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Schumacher Centre

Making the Link

Moira Jenkins reflects on her long-lived enthusiasm for a particular charity

Many years ago, when I was a sixth-former wanting to save the whale, I spent a summer holiday volunteering with Birmingham Friends of the Earth. My duties were quite varied: I answered the phone when the ‘proper’ staff were out or in meetings; I packed and sent out save the whale T-shirts; and I got dressed up in a boiler suit and gas mask to help lay fibre-glass loft insulation in old people’s houses. (I don’t think “health & safety” would allow untrained sixth-formers to do that last job now!)

It was around that time that I was first inspired by the phrase “small is beautiful” and read the book of that name by E F Schumacher. As a teenage eco-activist I was delighted to learn of the existence of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), established by Schumacher and others to promote and develop small-scale, people-centred technologies, working in partnership with people in poorer countries.

A few decades later, and ITDG is now Practical Actionit celebrated its 50th birthday this year. The charity still retains a special place in my heart because of its continued focus on sustainable, appropriate technologies. And as my proper grown-up job involves reviewing teaching resources for the Global Dimension Website, I’m often impressed by their excellent work with UK schools and teachers.

I was mulling all this over as I headed off to visit them last week, and got taken on a little guided tour around the Schumacher Centre (pictured above), their base deep in the Midlands countryside near Rugby. I was there to talk to a man contracted by the European Commission to evaluate an EC-funded project run by Practical Action, called Make the Link. I hope I gave him enough food for thought with my enthusiasm for Practical Action, their teaching resources, and this project in particular.

Involving partners in four different EC countries, the aim of Make the Link is to raise young people’s awareness and understanding of global issues and how their own actions link in. As a result of the project it is estimated that over three quarters of a million 7-19 year-olds in the EC will be able to:

  • Make the link between science and technology and the MDGs/poverty reduction
  • Make the link between their behaviour and the impact on the developing world
  • Make the link…then make a difference

What I love about Practical Action’s teaching resources (including the ones developed for Make the Link) is their use of real world examples and practical challenges where students can test out their learning. But they also help students to ‘join the dots’, realise how interdependent we all are, and consider the impact of their actions on others.

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