What’s Great about Practical Action?


September 26th, 2013

Our Finance Director Mark Woodbridge is leaving – he has been brilliant to work with and I will miss him! Today I was contacted by the people helping with the recruitment of his successor. It was like being grilled by a very lovely female John Humphrys – and I loved it!

Ambulance boat in Bangladesh

Ambulance boat in Bangladesh

‘What’s brilliant about Practical Action?’ she asked first – such an easy question, but so many things I could say.

Relevance was the first thing that came to mind. We work on four of the biggest issues that affect people living in poverty today

Agriculture – how do we support small scale farmers to have more food and a better income, how do we connect farmers to market, how do we work to tackle the impacts of climate change on the most marginal lands (where poor people often live) etc.

Energy – we’ve been working on energy for more than 30 years. It’s a huge issue! Without access to decent energy it’s so much harder to escape poverty. It’s not just about what you can’t do, it’s also about what you have to do – like collect fire wood, cope with ill health from diseases caused by breathing in dirty smoke, etc. Energy is also vital for running hospitals – incubators, x-ray machines; fridges to keep vaccines cool, for education … It’s an exciting time to work in access to energy: the Sustainable Development Goals being debated at the UN General Assembly this week has energy as one of the targets and we are one of a handful of organisations helping keep it on the agenda. Getting funding on the other hand for energy for poverty reduction is hard.

Disaster Risk Reduction – A report from Paddy Ashdown (last year I think) talked about how much money we as a world could save if we helped people be ready for disasters rather than waiting for the disaster to strike and then trying to sort out the mess – how much better for people too. We have a huge experience in DRR, including helping people prepare for and escape from floods, building earthquake-resilient housing (and now retrofitting schools and hospitals to try and make them more resistant to earthquakes). We are even working on early warning systems with communities in Nepal to warn of an impending landslide (I was just five when the Aberfan landslide happened in Wales killing 150 people, mainly children – but it still sticks in my mind).

Urban water, sanitation and waste – 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas –  the issues of waste and sanitation are huge. I was recently in Nepal visiting with waste pickers, and a few years in Zimbabwe I talked with a cholera nurse about how terrible the outbreak in Harare had been (my blog on our meeting is probably still on this site).

Beyond relevance: all the people I’ve met whose lives have been helped by us. I’ve met some amazing people who have wanted to share their stories. Our values of working with people – starting where they are, great impact – almost a million people helped directly last year; caring for the environment; helping people help themselves; sharing everything we learn so as to maximise our impact …

She did say I was quite succinct, but that must be on the phone rather than in writing! There are so many brilliant things about Practical Action I could go on for pages (and that was just her first question!).

So if you have the skills, would like to work for us and fancy being our Finance Director do have a look at the jobs pages on our website. A high ranking requirement from me (I’m not on the panel) is that you love our work too!

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