Grounded Planning: People-centred strategies for city upgrading in Thailand and the Philippines

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GROUNDED PLANNING people-centred strategies for city upgrading in Thailand and the Philippines

GROUNDED PLANNING People-centred strategies for city upgrading in Thailand and the Philippines London, 2017 COORDINATORS OF INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME Catalina Ortiz Barbara Lipietz MAIN CONTRIBUTORS Luisa Miranda Morel Nausica Castanas David Hoffmann Ploy Kasama Yamtree PARTNER ORGANISATIONS The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) Community Architects Network (CAN)


GROUNDED PLANNING people-centred strategies for city upgrading in Thailand and the Philippines Edited by Catalina Ortiz and Barbara Lipietz



Contents 6 Acronyms and Glossary 8 Foreword By Catalina Ortiz and Barbara Lipietz 11 Context of the Philippines and The Alliance By Luisa Miranda Morel 17 Context of Thailand and Openspace By Nausica Castanas 20 LEARNING THE CITY 23 Mapping as a tool of knowledge building and empowerment in Philippines By Luisa Miranda Morel 47 From conventional to flexible negotiations with communities in Thailand. The case of the Wat Care Nang Lerng Community By Ploy Kasama Yamtree and Nausica Castanas 72 FLEXIBLE FINANCING 75 Introduction: Exploring the Value(s) of Flexible Financing CommunityOriented Housing Initiatives in Thailand and the Philippines By Nausica Castanas and David Hoffmann 79 Providing Affordable Housing in the Philippines with LinkBuild By David Hoffmann 103 Openspace and community architecture in Thailand By Nausica Castanas 5

Acronyms and Glossary ACHR Asian Coalition for Housing Rights BMA Bangkok Metropolitan Administration BMK Baan Mankong BSC Beneficiary Selection Committee Brgy Barangay CAN Community Architects Network CDA City-wide Development Approach CENRO City Environment and Natural Resources Office CIBI Credit Investigation & Background Investigation CMP Community Mortgage Programme CODI Community Organisations Development Institute CoRe-ACS Community Resources for the Advancement of Capable Societies CPB Crown Property Bureau CPDO City Planning and Development Office CSR Corporate Social Responsibility DPU Development Planning Unit DPWH Department of Public Works and Highways HLURB Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board HOA Homeowners Association HPFPI Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Inc 6

HUDCC Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council HUDO Housing and Urban Development Office IA Intramuros Administration ICEB Interlocking Compressed Earth Blocks ISF Informal Settler Family LCMP Local Community Mortgage Programme LGU Local Government Unit LHB Local Housing Board LTHAI Lower Tipolo Homeowners Association Inc. MMVHAI Malibu Village Homeowners Association Inc. MRT Mass Rapid Transit NCR National Capital Region NGO Non-Governmental Organisation NHA National Housing Authority PACSII Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives Inc. PCUP Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor SHFC Social Housing Finance Corporation SMASH Sitio Mahayag Alliance of Structure Households TAMPEI Technical Assistance Movement for People and the Environment Inc. ToD Transit-Oriented Development 7

Foreword By Catalina Ortiz and Barbara Lipietz

Engaging with transformative city-wide upgrading practices This booklet provides an overview of DPU alumni’ experiences, exchanges and learnings during their internship with the Philippine Alliance, Manila and Openspace, Bangkok. Over six months, these young professionals were exposed to the everyday practices of people-centred development, focusing specifically on the twin challenges of generating flexible finance schemes and meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement. The booklet captures the diverse ways in which community-led organisations apprehend and address these challenges, developing in the process a variety of methodologies to tackle them. In the Philippines, the interns were exposed to a strong alliance of community groups and their embedded support organisations, responding to a changing financial environment through experimentations with social entrepreneurship. They contributed to alternative planning processes built on fore-fronting the tactical knowledge of communities, working with context-specific mapping methodologies to sustain long term social engagement. In Bangkok, the interns were engaged in an architectural practice working across the boundaries of market and community-led processes. The booklet recounts the innovations and trade-offs at the heart of such ventures. In particular, the interns explored the multiplicity of the notion of value and the potential of corporate social responsibility. In addition, the interns revealed the iterative, incremental and creative negotiation 8

processes at neighbourhood scale to leverage the power of multiple actors involved in the redevelopment of inner city locations. Ultimately, the book is testament to the constant experimentation and innovation that characterises members of the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights network. It provides another testimony of DPU’s constant commitment to learn from and with our partners’ admirable impetus to trigger positive transformative initiatives. This publication by DPU/ACHR/ CAN Young Professionals offers a glimpse of the ACHR legacy and the DPU ethos grounded in flexibility, reflexivity and adaptability, towards socio-environmental justice.

South East Asia: Thailand and the Philippines



Context of the Philippines and The Alliance By Luisa Miranda Morel

1. Urbanisation and poverty reduction in The Philippines

Most urbanisation in the Philippines is due to rural-urban migration coming from the thousands of islands that make up the country. There are more than 7,000 islands divided into three major island groups, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The larger part of the country’s total population, 96.5 million in 2016, lives on only 11 of these islands (BBC, 2016). Another reason for its urban population growth is internal displacement due to conflict and natural disasters. The rate of urbanisation in the country, and the inability for governments to keep up with governing this growth, has produced major inequalities in access to housing, basic services and land. In 2014, WHO estimated that 44.5% of the Filipino population lived in urban areas and 38.3% of this population lived in slums (Thailand: 49.2% urban population, 25.0% slum population) (WHO, 2016a; WHO, 2016b). UN-MDG (Millennium Development Goal) statistics indicate that the national poverty ratio is of 2.7 (Thailand: 1.2) giving it lower middle-income country status since 2009 (UN Philippines, 2016). This status characterizes the Philippines, ‘as less reliant on foreign aid and capable of shaping its own development’ (ibid). 11

The country’s governance has been gradually decentralized by the devolution of key expenditures to its LGUs (local government units) since 1991 (ibid). However high levels of corruption, fiscal limitations, unemployment, food insecurity, drugs and internal conflict, particularly in the south Mindanao region, have affected the country’s local government capacity to execute. Minority groups such as Islamic faith and indigenous groups, as well as political groups, specifically Communist groups, have been part of local struggles and the long running internal conflicts in the country. In June 2016, the recently elected President Rodrigo Duterte launched major campaigns against drugs, crime, corruption and for the achievement of the MDGs. His actions have included a series of povertyreduction program-evaluations and the channelling of resources toward eradicating poverty in the country. Additionally, as a very religious country, the Philippines has an extensive network of faith charities involved in poverty-reduction. These different intervening actions and actors are mandated by the Local Government Code of 1991 and the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. Both seek to address meeting the most basic needs of all citizens. These Acts present the provision of affordable housing and livelihood opportunities, the decentralization of decision-making power and resource distribution as key to reducing poverty, as well as the building of “self-reliant communities that contribute to national development” (The Asia Foundation, 2010). This complex socio-political and economic context forms an interesting framework on which to build bottom-up poverty-reduction actions and advocacy. Additionally, from the grassroots, communities in the Philippines are already playing an active role in meeting these ambitions. Urban poor communities in the country have been historically involved in mobilisation, organisation and advocacy. Homeowner or community associations are therefore a common element of Philippine society.



National level: Official authorities

Vice President Cabinet Secretaries

Provincial level: Official authorities

Municipalities / Cities

Barangays Settlement level: Unofficial authorities

Community Associations registred with HLURB Image 1 - Source: LM Decentralization of authority from national, to local government (provincial) level, to settlement (community) level

Puroks (housing blocks) Households 13

The Philippine Alliance

Although community associations don’t form official government institutions and are therefore not considered a political unit, it would be fair to say that they are the next level of governance after barangay captains (see Image 1). Most homeowner community associations are registered with the HLURB (Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board), which works to enforce land-use policies and promote inclusive and socially just urban growth (HLURB, 2016). The HPFPI (Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines Incorporated) is founded on these association networks. It works in partnership with four other organisations, PACSII (Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives Inc.); Co-ReACS (Community Resources for the Advancement of Capable Societies); LinkBuild (a social enterprise involved in building housing for the poor) and TAMPEI (Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment Inc.). Each organisation is specialized in either community-mobilisation, financial or technical support, collaborating under the umbrella of the Philippine Alliance. The Philippine Alliance is therefore a network in itself that builds on the existing systems set up by government (and private) institutions as well as the knowledge of people living in cities (including informal settlements) to bridge any gap in understanding that may exist between them. With this approach the Alliance aspires to improve the lives and living conditions of communities living in informal settlements (Grounded Planning, 2016). This includes generating and promoting information tools that can accommodate different forms of knowledge in flexible ways and that are accessible to the diversity of actors in the city1. A more concrete way of explaining how the Alliance seeks to do this, is by suggesting that they act as facilitators of a cooperative process that has many different components and decision-makers. The process includes mobilisation, savings, planning and implementation which you can read about in Grounded Planning (2016, p.56). More specifically, within these different phases of the process, the Alliance facilitates by promoting 1 These will be discussed later in this book


links and connections between different people involved; providing trainings on the use of information tools; on methods of communication and outreach; on organization and leadership; on saving, funding and managing projects; and advocating among policy makers and private companies on the opportunities that lie within the cooperative process. This does not imply that as facilitators they are the - and only - experts. In fact, an observed strength of the approach is that in any action, there is always an intention to learn. The Alliance does not only promote learning for those living, dwelling and shaping the city from a community to an institutional level, it also values learning within its own process of intervention. Working alongside its members, one often hears the words ‘learning by doing’.

The Philippines: Manila, Muntilupa, Davao and Cebu



Context of Thailand and Openspace By Nausica Castanas

Openspace and Community Architecture in Thailand

Community architecture is “architecture carried out with the active participation of the end-users”. Wates, 2000: 184 Bangkok is developing rapidly, with a staggering number of new builds showing a steady year on year increase. It is estimated that 39,050 new condominium units were built in 2016 alone, an increase of 13% on 2015 (Kongcheep, 2016a). Similarly, an estimated 723,000 m2 are expected to be developed for retail use in 2017-2018, consisting mostly of new shopping malls (Kongcheep, 2016b). Fears of a real estate bubble resurface regularly every couple of years (Yu and Thongpan, 2015; Kim, 2013; Goodman, 2011), but fail to thwart new developments or deter the army of Thai and international architecture firms that wish to make their mark on Bangkok’s ever-changing cityscape. In fact, Thai architecture gathers international recognition, with two buildings winning ArchDaily’s Building of the Year Award in 2017 (AD Editorial Team, 2017) and five projects being shortlisted for the 2016 World Architecture Festival awards (Jansuttipan, 2016). Yet, while most of this development centres on the high end of the market, there is another reality of Thai architecture: community architecture using participation. The country is seen as a pioneer in including participation in its national slum-upgrading project as implemented by the Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI). Community architecture is 17

still not perceived as a viable career however, and those who undertake it are oftentimes seen as volunteers, especially in juxtaposition with the country’s stylish architecture studios. This renders the work of community architects significantly difficult. Openspace, a community architecture studio based in Bangkok, attempts to walk the line between the needs of communities and the competitive architecture landscape of the city. Founded in 2007 by Wan Sophonpanich, Chawanad Luansang, and Pisut Srimok, it was first conceived as a loose platform for anyone wishing to collaborate in community development work, using participatory processes to build sustainable communities. Ploy Kasama Yamtree took over managerial duties in 2011, and changed Openspace’s model to a collective of architects, researchers and development practitioners, specialising in working with communities through participatory processes. Based in Bangkok and working across Thailand, Openspace serves as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborations, and works in partnership with the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights and the Community Architects Network. In practice, it allows for the studio – and therefore the work – to be perceived as legitimate by a number of potential funders, thus increasing the appeal of working with the team. This empowers the team at Openspace to position themselves and compete with other architecture studios on “traditional” projects, while having the added advantage of offering participation to all end-users. It offers a third way: a design studio using its difference to its advantage, navigating both worlds of corporate and community architecture to promote the core principles at the heart of the work they do.


Thailand: Bangkok region




BOX: Learning the City, Collin McFarlane (2011) McFarlane explores different kinds of learning in Learning the City. They are fluid, diffuse and converge throughout time and space, emerging, re-emerging and forming part of the urban experience. He proposes that learning the city includes three key components, which form a ‘theory of learning’(McFarlane 2011: 21). • The different ways in which knowledge moves through materials, space and time and how it is understood and learnt in different ways by different people in the city: translation • The value that knowledge obtains due to its relation to different sites, objects and meanings formed by a collective group of people: coordination • The practice or living experience of learning that emerges in the relations formed between individuals, groups and the city: dwelling These different forms of learning are not all constant and stable, nor do they all emerge simultaneously and they have different levels of dominance and acceptance by those who learn. However, these processes are inter-dependent. They are also a product of socio-spatial structures, hierarchies and narratives that emerge as a result of varying and often unequal relations of power, resources and knowledge (McFarlane 2011: 27). The ways in which these different processes come together are also constructed by history and imagination, as McFarlane argues, they show how the city has been and reveal what the city could have been, or could be.



Mapping as a tool of knowledge building and empowerment in Philippines By Luisa Miranda Morel The following discussion builds on the documentation of the work of the Alliance from previous interns in Grounding Knowledge and Grounded Planning. It seeks to take advantage of the existing studies on the Alliance’s strategies and their process of implementation and discuss one particular methodological component (mapping) with greater focus. By doing so, the discussion hopes to reach a deeper level of analysis about how this specific knowledge building strategy supports the empowerment (if any) of the communities that make up the Federation. Having said that, the following sections also recognise that mapping as a single component is complementary to - and benefits from - the other components of the methodology used by the Alliance. They should therefore be read, taking into consideration that they don’t stand alone and that their impact will be affected and affect other activities and strategies carried out by the Alliance and federation members.

