Obituary: Julia Porter

Julia Karen Davies, administrator, born Bristol 22 May 1926, married 1950 Basil Canning-Cooke (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1966), 1967 Robert Porter, died Exeter 23 August 1992.

MANY WHO were colleagues and friends of Julia Porter will recall with gratitude the outstanding contribution she made towards launching the Intermediate Technology Development Group, now one of the world's most successful and important overseas development organisations.

It was early in 1965 that EF Schumacher and I decided to start an action group to develop and promote intermediate technologies - tools and equipment for self-reliance, designed to be owned and used by the rural poor of developing countries. This was not an easy idea to sell in the 1960s, when most people believed in limitless economic growth and the wholesale transfer of Western technologies from rich to poor countries. But we had the singular good fortune to involve Julia Porter in our venture. Without her, it would never have got off the ground.

She was born Julia Davies in 1926. At the age of 16, her determination to get into the war effort saw her in the elite corps of the FANYS (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). By 1950, her first marriage, to Basil Canning-Cooke, took her into the copper belt in what today is Zambia, where she lived for 10 years. Divorced, and back in England with a young daughter, she became a successful fund-raiser for the Freedom From Hunger Campaign in the west country in the 1960s. Shortly after, Arthur Gaitskell (Hugh's brother) put her in charge of the Africa Development Trust (ADT, one of the Rev Michael Scott's creations) which supported Cold Comfort Farm, a remarkable multi-racial co-operative farm near what is now Harare.

In 1966 the Intermediate Technology Development Group was formally constituted, and its first home was Julia Canning-Cooke's cupboard-sized office in Hop Gardens, Covent Garden, in London. A year later, through her work for ITDG, she met and married Robert Porter, the senior economic adviser to the then Ministry of Overseas Development.

By the following year, both the ADT and the IT Group were being run from Julia Porter's two-roomed office in King Street, Covent Garden. I joined her there on my return from a spell in India, and during the next eight years, with Schumacher as chairman, we built up the group's work programme of developing small-scale technologies. Julia was a fund- raiser of genius and she revelled in crises of which there were many; it was no mean task to raise money for an unorthodox group with no track record, and meantime recruit and organise the 100 or so business, professional and academic volunteers who helped us before we could afford professional staff.

Today, the IT Group has a budget of pounds 6m, a staff of more than 200 in four continents, and has worked in 60 countries. That it survived its first few critical years to achieve this owes a great deal to Julia Porter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor