Grounding Knowledge: Reflections on Community-driven Development in South East Asia

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GROUNDING KNOWLEDGE Reflections on community-driven development in South East Asia EDITORS Barbara Lipietz Caroline Newton London, 2014 COORDINATORS OF INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME Barbara Lipietz Camillo Boano Caroline Newton MAIN CONTRIBUTORS Johanna Brugman Barbara Dovarch Zahra Kassam Francesco Pasta Ariel Shepherd PARTNER ORGANISATIONS The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) Community Architects Network (CAN)


GROUNDING KNOWLEDGE reflections on community-driven development in South East Asia



“People themselves must have responsibility for the development and change of the world they live in.� Amartya Sen




The stories in this report are all about how tacit knowledge about development emerges among professionals, when they work on the ground, in real-life situations, as partners with poor communities. And these stories are also about how those real-life conditions have helped young professionals to challenge and re-learn the theories they had studied in their formal development education. We call this kind of postprofessional second education an “on-the-ground education.” There are many terms in the development field that we professionals use very lightly, without really much thinking about them: poverty, people, community, urban poor, participation, empowerment, ownership, equality, community-driven. We may use these terms to describe the various phenomena of poverty that we study and intervene in our professional lives. But they may not mean much to us until we really start working closely with poor community people and start realizing how profoundly the poor are excluded from the lion’s share of development programs and projects, which are supposed to be empowering them, eliciting their participation and increasing their ownership of the development of their lives, housing and settlements. It’s no exaggeration to say there is a huge gap between the understanding of poverty that development professionals acquire in their formal education and professional interaction, and the understanding of poverty that some manage to acquire by rolling up their sleeves and working with poor communities on their housing, upgrading, infrastructure

and land tenure projects on the ground. The understanding that comes from that “on-the-ground education” does not shy away from idealism, from compassion, from friendship, from excitement and from rage at injustices. The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) and the Community Architects Network (CAN) have great faith in that on-the-ground education, and have for many years been enabling good-hearted and idealistic young students, architects, planners, engineers, social scientists and development professionals to have experiences working directly with poor communities, in real projects, at grassroots level. The partnership between ACHR and the Development Planning Unit (DPU) of University College London to set up an experimental internship program for recent DPU graduates is one example of this. The stories described in this report have been written by some of the interns who took part in that DPU program. They show vividly how our educational system for preparing professionals to go out and make the world a better place can be dramatically improved by grounding that education in a bit of this on-the-ground learning, with poor communities, and how that “second education” can go a long way towards narrowing that gap between education and reality. We would like to thank the Rockefeller Foundation for its support to ACHR and to CAN, between 2011 and 2013, which has helped us to strengthen the role of professionals in supporting a housing process in Asia which is led by poor communities themselves. We would also like to thank the Development Planning Unit of UCL for their support of this experimental collaboration. And finally, we give our big thanks to the Association of Cities of Vietnam (ACVN) in Vietnam, the Community Development Fund Foundation in Cambodia, the Homeless People’s Federation in the Philippines and the Ciliwung Merdeka NGO in Indonesia which all agreed to host DPU interns.

ACHR/CAN Bangkok October, 2013


Acknowledgments We interns would like to start by thanking all the members of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights for giving us this invaluable opportunity to share the knowledge and practices of community driven processes in Asia, and your generosity, support, understanding and trust in us during these six months. Many thanks, Somsook Boonyabancha, Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, Chawanad Luansang, Maurice Leonhardt, Tran Thi Minh Chau, and Somsak Phonphakdee for opening your doors to us and helping us see how people are the owners of their own solutions, as well as guiding us to discover our role as development professionals in more depth and clarity.


Many thanks to all of ACHR’s partner organisations which we worked with, including the Association of Cities of Vietnam (ACVN), the Community Development Foundation (CDF)/Urban Poor Development Fund (UPDF), the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines (HPFP) and Ciliwung Merdeka. We will take with us many lessons from your work on the ground. Thank you to all the communities and community leaders, that opened your hearts and homes to us during these six months in particular Le Viet Hung and Huu Nghi community in Vinh City, all the people of Hung Hoa Commune, all the people connected to Ciliwung Merdeka and Sanggar Ciliwung, Bapak Sandyawan and the communities of Bukit Duri, Ofelia

Bagotlo, TAMPEI and the communities in Kep, as well as UPDF staff. What we have experienced, and what we have learnt from you has helped us to understand through practice the rich, complex, and powerful reality of community processes, and to believe in the capacity and energy of people to be the makers of their own development. Thank you. Thank you to all members of the Community Architect Network (CAN), for sharing with us your knowledge and passion in supporting community processes. Last but not least we would like to thank all the staff from the Development Planning Unit, Dr. Caren Levy, Dr. Camillo Boano, Dr. Barbara Lipietz, Dr. Caroline Newton, Giorgio Talocci, and William Hunter for their support in forming this internship programme which we hope can be continued in order to enrich the life and professional path of other students in the DPU. Johanna Brugman, Barbara Dovarch, Zahra Kassam, Francesco Pasta, Ariel Shepherd, Bangkok October, 2013



Contents Foreword Acknowledgments

iv vi

Introduction Themes How to read this book 4 countries, 4 processes

1 4 8 10

On the ground Cambodia / Francesco Pasta Overview Working context: UPDF and Can-Cam Triggering citywide upgrading in Kep Indonesia / Ariel Shepherd Overview Working context: Ciliwung Merdeka Planning around eviction in Bukit Duri Philippines / Zahra Kassam Overview Working context: team Tampei Mapping at city scale in Manila Vietnam / Johanna Brugman and Barbara Dovarch Overview Working context: Vinh City CDF Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa Reflections Afterword Contributors backgrounds

12 14 16 20 50 52 56 82 84 86 108 110 114 148 160 162 ix


Introduction Community-led upgrading in Asia The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) is a network of local development organizations active in lower-income communities across Asia. Though working in very different contexts, they are linked by the firm belief that people must be the active subject of their own development. This means that governments, international organizations and development agencies should not regard vulnerable people as passive recipients of one-size fits all ready-made solutions – as conceived in conventional development theories and practiced in major institutions worldwide – but instead a space should be opened to support communities to take initiative and work together to improve their lives themselves. Such active spaces of participation and dialogue work towards including people in planning the future of the city, in turn reshaping cities to respond better to a diversity of human needs. Physical upgrading acts a mechanism for a much broader upgrading, whereby citizenship exercised on the ground in turn starts to restructure social relations within the city. To trigger such a process, ACHR and its affiliated organizations count on a flexible finance system and emphasize collectivity and collaboration between different players, within an active network of knowledge exchange. ACHR provides low-interest loans to poor communities to upgrade their settlements and purchase the land, ranging from small infrastructure improvements to big housing projects. Giving the opportunity to access funds to a segment of population that would otherwise be cut out of it is obviously a 1


major point, but the cornerstone of this approach is that the loan is collective. The money is dispensed under the condition that the community is organized and already participating in savings groups, conditions that together typically guarantee the loan payback. In managing a loan collectively, people must decide together what to invest the money in, and organize how to pay the loan back. This way the upgrading process is governed by the people themselves, and the project materializes due to their own work and resources; the sense of ownership, and pride that people feel for their upgraded settlements is, indeed, one of the most important results. Furthermore this form of upgrading is usually more affordable than conventional top-down solutions, as the people responsible for its planning and execution are also its beneficiaries, ensuring only the true needs and resources of the community are responded to. Community architects, linked internationally through the Community Architects Network (CAN), and community builders often assist the design process, providing technical support and developing low-cost sensitive design solutions together with the future residents. To address the growing condition of urban poverty it is fundamental that upgrading projects and processes of inclusivity work together at the city scale. Towards this end, Community Development Funds have been set up in recent years. They are localized revolving funds jointly managed by community representatives and local authorities at the city scale, overseeing loan payback and deciding together in which communities to reinvest the money. This citywide process is propelled further by exchange visits between communities, sharing with each other how to overcome obstacles and increasing inspiration. The ultimate goal of networking and activating lower-income communities is to increase their voices and negotiation power as a collective subject, taking on a greater decision making role within urban development processes. Communities across Asia are offering us a working example of how a different way of development is possible. What is being realized is a deeply contextualized development, grounded on making use of local resources, that by working together emancipates vulnerable people as active agents of social transformation.