Empowerment Although the concept of empowerment has been around for a very long time, having emerged particularly connected to race and women’s’ 23

movements in the 1960s, it continues to be difficult to define in practice. In theory, the term refers to the redistribution of power and the redefinition of power roles between people who have and don’t have freedom of choice, responsibilities, access (to finance, knowledge or resources) and confidence or capacity to lead processes of change. It not only has an impact in a materialistic and physical sense, for example in ownership of land, decisions over money or protection of men and women from physical violence but it is also highly symbolic. Empowerment is symbolic because it is political and has an impact on the social, psychological and emotional aspects of people’s lives. For example, gaining confidence to claim one’s rights, protect one’s freedom of identity or feel safe in one’s home. The abstract process of empowerment is difficult to capture in practice, especially because there are multiple subjectivities, pressures and layers of complexities that can affect its course. Tools and interventions can only seek to empower by being designed in a certain way but whether they do so in effect is a much harder question to answer. So is the question of whether this impact will remain and be self-sustaining, once the intervention is concluded and people are left to their own devices. “Empowerment-oriented interventions enhance wellness while they also aim to ameliorate problems, provide opportunities for participants to develop knowledge and skills, and engage professionals as collaborators instead of authoritative experts” (Perkins and Zimmerman, 1995, p.570). Drawing on Perkins and Zimmerman (1995), empowerment is understood here as a process that in practice, builds community knowledge, capacity and opportunity to gain ownership and control over collectivelyowned resources and engage with local authorities to make informed choices on non-collectively-owned resources. Furthermore, the way empowerment is understood here places emphasis on its nature as a process that is on-going and builds itself, gradually becoming owned by the communities that benefit from it; but also as a concept that is characterised by its results, so every time there is a small victory in the process (or an outcome from it), that demonstrates an achievement of empowerment, it motivates further actions to continue engaging with 24

it and have greater expectations from it. This understanding does not exclude other forms of empowerment, particularly the form it may take at an individual level. However, for the sake of the discussion and the role of mapping as a collective strategy this discussion will focus on its collective characteristic.

The mapping process Maps are a key information tool promoted by the Alliance. As a strategy, mapping does not only produce visual representations of space that communicate the physical and social composition of settlements. More than anything, the Alliance uses mapping as a process for the empowerment of communities. The methodology of community mapping embraces the notion of empowerment through learning the city in various ways. The Alliance understands settlement1-profiling as an organizing tool that involves constant engagement, mobilisation, dialogue, validation, experimentation and negotiation amongst various actors in the city. It also includes multiple political frameworks and stakeholders, which are relevant at different stages of the process. This is how the tool engages in coordinating knowledge through the city, which is what makes it so crucial to the work of the Alliance. Together these elements build the potential of community mapping to be used as a political strategy because it organizes communities into movements that have collective power. It translates knowledge and enables people to use it in negotiating their place at the political level, in settlement upgrading decisions, land-use and urban policy and planning. Finally, each mapping process in the different cities (Muntinlupa, Davao, Cebu) where it has been applied2 has had its own unique experience 1 ‘Settlement’ refers to informal neighbourhoods built within the city. They include both community associations and people that are not organised into an association. Usually there are several communities living within one settlement. 2 The DPU’s (Development Planning Unit) junior professionals from the years of 2014 and 2015 have documented the Alliance’s initial mapping experiences from the cities of Valenzuela, Intramuros and Muntinlupa in Grounding Knowledge and Grounded Planning.


of learning-by-doing; bringing out people’s context-specific knowledge and giving visibility to their capacities. Hence engaging with the learning through practice or, as McFarlane (2011) puts it, learning by ‘dwelling the city’. On their own, community maps are only one small component of a much greater, complex process of learning, building, strategy and transformative interconnected activities. The following sections seek to analyse each of these activities through a lens that is sensitive to the notion of empowerment as discussed earlier. Each section will introduce the activity and break it down into different elements that might contribute to the empowerment of communities.

1. Weaving cross-sectoral networks Community associations and the Federation engage with actors across the horizontal and vertical spectrums of cities as a strategy to gain support, find commitments and strengthen the relationships and grounds on which the process of mapping will take place. This support is often in the form of resources, capacities, knowledge, advocacy and protection. By doing so, community associations, members are given the opportunity to engage in a process of crosssectoral learning and exchange. The weaving of these networks happens during mapping but also before and after through other activities of the Alliance. What happens before and after is crucial for the shaping of the mapping strategy. Sharing experiences: The Alliance’s connection to Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Community Architects Network (CAN) and other networks positions it at the core of a dense network of experiences and shared knowledge. These networks frequently organise international cross-disciplinary workshops and trainings that bring together a diverse range of first hand experiences. Further spaces of sharing are organised local government units (LGUs), local and international organisations and various members of civil society who are brought together to relate with each other over common issues. 26

Agreements: The Alliance has learnt to formalise these networks through written agreements. These happen within spaces of discussion and expectation setting, between multiple actors from local authorities, ministries, institutions, international and national organisations. Agreements are particularly important because the community mapping process usually takes longer, more resources and is more socially complex than the standard numeration methods that local authorities are familiar with. Actors have to demonstrate that they understand these differences and commit to that understanding. Agreements are also useful within communities, as they demonstrate the legitimacy of the process and provide evidence that the process is supported by the local barangays. This is an important achievement as communities have expressed fears that the people gathering data are there to evict them or collect money under false pretences. Furthermore, community associations are often very close to their barangay captains and will not cooperate if they are not sure if the barangay supports the process. Box: Memorandum of Agreement

Source- TAMPEI, June 21, 2016: Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signing between the Philippine Alliance and Geodetic Engineers of the Philippines National Capital Region (GEP-NCR). 27

2. Building capacity Capacity building with the Alliance happens under the understanding that the greater and more direct involvement of communities, local authorities and different stakeholders in every step of the process the more everyone will ‘learn-by-doing’. An important emphasis is placed on building capacities for all groups (not just communities) to communicate with each other because neither can work without the other. The Alliance itself also learns throughout this process, gradually understanding and strengthening its own capacities to act as an effective facilitator, advocator or mediator of negotiation. Everyone’s involved: In spaces of exchange such as assemblies, forums, trainings, workshops and presentations, community leaders, barangay captains, local authorities and academia find themselves face-to-face with each other. Everyone must engage in a learning experience. Each have to adapt their verbal and body language, their vocabulary, their visual tools, their intentions and find compromises with each other through reflexive dialogue. The frequent exercise of these adaptations and engagements builds people’s understanding of how everyone learns and what the best pathways of communication are between them. Building Intuition: Different stakeholders adapt their roles according to the needs of the moment and respond to the fluidity of the process with intuition. The Alliance’s intuition is built on years of experience in negotiating with political figures and communities. In a similar way, the more frequently that community leaders are involved in these spaces, the more knowledge in engagement and ‘feel for it’ that they are able to learn and then put into practice. Building confidence: Spaces of engagement and leadership roles build people’s capacities to communicate needs, ideas and bring down stereotypes. Stigma is not only present and maintained by local government attitudes but also community attitudes, within and between them. The urban poor can contribute to the making of this stigma by believing they have little to offer and limiting themselves in doing so. So this process of exchange and the provision of a space for negotiation 28

on an equal playing field gives community association members opportunities to deconstruct these stigmas and build their confidence. Gradually transferring responsibilities: Ideally community members involved in the mapping process are gradually given more and more responsibility. This gradual take-up of responsibilities pushes communities and mapping teams to begin applying their capacities built over time, with less and less support from the Alliance. Hence taking the process into their own hands and reaching initial levels of empowerment over the activities. Trainings and enhancement trainings: To achieve the vast scale of the process and the very large number of people living within settlements, the Alliance also uses multiple trainings. Often they occur over a 3-5-day period. Although in Cebu they are combined with the mapping process. The trainings mainly focus on introducing tools such as GPS devices, survey forms, mapping techniques and more recently the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) application which will be discussed more in detail later in this chapter. On many occasions, Alliance members expressed having to go back to the same communities, authorities or specific people, to explain the same things again and again. Thus, they require great levels of patience and discipline. It is necessary to do this, and give the process the time it requires. Nothing can be rushed and everyone should be able to make informed decisions and feel comfortable in taking action. Trainings are also useful internally because they demonstrate to the ‘trainers’, what concepts are hard to grasp and provide a space to improve knowledge transfer skills amongst staff, mapping teams and community leaders. Having said that, the impact of these trainings can also depend on how clear the objective of the process is, and therefore how motivated by it, communities are. They also reveal how community leaders lead their communities, whether they delegate or prefer doing everything themselves. This also applies to Alliance staff and other members of the mapping teams (including members of local authorities, or local nongovernmental organisations), seeing as the transfer of responsibility to 29

gather and manage information also implies the transfer of power and ownership of that information into the hands of community members. Trainings provide unmissable opportunities to observe the empowerment process with a critical lens. Possibly questioning who are these spaces empowering? Who is answering all the questions or doing all the work? Are leaders re-instating their position or are new forms of leadership emerging? And why? Easy and accessible materials: A key success of the community mapping methodology has been that it uses non-technical tools to gather information within communities, in situ. The non-technical aspect of the process is what enables the Alliance to work with people who are not necessarily familiar with maps, data and may be illiterate. The materials are also easily accessible, replaceable and don’t cost very much. Thus, once trained communities should be able to carry out the process using these non-technical, accessible methodologies to continue gathering, maintaining and monitoring the data. Box: Accessible representations of space

Source – LM: In Davao, physical models of settlements or planned communities are used to facilitate people’s understanding of their settlement. A Google image is sometimes not enough so having 3D models enables people to relate to the space much more directly. 30

Box: Capacity building over time

Source – TAMPEI: Sandy a Federation member being trained in STDM at the national training workshop in June 2016.

Source – TAMPEI: Sandy, teaching participants of STDM training workshop in Davao City, October 2016.

Source – TAMPEI: Community leader from District I presenting outcomes of mapping at a validation assembly. She was trained by the mapping team that was formed for the mapping of District II. 31

Savings groups: After mapping, communities often ask ‘what next?’ says Janeth, a Federation member from Davao (interviewed by LMM, August 2016). So, one option is to introduce the savings process and build savings groups. A common motivation to save is the acquisition of privately owned land. As a collective group, they have a bigger chance of negotiating the acquisition because they can provide part of the funds for it. Building a savings group is not easy. It requires a lot of coordination and organisation between community members. With PACSII, they are able to develop skills in administration and management. Additionally, saving in a group is a way to self-govern. Savings demonstrate peoples’ ability and commitment to organise and empowers them to take action.

Box: Process

Source – LM. Timeline constructed from participatory evaluation workshop with mapping team in Muntinlupa, August 2016. Where the lines are thicker, there are multiple activities that are related to each specific stage of the process. It’s important to note that they are not followed step by step in every settlement. Different communities and barangays work in different ways and respond at different rates of time. Often, activities and strategies have to be revisited, re-enforced or dropped. Thus, the capacity building and empowerment process is cyclical and must continue to be fed and supported over time in order to continue fulfilling its purpose. 32

3. Building platforms of public dialogue and knowledge engagement Dialogue can happen over a survey form that one community member uses to gather information about another or it can be a map on which two associations have identified a common issue in their settlement. Many of the tools used throughout community mapping generate dialogue especially once they are used at a citywide level where different stakeholders across the city are involved. That is when all these dialogues are brought together, in a consolidated way, on a wider public scale. At this point they become a catalyst for engagement with the knowledge gathered. That is why ‘cultivating mess’ (Grounded Knowledge, 2014, p.40) is so essential to the process of mapping. Gathering information that is messy and bringing together different actors and getting them to talk about what they see before them causes chaos, a fertile ground for out-of-the-box, innovative ideas. At the centre stage is the knowledge and experiences, learnings, that people live day-to-day within their settlements, which has also been translated into ‘policy language’ – maps, graphs, data (McFarlane, 2011). Those involved gain insight into different realities, needs and motivations and how they are all ingrained within existing citywide systems and policies. Thus the process exposes a mess and a multiplicity of ideas, pushes for collective engagement of how to deal with this mess and find compromise within it. This marks the shift from community learning to citywide learning, and from gathering knowledge to taking strategic action with it. Building the bigger picture: Identifying the physical elements of their settlements, seeing these elements on a map and understanding their location in relation to each structure, each home and the spaces around them builds on people’s sense of spatial awareness. Furthermore, the process of dialogue within communities and across them pushes for greater awareness on the wider issues of their settlements moving from each household’s concern for their immediate surroundings to the concern of a whole group of households about the issues they share 33

Source– Laura Hirst, DPU Junior Professional 2015: Opening dialogue between Muslim and Christian communities in Davao. One community leader from Ilang called Ramil expressed that the process of carrying out surveys pushed many of the members from the Christian side of the settlement to speak with those of the Muslim communities. They realised that many of the ideas they had about the Muslim groups were not true. Now, says Ate Nice (HPFPI member), the Muslims and Christians are friends.

Box: Dialogue

Source: LM DPU Junior Professional, 2016: In Barangay Ilang (Davao City), one of the community associations had been in conflict with the Barangay captain due to political differences and alliances. This had caused several issues with the Federation and had disrupted the process of mapping. However, as Ate Janet (HPFPI member) and Ramil (Ilang community member also working the Barangay) explained during an interview (carried out by author, August 2016), they were able to organise an assembly and open up discussion between these two groups so they could talk out their differences. The outcome was very positive in that they are now collaborating to speak with the city authorities even though they have maintained their political views. They realised that although they had differing views, at the end of the day, they wanted the same thing for the communities in that barangay.


Box: Strategic Engagement with Knowledge Source: TAMPEI, Philippine Alliance: Presentation of household data in community, District I, Muntinlupa, September 2016

Source: TAMPEI, Philippine Alliance: Association leader presenting mapping results at a community meeting, District I, Muntinlupa, TAMPEI, October 2016

Source: LMM. Quadrant being presented at a community validation assembly. The quadrant locates the status of the community according to how organised they are and how likely they are to be able to resettle or carry out onsite upgrading. At this presentation two communities were able to see that one of their limitations was their weak organisation. Originally these two communities had been working as one association and had split due to internal differences. After the presentation, the two leaders were in a deep discussion that concluded with a loud laughter from those listening in. Several exclaimed “aww!� just as we left. A TAMPEI intern later explained that the leaders had agreed to meet again to discuss re-joining their community associations to make themselves stronger and improve their status on the quadrant.


(e.g. lack of electricity, drinking water, pollution‌). This dialogue often happens during validation3 assemblies, where communities are shown an overview of the different issues and characteristics of the communities present within one settlement. Taking the next steps: Seeing their needs as a whole community provides them with specific projects that they can begin to work on. This breaks down a very big overwhelming issue (poverty) into smaller more digestible issues (sanitation, access, clean water, electricity, community organisation, savings etc.). The collective process of experiencing this break down then provides the groundwork with which they can face these issues together and identify what steps they need to take in order to do so.

