Archive for October, 2011

One more thing…

Friday, October 7th, 2011 by

I almost forgot…one more thing…the poor pay more for technology than the rich.  That is a technology injustice.  Don’t settle.

Anyone who has done Economics 101 knows why this is the case.  The cost of supplying a technology to a small market can be high.   The dogma would suggest that prices will remain high.    Yet, if we think out of the box we can imagine different ways of working.   Markets are the facilitator of choice.  Remember the central role of choice in enabling human development.   So we need to work towards business models that enable choice.   This can be done.   Schumacher outlined the case for what he called “Buddhist Economics” in his book: “Small is Beautiful”.

I am reminded of the story Schumacher (1979:6) told of three people  – a surgeon, an architect and an economist – debating whose was the oldest profession.   The surgeon said there is no doubt because Genesis says that the Lord took a rib out of Adam to make Eve and that was a surgical operation.   The architect protested that long before that the universe had been created out of chaos: that was an architectural job.   The economist merely asked, “who created chaos?”.  Don’t settle.

Schumacher, E.F. (1979) Good Work, Jonathan Cape: London.

Angelina Jolie eclipses full-time humanitarians

Friday, October 7th, 2011 by

I just read this in Guardian’s G2 magazine about Angelina Jolie winning another humanitarian award for her philanthropy. I enjoyed it, thought others would to. While Practical Action is not a humanitarian agency (though we do plenty of work to influence humanitarian agencies to improve their practices, see our Recovery and Reconstruction work) I feel this article is also a tribute to the unsung, hard-working, tired heroes  I have a privilege to work with around the world.

International Day for Disaster Reduction – it’s all about children

Friday, October 7th, 2011 by

October 13th is International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction and this year the focus in on children and young people.

Last year I visited Nepal where I met an amazing young student who was on the committee for disaster management in her village.  She told me that learning what do if a flood occurred made her less afraid.  What really impressed me was that students were considered an important part of the committee and that their contribution was valued.  They helped educate other students in school as well as spreading the messages in their community.  Children power at its best!  It made me think that we could really learn something from that here in the UK.  As far as I am aware the committees that run Neighbourhood watch schemes do not inactively encourage participation from young people, perhaps they would be more effective if they did.

To find out moreabout the day and how you can get involved go to the United Nations website.

Inspiration from Apple for the core of Technology Justice

Thursday, October 6th, 2011 by

There is little doubt that Apple did things differently from other computer companies.  In no small measure that unique approach came down to the inspiring leadership of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who died at the age of 56, at the height of his powers.   Practical Action, built on the inspiring leadership of Fritz Schumacher does things differently from other international development organisations.   The comparison might end at that point had I not listened to the speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005.   It gives me hope.   Don’t settle.

During the day there have been many poignant tributes to Jobs.   The BBC evening news ended with the words of Jobs (quoted directly here): “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.  Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.  So keep looking until you find it.  Don’t settle.”

Practical Action is in the business of human development.   The process of human development is to enable people to choose the life they have reason to value.   Promoting and enabling that choice is key to success in our business.   Today we have more technology available to us than any previous generation.   You and I (living in the UK) can choose to buy an Apple, or not.   In the world at large 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation and 1.3 billion lack access to safe drinking water.  Those people have no technology options.   Why?   Many reasons are apparent but geography and the place of birth have a major role to play: that is an injustice.  Don’t settle.

It is an injustice that there are unmet needs in the world while much of the world is driven to innovate by consumer wants.   A world that chooses wants in preference to needs is an injustice.   Don’t settle.

Don’t settle for less than technology justice for all people where ever they live.   Join with Practical Action to dispose of the dogma…follow your heart…have the courage that there is a different path to create.

Practical Action Supporter Services Team celebrate National Customer Service Week

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 by

Supporter service is a priority at Practical Action and this week is the Institute of Customer Services ‘National Customer Service Week’ which aims to raise the awareness of the crucial role supporter service plays in building positive reputations and increasing supporter loyalty.

Practical Action has a dedicated supporter services team who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide an excellent standard of care.  Here is some of the feedback we have received in the past year:

“Many thanks for the trouble you took to answer my question”

“Thank you so much for your sterling work”

“What a fantastic job you and your organisation are doing”

If you have any feedback, questions or comments for the supporter services team regarding your donations or any of Practical Actions work please get in touch.  Please contact us at

Find out more about National Customer Service Week