The ACHR/CAN/DPU Professional Internship Programme The ACHR/CAN/DPU Professional Internship Programme was launched in February 2013 with the objective of providing a full immersion of on-theground-training to DPU alumni in working with communities and their organizations. While supporting the advancement and experimentation of methodologies towards community-led development, it also helped clarify our role as development practitioners. This initiative is built on an existing partnership between ACHR and DPU developed over the last three years, in which the MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) with MSc Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD) undertook field trips to Bangkok to learn about Thailand’s innovative Baan Mankong housing programme. As DPU students we deeply appreciated the more reality-based development eduction we received, grounded in a pedagogy of action learning and action research that used real case scenarios in most of the projects we worked on. The field trip was an opportunity to learn directly from innovative practices in community-led urban development as well as opening a space to interact directly with communities, and test newly learnt methodologies . The ACHR/DPU Professional Internship Programme is a significant step in this continuous process of grounding and testing academic learning into the realities of communities and situations in the developing world. This programme helped us realise that work in the field is not as easy as it may appear on paper, it’s emotional, challenging, awkward, uncertain and unpredictable, demanding a set of skills that cannot be learned in the academic environment. We believe that ACHR and the community movement in Asia provides a very unique learning space, and contributes significantly to the intention of creating more grounded professionals, able to work and understand the realities of poor communities and development work. We hope this small book is able to convey our passion and some of our learnings, inspiring other young people to work towards more just societies and environments, and that you enjoy reading it!


Themes As a collective outcome that brings together our subjective experiences across different contexts, this book is not sequentially structured. There were however 5 broad overarching themes that we felt underlined our work in in Kep (Cambodia), Jakarta (Indonesia), Manila (Philippines) and Vinh (Vietnam):

People mobilisation Ultimately, the core of people-driven change is for the people themselves to bring alternative solutions to the discussion table on how to reorganize their lives and design their environment. Sometimes, communities have one voice, are organized and ready to take initiative, but in other circumstances many people feel fearful or doubtful about collective action, lacking belief or will to challenge what is currently on the table for their future, and so the community remains fragmented and loose. How can we trigger people’s energies and hopes? What catalyzes interest and belief in people-driven change? How can we enable and support this? Over these six months we learnt that mobilisation involves more than anything bringing together already existing but often fragmented practices, ideas and will power out of isolation, together into an arena of greater visibility, perceived relevance, and potential impact. Such belief in bridging the gap also relies on the governments openness to working with the urban poor, precedents felt close to hand, and the existence of influential figures. 4

Design Far beyond what a conventional understanding of design entails, in our work design is a process of collating and materializing people’s visions and aspirations about their future as both individuals and a collective. The goal may be to succeed in the building of a new settlement, however this involves collectively assessing people’s resources and capabilities such as finance, available materials, existing skills, availability of land, number of people, political support and so on. Design as a collective process brings together, such factors into coherent forms, and in light of circumstantial obstacles and opportunities is also inherently a process of strategic planning. When the lack of space, time and access to information impacts the design process, how to keep moving, and respond appropriately? Given the gaps of information, how to produce and represent a flexible methodology, rather than a determinate design, which can be comprehensive enough to capture a vision, but flexible enough to handle new information when it arises? Although lack of access to information generally impedes the mobilization process, we found sometimes it can be an opportunity in design as you’re held back from jumping into the details prematurely, and can explore the costs and benefits of reorganising how people live more generally. Appropriate, affordable design often demands questioning commonly held building standards and norms. Design, employed in the broadest sense, becomes key to mediate between communities and government on the inappropriateness of standards, redrawing the line between legal and illegal. Complementing the design of the built environment with social structures which respond to standards of health and safety, communities are able to propose upgrading that touches a meeting point between their aspirations, available means, and government codes and regulations.


Mapping Maps make change; they are tools which can bring clarity, form and accessibility to often undervalued information, while the process of mapping itself can mobilise and empower individuals. At every scale, from the single household to the entire city, mapping is a powerful tool to encourage people to think about issues in a different way. By looking at issues spatially it increases awareness of the problems and resources shared between people, as well as sites of opportunity within a common environment. A map can be a technical drawing, setting the ground for infrastructural upgrading, or used to tell a story of a particular place, but whatever the purpose, maps represent spatial relations. By grounding information into a shared spatial reality, it brings greater clarity to the issue at hand, while presenting relevant information to that particular topic in a more effective, universal and accessible format. Maps also act as a filter: while bringing greater legitimacy to some forms of information they simultaneously erase others and may be used as an instrument of domination. For this reason when people make their own maps of areas overlooked in government’s books, then can become incredibly powerful negotiating tools as they bring visibility to that which was previously rendered non-existent in the eyes of the government and society at large.

Scaling up


Given that most problems impacting the urban poor are not local, but occur city-wide, or nation-wide, to bring more long-term, sustainable responses requires working at multiple scales. So while it is important to never lose sight of the local scale, it is equally important to see how the site impacts, and is impacted by the surrounding environment. Each scale has important information to bring forward in any comprehensive strategy. Sometimes the local government is critical for providing political leverage against higher level decision making, and other times we must find ways to work around them.

How can circuits of upgrading start shifting how decision making in the city happens more fundamentally? This requires not only a direction of vertical institutionalisation, but horizontal thickening. Infrastructural, environmental, and financial systems are also being questioned and revised via this upgrading process, how to fuel such alternative systems? When groups start planning responses, and solutions to commonly felt environmental and financial pressures together, such as upgrading in a flood prone zone, managing drainage, or giving birth to health care insurance division within a CDF, we can start to imagine how another way is possible.

Strategic partnerships Urban pressures have causes and effects that reach further than communities themselves, and even beyond lower-income sectors of societies. Collective action must go beyond gaining solidarity within a particular community, and instead search for common ground among different social groups, institutions, organizations, and constituencies. But how to bring the proximate and intimate concerns of vulnerable communities together with other institutions and movements working towards greater social and environmental justice? How to ensure collaborations benefit both parties, and the gravity of letting people take ownership of the process is appreciated? Such strategic partnerships aren’t handed over ready to go, like any relationship they require tasting, trial and error, adjustment, nurturing, patience, a balance between trust and criticism, awareness of each other’s strengths and weakness, and above all, work!


How to read this book People mobilisation Increasing people’s confidence to take action into their own hands

Design Collectively cross-balancing between resources, capabilities, aspirations, and obstacles

Mapping Grounding shared information into a spatial reality

Scaling up Working strategically at multiple scales to increase the impact of upgrading

Strategic partnerships Finding common ground among different social groups, institutions, organizations, constituencies 8

Link people, build networks


Make information legible


Cultivate mess!


The advantage of scaling down


Filling in design: innovative materials


Mapping the kampung


“Affordable” housing


Making links across Valenzuela city


Playing with standards


Capitalizing on an event: what’s next?


Starting with community work


Getting ready for mapping


Mapping priorities


Thinking at scale


Being inspired by others’ experiences


People take ownership!