4. Scaling up and influencing policy Scaling-up is triggered by the connections made in two directions simultaneously, the vertical and the horizontal. The process of gradually involving more and more stakeholders through sharing experiences and demonstrating impacts enables the Alliance to work at a vertical level. On the other hand, the vast quantities of people living within informal communities are reached through the networks of the Federation at a horizontal level. These simultaneous processes enable ideas and learning to become connected across cities and gradually reach the policy level. Bringing people together across these directions into common spaces triggers an exchange of learnings. It takes several further efforts to consolidate these exchanges and have an impact on policy at a greater scale. Leveraging the knowledge gap: Information is the ‘bargaining’ power of urban poor communities (VMSDFI, 2001). By demonstrating the valuable contribution that they can make to inform policy and close the knowledge gap between local authorities and the reality on the ground, 3 Validations are assemblies and meetings with community members and local authorities where the data gathered is presented and participants are given an opportunity to correct data, confirm data and understand how it has been consolidated.


mapping communities are able to play an active role in scaling up the process. Translating knowledge: Tools like GIS and STDM4 are used to translate knowledge from the language of the community to the language of the state. The interactive element of STDM and its ability to combine socio-economic information with geographic information is ideal for translating thousands of survey forms and community maps into one comprehensive, consolidated, digital database. These digital databases are at the core of land administration tools used by local authorities and are therefore a strategic choice. 4 STDM combines socio-economic data over geographical data. Hence why it is able to demonstrate social-tenure relationships. It is digital and can be articulated with other standard land administration systems used by local authorities.

Box: Scaling-Up and Influencing Policy

Source – TAMPEI, On the screen you can see the non-technical mapping tools being shown to the mayor (sitting on the left of the screen). Sitting behind the mayor are various community leaders and barangay captains. A TAMPEI member (standing on the right of the screen) is explaining the process of mapping to the mayor. This was a meeting in Muntinlupa to demonstrate the outcomes of the mapping process in District II and formalise the support for the process to begin in District I. After this meeting, the mayor gave consent to proceed with District I and committed to supporting the process with a small fund. 37

For those who use STDM in the context of ‘pro-poor’ urban interventions, the information, which is gathered through the use of this application represents power. However, it is only recognised as such once it can be used to make change. Inherently the question of who uses this information is inevitable, as the power belongs to the user. This is what makes information gathering risky but also a wonderful opportunity for the Alliance and its network. If the urban poor have access to an information tool that is applicable or equal to the tools used by local governments, then there is no reason why their knowledge and understanding of the realities they face should be thought of anything less than extremely valuable. Equally, if local governments are able to access information that is accurate, inclusive, complete and updated then there should be no legitimate reason why their actions and policies would be misinformed. By speaking the same language, the Alliance directs the use of STDM toward closing a major information gap that is currently an important barrier to meeting the needs of the urban poor in the cities of the Philippines. Although this is an idealistic view, optimism is one of the Alliance’s greatest assets. STDM is designed as a free, open-source, easy-to-use, gender sensitive tool. This enables the Alliance to explore its possibilities quite freely and diffuse it – and its principles- to anyone who is interested and willing to learn about it. However, the use of STDM gains more and more policy relevance as you move up the vertical hierarchies of cities. In other words, the information that STDM helps produce is relevant at the level of the communities once they can use it to engage with barangays and local mayors. If it is only stored in their community, it is not useful. Thus, STDM implies an inherent push toward citywide engagement but it also implies a push toward more technical knowledge. Proposing innovative solutions grounded on existing city frameworks: The mapping and validation processes enable communities to better understand the reasons behind different actions taken by local authorities. In some cases, they understand why they are justified and in other cases, they understand why they are unjust and how they can provide better, 38

more just, solutions. This way, instead of opposing systems, they are able to work within, through and around them. Perhaps ‘bending the rules’ occasionally within the margins of what is possible in informal settlements, where standard rules are less applicable.

Concluding reflections Knowledge building and empowerment are understood here as processes that build capacities and generate opportunities for more informed decision-making and collective action for urban transformation. Box: Translating knowledge in Muntinlupa

Source – TAMPEI, STDM in Muntinlupa has been funded by GLTN (in 2016) and prior to that, by the World Bank (in 2015). It is clear that the World Bank funding enabled the Alliance to build its STDM knowledge and attract further funds from GLTN. This is what propelled the process to scale up from STDM at community level toward its use at citywide level. Both these funding opportunities originated from exchanges and the showcasing of the process during the CAN regional workshop in 2014. In a similar way, the Alliance used an STDM National Training workshop as a venue to open up new opportunities with local authorities and organisations and proceed to scaling-up the process in Davao and Cebu. By introducing them to STDM and its inherent connection to pro-poor data gathering methodologies, the Alliance hopes to showcase the opportunities of gathering data in this way and influence policy-making in other cities. 39

What is important about interventions that seek to redistribute and recalibrate power dynamics between communities, decision-makers and implementers in order to promote empowerment of communities is that they generate mechanisms over which communities have ownership in the long-run. Mapping, as a methodological component of the Alliance’s approach has been discussed here as a process that is made up of multiple layers of strategic action. From developing networks and relationships; to building capacities for engagement and organisation; to building knowledge and capacity to manage, translate and leverage it; each step requires extensive thought, dialogue, patience, creativity and innovation. Even so, with every change that is made, considerations about the original purpose of the methodology and its applicability need to be taken. For example, STDM’s supposed gender-responsive design should be used to reveal relations of power in informal settlements and advocate for more gender-conscious, inclusive policy-making. Yet, as the Human Settlements Officer of GLTN pointed out during a field visit, none of the data that he was being shown was gender-disaggregated. It was clear to see how many communities, families and structures were mapped but it was not clear how many of these were female-headed households or how many landowners, renters and sharers were men or women for example. Evidently the level of detail shown to the officer was not extensive (it meant to provide an overview of the work being done in District I), however, if an STDM priority is to be gender-responsive and this type of information is missing; this calls into question how the tool is being framed in the first place. For example, whether the gender component has been emphasised enough before the tool is implemented. If the needs of women, girls, men and boys are not differentiated in the information, then how can they be met in practice? If the Alliance seeks to empower communities to improve their living conditions this must take into questions the different experiences and needs required to empower both men and women. This questions relates significantly in other aspects of the mapping strategy and every other activity and tool used by the Alliance. It is especially important 40

Metro Manila

Muntilupa and the Barangays

Distrct 2

Distrct 1


when beginning to look at how their work will develop in future and if it is to have a significant impact on informing urban policy and planning as it has begun to do in Muntinlupa. Another element of STDM that should be considered throughout its continued use and development is that as a ‘participatory’ tool, one of its objectives is that it can be easily accessible and used by people who are living in conditions where access to technical tools and knowledge is not easy. Whilst the tool is very straight-forward and great efforts have focused on building local capacity to use the tool, it nonetheless requires some technical knowledge and an IT specialist to teach the tool to others. Furthermore, it depends on the accessibility of equipment and a space to use it. This dependency begs the question on the extent to which this tool can truly be ‘pro-poor’ and integrated with people-led processes of settlement profiling. In community mapping, we advocate for the use of tools that are basic and people-friendly, they require glue, scissors and plain paper. However, the more digital and technical the process gets, the less people-friendly it can become. If the tool needs to be continuously taught, requires access to computer equipment, which also needs to be maintained and can be hard to find (or rather afford) in contexts like Muntinlupa’s informal settlements, can the mapping process ever be entirely ‘people-led’ or ‘pro-poor’? Furthermore, the use of STDM and mentality behind the mapping process as a whole requires that the relevant actors adapt not only their already familiar methods and ways of working in land administration and management; but also shift their mentality in how they perceive the role of urban poor communities. This includes, recognising the valuable contributions that such communities can make in facilitating innovative, inclusive and effective land administration and management processes. I have felt this has been one of the greatest challenges in the work of the Alliance. It is already difficult to introduce the ‘new’ to institutional systems. All the more challenging is introducing change when there is already an existing tool that ‘maps’, asking institutions to not only adapt but to re-learn a different mapping tool, which will do something they think is already being done by the tool they have. 42

Finally, it is important to note that the numbers, graphs and locations that local governments have before them, thanks to the work of communities, can run the risk of making them blind to the significance of the process that has built the information in the first place. Therefore, the scaling up process has a significant responsibility in advocacy. A key part of scaling up community mapping depends on the understanding and shift in mentality of citywide stakeholders highlighting that the core strength of the approach is that it builds capacity in organisation, develops skills in using information tools (surveys, GPS and computers) and communicates real needs. Thus, the real struggle within the learning process in scaling up and influencing policy lies in advocating and shifting mind-sets on how this information is gathered, moving beyond ‘participation’ (which might imply participation in someone else’s process) to one that highlights the role of community networks at the forefront of the process, leading it as much as possible.

References AD Editorial Team. 2017. “Winners of the 2017 Building of the Year Awards”. Retrieved in January 2017 from Boonyabancha, S. and T. Kerr. 2016. Cities for People and by People. Retrieved in October 2016 from Castanas, N. 2016. “Playing with goldfish: Engaging people through games in the age of the falling attention span”. Retrieved in January 2017 from http:// Czischke, D., Gruis, V. and Mullins, D., 2012. Conceptualising social enterprise in housing organisations. Housing Studies, 27(4), pp.418-437. Doherty, B., Haugh, H. and Lyon, F., 2014. Social enterprises as hybrid organizations: A review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(4), pp.417-436. Goodman, A. M. 2011. “Thailand’s Condominium Bubble a Reality or Myth”. Retrieved in January 2011 from 43

Jansuttipan, M. 2016. “5 awesome projects that prove Thai architecture is some of the best in the world”. Retrieved in January 2017 from Kim, J. S. 2013. “The Biggest Disaster in SE Asia Waiting to Happen: Thailand’s Massive Real Estate Bubble”. Retrieved in January 2017 from http://www.’s-massive-real-estate-bubble Kongcheep, S. 2016a. “Market Report: Bangkok Condominium 4Q 2016”. Retrieved in January 2017 from thailand/market-reports/bangkok%20condominium%204q%202016.pdf Kongcheep, S. 2016b. “Market Report: Bangkok Retail 4Q 2016”. Retrieved in January 2017 from market-reports/bangkok%20retail%204q%202016.pdf Lorenciana, C.R. (2013). ‘Philippine housing backlog is 5.5M SHDA targets to build a million units by 2016’. [online]. Available at: cebu-business/2015/07/13/1476445/philippine-housing-backlog-5.5m-shdatargets-build-million-units McLeod, R. 2001. “Bridging the Finance Gap”. Retrieved in January 2017 from BridgingGap.pdf Minnery, J., Argo, T., Winarso, H., Hau, D., Veneracion, C.C., Forbes, D. and Childs, I., 2013. Slum upgrading and urban governance: Case studies in three South East Asian cities. Habitat International, 39, pp.162-169. Mullins, D., Czischke, D. and van Bortel, G., 2012. Exploring the meaning of hybridity and social enterprise in housing organisations. National Geographic, 2013, ‘5 Reasons the Philippines Is So Disaster Prone’. [online]. Available at: news/2013/11/131111-philippines-dangers-haiyan-yolanda-death-toll-rises/ UN. 2014. World’s Population Increasingly Urban with More Than Half Living in Urban Areas. Retrieved in October 2016 from development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html UN Habitat. 2005. Slum Trends in Asia. Retrieved in October 2016 from http:// in%20Asia.pdf 44

Wates, N. 2000. The Community Planning Handbook: How People Can Shape their Cities, Towns and Villages in any Part of the World. Earthscan: London World Bank, 2016. Closing the Gap in Affordable Housing in the Philippines: Policy Paper for the National Summit on Housing and Urban Development. [online] Available World Bank, 2015. ‘Making In-City Resettlement Work for the Poor’. [online]. Available at: Yu, F. C. and Thongpan, N. 2015. “Bubble trouble”. Retrieved in January 2017 from



From conventional to flexible negotiations with communities in Thailand The case of the Wat Care Nang Lerng Community By Ploy Kasama Yamtree and Nausica Castanas How do you negotiate successfully? This question can be answered in numerous ways and from many different perspectives. When thinking of poor or informal communities, however, effective negotiations can make all the difference as their right to the city is seldom secure. Rooted in informality, they often face uncertain futures as they lack long-term land tenure. Negotiations are a tool for many communities to discuss their needs, thoughts and create a consensus leading to appropriate actions for all stakeholders. Negotiation processes vary greatly, using different tools depending on the available resources, contexts and people. While negotiations can bring fruitful results, oftentimes—and particularly in cases where there is an inherent inequality in power—one side is forced to agree on terms they are not happy with, or worse, suffer without ever reaching an agreement. In this context, the work of transnational organisations like the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights and the Community Architects Network are particularly important. Drawing on the experiences of informal communities across Asia, they provide a collective body of knowledge on achieving land rights or long-term contracts, allowing for improvement 47

in the living conditions of thousands of people. Through, the six-month DPU/ACHR/CAN Young Professionals Programme Internship, the DPU and these organisations have encouraged a new generation of development practitioners to experience the realities of development in practice, dealing with first-hand experience in community work and the sometimes-tenuous processes involved. This chapter will examine the experience of Wat Care Nang Lerng, a community in the old town of Bangkok. Openspace, a community architects’ studio, has been working with this community for over seven years. We draw from our experience1 to delve into the learning process that transformed this community from voiceless victims to a driver for change. Nang Lerng is a community in the old part of Bangkok. As the city changes and develops, these urban dwellers are living under the ever-present looming threat of eviction. The community has steadily utilised the tools at their disposal to shift negotiations from angry town meetings where nothing got done and community leaders grew increasingly frustrated, to an open platform where collaborations and art allow community members, the land owners and the government to find common ground and envision a future together. This flexible style of negotiation, through a series of events with new partners, has allowed them to learn, create networks within the city, and ultimately has empowered them to take their rightful place at the negotiation table.

1. A brief history of the rise and fall of Nang Lerng Nang Lerng2, previously known as Ban Sanam Krabue meaning the buffalo field, has been populated since the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851) in the early 19th century. The local population was a mix of Thais, Laotians, and Cambodians, mostly labour workers and followers of leaders who 1 For this chapter, we use the observations, and data collected from the community over the years Openspace has worked with them, and what community leaders have told us. This piece is an observation and documentation of what has already happened. We have no intention to attack the landowner and are hoping that this piece will serve as a further ground of learning to help us all find better solutions to make Bangkok a well livable place. 2 Nang Lerng covers three communities: Wat Care Nang Lerng, Supamitr 1, and Supamitr 2, all registered at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). Nang Lerng and Wat Care Nang Lerng will be used interchangeably throughout this chapter.


