“Small is Beautiful” is a phrase that defines E. F. Schumacher’s work, and describes the study and action dedicated to alternative ways of looking at the economy. The Working Centre has often incorporated Schumacher’s observations into its own operations, recognizing that while large organizations and institutions dominate the social and economic landscape, it is the actions of individuals and small autonomous groups who have the flexibility and innovation needed to respond to the challenges facing each community.
The Working Centre has derived from Schumacher’s writings the three purposes of human work. What he calls Good Work:
- First, to provide necessary and useful goods and services.
- Second, to enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards.
- Third, to do so in service to, and in cooperation with, others, so as to liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity.
Few economists of the last fifty years have offered more striking alternatives to mainstream economic thinking than Ernest Friedrich Schumacher. Born in Germany but spending the bulk of his working life in England, Schumacher's career afforded him the ability to critique the economic system from within, and propose alternatives - not primarily through policy prescriptions, but through a radically different attitude towards life. He spent twenty years as the Chief Economic Advisor to the National Coal Board of Britain, and through that organization became intimately acquainted with problems of energy supply and environmental sustainability. Meanwhile, his interest in gardening, his study of Buddhist and Taoist thought, and his admiration for the work and philosophy of Gandhi led him to expand his economic thinking towards a wider set of values that he called "meta-economic."