Participation is appropriation




4 Kep ,





Pas Francesco worked in Phnom Penh in ta collaboration with the Urban Poor Development Fund (UPDF) and supported the local CAN network. Francesco’s main activities unfolded in the city of Kep where he conducted mapping, surveyed activities and design workshops with different communities, linking people together to find common solutions for housing and land rights at the city scale.

countries, processes




Ariel Sh

, Indon



Ariel was welcomed to Jakarta by the NGO Ciliwung Merdeka, who supports marginalized families living along on the Ciliwung river at Bukit Duri and Kapmpung Pulo by assisting with flood response, providing access to health and education and capacity building activities. In response to goverment regulations to widen the river they have created their own proposal for onsite rehousing rather than relocation. Ariel has been working on strengthening this proposal while participating in affordable, appropriate solutions for the urban poor more generally. Additionally Ariel has been reporting on the progress of community-based rehousing and land claims in Pluit, North Jakarta and in Yogyakarta. 10

The ACHR/DPU Professional Internship Programme was launched in four countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. In each of these countries we were welcomed by ACHR’s partner organizations, and exposed to different contexts and processes.

m anna Brugman a n t e i h and Jo nh, V

Johanna and Barbara h c r where welcomed by the Association of Cities a ra Dov Barba of Vietnam (ACVN) to Vinh City. They worked in Hung Hoa, a rural commune undergoing urbanization where communities have been participating in ACHR’s Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA) Programme’s infrastructure and disaster relief projects. With the government’s support Barbara and Johanna explored for the first time in Vinh the participatory dimension in rural development planning, and new ways to engage with communities in rural planning at city scale. Community mapping was used as the main methodology to facilitate a dialogue between communities and local authorities.



ila, P



Zahr a


Kass a


Zahra worked in Metro Manila with the Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc (PACSII), which assist communities to mobilize themselves to acquire land and housing. PACSII has a technical arm, the Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment, Inc (TAMPEI) and a financial arm, the Philippine Action for Slum Upgrading Facility (PASUFI). Zahra’s main focus has been to introduce area planning for new communities at a citywide scale. In addition she explored alternative sustainable microfinance schemes and advised PASUFI on their credit collection and funds management. 11

On the 12

ground 13

CAMBODIA The “White Building”, in central Phnom Penh, is emblematic of Cambodia’s troublesome history. Built as a housing estate for government clerks in the 60s, it was abandoned under the Khmer Rouge and is now squatted and under threat of demolition to make way for speculative developments.



Cambodia is a country with a young, rapidly growing population, as millions of people died during the Pol Pot era and in the famine and war that ensued. The country is still largely rural and 80% of the population is living in the countryside. The Khmer Rouge regime sought to achieve a radical social restructuring founded on an agrarian utopia, leaving the country beheaded of its intellectual and administrative class. With the withdrawal of the Vietnamese army in 1989 and the peace agreements of 1991, the country was flooded with foreign workers from international agencies and NGOs operating within the framework of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) that managed the country until the first democratic general elections in 1993. Still now, an impressive number of NGOs and international agencies are at work – often competing – on Cambodian ground. After decades of civil war, Cambodia is now at peace under the

autocratic control of the Cambodian People Party, in power for the past twenty years, since the UN-sponsored elections. Corruption and cronyism are very widespread: the country ranks 157th (out of 176) in the corruption perception index compiled by Transparency International. The economy is growing fast, but most of the profits go to the government crowd, which is underselling the country to foreign and local private investors. Real estate developments are changing the face of Phnom Penh, and major infrastructural and speculative projects are being carried out all across the country. Tourism is also growing quickly, so towns such as Siem Reap and Sihanoukville are booming. Land ownership is often unclear, especially in urban areas. The Khmer Rouge regime forcibly emptied all the cities and destroyed the cadastre, so many land ownership documents no longer exist. When the regime collapsed many empty buildings and land plots became occupied by new people. As no accountability system exists against government planning, the opposition is virtually non-existent, and the judiciary system is corrupt, the lower-income population is particularly vulnerable to evictions. However, government housing policies have recently undergone some pro-poor changes.

Psah Orussey, Phnom Penh’s busiest market.


Working context, Cambodia


UPDF and CAN-Cam

The Urban Poor Development Fund (UPDF), now known as Community Development Foundation (CDF), acts as a country-wide Community Development Fund, allocating funds and coordinating the activities of provincial CDFs. It sits in a very delicate but influential position, as it mediates between government departments at the national level and lower-income communities who are linked through the large Community Savings Network of Cambodia. I assisted the CAN-Cam team, the Cambodian architects and professionals affiliated with the CAN network, operating under the umbrella of UPDF. Working in UPDF’s central office in Phnom Penh I had the chance to collaborate with the core team that deals with community-led upgrading across the whole country. Working with communities at different stages of the process, I was able to understand in practice how upgrading stretches well beyond the provision of land and housing,: from initial mobilisation to savings groups setup, mapping, housing design, and construction, learning about building techniques directly on the construction sites with community builders, as well as experiencing “collateral” initiatives such as community-run cooperatives, decent poor housing projects for the most disadvantaged families, mangroves planting on the seashore. Throughout all this, building a relation of trust with the members of CAN-Cam was vital, as they could enrich my understanding and, most importantly, ground my work into the local context. However, in the very beginning the Cambodian community architects seemed pretty doubtful, if not scared, of this pale newcomer.

A diagram showing the web of relations in which UPDF and CANCam operate.


The main people I worked with. CAN-Cam is a loose network that has more than twenty members, only three of which work full-time with communities: Nylen – head of CAN-Cam and responsible for media, Sokly and Danak.

Asian Coalition for Housing Rights Community Architects Network Community Development Foundation (formerly UPDF, Urban Poor Development Fund) Community Development Fund Community Savings Network of Cambodia Non Governmental Organizations Urban Poor Coalition Asia

Visal managing director UPDF

Roth community architect UPDF

Nylen media operator head of CAN-Cam

Sokly community architect CAN-Cam

Danak community architect CAN-Cam



Communication with my peers in the office was one of the main challenges I faced from the start, although things have improved over time. It’s not simply a matter of words, but of cultural customs as well: there are things that should not be told, and things that need to be told in a different way from what I’m used to. A Cambodian friend explained to me: “We avoid discussion: for us, discussion brings problems.” People in Cambodia often pass through convoluted roundabout expressions, and it’s not easy to interpret what they actually mean. Sometimes I would say something straightforward and they would look at me shocked or start laughing on the spot. If I proposed something, deciphering their opinion about it was always hard. As Visal, the managing director of UPDF, remarked laughing, “We are not used to Western style!” And I’d be lying if I said that I got to understand fully the expressive codes of Cambodians. The organization in the office is very loose, yet there are rigid hierarchies that need to be taken into consideration. “Youngsters” don’t take initiatives without listening to what “Seniors” have to say, though often “Seniors” are busy, or absent. Sometimes, I tried to encourage young community architects to take decisions and act by themselves – if nothing, for a matter of practicality – and it seemed like I was stirring a rebellion in the office. It has been quite challenging to find my way through this, gain the trust of the people in the office and manage to work on the ground. For the first few months, I worked exclusively in the office with reports on topics I didn’t know firsthand and visited a couple of communities to help on the construction sites. One day, I was openly told: “We are lucky to have you here. We are very happy! But we don’t know how to use you!”, laughing out loud. Three months after I had arrived, I was told: “Last week we had the meeting about what you can do. You can work in Kep.”


UPDF staff, community builders from all over Cambodia, and community leaders (local and from Thailand) pray together before the new training centre construction starts.


Triggering citywide upgrading in Kep Some communities with uncertain land tenure. Koh Tonsay, where people may be evicted from their seaside houses to build a resort. Punli Resmai Phum Kaep, grown between abandoned villas, is negotiating relocation. Kasino, developed around the Casino’s emptied shell, is the largest community and may be granted on-site upgrading, though nothing is confirmed yet.


