Our distinctive practical approach

Technology challenging today's divided world

Practical Action works alongside communities to find practical solutions to the poverty they face. We see technology as a vital contributor to people’s livelihoods. Our definition of technology includes physical infrastructure, machinery and equipment, knowledge and skills and the capacity to organise and use all of these.

We actively seek to work with communities and adopt a collaborative approach, sharing knowledge and experience. We increase our impact by scaling up success and pushing for policy change that directly benefits poor communities.

Practical Action's vision and mission

Vision - Technology justice: a sustainable world free of poverty and injustice in which technology is used for the benefit of all.

Mission - To contribute to poor people’s wellbeing, using technology to challenge poverty by:

  • building the capabilities of poor men and women,
  • improving their access to technical options and knowledge, and
  • working with them to influence social, economic and institutional systems for innovation and the use of technology.

People focused

Above all else, the transition from poverty to prosperity must involve investing in people. Practical Action seeks solutions that are defined and owned by each individual community.

In eastern Sudan, for example, we established Women's Development Associations, which have helped equip women with skills, training and access to financial services, to enhance their earning opportunities and overall quality of life. Improved negotiating skills means the women are reaching economic independence and have improved access to services.

Practical answers

We use simple, innovative ideas to help people change their lives for the better. In Peru, for example, we worked with poor communities to introduce micro-hydro electric systems. With a sustainable electricity supply, people can now use machinery and communication devices to increase their productivity and improve the quality of their lives. Children now have light to study by without damaging their eyes, while teachers and other professional people are less likely to move away from the villages. These award-winning micro-hydro electric systems can transform lives now and for generations to come.

Sustainable solutions

Genuine change takes decades, not weeks – it requires solutions which will transform lives for generations to come. This includes social and economic sustainability, as well as meeting environmental challenges. In Gaibandha in Bangladesh, for example, the annual monsoon floods 90 percent of the land and robs 80 percent of villagers of their homes, livelihoods and essential services. Together with the local communities, Practical Action is developing cluster villages to house people whose land and homes are at risk. Additionally, extension pipes to water supplies ensure access to safe drinking water throughout the floods.


Practical Action works alongside poor people to help them use technology to improve their lives for today and for generations to come. Leaders in our field, we work with a range of organisations worldwide. We share information at all levels, from people at the very grassroots of society to government institutions.

In all of our work, it's absolutely vital we include all members of the community, regardless of age or gender. If we didn't then any project would, in time, simply collapse. Our approach, however, ensures that new ideas are suitable for local needs, make the most of limited resources and are truly sustainable.

New skills, knowledge and technologies encourage collaboration within the community and beyond. With this level of cooperation everyone can thrive: families, trades-people and organisations can share knowledge and develop the most appropriate solutions to meet their individual and collective needs.

Sharing learning

We help identify and implement practical, sustainable technologies that people can use to improve their lives. We research, test and demonstrate how they can have a significant impact on poverty.

Practical Action's working model, scaling-up from small-scale projects (bottom) to wide-scale impact (top) - click for larger version But we also go further than this. We adapt existing technologies, making sure that success in one country can form a template for success in another. Consequently, our projects make an impact far beyond the communities that initially benefit. We build on successful pilot projects and proven technologies by encouraging communities, governments or other development agencies to adopt them so that more people can benefit.

To maximise the life-changing potential of ideas, we publish books, journals, newsletters and web pages. We offer a technical enquiry service, communicate with the print and broadcast media, provide consultancy services, and influence the content of learning materials to educate and inspire young people.

Transforming policy

Tackling national and international issues such as indoor air pollution, climate change and emergency preparedness not only involves helping people to develop appropriate technology to meet their needs, but also challenges the systems that create poverty and hardship.

Even the ablest entrepreneur can find it impossible to earn a living in the face of red tape and unfair market systems. More often than not, policies are set to satisfy the rich and powerful, rather than the needs of those struggling with poverty.

We use our credibility to inform and influence policies and practices in favour of poor people both nationally and internationally. Encouraging project partners to lobby their own governments and enter into a dialogue for change, helps give local people a voice at national level. As a result, local concerns on such daily issues as good urban planning, proper shelter and fair taxation can be heard and acted upon. Internationally Practical Action is actively influencing policy on global issues affecting the world's poor, to create a world free of poverty and injustice.

Annual report and accounts 2011-12

Reporting Back - Practical Action's annual report for 2011-12, including highlights of our work and full financial statement.

This is Practical Action: technology challenging poverty

An introduction to Practical Action's work, outling our vision, mission and programme work.

Consensus Building With Participatory Action Plan Development

A facilitator's guide to a structured set of activities that helps people identify key problems and constraints together with realistic opportunities to address them.

Our values

Practical Action works with people in poor communities to improve their quality of life today and for generations to come. We actively engage with local people to come up with innovative, practical...

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Practical Action: our story

The story of two billion people living in poverty - and what we can do to help change their lives forever. Practical Action's "narrative" - who we are and the values that inform our work.

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Technology justice, wellbeing and scale

Practical Action believes in Technology Justice and our strategy sets out how we, together with people living in poverty, with partner organisations, with businesses and with governments, will help move our world towards Technology Justice.

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Vision and mission

Practical Action's vision and mission, based on the key values of wellbeing and technology justice.

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Technology justice

We believe that technology justice is essential to achieving development and sustainable wellbeing for all. That’s why Technology Justice is at the heart of all our work.

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How we are funded

A breakdown of Practical Action's income and expenditure. Practical Action depends on the support of individuals, trusts, NGOs and goverments to deliver its work to poor communities worldwide. The majority of spending is directly on our programmes round the world.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Practical Action and its work.

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Information leaflets document library

A series of introductory leaflets from Practical Action on our programme work and countries of operation.

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Read more about our approach to poverty reduction and our programmes of work in our Group strategy.

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