A community meeting in Nang Lerng, Bangkok. Source: Nammon Welployngam

Lights filters through a hole in the broken roof Source: Openspace


Nang Lerng with the Bangkok region

Nang Lerng


The roof of Wat Care Nang Lerng, visible over the community roofs Source: Openspace


moved to the region to supress rebels at the South of the Kingdom3. The community grew around three main spots: the Wat Sanam Krabue temple—later affectionately known as Wat Care Nang Lerng, the Rattanakosin Kingdom canal and the Mahanak canal (Jindamaneerojana, 2010; Nawikkamun, 2000; Phoprueksanun, 2004). These canals are of special importance as the life of Thai people concentrated on water, and canals were important ports for domestic trading and transportation. This community, however, only achieved its peak status during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868): a new canal was built, expanding the confines of the Rattanakosin Kingdom Island and formally annexing Nang Lerng into the island (Wong and Bunnag, 1961; BMA, 2010). The Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between the British Empire and the Kingdom of Siam of 1955 opened Siam to the international market. This, in turn, engendered an investment in basic infrastructures such as electricity supply, water supply, roads, new means of transportation like the tram, etc. The improvement of infrastructures continued under the reign of King Rama V (1868-1873). The new roads and means of transport cemented the importance of Nang Lerng as a trading hub for the entire Kingdom. Around that time, the significance of canals waned, as canals became too crowed and people moved into shop houses to continue trading. Shop houses maintain their importance until the present day, especially for low-income communities (Nawikkamun, 2000; Phoprueksanun, 2004; BMA, 2010). During the reign of King Rama V, the entire area of Nang Lerng became a “palace” area, as ten small palaces were build; the community thus became even more active and influential. However, the Siamese Revolution of 1932 which changed the governing system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy diminished the prominence of Nang Lerng. This marked the beginning of the end for Nang Lerng, and was exacerbated by a fire which burnt down much of the community. The area transitioned from a highly commercial area to a mostly residential one, while new developments in Bangkok moved to 3 Thailand was previously known as the Kingdom of Siam. Rattanakosin Kingdom is the fourth and current traditional centre of power in the history of Thailand. Rattanakosin Island is the centre of the Rattanakosin Kingdom.


the east and west of the city, away from the centre where Nang Lerng is located. This area is now known as the old town, its importance marked by its touristic appeal rather than its economic activity (Iemsakulviwat, 2007; Jindamaneerojana, 2010). Nowadays, significant parts of the Wat Care Nang Lerng community are run down; parts of the community are considered informal, and are mostly populated by low-income people. Much of the buildings are 80100 years old, but badly maintained, while new annexes are already 2030 years old. The land is owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which manages land owned by the monarchy, rather than the King himself. It is split between different departments, two of which are involved in Nang Lerng.

2. The Wat Care Nang Lerng community: threats, questions, and dreams Openspace has been working on community development with the Wat Care Nang Lerng community since 2011, in collaboration with Supamitr 1, and Supamitr 2. During that time, we have gathered important information on the community, through our participatory approach. Throughout the years, we have organised focus groups, design workshops, exhibitions and joint events in Nang Lerng, from which we draw our data both on physical and social aspects. The residents’ main concern regards land tenure. Wat Care Nang Lerng community is one of the communities on Rattanakosin Island—the area in the centre of Bangkok which includes

Box 1 – Wat Care Nang Lerng facts Land owner: Population: Professions:

Crown Property Bureau 223 households, 193 families food sellers, flower sellers, artists, seamstresses, daily workers, temple workers, government officers, bank officers, small business owners.


Disrepair: structures in the community have not been maintained well in recent decades Source: Openspace

The precarious living situation in Nang Lerng has not allowed residents to repair their homes Source: Openspace


the Grand Palace—that have been under threat of eviction for a long time, over ten years according to community leaders. The concerns of community members are evident in the questions they ask anyone involved in housing development they come across: Do you know what the CPB wants? What should we do to be allowed to stay? Will rent increase? By how much? Will the MRT pass through my house [Box 3]? Will we be evicted? Community members used to get tenure for one to three years. As of 2000, short-term contracts are becoming increasingly common, some even renewing their agreement on a monthly basis. To the local residents, this underlines the fact they might soon be asked to move, either directly by the landlord, or indirectly due to future economic changes. Suwan Welployngam, a seasoned community leader explains that this focus on rights and formal arrangements is outside the community’s traditional way of life. “In the past, we never talked about land rights, land contracts, and the like. We have lived on this land for years and this was never really part of the communication in our community. We only started talking about this in the past decade. No one knew this was a thing”, she says. With eviction looming above this community however, these discussions have become commonplace. More than half the population of Wat Care Nang Lerng are the second, third, or even fourth generation to live there, some families having settled there during the time of King Rama III. Some residents still run their family business, while others have switched careers or found work outside the community. The community members generally feel they belong to Nang Lerng, either because their social relationships are tied to the community, or because of their work and other economic activities. While the economic centre of Bangkok has shifted to more upmarket areas, Nang Lerng and the old town remain profitable for small business, especially those tied to the tourism industry. During a community meeting at the Dancing House, the renovated community centre we have worked on, we discussed with people from Wat Care Nang Lerng about their dreams. Their replies were varied: 55

• They dream of living in the community without fear of eviction • They dream of raising their children, and have a family • They dream of being able to survive, financially • They dream of making a living, and move elsewhere • They dream of having a home • They dream of being able to adapt themselves to whatever comes next, and to still be “allowed” to live in the community where they were born • They dream of continuing the lives with their old neighbours • They dream of seeing Nang Lerng develop, become cleaner, and for local people to receive a better education Another factor that impedes the development of Nang Lerng is that housing improvements are avoided. Community members fear investing to then getting evicted, either directly or indirectly [Box 2]. Moreover, they need to get the approval of the landowner for any work on their house. This process is lengthy and tenuous, which is disheartening. Lastly, the fact that two separate departments of the CPB are involved in Nang Lerng causes further confusion to the community. Suwan expanded on this point: “From my experience, there is a disconnect between the two departments: officers of one do not know what other departments are planning or doing. This exacerbates the confusion about what exactly is happening”. This general confusion has been detrimental to life in Nang Lerng. To deal with these concerns, community leaders and members have used negotiations with the CPB to get some clarity. This negotiating process however, has had a steep learning curve, pushing leaders to seek innovative solutions.

3. How they learn: from conventional to flexible negotiations To deal with the threat of eviction, the community leaders of Wat Care Nang Lerng have been striving to deal with the CPB to clarify the situation with transparency and to find a way for the community members to live there long-term. This is particularly pressing as many are elderly people and poor people, none of whom have plans to move. 56

Box 2 - The observation of invisible evictions While working with the community in Nang Lerng, the team at Openspace has observed common occurrences that cause unrest and social instability across informal communities in Thailand. These circumstances make for “invisible evictions”. Below are some common features: • Long-term land contracts for communities become shorter; short-term contracts are not renewed. This has been the case in informal communities across the country, involving different landowners • Communities are not informed of their landlords’ long-term plans. When they do hear about plans, these are often altered without prior notice. The changes often entail physical changes to the community. A visible effect is that community members lose confidence in their permission to stay, and communities become more socially fragmented as families focus on their own survival • When land contracts are renewed, rents increase. Rent hikes are especially difficult to mitigate for older people or older families who have been living in their communities for years, usually paying a fixed amount. These people or families have a lower capacity to adapt to these changes—particularly when given little or no notice—and often need to move in search for a cheaper housing arrangement • Landowners’ plans to improve communities involving older residents do not allow for enough time for the communities to adapt themselves to new lifestyles that are more compatible with the growth of Bangkok


During conventional negotiations, some community members participated in discussions, especially those who foresaw the threat to their living conditions. They engaged with other community members, the landowner and their local authority. However, these discussions were usually unhelpful. Nammon Welployngam, one of the new generation of community leaders, expands on this point. “During the first five years, the negotiations were mostly done through speaking, screaming, scolding. People were sarcastic and verbally aggressive, which exhausted the leaders with no sign of clearing up the situation”. As Nammon notes, this communication style bore no fruits, and instead caused community leaders to experience negotiation fatigue. Box 3: Bangkok’s Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) announced plans for a new underground train in 2013. The orange line will go past the community, with exits on either side of Nang Lerng. This has obviously intensified the threat to this community: some houses will be demolished, while the entire community might be affected by this improved connectedness. In 2016, the landowner announced renovation programs for the commercial-residential buildings on Nakorn Sawan road at the edge of the community. Residents are fearful about what comes next. Will there be further evictions? Will they be priced out of their homes as the land value increases?

Nang Lerng: Proposed entrances of the MRT and eviction zones


By 2009, community leaders were growing tired of dealing with the landowner. Some leading members stopped participating in discussions; the remaining leaders revised their approach to negotiations. They recognised that their negative style, heavy with demands and reproaches, failed to create a creative and open space for discussion between the community, the landowner and the local authority. Leaders felt like they were getting little out of the process, despite their hard work. “There is a Thai proverb”, says Nammon, “smash chillies and dilute them in the sea. It means that you invest intensely but get nothing in return. This is what negotiations with the landowner felt like”. In recent years, Wat Care Nang Lerng’s approach has become more diplomatic. They have moved away from angry discussions and have introduced art as a means to open a space for members to have a say. They work as a team on their current housing and land security issues in innovative and fun ways. This new platform was much more open, and work was delegated to different community members: • Those who were previously perceived as having nothing to do • Teenagers who were out of school but had no permanent job • Children who had nothing to play with • Elderly people with no activities and distractions at home • Anyone who had the time to engage By attracting more members of different ages and from different backgrounds, the land security issue was expanded to address other social problems such as teenage pregnancies, the lack of education of children and young people, drugs, domestic violence, etc. These are common issues plaguing Thai society; for the community, these are all linked to housing and land insecurity. Below are notable examples of the activities they have undertaken since 2007: • Counting lice, showing it off!, 2008-2009: Wat Care Nang Lerng children aged 3 to 12 were asked to face down and shake their hair to see how many lice would fall off their heads. Each person collected their lice into a bottle as a display, competing on who got the most. From this activity, the community leaders explained that children in Nang Lerng 59

Children wrapped their hair in plastic and then combed in backwards for the lice to fall down. This event aimed to highlight the lice epidemic of the community Source: Nammon Welployngam


always have lice, which continuously spread quickly. They explained how this was related to their housing conditions, since many houses do not have a bathroom either because they cannot afford one or because they do not know how long they will be staying in this community, which hampers investment. This means that many children do not wash regularly, or use the public bathroom at the temple. Moreover, many come from low income families. Their houses are in bad condition and various family members share a small sleeping space, sharing pillows with parents, cousins, and siblings; many sleep on the floor. These living conditions explain why they are accustomed to living with lice. The event highlighted how land security could improve this issue, as families would undertake work on their homes. • The Hugs activity, 2008-2009: In low income communities, it is common for people to adopt a harder exterior. They speak rougher and louder to members of their community than they do to outsiders. In Thai culture, raising the tone of your voice or speaking in this manner portrays anger, stress or an intention to start a fight. Noticing that this was the case in Nang Lerng, leaders proposed the Hugs activity: family members in the community were asked to hug one another for one minute. Mothers hugging children, siblings hugging one another, and so on. Initially, most people refused to; eventually some families tried it out. The leaders photographed each hug, printed the photos and gave each person their pictures. Still today, years later, the participants mention that they participated in this activity, despite their initial reserve.

Families were asked to hug one another, to shed the rough exterior they usually wear and promote better communication Source: Nammon Welployngam


• Thanon Dek Doen—Kids Walking Street, 2007 and 2011: This is a big event the community has organised twice already. They prepared art installations, some focusing on land tenure and housing; Message to the Sky, an art piece from this event is explained in detail further down. Community members also made films about the people of Nang Lerng and their stories. The objective was to use the event as a platform for the community and their neighbours to have a space to have fun, while the issue of housing and land security was disguised in the activities.


Thanon Dek Doen—Kids Walking Street. This large scale event, organised for children, attracted new partners for the community and involved the media. Activities were scattered throughout the community Source: Nammon Welployngam


• Message to the Sky, 2011: As explained above, community leaders were frustrated by their dealings with the landowner. After years of negotiations, the situation and future had not been clarified. They felt like they were losing their breath in the discussions, like releasing balloons into the air with no direction. Message in the Sky asked community members to write their messages on a balloon and release it. The backdrop to this event was the old cinema in Nang Lerng, an important architectural structure highlighting the community’s past glory. This event garnered public attention, including the attention of the CPB. It also introduced the community to the Community Architects Network (CAN), which launched the collaboration with Openspace.

Message to the Sky. As part of the Kids Walking Street, children and community members wrote messages into balloons that they then released. It symbolised the unfruitful nature of negotiations with the landowner up to that point Source: Nammon Welployngam


• Dancing House, 2012-present: This is an architecture project, funded by a private corporation, which was undertaken by Openspace and the community leaders. The Dancing House was a prominent dancing school in the 1970’s which has fallen into disrepair as the members of this family moved away. It was renovated into a Dancing Museum and a community space, with a residence on the second floor. While the Dancing House is an architectural project, it is also a tool to convince people in Nang Lerng that they can adapt their living conditions to benefit themselves and others. Participation was used throughout the project to involve as many people as possible.

The Dancing House within Nang Lern

The renovation of the Dancing House in Nang Lerng has served as a catalyst to involve an evergrowing number of people in community projects Source: Openspace


• Community as a learning platform for the School of Architecture and Planning, Thammasat University, focusing on Transit Oriented Development (ToD), 2014 - present: The community has been working with the school of Architecture and Planning at Thammasat University for over three years, after plans for a new MRT station were revealed [Box 3]. Dr Wijibutsaba Marome and her team introduced an interesting model to work with the community. Working on Transit Oriented Development, students at Thammasat University worked with the community, to show that the ToD model allowed for many possibilities for both the community to adjust around the new transit line and those nearby who would be socially and economically effected. • Community small events and the E-lerng Community Artist group, 2007-present: E-Lerng is an essential part of the Wat Care Nang Lerng community. Throughout the different events, community leaders were forming a group of young members to organise continuous art events, related to land and housing security, and social issues. These events also aimed to improve the skillset of the members such as painting, fabric weaving, cooking, dancing, singing, rendering the community’s old art forms

Community meeting with Thammasat University to discuss Transit Oriented Development, the evictions that the new line of MRT will require and the future of Nang Lerng Source: Openspace


contemporary. E-Lerng previously depended on grants from the leaders, and they are still experimenting on how to ensure the group’s financial survival so that social, land and housing activities can continue in the long run. In the latest model they are trying out, they are eagerly participating in big events organised in Bangkok. When they have little notice for these events, they partner with Openspace to help produce materials. E-Lerng and community leaders consider this exposure essential to draw attention to their struggle. The latest production was a Community Tourism Map created with the help of children and elderly people who highlighted their favourite spots in the community. It was part of the Old Town Community Tourism event run by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in 2016. These activities are many and varied. The early events, such as the Hugs activity and the Counting lice, showing it off! event, had a limited reach and focused primarily on fostering positive relationships and increasing engagement within the community. As the years went on and the community ties got cemented, events got more brazen and included more partners, like for example the Kids Walking Street and the Message to the Sky, which got media attention. Similarly, the renovation of the Dancing House has opened up the community to outside collaborations, finding them partners and champions in Openspace and Thammasat University. Ultimately, community members and leaders at Wat Care Nang Lerng, by deciding to move away from traditional, angry negotiations and by showcasing their worth, have legitimised their position in the city in the eyes of the government. In this case, these events are a type of unspoken negotiation: while people are not in a meeting, discussing the possibility and terms of evictions, the threat of eviction remains ever-present, the question mark over all these activities. These events showcase how different processes can be used to discuss land and housing issues. These processes empower and legitimise the communities.