Eventually I was assigned to the challenging task of working in the city of Kep, on a citywide process of upgrading, involving 10 communities both in the city centre and in the rural areas. All the communities had been surveyed in 2012 by CAN-Cam, and are in different situations in regards to terms of land tenure, income and organization. While some communities had already attained the legal status of community with strong savings groups, others didn’t want to be involved in the provincial CDF’s activities. While some own their land, others are facing eviction and need to relocate, unless the authorities accepted the on-site upgrading solution. The main objective for this initial stage of upgrading at the city scale was to strengthen the relationship among these low-income settlements, by linking their upgrading activities – savings set up, relocation layouts, infrastructure upgrading and on-site reblocking schemes – in order to present a comprehensive alternative development plan to the municipal

and provincial authorities. We intended to conduct community mappings in all the settlements; to map the vacant land plots in the city, as many communities are now squatting on public land and will soon be relocated; and to discuss some design options for the upgrading schemes. In a city the size of Kep, it’s really possible to work on the upgrading process at the urban scale. Unfortunately we started working in the period preceding the national elections, which considerably hindered the process. Kep Municipality and the Province are governed by the Cambodian People’s Party, which holds power at the national level too. As the political system in Cambodia is extremely opaque, local authorities didn’t want us to mess with people in the communities, especially those who are negotiating relocation or on-site upgrading. The authorities have plans to speculate over land in central Kap, so they wanted to avoid clear discussion about housing and land ownership

The community of Nesat (“Fishermen”) has been settled on Kep’s seafront for generations, but without land tenure. As the name suggests most of the the inhabitants make a living from fishing. The government hasn’t informed them yet, but is planning to relocate them, probably to clear the land to sell to a resort.


In preparation for the community meeting in Punli Resmai Phum Kaep. 22

until after the elections in fear of damaging their votes. They simply wanted us to conduct mapping and enumeration of the communities and provide this information to the government – what they referred to as “the first step”, refusing to discuss what would happen after this. One of the main challenges we faced was how to promote people’s collective action without the government perceiving it to be a threaten to the status quo. Things were even more intricate, as I quickly realized how blurred the line between the communities and the government is, and between their respective interests, in a context where practices of political cooptation are the norm. Often it wasn’t easy to understand if our interlocutors were representatives of their community or emissaries of the government, because they were both at the same time. Our plans were quite ambitious, especially considering that we were two inexperienced architects (both for the first time alone in the field), with little organization and practical support from UPDF, receiving tacit opposition of the government, coupled with little community mobilisation on the ground. And, of course, the limit of time: at this point I had only two months available. Given these constraints, it was clear for me that our focus had to be on how to trigger a self-sustainable process, rather than carrying it out alone or delivering anything concrete. To a certain extent, community mobilisation, networks, and resources were already present in Kep. My main question was, what can be our role in fostering them, so that people can propel the process forward by themselves? We had to try to build a collective understanding with the people of the dynamics at work in the city, and the way to counter them together. My work in Kep was basically made up of clumsy attempts at answering this question.


A brief history of Kep


Kep is a resort town built by the French on a wonderful promontory on Cambodia’s easternmost stretch of coast. In the years between the Independence (1953) and the coup of Lon Nol and the civil war that ensued (1970), Kep was a holiday retreat for the elite, and dozens of villas were built for the wealthy people, including the royal family. Nowadays things are quite different and Kep looks more like a ghost town of about 15.000 people. During the Khmer Rouge regime, the city was abandoned; subsequently people looted the villas to their bones. Most of these once luxurious residences lies now crumbled or in ruins, with cows eating grass in their gardens. Some of them have been taken over by poor families. In the interstices between these buildings, various communities of squatters settled down. Kep is still a touristic town, at least for Cambodian standards. Foreign and local tourists are making a comeback, new hotels are opening, and there are plans for the restoration as boutique hotels of some of the crumbling modernist villas. The value of land in the central area is therefore very high, and many communities have to be relocated further afield.


Triggering citywide upgrading in Kep

Participation is appropriation Mobilising people



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

During my time in Cambodia working with communities I reflected at length about participation, and experienced it in practice. Participation is undoubtedly one of the most debated and contested concepts in development, a word subject to conflicting interpretations, which lends itself easily to sometimes dangerous manipulations. However, I was thrown into a situation of urgency, in which I had to act and do something in a very short time. To not get stuck in the crux of participation I had to treat it not as a goal to achieve, but rather as a direction, a reference point guiding which path we should walk on. Even so, it was not easy to move in that direction. Asserting opinions publicly is not common place in Cambodia, as discussion is seen, culturally, as something to avoid. In most cases the people we were working with were clearly not representative of the whole community. Sometimes community leaders took the lead and boldly imposed their personal vision. This way, subdued community members would generally follow the directions and take part in the activities - but such an obedient form of participation hollows out the meaning of the upgrading process, crippling its impact. But what could I actually do? Unable to speak Khmer, I was relying completely on Danak for translation,who felt more comfortable talking one on one with the community leade, who would then hopefully spread the message to the people. How could I try to influence how people were participating, when the communication system I relied on was so delayed? 26

Speak out, if you can! In Apiwat Phum Kaep, a settlement with low levels of organization and trust in the community institution itself, we tried to conduct a social mapping. There were many people present who looked at the map with interest, but without taking any initiative, not participating actively. So I felt we had to clarify things: this map is not for us, the architects; it’s not for the CDF or UPDF; and it’s not even for the authorities; it’s for you! Exactly, we will not give this map to the government, but to you. So you can use it as you want and you will have information that the government doesn’t have – because they don’t know all these things that you know. So when they’ll move you, if they move you far away, you can tell them Look! Our jobs are here. If they give you the land for fifty houses, you can tell them Look! We are sixty-one. Such a statement in the context of Cambodia may be inappropriate. Danak looked at me with eyes wide open, like in shock. I’m not sure I did the right thing, and I will never know what she translated. Later on, she explained me: “I think this is strange for Cambodia… because people sometimes are scared of the government.” Anyway, after this people took part into the mapping and proved to be the most dedicated and participative communities we’ve been working with until now. As outsiders, we can afford to speak out a bit more bluntly sometimes. I think we should take advantage of this, when it can help to strengthen people’s self-confidence.

The mapping in Apiwat.


The moment to stop and have a chat


It’s good when the map gets so crowded that you almost can’t see it! But it may take some time and a lot of talking first.

One day we went to the rural community of Kompong Trolak to facilitate a mapping session. To get there we traveled many kilometers in a tuk tuk, followed by walking for half an hour in the mud of the rainy season. When we finally arrived only six people out of about 300 were there, even the community leader was absent! There was no point in making a community map with so few people, so we decided to cancel. Instead, we tried to learn from the six attendees if and why they thought that the mapping was relevant. They wanted to show in the map the infrastructures they have, those they are currently building with ACCA funds, and those they hope to build with another loan. Also, in the map they wanted to show that all the households of the community were contributing to the savings groups! So they agreed that it was important to do it with as many people as possible. We returned two days later, this time to over 60 people, many of them actively involved in the mapping. On the contrary, in Punli Resmai Phum Kaep the community leader didn’t recognize the importance of mapping as a way to make a better relocation layout. He told us that the community had no time for this and didn’t want to organize a community meeting to discuss it. “If you want, you can do it by yourselves, gathering information home by home”, he told us. We didn’t do it and went to eat fried food instead, to vent our frustration. (fp)

Over time I learnt that it is not the people who need to participate in our process, rather we have to participate in theirs. In their day to day lives they are already dealing with multiple issues of housing, land tenure, income generation and livelihood security, on top of that negotiating with the authorities. It is fundamental that people become aware of the capacity of upgrading processes to impact their lives, and appropriate it, not only for the upgrading to be sustainable, but also transformative. This is probably the core of community-led upgrading, yet it wasn’t so clear to me at the beginning. Sometimes people need to be encouraged to step forward and get their hands on the process. We can do a lot to motivate them to do this, as they often expect our support and guidance. Many times as we started working with communities, introducing ourselves, explaining our plans, I saw many doubtful expressions (my face must have looked confused too, as I could not follow what was being said). I wondered: is this meaningful to them? Why are they here, what do they want to achieve, what are their expectations? Do they really believe in what we are going to do? We came across many failures or disappointments, in these months of community work. A large share of it was due to the government’s attitude, and the sometimes scarce support from UPDF’s central office played its part, too. But most often, the problems we ran into were rooted in the lack of commitment by the people, which was a result of their little understanding and belief in the process, limited trust in us, and consequent estrangement from the activity. So before starting mapping, drawing, talking, or whatever, we found it was crucial that people understand why this map, this drawing, or this discussion is relevant to them, what they can achieve from it. Only if this relevance is understood, and felt, will people desire to participate in a way that builds their own upgrading process.

