wonderful new eyes.
What fills me with fury is the injustice of it. Because Randa’s near-blindness wasn’t inevitable. It need not have happened. I know that Practical Action’s work is helping her now, but for thousands of other people, it’s already too late.
Nelson Mandela once said “overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice”. I think he is right.
We are not being charitable by helping. We are helping to restore some sense of justice to this world of ours that is so unbalanced and just so unfair.6 Comments » | Add your comment
Let me introduce you to my Granny:
She was born in Ireland in 1921. When she was a child, the passing of a car caused excitement and she had never seen an aeroplane. In summer she walked five miles to school in bare feet and stopped going altogether when she was in her early teens because she had to look after her six younger siblings. Dublin, 60 miles to the south, was a day away and people who had left for America to find work were rarely seen again.
Fast forward 80 years…
I am delighting in her reaction to my mobile phone (‘Bejesus’), my instantly emailed messages to friends around the world (Jesus, Mary and Joseph!’) and anything to do with the internet (‘I just don’t understand how it can work’).
My Granny died five years later and trying to understand the concept of wireless broadband and Skype would have made her brain explode anyway. But what makes me remember this conversation in particular is her question afterwards: “Why, despite all this, are there are still millions of poor people in the world (‘cos it’s disgusting’)?”
Fast forward ten more years…
I’m writing this while travelling on a train at more than 100 miles an hour. At this speed my home town of Coventry is an hour away from London and people travel more than 200 miles every day for eight hours’ work.
That alone is staggering, but a pint of strong cider (it is 10pm) combined with the fact I can simultaneously travel, blog and surf the internet fills me with awe.
My Granny was right, of course. It is disgusting that I can do all this while people elsewhere can’t feed their children. Yet her life gives me hope. Hope, because there are parallels to draw between some developing countries now and the Ireland of the 1920s. She was born into a civil war and poverty, but she gave her children a full education and got (what was then) a high-tech factory job. Her children, nieces and nephews became teachers, professors, doctors and nurses.
This is due to the technological progress made in her lifetime. The development of infrastructure and technology has made farming, travel and communications more efficient in Ireland and enabled the Irish to solve their political and economic problems and (banking aside) focus on what they do best.
Similar economic development has been repeated elsewhere – in Portugal, Turkey and China. And as I sit here I think if I can help enable us to achieve technology justice in every region Practical Action operates in, my Granny’s wide-eyed wonderment would finally be complete.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Hello, a quick introduction first! I’m Sam and I have just started at Practical Action as an Energy Campaigner. Prior to joining Practical Action, I have been doing a lot of campaigning on various issues, including fuel poverty in the UK. One thing that has struck me in this role is that although the difficulties facing people in the UK and people in the developing world seem worlds apart, with the issue of access to energy there are many similarities.
Of course, there are countless differences – in the UK, we do have access to modern clean energy supplies; and we don’t have to hunt for firewood to cook our food and the smoke from that cooking doesn’t damage our health.
But even so, fuel poverty does exist in the UK; many people cannot afford to heat their homes, and cold homes cause many winter deaths and long term health problem. UK government figures show illnesses caused by cold homes cost the NHS more than £850 million a year.
It is scandalous that, in the 21st century, energy poverty exists across the globe; particularly when solutions are readily available.
In the UK, this means making our building stock energy efficient. In the developing world, Practical Action provides many clean and sustainable ways for people to access energy.
So, perhaps the issue of energy access does highlight the similarities between the UK and the developing world. Showing that everyone, no matter where they live, can struggle to access the energy they need to live full and healthy lives. As the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development begins, we have a fantastic opportunity to offer sustainable solutions for everyone.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the UK government’s mantra for the times of austerity, “we’re all in this together”, was applied to all people of the world? And they demonstrated this commitment by using their voice at Rio+20 to ensure the conference backs the UN’s call for Sustainable Energy for All by 2030?No Comments » | Add your comment
Last night I went to see Avengers Assemble 3D. I’ve been looking forward to it all week and it’s been one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2012.
