Charity Article 25 is seeking the involvement of the professional sector to change the way architects think about their work. They have won funding from the Department for International Development (DFID) to raise awareness within the architectural profession of their potential to create global change and eradicate extreme poverty. Article 25 is the only operational architectural charity in the UK; they work in developing countries, providing free or not-for-profit professional built environment skills and expertise to those who would not normally be able to afford them. Article 25 champion the concept of community participation - involving the community wherever possible from design right through to construction - thereby passing on sustainable skills well into the future.
Many charitable organisations are active in placing volunteers on the ground, but for Article 25 less is more: the value of the most highly trained professionals for Article 25 projects means that just one or two volunteers can make a huge difference for a full construction project, bringing education and livelihoods to thousands. Trustee Lord Norman Foster describes this as the Trim Tab effect: “The Trim Tab on a huge aircraft will even out the loads, and by virtue of that extraordinary leverage, for a very small input of energy intelligently applied, can have a magnified effect”.
Article 25’s work is something of a topical issue. At a recent disaster risk reduction conference in Geneva, John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian affairs and Chair of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction partnership identified the need to cut deaths and economic losses from disasters: “The overwhelming view of the Global Platform is that DRR [disaster risk reduction] must be a concrete part of the deal on climate change that is sealed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009”. Holmes went on to identify climate change as not only a great threat, but a great opportunity for a “triple win” – adaptation, disaster risk reduction and poverty reduction. However, he also recognised the restrictions of “limited institutional capacities, lack of skills and established tools and small budgets”. It is this aspect of the problem that Article 25 explicitly seek to address – by providing highly skilled supervision to low budget projects, the charity hope to enable marginalised communities to provide a better, safer future for themselves. For these projects to continue, the charity is reliant on fundraising, including awards from the Department for International Development.