Convincing people to draw their dream house or the community map was not immediate, and often people who accepted to take part refused to take the pencil in their hand, preferring to give instructions to someone else.


Images from the small group discussions in Apiwat. This way people were confident to express their opinions. about the layout design.


Make people feel comfortable Sometimes, even if many people are present at a workshop, they hesitate to engage in the process. In Apiwat Phum Kaep we wanted to introduce some possible layout options for the upcoming relocation of the community, but everyone was sitting so far from the posters that they probably couldn’t see anything. We tried to encourage them to sit closer, but they just felt more comfortable sitting afar. An effective way to support people’s participation, in my experience, is to break the community in smaller groups. In this way even the most bashful people feel comfortable to raise questions, doubts, and express their opinions. It’s also good to let them choose the group composition themselves, so they can stay with their friends and the people they feel more confident with. When we tried this approach in Apiwat Phum Kaep, we heard new voices and opinions and ‘discovered’ new leading figures in the community. Also, in small groups they started discussing about more detailed issues, such as how many families could share a well or a bamboo hut. (fp)

Drawing two maps to get a better one In O Krosa, very few people got close to the blank sheet on which the community leader was drawing the map. But at a certain point, two men moved a table to the side, took a piece of paper, and started doing a parallel map. Many people who didn’t want to take part into the ‘official’ map joined the secondary map. We were taken by surprise, and at first thought to bring them back, but then we noticed that they were mapping areas that the people in the first group had left blank! We realized how important this spontaneously created space to draw was. So in the end we got two maps of the community, each of them with information that were not present in the other, and we united them into one, much more ‘complete’ map. (fp)

Images from the mapping in O Krosa.


Triggering citywide upgrading in Kep

Link people build networks Mobilising people




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Taking a citywide approach implies that upgrading processes should not be carried out by each community in isolation, but instead by pooling together all kinds of resources such as funds, knowledge, and skills to develop alternatives for the future of the city as a whole. Even though pressures are experienced locally, they are often shared by communities across the city: by engaging with authorities about common problems and collective solutions, it becomes possible to contend forces emanating at the city scale. In Kep there are already organized communities and an active CDF, providing a rather strong platform to build from, but such networks are governed by community leaders and committee members. Of course, this is to a certain extent unavoidable, but without much involvement of community members themselves a few people rather than the majority oversee city-wide upgrading in Kep, and the links are more vertical than horizontal. Furthermore, communities representatives in Kep CDF board were unwilling to engage with unorganized communities without the approval of the authorities. “Only the authorities can persuade them to set up a community”, they said. However, it’s possible to get people organized and involved in a less top-down manner, working with them on the basic problems they face and looking for common solutions together. The official set up of the community doesn’t necessarily need to be the first step. Indeed, a different kind of approach is needed, since the authorities are not collaborative and actually try to manipulate the communities.

Results from exchange In Apiwat we experienced how much impact exchange across communities can have. Many communities in Kep share the same problem, they are soon going to be relocated, but some are more organized – one is already building the new community, others have strong savings groups and got loans for small infrastructures. Since the beginning, leaders from other more organized communities regularly visited and took part in the activities in Apiwat. The leader from Sopemonkon told the people how his community got organized and what problems they faced before starting the construction, and the leader from Punli Resmai explained how community finance works. As a result, some people previously disinterested came to add their names and information on the map, and most importantly the community decided to set up savings groups again. Not always things were made smoother by the confrontation with “external” people. Once Apiwat people agreed on a layout, a leader from Punli Resmai heavily criticized it claiming that his community’s layout was better. We feared that people would step back, considering him a more experienced and authoritative figure. But instead, they countered his observations, defending their decision, and making it stronger. (fp)

Images from Apiwat workshop on layout design and finance.


Building knowledge in practice

UPDF’s training centre for community builders and architects, under construction in Phnom Penh, summer 2013.


The exchange of knowledge of course doesn’t happen only between communities but also between them and the architects and workers. In Cambodia there is an important movement of Community Builders, skilled construction workers and craftsmen with knowledge about cheap construction techniques and materials, linked through a national network covering 9 provinces (not yet in Kep).Their practical collaboration with architects and communities is blurring the boundary between professional expertise and traditional wisdom, community people and technical assistants. A new space devoted to this exchange is currently taking shape in the outskirts of Phnom Penh: UPDF’s training centre. Its construction was in itself an example of this approach. It was designed and built together by community architects from Phnom Penh and community builders from all over the country, employing bamboo with the traditional knowledge of expert builders from Kratie and Koh Kong. It started with a one-week bamboo workshop with students, architects and builders where we learnt the basics of building with bamboo. Once completed in autumn 2013, the centre will become a space where community builders and architects from all over Cambodia can share their skills and practice new ways of building. (fp)

In practice, what could we do to link the communities horizontally in Kep? One way is simply to introduce to the people the city-wide perspective with maps and information that they can keep for themselves and use. It is also good to bring people to other communities, to see what is actually happening there – in particular where community-funded upgrading projects have already been implemented. A visit by the members of Apiwat community to Sopemonkon – the only housing project currently under construction – is being organized at the moment. However, people are often so busy that it’s not easy to bring them around, sometimes not even to gather them for a couple of hours in their own settlement. So, a good alternative is to bring community leaders to other communities to share their experience. Everytime we worked in a community, we were with some other community’s leader to compare their situation and give suggestions.

Leaders from three different communities exchange views about relocation layouts.


Triggering citywide upgrading in Kep

Make information accessible Mobilising people

UPDF’s reports contain a lot of data, but they are not so easy to read and inadequate to spread information among community people (consider that the literacy rate in Cambodia is quite low). 36



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Upgrading is also about building and sharing knowledge collectively. A significant contribution we can give is to bring together, condense and make legible the great wealth of knowledge which already exists but scattered across different actors and places. Making this data easily accessible, including putting it into more practical formats, is also a way to ensure that the process is more open, and easier for more people to take part! UPDF has already collected extensive information about communities, however it is usually buried either in the heads of the office workers, or in dusty, hefty reports that occupy dozens of shelves in the office. So it’s not always easy to access or make a sense of this data. Although community people are often involved in collecting data about their settlement, they aren’t usually part of the greater collation process at the citywide level, so it’s often the case that they don’t have an overview of the citywide situation, don’t bring the issues to a city level and can’t easily make use of the data itself. During CDF meetings a great deal of information emerges, but only a few representatives from the communities take part, and then data is collected and taken into UPDF’s registries. In Kep we started our work by collating all the information that already existed but spread between various places and forms. We spent one day visiting the communities, talking to leaders and people living there, and once back to Phnom Penh we linked together all the information we’d gathered with the information already existing in the reports. The result is the first draft of this map, which attempts to sum up and visualize


the overall upgrading process across Kep’s communities. In the following weeks, the map was updated and corrected several times, including information collected through community mapping, CDF meetings, talks to the authorities and our own observations. The map shows the number of households in each community and their land tenure; the community legal status; the amount of savings, in total and per household; and a brief summary of the communities’ situation and achievements. It selects and synthesizes a lot of information previously scattered among different people and archives into an easy-to-read format, making the information more accessible to community people.


