EF Schumacher - founder of Practical Action

Practical Action was founded by radical economist and philosopher, Dr. E.F Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful.

Born in Bonn, Germany in 1911 Fritz Schumacher emigrated to England in 1936 to contribute his skills to the building of a caring socialist economy. He soon won the admiration of fellow economists Keynes, Beveridge and Cripps and from 1950 to 1970 held the post of Economic Advisor to the National Coal Board.

It was in 1955 while on secondment as Economic Adviser to the Government of Burma, that he first became interested in the problems of developing countries.

He began to formulate his ideas of using low cost, appropriate, small-scale development ideas to help people to help themselves. He later expressed this as 'find out what people are doing and help them to do it better'.

In 1965 Dr Schumacher, together with three friends, founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group, with the aim of propagating approaches to managing technical change that are effective in enabling people with few resources to work their own way out of poverty.

In 1973 Dr Schumacher published his first book Small is Beautiful, outlining his beliefs and philosophies. The book became an international bestseller, influencing a generation of ecologists and concerned economists.

A further two books made up a trilogy: Schumacher’s own A Guide for the Perplexed, and the posthumous Small is Possible, edited by his friend and colleague George McRobie and published 1981.

Dr. E.F. Schumacher died while on a lecture tour of Switzerland in 1977 aged sixty-six.

Today there are tens of thousands of organisations around the world inspired by the Schumacher philosophy. A few of his original collaborators remain closely involved with the governance of Practical Action, as members who elect the board of Trustees.

Alias Papa, A life of EF Schumacher by Barbara Wood

The Schumacher Circle

The Schumacher Circle links together various organisations that have all been inspired by E.F.Schumacher's vision, who cooperate informally to support each others work.

See also an outline History of Practical Action.

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