4. Conclusion: The way forward and learning at city scale The negotiation process in Nang Lerng has evolved from its conventional form to a more open ground for exchange for those affected by urban change. During the negotiation process, new stakeholders have emerged, allowing for more interactions. 67

The case of Nang Lerng illustrates that negotiations can be a key tool for communities, and others living in the urban context, to help them better understand their resources, learn more about themselves and their people, clarify what they are looking to achieve, and find innovative ways to move forward. The most interesting feature is that tools can be flexible in nature and in form, allowing for the specificities of each environment. Similarly, the results evolve according to the content and the experiences of the users. At this stage, the community is working continuously to deal with their land and housing security issues, embracing the changes and challenges with a non-violent approach, rooted in a will to find common ground and compromise. The current group of community leaders is bigger than it has ever been: from two leaders to more than twenty plus their children and outside partners. Suwan Welployngam has seen these changes occur, as she was one of the first community leaders. “Not opposing the changes that our landowner wants actually gives our community opportunities to develop�, she says. Suwan recognises the importance of keeping a flexible stance, having learnt from experience that conflict does not resolve their land right issues.

Community meeting at the Dancing House in Nang Lerng. Source: Openspace


At present, the discussion has shifted its focus on the extension of the new MRT line. The community is not fighting this development, but rather sees it as an opportunity. It is still unclear the direction this will take, the management and organisation that will be required. They have been working with the MRT on the train plans and how it will affect them, while also dealing with the CPB to find ways for them to continue living there in a way that could benefit both the community and the CPB. The leaders have been working with their community, as well as neighbouring ones, to create a strong network of communities in the old town, to help each other negotiate the best solutions for everyone in the area. Through all the aforementioned activities and collaborations, many people in the community have learnt that they are not victims: they now see that they can negotiate and reach a compromise. They are empowered, even though rumours of rent increases and people moving to make way for renovations still abound. The activities mentioned above, especially the bigger events like Thanon Dek Doen, show a clear new direction for negotiations. A space is created for more open interactions between community members, the landowner, the local communities network. This becomes a ground for new collaborations, such as the collaboration with Openspace. More importantly, the landowner has changed their approach to Nang Lerng. The community is involved in making the proposal for the community’s future, which is executed by the Community Department of the CPB. This proposal is currently being developed to suit both the CPB and the community. This flexible negotiation has allowed the community to connect not only with its members, but also to outside partners such as academics, social activists, community architects. Community members have learnt about: • Design tools from activities such as the design workshops on the Dancing House, and some product design workshops. Community members have learnt to look at plans, elevations and models, and make communicative drawings to explain their ideas and feelings 69

• Community mapping from participating in community transect walks and creating maps together • Transit Oriented Development from being the learning ground for the school of Architecture and Planning at Thammasat University and collaborating with Openspace to come up with accessible ways to introduce ToD to the community • Long-term urban planning from their experience with land and housing insecurity, and the new train line development which is cause significant changes to their community. This has led to public talks and discussions about how the community could live in the area longterm, and not get evicted Conflict over land rights proved unfruitful. Using their resources, and loosening the tone of their approach, the Wat Care Nang Lerng community forced their way to the negotiation table. They are involved in the masterplan for their area working alongside the CPB, Openspace and other partners. They are also collaborating with the Thai Tourism Society Network in planning with the other communities, especially those who share the same land, housing, new public transportation, and tourism issues. Nang Lerng and the CPB both want to use this working process as an example for other communities that share similar concerns. By allowing for a multi-dimensional approach, more stakeholders come to the negotiating table, allowing for better solutions and a scaling up of the model.


References Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Tourism Division; Culture, Sports and Tourism Department. 2010. A manual for the understanding of Nang Lerng settlement. Bangkok [in Thai] Iemsakulviwat, A. 2007. “Shop owners’ and visitors’ preferences on physical elements affecting future improvement plan of the historic Nang Lerng old market community”. Thesis for Master of Urban and Environmental Planning, Silapakorn University [in Thai] Jindamaneerojana, S. 2010. “The Development of Nang-Loeng Area”, Silpakorn University Journal, Vol 30, No 2, Page 97-117 [in Thai] Nawikkamun, A. 2000. “100 years of Nang Lerng Market”. Art and Culture Magazine, 22nd Year, Vol 11, Page 96-98 [in Thai] Phoprueksanun, N. 2004. “The Adherence of Persons Toward Community: A Case Study of Nanglerng Community, Bangkok Metropolis”. Thesis, Rajamangala University of Technology Phra Nakhon [in Thai] Wong, T. and K. Bunnag. 1961. The Birth of the Rattanakosin Kingdom. Bangkok, The Teachers’ Council of Thailand [in Thai]





Picture by Julian Hoffmann



Exploring the Value(s) of Flexible Financing Community-Oriented Housing Initiatives in Thailand and the Philippines

By Nausica Castanas and David Hoffmann

Introduction ‘If the financial system can be redesigned at the city and national levels to be more flexible, allowing different social initiatives to be developed by different groups of people, then new and innovative action can be taken. If finance is designed with social goals in mind, it can provide city government and residents with the freedom and power to develop more creative urban solutions on a citywide scale.’ Boonyabancha and Kerr, 2016 In Southeast Asia, the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), the Community Architects Network (CAN), and their network of NGOs and social enterprises are pursuing new approaches to respond to the housing crisis of the urban poor. From Sri Lanka to Nepal and Vietnam, like-minded organisations are taking actions and finding solutions to support the urban poor in shaping their future. Despite their difference in form, these organisations share core values and a common vision that they are fighting to uphold. Following a long75

standing tradition of organising and mobilising communities, the organisations’ work could not be realised, or even conceived of, without the involvement of the communities they seek to reach. Participatory processes in housing tap into the potential of poor communities, utilising the pre-existing tightknit social relations and livelihoods to provide sustainable housing solutions. The work of ACHR and CAN is especially important as Asia already accounts for some of the largest cities in the world and urbanisation is still underway (UN, 2014). This urban expansion, however, has not been met with adequate government funding to respond to the needs of growing urban populations. In fact, failing urban policies around the world, and in Asia specifically, have caused a proportional increase of informal settlements (UN Habitat, 2005). The funding used and the projects within the ACHR and CAN networks vary greatly – not just from one country to another, but often from one community to the next, as national policies prove too rigid and bureaucratic to meet the needs of communities (Boonyabancha and Kerr, 2016). Dealing with banks, on the other hand, can prove tenuous for communities, as it can take years to negotiate and access funding, and banks need guarantees in order to become involved in community projects (McLeod, 2001). In fact, as McLeod (2001: 27) notes, in the case of community projects in India, “if the projects had been dependent solely on the banks for financing they would never have happened.” Lastly, international organisations like the World Bank or the United Nations are required to partner with governments, rather than communities, while profit organisations need to see a substantial return on investment (McLeod, 2001). This chapter shows that for the organisations to be successful, they are increasingly required to reimagine and reengineer their financial structures, rather than rely on the traditional funding sources. In fact, a flexible approach to project finance has become crucial for the survival of these organisations. So far, little attention has been paid to the implications of flexible financing to housing organisations, which this chapter will go on to explore. 76

This chapter focuses on two case studies in Southeast Asia which illustrate two very different organisational models, each analysed in light of the changing financial demands that have shaped it: • First, the social enterprise arm of a housing association in the Philippines. LinkBuild has been experimenting with a model of mixed-income projects to subsidise pro-poor housing in a context where land is increasingly expensive. • Second, a private community architect studio in Bangkok, Thailand. Openspace has been undertaking projects using a participatory process in partnership with different funders to survive in a competitive market. Concepts of social enterprise, hybridity, and community participation are employed to disentangle the organisations’ key challenges and opportunities, and how these have effectively influenced organisational behaviour. As we present the projects, common themes and tension points emerge: • How can a business with social objectives generate monetary value without compromising its organisational core values? • As organisations try to reconcile the tensions inherent to their business model, is it possible to do so without affecting their projects and beneficiaries? • Does the involvement of beneficiaries provide more flexibility, or less, to the programmes?



Providing Affordable Housing in the Philippines with LinkBuild By David Hoffmann ‘You are all crazy! Which is good - we need crazy people in this business!’ – Joefry Camarista, LinkBuild’s Project Engineer addressing staff during a team building session, October 2016

1. The Origins of LinkBuild LinkBuild is not a usual housing developer. Instead of selling shiny condos in booming Makati1, it has set itself as a mission to provide low-cost housing solutions for informal settlers across the Philippines. Founded in 2014 under the auspices of the Philippine Alliance, the organisation’s efforts to reach the most vulnerable communities in the country are remarkable. One could even draw a parallel to the story of ‘David and Goliath’. It is the story of a small organisation trying to challenge a looming housing crisis in the Philippines, a metaphorical beast [see Box 1]. But how to trick the monster? To understand how LinkBuild intends to successfully deliver its projects, one first needs to step back in time. 1 Makati is the Philippine’s capital region’s best-known business district and is home to some of the country’s most sought-after addresses.



The Philippine Alliance In the early 1990s, the Homeless People’s Federation Philippines, Inc. (HPFPI or The Federation) was set up to provide support to wastepickers living in a dumpsite in Payatas, Quezon City2. It did so by setting up savings groups within the communities, who contribute on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis towards a common fund. This happened for a reason. 2 Quezon City is one of the 16 cities that make up Metro Manila, and is the most populous city in the country (3 million inhabitants in 2015).

Box 1 – Urbanisation, informality, and risk in the Philippines: In Metro Manila, part of the National Capital Region, one out of four people currently lives in informal settlements (World Bank, 2015). The government is implementing several land and housing programs to cater to low-income and informally settled city dwellers as an alternative. So far, these programs have not been able to cope with the rocketing demand for affordable housing. Driven by natural population growth and rural-to-urban migration, the main urban areas in the Philippines are growing at a breath-taking pace. The country is projected to be 80% urbanised by 2025 (World Bank, 2016), an increase of 30 points from 2015. Many of the new urban dwellers thus have no choice but to live in informal settlements, as the access to affordable housing is limited. Officials are talking of a housing backlog of 5.7 million houses across the country, of which 60% is believed to be economic and social housing and mostly affecting urban areas (Lorenciana, 2013). The precarious housing situation is worsened by the archipelago’s high susceptibility to natural disasters. The warm equatorial waters of the Western Pacific, which are regarded to be the warmest ocean waters in the world (National Geographic, 2013), generate over 20 powerful typhoons every year. Given that 60% of the country’s population lives in coastal areas and many slums are situated in ‘danger zones,’ it is crucial that vulnerable communities gain access to safer shelter alternatives.


Community funds are a strong development mechanism. Not only do they enhance the financial capacity of individuals and the community as a whole, but also brings communities closer. Once participants start saving collectively, this single act of mutual trust, discipline, and collective aspiration gives them a strong sense of purpose and belonging. Moreover, the organising that is required in running a saving group enhances individual’s managerial capacity, and as a result, these communities grow more confident by the day, as they learn to act and think collectively. Finally, the community fund itself plays an important part in the empowerment process. It puts the community in a much stronger negotiation and bargaining position with the government as well as with the private landowners, as they can use the fund as a collateral (or down-payment) to purchase land. As the communities grew stronger and more resilient, HPFPI branched out into several organisations to assist them with meeting their growing aspirations. These had evolved from alleviating the day-to-day financial struggles of the community to tackling broader issues of land security and eviction. The resulting alliance now encompasses 5 specialised organisations that offer a wide range of services with a common thread being community participation and empowerment (see Table 1). The group is now known as the Philippine Alliance (or just The Alliance). The Payatas waste-picker community was the first of many that became a member of HPFPI’s network. To this day, communities affiliated to The Federation face similar challenges than the Payatas community. Most of them are informal settlers living in danger zones where they are left to their own devices and are under threat of eviction by government authorities. Their chances to achieve safe and dignified living conditions without support are slim. The Alliance hence fills a real gap by enabling HPFPI member communities to take control of their own advancement by strengthening their capacity as a collective.

An evolving organisation Almost 30 years down the road, The Alliance now finds itself with a strong track record of successful community-led projects and a network of 82

Floods in downtown Manila during rain season. Source: author.


active communities across the country. Projects range from construction of hundreds of affordable housing units on collectively acquired land, to building the only long-span bamboo footbridge bridge in the country, and conducting a series of community mapping activities3. Through their involvement in these projects, each of these the communities make their presence felt and their voices heard. Beneath the surface, the organisation has been in constant motion, adapting its business model to meet urgent challenges and to seize new opportunities. What started as a community movement as HPFPI, eventually evolved into a full-fledged NGO. To run its operations, the organisation was granted funds by DFID (CLIFF programme) and also partnered with UN-Habitat for its STDM mapping activities. In the past few years, however, the organisation has taken crucial steps to move away from being donor-dependent, and to become financially selfsustaining. This is when LinkBuild comes in.