Distributing the map After double-checking the map with CDF representatives and translating it into Khmer, we printed many copies and distributed them among the people of the communities where we worked. At the beginning of each meeting, we introduced the map and explained the city-wide approach, in order for people to get a broader perspective on the upgrading process and understand the importance of linking with other communities which share similar problems. Many aspects of the reactions were not easy for me to interpret due to language barriers, but I could clearly see many people interested, observing and commenting the maps together; sometimes they even came to us to ask for more copies of the map. (fp)


Triggering citywide upgrading in Kep

Cultivate mess! Mobilising people



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Working with organized communities tends to be smoother, easier, and generally more effective. But sometimes mess is surprisingly fertile. Our role as technical supporters can be more incisive and constructive in a context that is less structured and organised, if we manage to navigate through it. I experienced this while working with two communities living on public land in central Kep that will soon be relocated: Punli Resmai Phum Kaep and Apiwat Phum Kaep. The issues faced by both communities were similar, however there was a noticeable difference in their level of organization, which impacted how we were able to work with them, and consequently the outcomes achieved. Punli Resmai already has active savings groups, its community leaders have strong characters and are among the most active members of Kep’s CDF. The community is compact and they already applied for ACCA funds for a water pumping system. On the contrary, in Apiwat, people have little belief in the abilities of the community, and they recently stopped saving together, withdrawing their money from the common fund. In the first days, it seemed they were not even able to organize a meeting for mapping. In both communities, we worked on the design of future relocation layout. But because the authorities hadn’t yet indicated a relocation site, we weren’t able to get into much detail, so they were more theoretical relocation layouts than practical. 40

Punli Resmai Phum Kaep When we arrived to Punli Resmai we proposed to start the day with producing a social map of the settlement, mapping how people live there now, and the features they feel important to retain in the resettlement. We also soon found out that the physical survey conducted the year before by CAN-Cam contained many mistakes, so it was important to re-map the

Images of the (fast) process with which the community of Punli Resmai finalized their relocation layout. Community meetings focused more on the interior design of houses.


settlement to get an accurate map for negotiating with the government. They refused: they just wanted us to prepare a relocation layout. We said we could start discussing about what they’d like to see in the new settlement, they could draw their dream house and community. No: “We want a plan. Now we’ll just do the plan”. They pulled out a big sheet of paper they had already prepared, showing their idea: a row of houses along a main road. No common open spaces or facilities. Just forty houses and a road, something resembling the average middle-class development in Phnom Penh. Yet the way they live now is very different. They have a lot of open space, vegetation, and animals. They built huts in wood, bamboo and with thatched roofs, equipped with hammocks, where they meet to play cards, talk, eat dinner together, and they even have a volleyball field. None of these features or activities appeared in their visualization of the future settlement, but they were not open to thinking about using the space differently. While doing a model of the plan we tried to introduce a community centre in the middle, but they placed it on the far end of the settlement, “only if we have space”, as a leftover. As they already had a very fixed vision of what they wanted their future settlement to look like, our role became reduced to that of an AutoCAD drafter. We tried to suggest layouts with clusters of houses sharing smaller common spaces, similar to how they currently manage the space, but these were all rejected because “houses have to be all the same”. When I asked about the method of allocating of plots, they had already decided the fairest method would be a lottery.


A visual of the layout upon which people finally agreed.

Play it by ear Before we set off to Kep I prepared a detailed schedule of our plan to introduce to the CDF and authorities. As soon as we arrived I realized that I could just as well bin it, as nothing was going to go as foreseen. The meeting with the local authorities? No one had warned them. The talk with the communities representatives in Kep CDF? Mr Ho, our contact, had forgotten about our arrival. When we managed to talk to a representative from the provincial authority, chasing her in the street, she basically told us “Kids, the elections are approaching. Don’t mess around.” She also explained to us that a community, designated to be upgraded on-site, was actually going to be relocated – but it was a secret – and that the government had no intention to disclose any information about the relocation sites for communities on public land. The following day, when we met the CDF members, they explained to us that many settlements in which we planned to work didn’t want to join, and they had no clue about how to establish a link with them. Furthermore, one of the biggest communities had just disintegrated and people had withdrawn all of their money from the common fund. So within the first 24 hours of arriving in Kep, we realized that the upgrading map had to be radically modified, and that our action plan made no sense at all. In the following days it became clear that we didn’t need an action plan at all because the communities - those who were mobilised, at least - would set the pace and the programme. It took me a while to accept this, and see the advantages to just letting things flow. In this kind of work, with the main goal to mobilise people at different levels, and with a high level of unpredictability, it may be counterproductive to make rigid plans with a fixed idea of how things should pan out, as you’re forever trying to force a particular direction. The challenge is instead to be able to devise a strategy which is coherent but flexible enough to absorb all the unforeseen events, occasions and obstacles – which will be many! It has to be the context, with its contingencies, that inform our action; our strategy therefore adapts and changes by the day, in facts by the hour. In other words: don’t make plans, play it by ear! (fp)


Apiwat Phum Kaep

People explaining their dream house design. Most of them would like to have a detached house on stilts, with space for animals and to grow plants and trees.


In Apiwat, we started the activity discussing with the community about why the map was so important, even if they were going to have to relocate, and indeed the results were relevant. First of all we found out that there were 9 families more than what the government surveyed in 2012, which led to the question: will the government provide land for all of us, or only for the “officially recognized” households? Then we managed to get the name of each family, the job of the head of the household and its workplace location, which shows clearly why most of them cannot afford to be relocated very far – many fishermen need to live by the sea, many women sell crabs in Kep market nearby, etc. Also, we learned that this linear settlement is made of five “clusters”, where people gather in small open spaces, and visited them. Many people agreed that in the new settlement they would like to keep these kinds of spaces, and share them with the same neighbours they have now. We did the dream house exercise, and even if everyone was very shy in the beginning, we got 26 houses pinned up on the wall in the end, and twelve people were brave enough to present in front of the others. Because the design couldn’t get into technical details, we were able to discover more information about how the community organised themselves, current ways of living, their needs, the socio-economic context, their desires of relocation, and what would be needed to retain. Community people themselves were more aware of the importance of some elements of their current livelihoods and we were able to start drafting a new settlement layout together from a very different standpoint

First draft and latest version of Apiwat map, identifying 61 households, the jobs, members of the family, and common spaces and ammenities, as well as 5 clusters of families..


The design process carried out by community people.

Linear layout

Intermediate layout

Each layout is made up of small clusters around common spaces, that reflect the current organization of the settlement: the families sharing them are the same currently living nearby.


Compact layout

than in Punli Resmai. And indeed the organizing principle, and starting point of the new layout was from these open spaces that they currently use together. In addition the names of the new families were included, as well as planning who wanted to live beside who. Finally, after a week, the people of Apiwat agreed on a layout that is, in my opinion, far more complex and sensitive than the one of Punli Resmai. They did so by discussing through their current way of life and spatial organization, identifying the elements they value, and trying to transpose them in the new site. Though the site is still fictitious, they

developed a method and a logic of using space themselves, that can apply to any site. They also demonstrated a pragmatic understanding of the question, trying to merge their desire of a linear settlement recalling their current setting and a more compact layout to find enough space in the inner city. After the collective design sessions, they decided to resume savings group, waiting for the government to tell them where will they be relocated. As community architects, we had an active role in the sensitivity of this design process. I think the lack of organization, and maybe uncertainty in this case helped to have more open and productive discussions, and explore many different possibilities with less biases or predetermined visions.

After small groups discussion, representatives explain their views on thelayouts. Every group agreed on an intermediate layout as the best way forward; however, many concerns were raised and suggestions made.

The participants to the last day of workshop in Apiwat Phum Kaep, in which people agreed to restart savings.


“There’s no recipe for participation [...]; everytime we have to reinvent it, and experiment anew.” Giancarlo De Carlo 48


JAKARTA, Indonesia Jakarta skyscape: kampungs and megabuilds.



