Who we are

Practical Action is an innovative international development organisation putting ingenious ideas to work so people in poverty can change their world.

Our Work

We help people find solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems – made worse by catastrophic climate change and persistent gender inequality.

We work with communities to develop ingenious, lasting and locally owned solutions for agriculture, water and waste management, climate resilience and clean energy.

We share what works with others, so many more people can change their worlds.

More about our work

Our Difference

 
At Practical Action we do things differently. We put ingenious ideas to work so people in poverty can change their world. We believe in the power of small to change the big picture.

We believe people living in poverty already have the ability to change their worlds. They just need the right plans, tools and knowhow, put to work in effective partnerships to change the social and economic systems that keep people poor.

That’s why we bring people together in bold collaborations, combining knowledge and innovation to bring about lasting change.

We’re problem solvers. We work hand in hand with local communities, publish the best thinking from the brightest minds and provide technical expertise to the change-makers.

We believe societies and economies can work for the benefit of all. That we can live within the planet’s means. That ingenuity and cooperation can conquer any challenge.

Our History & Heritage

 
For over fifty years, Practical Action has been an innovator in how to think about and tackle global poverty.

Our founder was radical economist and philosopher E.F. ‘Fritz’ Schumacher, a visionary who challenged the aid policies of the day. He argued against the transfer of modern, capital-intensive and large-scale technologies to developing countries that did not have the financial resources, technical skills or mass markets to accommodate them. Instead he proposed a shift in emphasis towards ‘intermediate technologies’ based on the needs and skills of people in developing countries.

Schumacher’s 1965 article in The Observer, entitled ‘How to help them help themselves’, aroused considerable interest from academics, politicians and the development community.

Encouraged by this, Schumacher and some of his associates decided to create an ‘advisory centre’ to promote the use of efficient labour-intensive techniques and in 1966 the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) – now known as Practical Action – was born. The launch of a technical consulting service in 1969 and an independent publishing arm in 1973 added to the capabilities of the group.

In 1973 Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful was published. Coinciding with the oil crisis, the book became a best seller and created worldwide interest in alternative technologies and economics.

In 1984 ITDG brought its diverse operations together at a new UK office in Rugby. The group placed a new emphasis on the employment of economists and social scientists, marking a shift away from the technical ‘hardware’ approach and towards ‘development’.

In 2005 ITDG changed its name to Practical Action, reinforcing the focus on pragmatic, holistic and systemic approaches to tackling poverty.

While approaches have changed over the years, the founding principles remain intact today. Equipping people to change their situations. Development solutions suited to context. Economic systems that benefit all. Our duty to live within the planet’s means. The combined power of knowledge, innovation and collaboration.

Indeed, in today’s increasingly divided world suffering from catastrophic climate change, the ideas of Fritz Schumacher chime as loud as ever.