2. LinkBuild’s Social Enterprise Approach LinkBuild was launched as the social enterprise arm of the Philippine Alliance and currently runs projects in the cities of Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo (see Figure 1). Since the organisation started working from its Metro Manila HQ in 2014, it has built 108 housing units across those three regions, and has 700 additional units in the pipelines (see Table 1). Launching Linkbuild could be seen as strategic move for the Philippine Alliance. Having rolled out a process that enables communities to save money, self-organise and actively lobby authorities for access to more humane living conditions, the organisation appears to have seized the opportunity to scale up and streamline one of its most ambitious projects: the provision of low-cost housing to the members of the HPFPI network. Of course this decision wasn’t taken in a vacuum. There are multiple implications, which will be further explored in this chapter. 3 See Luisa Miranda’s chapter


The Philippines: Davao, Cebu and Iloilo

Map of LinkBuild’s work in the Philippines: Davao, Cebu and Iloilo

Project Name



Total number of units

Number of units for low-income families

Number of units for higher low income & low middle-income families

Land for development

Tacas Jaro LEAF Project

Iloilo City





2.5 HA

Sitio Caniba LEAF Project

Talisay City (Cebu)





1.2 HA

Bago Davao Leaf Project

Davao City


Similar to Tacas Jaro


All units

2.8 HA

Paknaan Mandaue Completed Relocation City (Cebu) (2015) Site, Mangaue City, Cebu





USWAG Core Housing Project


Completed (2015)





Los Amigos


Completed (2015)




Table 1: LinkBuild’s past and present housing projects


In particular, the main challenge for the organisation has been to establish a revenue-generating business that sits comfortably within the highly competitive real-estate sector, while staying true to the Alliance’s values. It is a fine balancing act. Some of the tensions will be explored in the following pages. The first part explores LinkBuild’s enabling process, and the particular organisational values that motivate it. The second part highlights the hybrid nature of LinkBuild’s social enterprise approach, and how it is being used to maximise the organisations impact. Building on the first two, the third part discusses the elephant in the room: the actual financing of the projects. Fundamental organisational values By now it should be clear that for LinkBuild simply providing access to housing is not enough. The organisation understands the common challenges that urban poor face, and also has a keen appreciation of the contextual difference between cities, regions and within the urban poor. This understanding is reflected in the organisations’ core values. LinkBuild’s stated mission is to ‘scale up innovative, low-cost, and sustainable shelter solutions for, by, and with the poor.’ There is an emphasis here on community participation, which goes beyond the social mission of providing low-cost housing. This approach was inspired by communityoriented organisations in Southeast Asia such as the Community Architects Network and the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights. The preparation period As a first step, LinkBuild and the other members of the Alliance ensure that the communities they work with are self-organising and resilient. Each organisation plays a strategic role in this process. HPFPI, CoReAcs, and TAMPEI organise and mobilise the interested parties around different activities4 and designate community leaders and officers during a ‘preparation period’, which can last between a few months to several 4 Activities include workshops, community-mapping activities, focus groups, knowledge exchange, saving group activities, monthly community meetings, etc…


Box 2. What makes a strong community? A strong community‌ 1. implements savings programs 2. promotes knowledge exchange and exposure as learning process 3. learns by doing through hands-on training before and during the implementation phase 4. knows its vision and goals 5. leads the process at all times 6. has a sustainability plan for the community 7. builds partnerships with different stakeholders Homeless Peoples Federation Philippines Inc., 2016

Group picture of participants taken during a two-day onsite workshop in Bago Galera, Davao City.


years. The idea is that the communities are strengthened from within. After the community has undergone this process, LinkBuild connects (or links) with the community to start working on a housing project. This preparation process is considered a crucial element for the successful delivery of projects. By connecting with strong communities (see Box 3), LinkBuild hopes to create sustainable projects. On-site participation Building on the Alliance’s preparation work, LinkBuild is able to involve more effectively the communities in the different project stages. There are numerous ways through which communities can participate. Jointly with the Alliance, LinkBuild organises on-site workshops revolving around housing design and site-planning activities, knowledge exchanges among communities, as well as roundtables and Q&A sessions. The information gathered during these activities are directly fed into the architects’ project design.5 Experience from the Alliance has shown that community participation has a positive effect on the project’s impact, as well as on their overall sustainability. The rationale is simple: the more the communities are involved in the project across the different stages, the better the project will ultimately meet their needs. In addition, participation has allowed communities to take ownership of the project and develop a stronger sense of identity as a community. In-city projects Moreover, it is understood that project location is key. Evidence from unsuccessful government relocation programmes make this painfully clear. For example, the Operation Plan: Evacuation to Prevent Calamity and Sickness – a government programme that ran between 2011 and 2016 – aimed to relocate over 104,000 informal settler families (ISFs) out of danger zones in Manila. In total, 67 per cent of the families were sent to distant off-city sites (Lorenciana, 2013). Given the remote location of their new homes, the beneficiaries often lost their income sources 5 In parallel, the LB team conducts market research to identify available land and target clients, and launches feasibility studies to ensure the financial viability of new projects, yet the focus always remains on the communities’ needs.


Workshop participants from the Los Amigos community, one year after official turnover of their houses

Box 3. A challenging sector Aside from a few large mass housing home builders such as Ayala Land and Deca Homes that manage to sell thousands of units at competitive prices, low-cost housing developers from the private sector find it difficult to set foot in Metro Manila. Besides, while they supposedly provide lowcost housing, they have not really reached down to the bottom of the pyramid – to the informal settlers/earners. For the time being, the market for low cost is usually low-middle income formal earners. There are numerous barriers to market entry for low-cost housing providers. For instance, land in urban areas is scarce and increasingly expensive. “We don’t have projects in Manila because land is too expensive to provide houses that are affordable,” says Vhal Libutaque, LinkBuild’s Project Development Officer. “We tried developing a few [housing] models, but the numbers just don’t add up,” she concludes. For small organisations, developing affordable housing in Metro Manila amounts to “financial suicide,” as a housing consultant put it. Without the necessary scale to achieve profit, small organisations like LinkBuild struggle to run projects. As a result, LinkBuild mainly works in secondary cities. 89

and networks. They were often left with no choice but to move back to the city slums. Reports show that up to 60% of individuals who were relocated out of Metro Manila eventually returns to the city (World Bank, 2016). To ensure that families can maintain their livelihoods and networks, LinkBuild follows international best practice and focuses on ‘in-city’ projects. By purchasing land that is centrally located, the organisation hopes to deliver projects that actively contribute to the integration of marginalised communities to the existing city fabric. Complementary livelihood and micro-finance programs Finally, LinkBuild encourages and supports the communities in pursuing their own entrepreneurial endeavours. With this goal in mind, LinkBuild recently started working with CoreAcs - the micro-finance arm of the Alliance – so as to give families the option to access micro-loans. In theory, these loans should allow families to set up their own small business. This way, households can supplement their incomes as well as pay back their loans for the house. However, in practice this has proven more challenging, since families struggle to pay back two loans at the same time. By integrating community participation and livelihood elements within its project delivery, LinkBuild is able to distinguish itself from other affordable housing developers. It is bound to become a crucial selling point for its projects. A hybrid organisational model Social enterprises operate at the boundaries between the private, the public, and the non-profit sectors (Doherty et al. 2014, Mullins et al. 2012, Czischke et al. 2012), and are said to combine the social objective of the government with the business efficiency of the private sector. As a result, social enterprises have come to be known as ‘hybrids’. Their hybrid and fluid organisational form mean that social enterprises can take many shapes (Tracey et al. 2011), ranging from cooperatives and community development finance institutions to credit unions. Most importantly, it also gives them the necessary flexibility to adapt to the local context and innovate. 90

LinkBuild was set up as a Housing Development Enterprise (HDE). Its goal is to sustain and scale up housing provision to reach the poor who are not marketable to the private sector, as opposed to solely focusing on making profit. In the case of the Philippines, LinkBuild offers something that neither the government (because it is too inefficient), nor the private sector (because it relies on profit) can currently provide (See Box 1 & 3). The social enterprise sector has its roots in the non-for-profit, or ‘third’ sector, which is composed of charitable organisations, voluntary organisations, and cooperatives (Borzaga & Santuary, 2000, as cited in Duniam & Eversole, 2013). However, it is important to note that these kind of ‘third’ sector organisations have often used all sorts of trading activities to finance their social missions, yet without explicitly identifying those as social enterprises. Therefore, ‘social enterprise’ is a relatively new language to describe something that already existed (ibid.). By setting LinkBuild up as a social enterprise, the Alliance is signalling its commitment to move away from being donor-dependent and to explore new avenues to achieve financial sustainability. A flexible approach to finance Now that the transition is underway, LinkBuild has started to download loans from its funding partner Reall6 (Reall Equity for All) and is now able to use these relatively freely. In practice, however, this apparent organisational flexibility is skewed by financial constraints. LinkBuild’s Approach LinkBuild’s approach can be broken down into four key points as shown below. In short, stable access to finance is the corner stone of its activities and can act as a catalyst for partnerships. While this can have a positive impact for the sustainability and scalability of projects, it also makes the organisation particularly dependent on it. a. Access to Funding and Finance. Access to capital is fundamental for 6 Formerly known as Homeless International


LinkBuild to be able to run its activities. At the moment, it is Reall which provides access to capital funds. This fund enables HDE’s to manage all aspects of the housing procedure from land acquisition and processing, through servicing and construction, to end-user finance. b. Access to finance as an opportunity to catalyse partnerships and facilitate dialogue. LinkBuild can freely use its access to capital to leverage support from the private sector, the local government, and other government agencies, be it in the form of one-off deals or official partnerships. Support can come in the form of access to additional loans from banks, land subsidies and donations from local government as well as backing and advice when negotiating with third parties. Moreover, when reaching out to these actors, LinkBuild is also facilitating a dialogue between them and the marginalised communities it works with. While this is something that the Alliance has historically done really well, this newly acquired fluidity could open up new deals and partnerships, and potentially attract more investment from the private sector. c. Achieving Social Sustainability. LinkBuild’s participatory approach fosters social cohesion amongst end-users. The combination of

Institutionalisation and Scale Social Sustainability Partnerships Funding and Finance 92

Figure 2 - Flexible finance as an enabler. Source: author.

community support, with the credibility and security that partnerships with local government offer, contributes to ensuring the social sustainability of each new project. d. Institutionalisation and scale. Finally, the organisation envisions the institutionalisation of these processes by pitching its approach to local and national government. The ultimate objective of this advocacy work is to trigger policy change. This is arguably best achieved when LinkBuild’s projects are backed up through the previous three steps: (a) accessing stable funding, (b) catalysing partnerships and (c) developing sustainability strategies. So far, there are only a few examples of successful HDE’s in developing countries. As LinkBuild fine-tunes its approach, if successful, its future projects could act as a proof of the concept. Limitations and innovation Donors, aid agencies, and other investors are growing increasingly reluctant to provide interest-free loans to implementing partners such as the Alliance and LinkBuild. These lead organisations to be dependent on ‘free money’ to run their operations. One of the main challenges for the organisation is to transition from one organisational and financial model to another ‘mid-flight’. The Alliance and its staff were accustomed to a donor model that granted access to interestfree loans, until they partnered with Reall when conditions changed. Reall approaches capital loans as an investment and expects a return on its investment from implementing partners such as LinkBuild. The major challenges for the organisation now is to uphold its organisational values while meeting its operational costs and complying with the financial requirements. Coping with high interest rates Reall has set financial targets for its implementing partners. Partners are expected to pay an interest rate7 of up to 5% on the loan that they receive. In addition, the loan needs to be returned by LinkBuild within 7 The interest rate is the proportion of a loan that is charged as interest to the borrower


5 years. While having to pay the interest rate might seem an important hurdle to tackle, it is by no means the only challenge. As LinkBuild’s director Ms. May Price suggests: ‘I think a development loan at 5% interest rate p.a. is not the issue – rather the fact that LB is transitioning to a “social enterprise” should be recognized by Reall. Reall should make concessions on the finance side to allow for the cost of this “learning curve”, and not to expect us to become experts at ‘doing business’ overnight.’ However, the financial requirements are set and seem unlikely to change. What are the alternatives for LinkBuild? Simply adding higher margins on its projects wouldn’t work. While it may seems an easy way for LinkBuild to become more profitable, adding margins would go against its organisational values and deter the target market from buying the houses. In response to this dilemma, LinkBuild has been experimenting with mixed-income housing developments to cross-subsidise the provision of pro-poor housing. Cross-subsidising projects For its latest wave of housing projects, LinkBuild is planning to offer different types of housing on each site to households within different income brackets. The more spacious units, which they label as ‘economic housing’ (or ‘surplus housing’), will be sold at a surplus to middle income families. The surplus generated through the sale of these units will allow the organisation to pay back the interest rate on its loan from Reall. Effectively, this model allows LinkBuild to cross-subsidise the construction of affordable housing units for its target clients. Out of the 700 housing units that are currently in the pipelines across three regions, between 30% and 35% will be ‘economic housing’ units targeted to lower middle income clients. While this inherent struggle has rendered the organisation’s work particularly challenging, it has also pushed the organisation to innovate. As it balances its values with its evolving financial model, it is hoping to achieve organisational innovation, paving the way for the Alliance to further develop and scale its activities.


Box 4. Conflicting values – acceptance or segregation? Seeking strategic advice for its mixed-housing project, LinkBuild’s staff consulted a housing developer operating in Manila. When LinkBuild staff asked about the site development scheme, one recommendation stuck out. Having only one piece of land, but offering to build two different types of houses (economic housing and surplus housing), staff asked how to go about building these. The consultant answered that it is crucial to “separate the surplus units from the affordable housing units, ideally with a wall. Otherwise they won’t sell.” Given LinkBuild’s focus on community participation and inclusiveness, segregation of this kind is not an option. Mrs May Price highlighted the following important points on segregation. ‘We want to refute this concept, and therefore it is quite crucial to keep the gap in income brackets (between the target and the surplus) narrow rather than wide. We want to target those who at some point in their lives were also poor, but have managed to lift themselves a rung or two up the economic ladder. We believe these people will be more understanding of the situation and will be willing to live with people in lower income brackets, as they were after all, like them in the past. There is indeed a risk in this mixed income concept – as there are not too many examples about, for the income brackets we are targeting. Even Reall in their visit last December admitted this. The examples they have were all of UK and Europe – as there were no examples to be found in developing countries.’ In other words, in LinkBuild’s eyes, the economic gap between the two kinds of clients has to be kept at a minimum deliberately; if the differences between clients were too pronounced, complex social implications would ensue which would render the projects even more difficult to achieve.


3. Learning by Doing: Flexible Finance in Practice The following case studies are intended to provide an overview of the demand that the organisation is addressing, the kind of partnerships it forms, as well as the specific activities used to strengthen communities and inform the projects. Mixed-income Housing Project in Talisay, Cebu Construction period: Number of affordable housing units: Number of surplus housing units: Source of Funding: Project Location: Land Owner:

Approx. 2016 – 2020 160 65 Real Equity for All (Reall) Cebu City Private owner

Project information: Kimba Cansojong Homeowners Association Inc. (KCHAI) is a member community of HPFPI. They have been informally settling on a 1.3 hectare prime private property in Sitio Caniba, Talisay City, Cebu for over 20 years. In 2015, after learning that the owner was willing to sell them the land at a fair price, the community acted collectively, and through the organising assistance of HPFPI, sought help from the Philippine Alliance. After a series of discussions and initial research, LinkBuild, jointly with HPFPI and KCHAI, developed a proposal to Reall for a land acquisition and housing project that could be made sustainable through a mixed-income development scheme with a crosssubsidy component. With the support of HPFPI leaders, the KCHAI community is now managing a community-owned enterprise to supplement their incomes. At the moment they sell plants and goods on consignment (consignment is an arrangement in which goods are left in the possession of another party (e.g. the consignor) to sell, who then receives a percentage of the revenue from the sale). Local government is also very invested in this project and is keen for it to succeed. There are talks about the government setting up a guarantee fund for any members of KHCAI that may struggle to afford paying back their loans for the housing units. 96

On site workshop with community leaders in Talisay, Cebu.