You can’t talk about Jakarta’s urbanism without talking about the resilience of the kampung, or ‘urban village’. Kampungs are indigenous settlements built by people seeking work opportunities in the city, and continue to provide an essential stock of affordable housing. These densely populated, low-rise neighbourhoods blur distinctions between working and living, public and private spaces, and they add to Jakarta’s economy considerably, while actively protecting the cultural and social fabric of Indonesian society. Kampungs are celebrated in identity making of Indonesian cities, however those that contradict government spatial planning, are rendered “invisible” in city maps, so they continue to exist without land title and remain marginalised from upgrading programs and many public services. Such areas are vulnerable to large-scale ruthless evictions under empty promises of inadequate housing solutions and minimal compensation. In establishing Jakarta, the Dutch fashioned a complex system of floodgates and canals to protect a city sitting below sea level. After ensuring that key areas in the city remain flood free, decision making about where excess water goes remains to be an ad hoc system of trial and error, in addition essential infrastructure has been left to rot over time, and so the

capacity to reliably manage flooding in Jakarta is severly limited. Meanwhile the river itself has become a dumping site for waste, and critical water catchment areas are being waterproofed by unmitigated opportunistic development, such that flood water is now dirtier and faster, arriving more frequently with less warning, such that flooding is more hazardous than in the past. In January 2013, nearly half of Jakarta was underwater for almost a week, ensuing billions of dollars in damage. The government of Indonesia, under incredible pressure to tackle the flooding problem, accepted a USD 190 million World Bank loan to improve water flow in the city, by dredging and widening canals and retention basins. Rather than critically questioning how development practices are helping to create a condition of inundation, removing obstacles to increase the flow of water is cast as the solution to the problem, thereby justifying the destruction of hundreds of kampung. Public skepticism is starting to grow however, questioning how impoving water flow into already inundated areas will help flooding in the long term. The newly appointed pro-poor govenor Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi, offers hope to low-income people of Jakarta. He promised publicly there would no longer be any condemnations and evictions, but instead legalization of illegal kampungs, land rights, planning and appropriate housing for those without land title. However the ability of the governor to influence autocratic national government projects remains questionable, and his promise has already fallen short.

Flooding in the riverbank kampung of Bukit Duri. Due to poor land use and neglected infrastructure, flooding is becoming a frequent occurance.


Working context, Jakarta

Ciliwung Merdeka, ‘Free River’ The Ciliwung River and Pluit Reservoir are large water bodies in Jakarta, set to be ‘normalized’ under Jakarta’s Emergency Flood Mitigation program. The Ministry of Public works is nominally responsible for all water bodies in Indonesia and for their normalization, however the implementation - including removal of land and people - is ultimately left up to the will and limited capacity of the local governments. The normalization project of Ciliwung River will leave roughly 15,000 families in need of housing. No reliable rehousing programme exists for eviction victims, the common

Left: government images illustrating the normalization of Ciliwung River. Right: aerial view showing where the project will impact kampongs in Bukit Duri and Kampong Pulo. 52

“Despite our differences, together we have one hope for a better life�.


CM theatre, music and community house in Bukit Duri. Cultural education programmes use music and art to build confidence and bring awareness to children about their situation of marginality.


approach remains to be violent clearing coupled with empty promises of compensation and housing. The few times housing has been built it is too far away, and lacking amenities for it to be a viable option. Charities abound which are eager to donate time or money to temporarily improve the situation for marginalised people, but are inadequate to accomplish structural change. There are not yet any ACHR housing projects in Jakarta, but two organisations exist which facilitate the vulnerable urban poor in overcoming practices of exclusion and inaccessibility: the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) and Ciliwung Merdeka (CM, ‘Free River’). UPC has existed for 20 years, committed to defending people’s rights in scenarios where such rights are being systematically violated. In Pluit reservoir UPC secured meetings with Jokowi for the residents, and organised design workshops bringing CAN architects from Yogyakarta, to envision mid-rise housing strategies. Since the big flood in Jakarta in 2007, Ciliwung Merdeka has provided support to vulnerable individuals along Ciliwung River in the areas of Bukit Duri and Kampung Pulo. Initially providing disaster response, the NGO has grown to run health care and kampung improvement programmes as well as environmental, art and cultural education. Their mission is to facilitate and empower the residents, particularly women and children, to be proactive and make a better life for themselves. Jokowi gave a warning that he planned to visit Bukit Duri on his electoral campaign. CM took advantage of this opportunity by working with professional architects to prepare a proposal for an onsite reblocking rather than relocation in the context of Ciliwung River’s normalization.

Members of the community presented their proposal for a ‘Humane Vertical Kampung’ in Bukit Duri to Jokowi when he arrived. He liked it so much he brought directors from the housing agency to see it days after his inauguration. The proposal recognises the regulation width used in the normalization plan, but challenges the architecture of the embankment itself such that onsite reblocking of the settlements is a possibility, and access to the river remains public. The placement profile suggested I would be working with CM to facilitate the participatory design process of their ‘Humane Vertical Kampung’. Despite the hope Jokowi had brought, on arriving I realised this task was more the ideal case scenario, as it was going to be a challenge getting the project approved on insecure land title. Overnight my role flipped, from facilitating an architectural design process to that of increasing the viability, visibility and legitimacy of the vertical kampung proposal. And in the context of the normalization project itself, representing the design process for Bukit Duri and Kampung Pulo as a methodology such that it can be used as a rehousing solution along the entire Ciliwung River.

Principle Section of Humane Vertical Kampung by the community of Bukit Duri and NGO Ciliwung Merdeka. 55

Planning around eviction in Bukit Duri

Humane Vertical Kampung proposal

Flood responsive embankment design. The design incorporates a dynamic material and social edge condition that responds to and absorbs changing water levels, embracing flooding, rather than trying to control the temperament of the water. 56

In order to create the proposal for Jokowi’s visit, CM facilitated focus groups in communities across Kampung Pulo and Bukit Duri, to collectively decide on guiding principles for a new kampung. Five main themes emerged: 1. The embankment to become an active public space, such that the river remains an accessible public good; 2. Housing construction system that allows for self-build system of material infill; 3. Participatory design by and for the people; 4. Communal living and public spaces; 5. Flood responsive design of river edge and housing. The alternative design of the embankment in the vertical kampung proposal challenges the government’s indiscriminate use of heavy hardscape in a flood-prone area, while questioning the uniform width of a 7.5m inspection road which renders the river inaccessible. If the inspection road is reduced to the minimum width needed for emergency access, and the minimum plot size reduced, a mid-rise housing typology can fit on the

set back land, according to national regulations. While the incentive of the proposal is to secure an alternative to relocation, the proposal also realises the inadequacy of the normalisation project to mitigate flooding on the long term, and suggests a better way forward to approach flood management which starts to correct inundation, and lives with and responds to flooding and unpredictability, rather than trying to stamp it out. In this way the scapegoats, the encroached kampung settlers, become the possibility makers for a better Jakarta. People living on the river edge have adjusted to living in an area of high exposure to flooding. For example when the water is high many access their homes from the second floor by using gang planks that connect to a

Sketch depicting the possibility of onsite reblocking. Rather than tear down and build anew, this system allows some built structures to stay untouched.


A women continues to run her business selling homemade fried tofu and spring rolls despite experiencing knee level 58 flooding in Bukit Duri.

building on dry ground. Residents here are also linked by an SMS network to communities living further upstream, so they can know ahead of time when flooding will occur, and reconfigure their lives accordingly. At a certain threshold flooding will always be a hazard, but via small practices they have introduced a resilience to flooding, building a community that softens how such a hazard impacts their lives. Such adaptive modes of learning to live with flooding will be erased in the name of a flood risk management plan which will likely add to the state of inundation in Jakarta. Some communities on Ciliwung river have built embankments that absorb water rather than redirecting it downstream, while others remove trash from the river and despite not having access to centralize rubbish pick-up having made concerted efforts to not dump in the river. Together with the activities of environmentalist activist groups, the foundations of a comprehensive flood mitigation programme are already in place, but just need support and scaling up. Recognizing and validating these efforts presents a strong case for on-site upgrading as part of a larger alternative and adaptive flood mitigation proposal. My original role was to support participatory design of building, but slowly over time it enlarged to encompass best practices for flood mitigation as it relates to housing security, as that’s where what prompts the question of eviction. But these concerns act on two very different scales, and as a practitioner trying to mobilize interest on the ground, families facing eviction have far more immediate and important questions to answer than questions around long term environmental sustainability and governance. Ultimately the question is how can best practice flood solutions for the city plug into, map onto and compliment positive practices already at work on the ground for a more effective flood management solution at much lower cost for the city, and in bringing the different scales of concern together, how can responses to an ecological threat work together with housing solutions for the urban poor?