With Ironman, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk blended together with more special effects than seem necessary, I was looking forward to two-and-a-half hours of pure action. What I wasn’t expecting was to start thinking about Technology Justice.
If you haven’t seen the film yet, I don’t want to ruin it for you so I’m avoiding any spoilers – please read on. In summary, the storyline is the battle for ‘The Tesseract’ – a sustainable energy source with unknown potential. This battle would have torn the world apart if it weren’t for the band of super-humans and a demigod who stood in the way.
I’m not saying our world is at war over energy, but there certainly is an unbalance. Whilst I was sitting in a dark room with silly glasses on with 200 others, there were 1.3 billion people with no access to electricity. And yes, it’s a shame that they won’t be able to see the theatrical delight that is Avengers Assemble, but there are far more basic needs that these 1.3 billion people don’t have access to. What if someone needs seek medical attention after dark? Once they get to the medical centre, there may be no power for lighting or refrigeration to keep the medication cool, or to adequately light a surgery room.
That certainly seems like an injustice to me.
Now these 1.3 billion people don’t have a Hulk to fight for their technology justice. They have Practical Action, and we want to see a world where everyone has access to clean sustainable energy (not necessarily The Tesseract) by 2030. If you want to see a world of technology justice and want to be a superhero then check out http://practicalaction.org/energyforall.1 Comment » | Add your comment
When I am not working at Practical Action’s headquarters in rural Warwickshire, I spend my time with my friends in Notting Hill in London. Yesterday, after a yoga class and a cup of coffee, I walked home, along Ledbury Road, one of Notting Hill’s most famous thoroughfares. It was a glorious springy sunshiney morning, much longed for after two weeks of seemingly endless rain. Towards one end of the road are huge white Victorian villas, with spring blossoms veiling the balconies and graceful Greek columns framing impressive porches. As the road progresses, the white elegance fades into brown dinginess. The other end of the road is home to council estate flats: small and drab. I smile at two little girls hopscotching in a yard that’s around 10 foot by 10 foot.
One of London’s greatest qualities is its diversity, yet all I could see during my walk along Ledbury Road was the injustice of the ‘haves and the have nots’. This phrase – ‘the haves and the have nots’ was one I heard lots during my trip to Practical Action’s work in Kenya in August 2011.
While travelling to a project in the informal settlements outside Kisumu city in western Kenya, my colleagues pointed out the narrow road which divided the ‘have nots’ from the ‘haves’. All that separated the people without life’s essentials: food, water, sanitation, shelter, energy, health care, education, a livelihood, from the people who had them, was a mere dirt track.
Walking along Ledbury Road yesterday was a useful reminder that sometimes the physical distance between those who have enough and those who don’t is negligible. But bridging that gap can seem an insurmountable task.
Technology Justice is one movement that is needed to help with this challenge. At Practical Action, we envisage a world where there is a balance between meeting the practical needs of people with less, while satiating the technological appetites of those with more. A world where all people, regardless of geography or wealth, can choose and use the technologies that will help them to live the life they value, without compromising the ability of others and future generations to do the same. A just, fair and equitable world, with a smaller gap between the people who have lots and those who have less. Technology Justice isn’t really about technology, it’s about people – and doing what is right.1 Comment » | Add your comment
It rained all day here in Warwickshire yesterday, but one of the top stories on the news was the hosepipe ban in the south and east of England. We take an instant supply of clean water for granted, because most of the time we have more than enough rain in the UK. How would we feel if we had to carry every drop into our homes ourselves? I for one would think twice before taking a bath!
In the Mukuru settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, residents pay more than 5 times as much for water as we do in the UK – and they don’t have the luxury of a piped supply into the home. Water has to be collected in containers from a communal tap – often some distance away. And, in times of scarcity, water prices inevitably rocket. In many rural areas of Africa, women and children walk for miles to collect water from wells.
In the UK we struggle to reduce our use of water and government water saving advice mainly covers non essential activity such as washing the car and watering the garden.
In contrast, according to this article, Kashmiri children resort to shaving their heads when water is short so that their hair doesn’t appear unkempt. I can’t see this being a popular piece of government advice here!