Mixed-income Housing Project in Bago Gallera, Davao Construction period: Approx. 2017-2020 Number of affordable housing units: None Number of surplus housing units: 200 - 300 Real Equity for All (Reall) Source of Funding: Project Location: Davao City Land Owner: Private owner Project information: Originally, this project was conceived to meet the demands of urban poor communities in Davao City who have no security of tenure. Target clients would be coming from three member communities of HPFPI in Davao: (1) Ma-a Community, (2) Matina Arroyo Community, and (3) Quimpo Boulevard Community. In addition, families were endorsed by the local government unit of Davao City who are either affected by the on-going city infrastructure projects or living in danger areas. To inform the site development scheme, LinkBuild, HPFPI, and TAMPEI organised a participatory settlement-planning workshop in September 2016. The objective of the workshop, which was held on the site itself, was to hear and learn from participants about their vision for the site as their future community. At the same time, it was an opportunity for participants to connect with the Bago Gallera site while collaborating and getting to know each other. Members from the Los Amigos community in Cebu, the first of LinkBuild’s housing projects in the regions, also came to the workshop to talk about their experience and answer any questions that the community may have. The recommendations that were gathered through this process were then used by LinkBuild’s’ staff to create a tailor-made site plan. It was presented to the community a week after the workshop, for validation and approval. With some questions and clarifications not only on technical aspects but also on financial concerns, participants approved the proposed plan. However, the project model has recently undergone significant changes to allow LinkBuild to meet its financial targets and reach more 98

The presenters’ perspective during an on-site workshop in Bago Gallera, Davao.


communities. The idea is for this specific site to become a surplus component of a larger socialised housing project in Davao. It was agreed that this site, which was acquired at a relatively high cost, was better suited for surplus units. The organisation is now considering purchasing additional land at a cheaper price so as to build a larger number of units that are more affordable. The new sites are larger (between 7 and 22 hectares) and would be effectively cross subsidised by the surplus units sold in Bago Gallera.


References Czischke, D., Gruis, V. and Mullins, D., 2012. Conceptualising social enterprise in housing organisations. Housing Studies, 27(4), pp.418-437. Doherty, B., Haugh, H. and Lyon, F., 2014. Social enterprises as hybrid organizations: A review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(4), pp.417-436. Duniam, M. & Eversole, R. 2013, Social Enterprises and Local Government: A Scoping Study, Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, Sydney. Lorenciana, C.R. (2013). ‘Philippine housing backlog is 5.5M SHDA targets to build a million units by 2016’. [online]. Available at: cebu-business/2015/07/13/1476445/philippine-housing-backlog-5.5m-shdatargets-build-million-units Minnery, J., Argo, T., Winarso, H., Hau, D., Veneracion, C.C., Forbes, D. and Childs, I., 2013. Slum upgrading and urban governance: Case studies in three South East Asian cities. Habitat International, 39, pp.162-169. Mullins, D., Czischke, D. and van Bortel, G., 2012. Exploring the meaning of hybridity and social enterprise in housing organisations. National Geographic, 2013, ‘5 Reasons the Philippines Is So Disaster Prone’. [online]. Available at: news/2013/11/131111-philippines-dangers-haiyan-yolanda-death-toll-rises/ Overseas Development Institute, 2013. Why and how are donors supporting social enterprises? [online]. Available at: files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/8894.pdf World Bank, 2016. Closing the Gap in Affordable Housing in the Philippines: Policy Paper for the National Summit on Housing and Urban Development. World Bank, 2015. ‘Making In-City Resettlement Work for the Poor’. [online]. Available at:



Openspace and community architecture in Thailand By Nausica Castanas Community architecture is “architecture carried out with the active participation of the end-users. (Wates, 2000: 184)

1. Openspace: An Unorthodox Architecture Studio As mentioned in this booklet’s introduction, Bangkok has seen a staggering development of its architecture scene. Alongside the condos and the high-rises, the reality of community architecture paints a very different picture of the city and of the country, one that focuses on the experiences of the urban poor rather than the privileged few. Yet as prevalent as it is—specifically through the work of the Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI) and their national slum upgrading program that relies on participation, community architects are still perceived as either social workers or volunteers. This has a double negative effect: it makes community projects look less legitimate, and it also emboldens funders to offer small budgets. This renders the work of community architects very difficult. Securing sustainable financing for community projects is also problematic: the government funding earmarked for such projects is small and often 103

paid out too slowly, while the project selection process is dishearteningly bureaucratic. This sometimes means that in cases where funding is available, meeting the criteria to use such funding on a given project is almost impossible. Under these conditions, surviving as a freelance community architect is almost unmanageable. Openspace, a community architecture studio based in Bangkok, attempts to walk the line between the needs of communities and the competitive architecture professional landscape of the city. Founded in 2007 by Wan Sophonpanich, Chawanad Luansang, and Pisut Srimok, it was first conceived as a loose platform for anyone wishing to collaborate on community development work, using participatory processes to build sustainable communities. Ploy Kasama Yamtree took over managerial duties in 2011, and took a risk: she restructured Openspace as a ‘traditional’ architecture studio. Ploy was attracted to community work while at university. “I was not interested in making the best and most modern building just for the sake of it; I wanted more out of my career than to design Bangkok’s next skyscraper”, she recalls. She started working as a freelance community architect and, while she enjoyed the work, she struggled with financial survival and to build a team capable of undertaking long-term projects in the areas she was working in. When Ploy took over, she changed Openspace’s model to a collective of architects, researchers and development practitioners, specialising in working with communities through participatory processes. Based in Bangkok and working across Thailand, Openspace serves as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborations, and works in partnership with the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights and the Community Architects Network. In practice, it means Ploy hires people long term rather than on a project basis, and pays them a monthly salary. She rents an office space, and accepts a constant number of projects. The overhead is therefore bigger, hence why this is a risk. On the other hand, it allows for the studio – and therefore the work – to be perceived as legitimate by a number of potential funders, thus increasing the appeal of working with the team. The budgeting also follows a traditional format: Openspace charges a design fee for the projects they undertake, which is added to each 104

Openspace uses participation in all its projects. Group photo with community in Nakorn Sawan in the North of Thailand Source: Openspace


project’s managerial and operational costs. This allows the team at Openspace to position themselves and compete with other architecture studios on ‘traditional’ projects, while having the added advantage of offering a participatory process to all end-users. It offers a third way: a design studio using its difference to its advantage, navigating both the worlds of corporate and of community architecture to promote the core principles at the heart of the work they do. Specifically, the work of Openspace has two central tenants: • Building a sustainable communities and society • A participatory approach to all projects

2. Building Sustainable Communities and Openspace The goal of all projects is to strengthen the community Openspace works with, allowing it to become sustainable. This idea of sustainability pertains to two central features: • Within a community • Among other communities Sustainability within a community entails the social relations of community members: these people are living together, often in closed quarters. They need to coexist and adapt to changing – and oftentimes difficult – socio-economic, environmental and physical circumstances. Urban poor communities in Thailand have few certainties when it comes to their future, as their faith depends on many external factors, not least due to a lack of formal agreements on the lands they occupy. Communities can be physically or socially divided; what matters is a unity when faced with important issues and a commitment to work together to come to common decisions. Sustainability among communities is particularly important in cities, where many urban dwellers are faced with the same challenges. When communities relate to one another in positive terms, there is a ground for positive influences, and a greater impact.


The role of Openspace within this process is clear: they are a participant and a facilitator. In no way, does the team try to lead a community; on the contrary, they participate and offer their knowledge and skillset. Openspace’s participatory approach allows them to stay flexible and adapt to the local realities: in the first phase of a project, the team evaluates the situation and discusses with community members to scope what they wish to accomplish. To achieve the first tenant of building sustainable communities, Openspace works in more than just architecture and design. They also do work that pertains to: • Knowledge management • Research • Media – including traditional and mixed media • Network building These four areas of work are central to community development, as they touch on different but interlinked aspects. For example, knowledge management stimulates new ideas and novel understandings; research facilitates anticipating risks, planning, and analysing the situation at hand. Media is used to disseminate ideas to a larger audience, thus fostering discussions; network building empowers people, both the architects and practitioners working on projects, and the communities. These areas of work are not exclusive – there are synergies, and different elements combine on the same project to allow for the objectives to be reached. The different areas of work are clearly illustrated in the sheer variety of projects that Openspace undertakes. As mentioned above, Openspace operates within the ACHR and CAN networks. The networks provide a platform to share knowledge across Asian countries and within Thailand, as different practitioners come together and share their projects. Moreover, CAN offers support as architects who work on disjointed projects in small studios belong to a larger, international network of like-minded practitioners with a bigger reach: this is essential as the context community architects work in is usually challenging, which makes it easy to become despondent. Community architects often face an uncertain financial situation, as 107

those working in small studios are paid on a project-base, rather than having a monthly salary. Many are freelancers, struggling to survive doing this type of work. Architects working in government agencies face different issues, mostly pertaining to the responsibilities they take on. A CODI architect, for example, is responsible for the housing projects of an entire region. “These challenges often lead community architects to question the line of work they are in: it makes them wonder whether it is the right profession and whether they have made the right choice getting into it. I know this both from experience and from discussions with colleagues across Asia”, explains Ploy. ACHR on the other hand can help ‘unlock’ certain situations, especially when dealing with government bodies. Its importance and respect in Thailand, coupled with its international presence, means that it carries a lot of weight, while Openspace is a small studio. Simply put, ACHR/CAN has a political presence in Thailand that Openspace simply does not. This is especially helpful when projects are threatened by institutional roadblocks. Moreover, ACHR can strengthen the legitimacy of Openspace vis-à-vis government bodies by offering a ‘seal of approval’, thus also giving the studio a competitive edge in the market.

3. Participation and Openspace Participation creates the space to allow as many people as possible to have a say: to voice what they want and how they want it, share their thoughts, learn to negotiate, deal with conflict and reach a compromise, and ultimately benefit from the project. This allows projects to benefit from a widespread support, very much in line with the aspiration to create sustainable communities. The more people participate and have a say during the process, the more likely they are to be satisfied with the end product. Participation can sometimes sound idealistic as people imagine everyone coming to work together, and sharing ideas. In practice, achieving full participation is impossible: only those who are interested and have the time, or those who believe they are losing out participate [box 1]. To deal with this concern, Openspace will engage with various 108

Children participating in the design of their community’s common space to build a healthy community Source: Openspace


stakeholders, specifically community organisations. To keep in line with their mission statement to build sustainable communities, bringing existing community networks at the negotiating table is of paramount important. These can range from loose community organisations where people coordinate under the guidance of more involved community leaders, to horizontal organisations where people come together to form savings groups, without forgoing more traditional organisations like the community health volunteers, who are present in most communities across Thailand. On a recent project to renovate a district hospital in Trang, the initial points of contact for the team were a government research team and the hospital staff. The community leaders who were invited by the hospital had a negative perception of the hospital – and therefore the project –,as an active community member had recently died there, and they were unwilling to participate. To deal with this issue, Openspace actively engaged with the assistant community leader instead, who in turn had strong ties with community health volunteers, generally well respected across the country. Once health volunteers came on board, community members were more open to ideas and agreed to participate in various design workshops1. When using a participatory approach, Openspace will always look for partners and champions of participation in order to carry projects forward, going beyond the initial contacts the team may have. To meet the needs of their various projects, Openspace has had to rely on a flexible financing model.

4. Flexible Financing and Openspace: Opportunities and Challenges Openspace uses a flexible financing model, working on both commercial and community projects. In fact, commercial projects help crosssubsidise community ones. The surplus is calculated in the design fee, although in practice, it is not always possible to discuss that openly with corporate funders. 1 For more information on this project, please visit kings-community-hospitals/.


The baseline fee that Openspace charges its clients is calculated for each project to include operational costs – such as transport, design tools, and workshop materials – as well as a design fee to cover the time various team members will spend on the project. This design fee mirrors the fees of ‘traditional’ architecture studios and is the funding to cross-subsidise pro-bono community work. This flexibility is only possible due to the fact that Openspace can compete with other architecture studios, rather than be constrained to only work with communities. The amount or percentage of the design is not fixed, and will depend on the client. Openspace has the possibility to either lower their usual design fee or forgo it altogether, depending on the project and the future possibilities it offers, either in terms of building new relations or in terms to new skills and know-how. “There is the ‘heart approach’ where fees range from free of charge to the minimum to cover operational costs, and the ‘business approach’ where fees range from the minimum to cover operational costs and a little extra, to our standard design fee. It depends first and foremost on the project, and then on the office’s current financial situation, and whether we can shoulder a project with little funding. We are still experimenting with cross-subsidising our community work so there are no fixed percentages. We mostly consider how much of a cut on our regular fee we can afford and if the project is worth it”, explains Ploy. Applying a flexible financing model to the funding of Openspace’s projects has allowed them to work with a variety of funders and clients, and finance community projects. As an architecture studio, Openspace has been able to attract a variety of funders: private and corporate funders, NGOs and foundations, government agencies, public organisations, universities and private individuals. Certain considerations also need to be taken into account. Funding needs to be structured in a way that allows for extra capital. When working with communities, the work does not stop at the end of the project. Engaging in participatory processes with communities builds lasting relationships. This means that even once projects are finished, Openspace continues to be contacted and work with the same communities. An example of 111

Box 1: The Different Levels of Participation Openspace uses participation in all their projects but a certain degree of flexibility is necessary, especially when projects and funders are so diverse. The degree of participation varies greatly between projects: for example, one cannot expect the same level of participation in a community-led project as in a corporate commercial project. In any given participatory project, there are three tenants: participation of the people – be it private end-users or community members, participation of the funders, but also participation of the team at Openspace. Kick-starting participation can be a challenge and participation always starts from Openspace. In architectural projects, the team usually presents some initial suggestions: they build a preliminary model, purposely unfinished to prevent people from merely accepting what they are shown. This opens the possibilities of what the space they are working on could become and starts a dialogue as there is something concrete to talk about. People then start adding and changing various aspects as the project evolves. The process varies greatly from one community to the other. Some communities are well trained in participation after working with CODI on participatory slum-upgrading projects under the Baan Mankong programme for example. In these cases, community members can jump right in and engage with the funder directly, where corporate funders are involved. Other times, Openspace must play an active role in workshops to achieve the participation of the community. In the beginning, there is an element of winning people’s trust: the team needs to spend time getting to know the participants, and doing the necessary research into the community’s specificities: how people live, their income, their interests and hobbies, their local culture, etc. This is an essential step to discern the issues that the community and Openspace are interested in dealing with together, and to find the direction they wish to work in.


