powerful information: empowering local people to tackle social injustice and build a better future

What's New?
About Us
Projects & Partners
Monitoring & Reporting
Activities in the UK
    Open Workshops
        Community Linking
Videos of Our Work
How you can SUPPORT US
Educational Resources
Contact Us

website access:

log in


Here's a list of workshops we have run with and for volunteers and supporters. Our meetings are open to all.


21 Oct: Partnership Working in Eastern Europe
We are delighted to welcome to our next seminar Camelia Zamfir, Director of Prietenii Pamantului (‘Earth Friends’), one of the leading environmental groups in Romania.

Brusteroasa Centre

We have been working with PP on environmental education and community development projects for more than 20 years and have successfully completed more than a dozen joint projects in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. This includes training over 500 teachers and setting up over 70 school community projects, concerned with subjects as diverse as food additives and fast foods, cosmetics and toiletries, agricultural chemicals, plastic packaging, detergents, pollution, and domestic waste disposal. Twelve of these projects took prizes in regional environmental competitions organised by the Ministry of Environment, and eight went on to win prizes in national run-offs.

Camelia will be talking about some of these projects, and on her experiences working with Powerful Information. She now lives in a small village, Brusturoasa, high in the Carpathian Mountains, where she and her husband have built an impressive community centre (shown here).

PP is affiliated to a number of national and international networks and working groups on education (ECOFORUM), public participation (enforcement of the Arhus Convention), and on energy. It is on the board of the Romanian Climate Action Network – RAC-RO, and has been a core member of the International Network for Sustainable Energy INFORSE since 1993.

6 June: The Challenge of Communication

This workshop will explore the reality of working on grassroots community projects with local partners in Sierra Leone. Communication is an ever-present challenge, and so too is language — you may think you are speaking the same language but then find you or your partners are using or interpreting things differently. Add into the mix that people can apply different logic or different standards, or have different priorities or expectations, and things can get interesting…. And then there’s the weather, the working environment (electricity if you're lucky...), and cultural barriers to contend with... Life's never boring!


29 Nov: Local Capacity-Building

This workshop focused on local capacity building and the process of exchange and empowerment: how does our approach work in practice with different stakeholders (volunteers, partners & beneficiaries)? What changes can we see? What lessons can we learn? We will look in particular at four grassroots projects, three in Sierra Leone and one Ghana — a number of volunteers have been involved in three of these and Mike had recently returned from monitoring trips and was able to provide an update.

18 July: Social Media: Opportunities & costs

Social media — web- and mobile-based technologies which facilitate dialogue between individuals, organizations and communities — represent a major factor in community action and local politics. The question we want to debate at this workshop is: are small NGOs like PI making best use of social media to promote and support their work? We are using only a tiny fraction of the vast range of social media technologies — internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, micro-blogging, wikis, podcasts, video conferencing, social bookmarking, picture-sharing, wall-postings, instant messaging, crowdsourcing, etc. We hope to explore this issue in some depth and share other groups’ experiences, and also ask a more fundamental question: is social networking basically ‘good’ or basically ‘bad’ in relation to building or destroying social capital (the subject of our February workshop)?

18 April: Computing for Blind People

Details to be added.

8 February: What is Social €apital?

There have been many attempts to define ‘social capital’. But it’s a bit like ‘beauty’ or ‘good design’, difficult to describe but you know it when you see it, or should I say ‘feel’ it. People have talked about: 'social energy', 'community spirit', 'social bonds', 'civic virtue', 'community networks', 'social ozone', 'extended friendships', 'community life', 'social resources', 'informal networks', 'good neighbourliness' and 'social glue'.

But isn’t this all a bit vague and shapeless? How do you measure ‘social ozone’ or ‘civic virtue’?

Building social capital is a key part of what Powerful Information is about, so it’s important that we understand the concept. We are working to build social capital not only in low-income countries overseas, but also here in the UK. In this talk we:

  • looked at the attempts to define social capital -- there have been many, and there’s no consensus over which is the best;
  • explored the nature and dimensions of social capital in a little more detail -- I will include a comment here on the idea of a ‘Big Society’ (another concept that nobody has been able to define to anyone’s satisfaction);
  • identified factors that build (and destroy) social capital -- not least unfairness and inequality in society (including privileges and corruption), and on a personal level, individualism (selfishness?) and aspects of the increasingly virtual lives we are leading as a result of modern communication systems and the internet.

We concluded by giving some examples of how Powerful Information is working to build social capital abroad -- and our efforts to try and measure the impact.


27 September: Update on our Grassroots Development Work in Sierra Leone

Mike Flood had just returned from a two week monitoring visit to Sierra Leone and was able to report on progress and provide information on how the UK visit of some of our colleagues from Vision for the Blind had affected them. One of our partners, Jonathan Conteh, had just been appointed onto the President's Commission on ICT. A woman with her family making palm oil in Sierra Leone. Educating women and ensuring that their rights are respected is a prerequisite for Sierra Leone lifting itself out of poverty.