Practical Action has innovative ways of helping people gain access to clean water. By developing a partnership between local people and the utility company, improved access to clean water has been achieved for many thousands in the Mukuru settlement. Restricting our supply may help us to appreciate just how good (and comparatively cheap) our water is and encourage us to do a bit more to help the 1.3 billion people who lack access to safe water.3 Comments » | Add your comment
….there was a little girl who loved stories. As a little slip of a thing, she used to stand and swing on the garden gate, waving to passers-by in the hope that she could chat to them and ask them questions to find out their stories (she was a very curious little girl). A few years later, her very patient, very wonderful mother would read her favourite Maurice Sendak stories Outside Over There and Where The Wild Things Are to her every night. When she was at school, she’d set her alarm super early so she could wake up and read Enid Blyton books before going to lessons. English was always her favourite subject, and characters such as Elizabeth Bennett, Scout Finch, Jo March and Scarlett O’Hara were as familiar to her as her oldest friends. And then she studied the art of telling a story – for it is an art – during an English Literature degree at university.
Now that little girl (who’s not so little anymore) works for Practical Action.
I am that girl. And I work at Practical Action because I want to change the world. But my passion is storytelling: both discovering a good story, and then telling it in the best possible way. But how do you change the world with a story?
Well, this week, we at Practical Action launched our next five year strategy. It is bold and ambitious and exciting – but challenging too. The targets, both in terms of fundraising and impact at scale, are high.
But that’s because there are huge problems to solve. Right now 1.3 billion people across the world don’t have clean, safe water. 1 billion people don’t have enough food to eat. 2.6 billion people don’t have adequate sanitation. And 1.6 billion people don’t have access to modern energy. Too many people live in abject poverty. It is a world of great technology injustice.
There is no question that this needs to change. So over the next five years we will work towards four universal goals:
- Sustainable access to modern energy service for all by 2030
- Systems which provide food security and livelihoods for people in rural areas
- Improved access to drinking water, sanitation and waste services for people living in towns and cities
- Reduced risk of disasters for marginalised communities
And by the end of this next strategy period, in 2017, we will have transformed the lives of 6 million people.
That is an exhilarating prospect for me.
Because 6 million people = 6 million stories to find and tell.
Each of those 6 million is not just a ‘project beneficiary’ but a living, feeling, thinking human being with their own unique life story. And those 6 million life stories are 6 million more reasons to support Practical Action, today and for the future.
I can’t wait to get started.
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As dawn breaks in 2012 we enter the season of technology forecasting. What will new technologies bring us in 2012 and beyond? Most of these forecasts seem to dwell on the fortunes of the developed world. What about the majority of humanity (4 billion people live on less than US$5 per day)?
IBM put forward five forecasts for 2016, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16302566) one of these is that the digital divide will end. Whilst it is likely that more people in Asia and Africa will be able to own a cell phone or connect to the Internet it would be stretching credulity to suggest that these same people will have a similar level of affordability of digital technologies as those living in the developed world. Currently, in India there are 1.2 billion people who are not connected to the Internet. Most of these people live in rural areas where there may be a lack of ability to pay and a lack of access to electricity. So the digital divide in terms of affordable, accessible and appropriate devices is unlikely to be at an end by 2016. More needs to be done on energy access and on education to build the capabilities needed to use the technology.
In remote rural areas of developing countries few people have access to electricity. So ownership of a mobile phone might be a measure of “connectedness” or even of “progress” but if the phone can only be charged after a walk of 10 kilometres we may argue that there is a lack of appropriate accessible technology. A second important prediction relates to bio fuel cells (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15305579) reported by the BBC as “power from the people”. Perhaps that could be re-phrased as “power to the people”. Yet, in all likelyhood the applications of this new technology will be in medical appliances in developed countries. What if resources were put into developing this technology as an alternative, local power supply for rural communities in developing countries?
Technology will likely bring much that is new and exciting in 2012 and beyond. What can we do to increase the probability that these technologies will be applied to real need in developing countries? We need to work together with scientists to ensure that technologies are accessible, affordable and appropriate to the needs of people. Only then can we approach a state of technology justice in the world.
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