On commercial projects, Openspace uses a similar participatory process, holding design workshops with everyone that should be involved. For example, Openspace was hired to build a house for a client’s parents: in this case, both the parents and the client participated in the design workshop. The decisions are thus made collectively, using participation, rather than only allowing those who paid for the construction to have a say . Working with people of different ages requires distinct tools to match with their ideas and age. Children enjoy using plasticine, crayons, papers, and models. Adults can find these tools derisible, feeling they are asked to ‘play’ like children. Instead, they can be brought to the site and given something to draw with. They can also be shown the models made by children to induce their participation. For older persons, children’s tools can be successful, as long as they receive assistance from the team. One gets different participation from the same tools. It is impossible to always expect the same level of participation and the tools used will also affect the level of participation. This fundamental understanding also explains the different processes that Openspace engages with.

Children using plasticine during a design workshop Source: Openspace


this is the community in NangLerng, where Openspace worked on the renovation of the Dancing House2. Ever since the project was completed, Openspace has worked with community members and leaders on a variety of projects, most recently on the creation of a community tourism map for an exhibition. This required several team members working for days, without getting paid. “We are still honing our financing system. We have faced financial difficulties as an office, situations where we cannot cover our expenses. However, supporting communities after our projects are finished is essential in providing continuity which allows for the community’s long term development�, says Ploy. Flexibility is the cornerstone to surviving in this field and Openspace remains flexible in its approach. While participation happens for all the projects, there are few fixed variables. Although it is an architecture studio, this does not translate into a need to build for each project they undertake. In fact, sometimes the end product has nothing to do with the built environment: it can be anything from a book to a process. This allows Openspace and 2 For more information on this project, please visit dancing-house-1/.

Community tourism map made by Openspace for the Wat Care Nang Lerng community Source: Openspace


Case Study 1: Using private funds on a private project Project Year: Source of Funding: Project Location: Land Owner:

2014 Private funds Bangkok Private owner

Project information: Openspace undertook the renovation of a communal space in a private residence using universal design. The family residing in the house included children and an older person with mobility issues. Openspace completed design workshops with the family members, allowing them to visualise and decide how they wanted the space to look. While the older person did not participate in the workshop as she needed to move before construction started, her wishes were taken into consideration throughout the process. This is an example where the principles of community architecture are successfully applied to a private project. “About 5% of the design fee of this project was used on follow up activities in NangLerng�, underlines Ploy. This is not a fixed percentage and depends from project to project, given the needs at that time.

Design workshop with different family members. Openspace aimed to involve as many of the endusers as possible in the design process Source: Openspace


Ploy to work with a wide array of stakeholders. “We can work with a variety of people and projects. We can get involved with anything we find interesting, either personally or as an office”, explains Ploy. Team members can propose projects they like based on their personal preferences, and they also engage with anything they fell enriches participation. Interest is therefore determined by the people involved at any given time. If the funder is open to using a participatory approach to bring positive change in a community, collaboration is possible. There is indeed great variety in Openspace’s work, as illustrated in the case studies presented below. Nevertheless, it also means that, at any given time, the small team at Openspace carries out between two and three projects. This is necessary in order to cover the costs of the office and pay employees. It requires a balancing act and great managerial skills to schedule deadlines in a way that prevents certain periods from being unmanageably busy. Nevertheless, the work is constant and the entire team works hard, sometimes for months without break.

5. Understanding the Trade-Offs Compromise in this line of work often has to do with finance. As mentioned above, Openspace operates within separate layers: • it connects with CAN and their network • it connects with corporate and private funders • it connects with universities and foundations Working with CAN, ACHR, and the network in Thailand is usually not remunerated3. Nevertheless, it is very important for knowledge management, for self-improvement and the improvement of Openspace’s projects. It is also crucial for support, especially given that community architects often work in difficult conditions as mentioned previously. Similarly, working with universities usually involves tight budgets. The work, however, is often challenging and allows Ploy and her team to tap into new knowledge and gain expertise in different fields. For example, 3 Some CAN and ACHR workshops offer a per diem to cover the expenses of joining the workshop.


Openspace has partnered with Thammasat University in Bangkok on a series of climate change and urban resilience projects. This partnership has borne different products including: • various videos • a book4 • an urban resilience board game5 Openspace’s creativity has been paramount in these projects, in ensuring that academic and technical knowledge is turned into something fun and accessible to a large audience (see Castanas, 2016). Working with corporate funders on the other hand requires a certain firmness. The process, including participation in the design process, is non-negotiable. Openspace does not work with funders who do not agree with this approach/methodology or corporate funders who value their exposure and self-marketing above the project, especially 4 For more information, please visit 5 For more information, please visit

The Urban Resilience Board Game. Source: Openspace


Box 2: Conflicting values – Pulling out of a Corporate Project The appeal of corporate funders for community projects is evident. Corporate funders have access to larger budgets, and – as they are not experts in the built environment – often allow for a large degree of flexibility for Openspace and communities. However, it is crucial to choose funders who share the same vision. When that is not the case, a project can be terminated, as happened in 2012. The team was contacted by one of the big housing developers in Thailand who was looking to set up a CSR unit working with communities. They had already worked on a zero-waste project focusing on furniture, and wanted to expand to architecture. Openspace explained their process, the use of participation and the involvement of both the community and the company, and the client agreed. The In-Udon community in Nonthaburi province was chosen by Openspace to run a pilot project for the firm’s CSR unit, as: • they had already gone through a participatory slum-upgrading • they were familiar with participatory processes, which was crucial for a shortterm project • there was space in the community for a community open space and a library • there was a group already set up that could take ownership and steer the project These conditions partly guaranteed that the project would be sustainable in the long term, granting this community a space to come together and socialise, built in a participatory way that would benefit them all. As the project progressed, the team at Openspace organised community meetings and activities such as community mapping, design workshops with both adults and children. The focus was placed on maintaining the developer’s zero-waste profile so a mapping exercise was carried out around the community to locate waste – mostly coming from small businesses – which could be used for interior design. Specifically, cut off pieces from a local women’s sewing group were used to produce chairs and baskets using the extra fabric. The library’s roof was designed to be an urban farm, with the walls covered by plants, and reusing scrap materials for the walls. The developer was absent from all but one community activity, and a different group of people was briefed and shown the progress and designs by Openspace 118

Sketches for the design of the public space in the In-Udon Community, in Nonthaburi. Children using scrap material in a participatory design workshop. Source: Openspace


at every meeting. The risk of continuing with the project was that the community’s interest in participation would be destroyed. Once the final designs were done, the head of the project discarded them in favour of a modern construction which fitted with the developer’s modern look. Openspace submitted all the drawings and withdrew from the project; they consulted with the community to examine whether they wished to carry out the project with the housing developer, now that there would be no participation involved. When faced with the choice, the community chose to follow through with the project. “They could either take it or leave it; the community chose to complete the construction since the developer was offering to pay for it. It was a shame that the sponsor imposed their architectural vision and their company’s very modern identity, over the ideas that came from the participatory design workshops which reflected the community’s unique identity”, says Ploy. For Openspace, the issue at hand was that the sponsor was not interested in the process they were offering. Arguing about architecture would be pointless, as the process still needed work, and there could be no experimentation without the sponsor’s agreement.

Thailand: Nonthaburi


when communities are involved. When certain principles are being compromised, Openspace can withdraw from a project [box 2].

6. Keeping Track of Openspace’s Core Principles While Accessing Financing In order to survive in a market environment, good management of funds is essential. As mentioned earlier, Openspace sometimes accepts pro bono work, that needs to be cross-subsidised by commercial work. In particular, Ploy undertakes projects with little or no funding. This is true when: • the project is of particular interest to the team • the project allows to tap into new knowledge or skills • the team can learn from a new process or learn about a new community Ensuring that Openspace’s core principles are respected when dealing with commercial funders on the other hand depends on the participatory process they undertake for their projects. In particular, the key is to always engage the funders in the different stages of a given project. External funders can be seen as holding more power in a project, while simultaneously being more removed as Openspace handles the participatory processes. They must attend workshops with the community, as well as meetings. When anything about the project changes, a meeting is scheduled to inform them. Particularly when the work involves communities, all dealings need to be as transparent as possible. This is very much in line with CAN’s philosophy of engaging with the maximum number of stakeholders, including local and national government, land owners, business etc. This commitment to pluralistic engagement promote sustainable communities as it creates linkages both within the community and among other city actors. When it comes to attracting new funders, the team at Openspace receives most of its projects by capitalising on its exposure: when projects are published, either in Thailand or internationally, potential funders become interested in partnering with them. So far, this exposure has been organic. “We are planning to invest in our media strategy, as 121

Case Study 2: Using corporate funds for a community project Project Year: Source of Funding: Project Location: Land Owner:

2012-2015 CSR programme of Kratingdaeng, Red Bull Thailand NangLerng, a community in old Bangkok, parts of which have become informal due to rapid urbanisation Crown Property Bureau (CPB)

Project information: Openspace partnered with E-Lerng, a community organisation in NangLerng, to renovate the Dancing House. NangLerng is an old settlement in Bangkok, inhabited since the late 18th century. Rapid urbanisation has already caused parts of it to become informal, and new developments – including a new MRT line – are putting added pressure on the area. The house used to be a dancing school in the 1950’s but has fallen into disrepair as the original owners passed away. Since the Dancing House used to serve as a community space, Openspace organised various design workshops with the house owners, children and members of the community at different stages of the renovation. Community participation grew with each year as more people became involved; this participation translated into stronger community ties in NangLerng. This conservation project not only preserved a historical building in the heart of the old town but also served to strengthen the community. The funding came from the CSR team of Kratingdaeng, Red Bull Thailand. Kratingdaeng has an active CSR programme, focusing on projects improving people’s lives, with an emphasis on the environment and food security. They trusted Openspace since the inception, as Openspace has already worked on two big projects with them, and they agreed on the vision for this community. The partnership was very fruitful as they agreed to the slow process of the renovation (in four phases over four years) and agreed to the participatory model. The team at Kratingdaeng was involved in all the stages and workshops, and Openspace remained transparent about the way the funds had been used, and finished each phase within the agreed timeframe. The basis for this long-term relationship was an honest and open communication, which was worked on and improved year on year. The channel for dialogue meant that there was more trust every year between the funder, Openspace and the community. The Kratingdaeng team understood the importance of the slow process, and the different phases of construction.


The Dancing House: a renovated community centre and museum in Nang Lerng Source: Openspace

Children looking at the exhibits at an event at the Dancing House Source: Openspace

The Dancing House within Nang Lern


Case Study 3: Partnering with a foundation on a community project Project Year: Source of Funding: Project Location: Land Owner:

2013 Chum Chon Thai Foundation Ko Lipe Private – contested by the community

Project information: The sea gypsy community of Ko Lipe has been occupying the land they reside on, as delimited by a file of coconuts, for generations. However, they do not possess land tenure and when the land registry was put into place, the land was bought by a private individual, thus rendering the settlement illegal. Openspace worked with the community on a knowledge management project, documenting the sea gypsies’ way of life, tradition and relation with their local environment for an exhibition through drawings, interviews, and community mapping. The project was halted as the working conditions became too risky due to local tensions. The project was funded by the Chum Chon Thai Foundation, which sought to preserve local knowledge and traditions, and the sea gypsies’ land. Chum Chon Thai Foundation works with both urban and rural communities, as well as vulnerable groups, such as ethnic minorities whose land rights are contested.

The knitted matts of the sea gypsies used to make a wall in Ko Lipe Source: Openspace


Sunset in Ko Lipe Source: Openspace

Thailand: Ko Lipe


it is central to accessing funding”, explains Ploy. Relying on past projects allows Openspace to control the narrative and ensure that the funders who contact them are familiar with their process and working style. In a way, they have created a market for themselves. When they were starting out, there was not necessarily a demand for an architecture studio that provides a participatory approach. Openspace therefore worked on projects with organisations that were not doing housing projects but instead were interested in social development. For example, they worked with the Institute of Health Promotion for People with Disabilities in Bangkok on a series of projects aimed at improving the built environment of people with disabilities in Thailand. This institute did not have an architecture department, but instead worked on legislation, rights promotion, city funding, etc. Using a participatory methodology bridged the gap, and allowed Openspace to use their expertise in a novel way, with a partner that had not prior experience in that. In this way, and with a patchwork of different projects, Openspace slowly built its brand.

References AD Editorial Team. 2017. “Winners of the 2017 Building of the Year Awards”. Retrieved in January 2017 from

Four publications by Openspace on Universal Design. These promote knowledge sharing and knowledge management on this topic Source: Openspace


Boonyabancha, S. and T. Kerr. 2016. Cities for People and by People. Retrieved in October 2016 from Castanas, N. 2016. “Playing with goldfish: Engaging people through games in the age of the falling attention span”. Retrieved in January 2017 from http:// Goodman, A. M. 2011. “Thailand’s Condominium Bubble a Reality or Myth”. Retrieved in January 2011 from Jansuttipan, M. 2016. “5 awesome projects that prove Thai architecture is some of the best in the world”. Retrieved in January 2017 from Kim, J. S. 2013. “The Biggest Disaster in SE Asia Waiting to Happen: Thailand’s Massive Real Estate Bubble”. Retrieved in January 2017 from http://www.’s-massive-real-estate-bubble Kongcheep, S. 2016a. “Market Report: Bangkok Condominium 4Q 2016”. Retrieved in January 2017 from thailand/market-reports/bangkok%20condominium%204q%202016.pdf Kongcheep, S. 2016b. “Market Report: Bangkok Retail 4Q 2016”. Retrieved in January 2017 from market-reports/bangkok%20retail%204q%202016.pdf McLeod, R. 2001. “Bridging the Finance Gap”. Retrieved in January 2017 from BridgingGap.pdf UN. 2014. World’s Population Increasingly Urban with More Than Half Living in Urban Areas. Retrieved in October 2016 from development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html UN Habitat. 2005. Slum Trends in Asia. Retrieved in October 2016 from http:// in%20Asia.pdf Wates, N. 2000. The Community Planning Handbook: How People Can Shape their Cities, Towns and Villages in any Part of the World. Earthscan: London Yu, F. C. and Thongpan, N. 2015. “Bubble trouble”. Retrieved in January 2017 from 127

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