George McRobie, our last founding member of Practical Action

It is with great sadness that we share the news that George McRobie, the last founding member of Practical Action passed away on 2nd July, aged 90. George was a close associate of EF Schumacher, author of “Small is Beautiful”, for many years and setting up the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG, now Practical Action) in 1965.

George shaped ITDG alongside EF Schumacher and stepped in to become Chairman of the organisation when Schumacher died suddenly in 1977. With the organisation just 10 years old George worked tirelessly to maintain the momentum Schumacher had generated.

His contribution to both the green movement and the appropriate technology movement as a whole has been immense. In 1981 George completed the last of Schumacher’s trilogy of books, “Small is Possible”, which laid out how the ideas and theories on sustainability Schumacher wrote about in the first two books in the trilogy “Small is Beautiful” and “A Guide for the Perplexed” could be applied to everyday life.

George was an associate fellow of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and a founding member of The Other Economic Summit and New Economics Foundation. He was also an honorary vice president of the Soil Association and a leading proponent of organic farming.

During the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the publication of Small is Beautiful, George was asked about the relevance of Intermediate Technology. This was his reply:

“The gap between the rich and the poor in developing countries is increasing. This is a disaster for the poor, a disaster for the developing countries and in the long run, a disaster for us all.

"We are persisting in big-scale technology, eliminating people from the process of production. We need greater localisation to prevent people being ground into the earth by big technology.

"We need to ask of technology and economic activity: Is it good for people? Is it good for the environment? Is it good for the resource base?”

George remained a great supporter of Practical Action throughout his life and attended the event marking Schumacher’s 100th birthday at Parliament in May 2011, despite his already failing health.

His clarity of purpose continues to underpin all Practical Action’s work and has helped us to grow into the organisation we are today, helping over one million people a year worldwide.

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