19 July: FILM EVENING: The Power of Partnership: Bringing People Together

The film, which is about our work with Vision for the Blind Sierra Leone and their recent visit to the UK, is now available on our Facebook Page.

4 May: Vision for the Blind: a Model for Disability Organisations?

Exploration of the work of Vision for the Blind and the plight of people with disability in Sierra Leone in preparation for a visit to the UK of six of its members in May 2011.
Volunteers preparing one of the activities for the World Cafe.

2 February: 'The Digital Divide'

what we know about the visitors to our website (through Google Analytics) and what we are doing to increase visitor numbers, reduce bounce rates and foster an online community.



7 December: 'Fundraising for Grassroots Work in Africa'

Powerful Information has been supporting a range of grassroots education and skills training projects in West Africa for some years. But what’s involved in raising money for such work? And what are the main barriers we have to overcome? We discussed this and more at the workshop, and Kirsty reported on her recent monitoring trip to Sierra Leone.


7 October: 'Disability: a low priority for human rights? Initiatives in Sierra Leone'

It is extremely difficult to gain even a general awareness of what it's like to live with a disability, especially if you live in a poor country like Sierra Leone. In this workshop we explored physical disability not mental health issues/learning difficulties. We looked at the two main models that have influenced modern thinking about disability: the medical model and the social model. In the medical model, disabled people are seen as the problem. They need to change and adapt to circumstances if they can, and there is no suggestion that society needs to change. The social model has been developed by disabled people. In their view disability is caused by the barriers that exist within society and the way society is organised, which discriminates against people with impairments and excludes them from involvement and participation. We also discussed the language of disability and recent conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities.


5 August: ‘Sticky Ideas & Public Mentality’

How should local groups campaign on issues like litter, sexual health or women’s rights to ensure maximum impact? How can they make their messages stick? And what’s the best medium for different audiences? The answer to these interesting and important questions depends to a large extend on public mentality. But what is public mentality? We can define it as attitudes and ways-of-thinking shared by a significant portion of a population or group. In this workshop we will look at how local groups can take better account of public mentality when working for positivie social change. We will focus on Albania and Albanian mentality, but we could just as easily look at Britain and British mentality -- our propensity to talk about the weather or to queue (except in pubs); our obsession with class, our dry sense of humour, and our legendry social reserve and stiff upper lip! So what's the Albanian equivalent and how does it influence how we do go about grassroots development work?

3 June: ‘What is it Like to be Illiterate?’

It is difficult for most people here in the UK to imagine what it is like to live on less than a dollar a day in a poor country, not knowing where the next meal is coming from, nor how to pay for clothes, medicines or school fees, or seeds and fertilizer -- or labour, if you're sick and unable to work your fields or water your crops. It is virtually impossible for those reading these words to imagine what it’s like to be illiterate and powerless, and how terrifying and incomprehensible the world must seem outside of one’s immediate community. Many of us have had years of schooling and perhaps college; we’ve also been socialized into a largely literate society. This shapes the way we think and our perceptions of the world. But what’s it like for those, especially women, who missed out on schooling because of war, extreme poverty or parental ignorance or discrimination? We explored the issue at this workshop, drawing on many years of experience supporting basic education and functional literacy programmes in Sierra Leone.

4 February: ‘The Meaning of Community Development’

The conventional definition of community is a ‘group of people with social capital living in a specific location’. But today we have to recognize many different communities -- business, cultural, religious, tribal, groups with a shared interest eg beekeeping or rice farming, and cyber communities that meet only on the internet. In this workshop Mike Flood described his experiences during a recent trip to Ghana where he gave presentations in 13 villages and towns in the Volta Region. Their needs are great: needs education and training (many people cannot read or write); needs for information, for example about agriculture and the safe handling of pesticides; needs for transport, to reach distant fields, and mechanisation and chemicals to increase yields; needs for micro-finance to help business development; and a need to engage youth, who see no future in farming. This workshop focused in particular on the discussions Mike had with one village, Santrokofi, which specifically asked him to talk about good practice in community development. Most communities don't know where to start.

Fundraising Events

Some of our volunteers have started organising fund-raising events. Here's an example:

Quiz Night fundraising event for Powerful Information
Shenley Leisure Centre, Friday 7 May 2010

The Quiz Night was organised by Kate Harris. Many thanks Kate, and thanks also to Dave and Sid for giving up their Friday night to provide us with an evening of fun and entertainment, and to Andrew Harris for promoting the event with the Centre’s customers!

Kate is now developing and managing a small project, using the funds that she has raised, to enable a blind teacher in Sierra Leone to develop and deliver disability awareness training for our learning circle facilitators in Bombali.

We are keen to support volunteers, like Kate, and are grateful for the time and effort they give.