Planning around eviction in Bukit Duri

The advantage of scaling-down Mobilising people




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Jokowi’s response to the Vertical Kampung Proposal by CM was positive, he used the render image during his campaign trail and brought housing officials the day after his inauguration to listen again to proposals by the community. His response made publicly was that the design must be cheap, legal, and have consensus, however it remains unclear what this interest means in practice. As no no programmes are in place to support participatory planning in Jakarta, CM must essentially facilitate the production of a detailed design proposal with the community that can convince the governor’s team of its affordability, feasibility and conflictfree implementation. As community architects, this is great: there exists an audience dedicated to the plight of urban poor in Jakarta who encourages participatory design, and if received well, the project could be implemented, potentially at scale along the river and across the city. But the situation on the ground is such that eviction is likely, as the proposal contests government regulation to widen the river, and no examples of community-led design exist in Jakarta to serve as inspiration. Coupled with conflicting and diverse needs across the communities, which are unlikely to be resolved easily, such conditions create a situation of apathy to participating in the detailed planning of the vertical kampung. Since February the community house in Bukit Duri has hosted weekly public discussions inviting surrounding RT’s to plan collectively how to approach the government, and fill in the details of the design. It remains

Render produced by Architecture Practice Yu Sing.

The power of a single image CM worked with the architectural practice YuSing to produce a concept render of a vertical kampung in preparation for Jokowi’s visit to Bukit Duri. YuSing turned the ideas from the focus groups into a design concept. The render shows that on-site reblocking is not only possible, but can be socially and economically sensitive. The concept sketch has played a critical role in legitimizing the possibility of on-site re-blocking however at the same time it has had a negative impact on the participation process within the community. Despite repeating that the image only shows one possible outcome and is in no way finalized, the image nevertheless has created a sense of completion in the design process without a feeling of ownership. The process of participatory design produces an invaluable space to work through and overcome doubts, concerns and diverse interests. Such opportunity was lost in outsourcing the design process, and the image has possibly solidified previous doubts about collective action as in the image what they see first is problems which will emerge. But without the professional render it’s possible that Jokowi would never have noticed the community, and now they are on his radar as active. In urban contexts such as Jakarta decisions are often made project-byproject and spontaneous processes of participatory design face a big challenge. How to create a representation that on the one hand captures the attenion of the government, and secures their trust and reliability in our design process, but does not lock or reduce creativity and spirit of the participatory process itself? (as)


Observing the small details What seems to be almost taken for granted in the kampung is how the flexibility of use, and constant appropriation of spaces makes living on low and inconsistent incomes possible in Jakarta as it allows uses of spaces that can constantly change according to needs of livelihoods and live-work economies. While people are aware of how relocation to a new area will impact their livelihoods in terms of decreased access to amenities, there seems to be little awareness of how restructuring the social environment will impact their lives as well. The lifestyle change from one that is communal and fluid to one that is privatized and fixed has many hidden costs, imposing limitations on live-work economies and ability to care fore the needs of your family. Below is an image depicting the bluriness between public and private spaces outside my house. (as)


private semi-private semi-public public

incredibly difficult to access information on the specific details of the government’s rehousing plan for families who will be evicted. Depending on which side of the river you’re on, different local government manage the rehousing, furthermore within Bukit Duri itself land ownership is split between Ministry of Transportation and Public works, with those living on the former feeling safe from eviction. At the start 70 people across 8 communities representing 700 households were showing interest in the public discussions, but with problems outweighing solutions solidarity presented itself as a huge challenge. By May the numbers attending had dwindled greatly, and the director of CM decided to independently resign from the process. Over time it became clear to me that to try to achieve a single design solution to appease everyone, the different fractions of government, the various kampungs across Kampong Pulo and Bukit Duri when there are so many unknowns is not only an incredibly difficult task, but likely to be compromised. The widening and canalization of the river is being managed and implemented haphazardly, experiencing internal conflicts between different sectors of the government, and external skepticism of the long term benefits is raising. What we do know about the future is that it is incredibly uncertain, it’s not clear if anyone actually knows with confidence what will happen to the land in question, or how the people living on it will be rehoused. There is great advantage to this uncertainty in terms of contesting an inevitable outcome, however with very little objective information it is very difficult to work together at the scale needed to devise a strategy and produce a plan which challenges that of the government. Since the unraveling of the weekly public discussions our role as facilitators of the planning process as been twofold. Firstly to find ways to increase engagement in particular aspects of the planning and design process of the Humane Vertical Kampung. We started focus groups to address different parts of the proposal such as experimenting with low cost housing materials, a system for room allocation in mid-rise living depending on socio-economic needs, livelihoods survey, surveying site and experimenting with construction methods. At this more intimate and


The collectively built floating toilet is preferred to the set back government built public toilet as it adjusts to fluctuating water levels and provides ample space for washing facilities as well as a popular gathering point.


directed scale of discussion people felt more comfortable participating in the conversation, and the result was much more productive as the space existed to talk through and overcome doubts and differing opinions. By breaking the large goal into digestible pieces it turned the process from impossible to feasible. Secondly we shifted into looking for common ground. People don’t want to be relocated from Bukit Duri and Kampung Pulo because their kampung provides a form of security and happiness. In the past the government has provided very little public services to the kampung, and in response families have worked together to build a better and more secure life for themselves, requiring a lot of time and money which will not be recognised in compensation. The question of fair compensation opened a discussion on how the kampung has developed over time, from collective work, ingenuity and creativity within the community to overcome a situation of marginality. Recognising what people have achieved, and ultimately own together, brought forth some solidarity in the upgrading process.

Rather than trying to reach agreement on what people with diverse interests want to build anew together, the line of enquiry changed direction, and became “what is special about the kampung that you don’t want to loose, and hope to retain in the future, wherever you are?” A survey was created in another focus group trying to capture the characteristics of the kampung which are valuable to its residents, with the trigger question “What will you miss from Bukit Duri?” Bukit Duri is in a very strategic location, close to a national market and three stations offering the inhabitants low-skilled casual-labour job opportunities, and opportunity for live-work economies. Being in walkable distance to socio-economic ammenities and public services such as schools, clinics, small and large traditional markets in the area, which would be hard to access if relocated, was people’s most frequent response. Many social qualities of the neighbourhood such as trusting neighbours, friends, ability to share resources, and systems of organization and support were also mentioned. The answers which are location based start to substantiate solidarity and an argument for on-site rehousing, while the social-amenity based start to question the suitability of conventional high rise living.

Where will our kampong be cut? How to measure that which always moves. Without having access to the governments plans for Normalization, the community had to calculate themselves where the settlement will be cut, who will be impacted, and how much space will remain. Surprisingly, this proved to be a difficult task! As the river height always changes, a setback measurement from the edge wouldn’t be precise. Boys had to swim across the river at different spots to find the centre-point of the river, and measure from there. (as)

Calculating where Bukit Duri will be cut after the river widening.


Planning around eviction in Bukit Duri

Filling in design: Innovative

Mobilising people



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

One of the agreed concepts of the vertical kampung proposal is self-build material infill. The Ciliwung River offers a continuous supply of rubbish, how to use such a resource? We facilitated a series of workshops exploring how to use plastic bottles as an alternative form of building construction, for its affordability and zero carbon impact. Plastic bottles offer an alternative building technology that is much lighter than conventional concrete construction, therefore also responsive to Jakarta’s increasing inundation problem. we split into focus groups with hundreds of plastic bottles, and simply explored how to connect the bottles to each other to create a construction component, in the end each group presented their prototypes, and we discussed together the strengths and weaknesses of each. we filled two 1x1x1 panels with 2 preferred connection systems from the previous workshop. The problem to solve evolved from how to connect the bottles to each other to how to plug the bottles into an opening. we repaired a gap in a balcony using the preferred system from workshop 2. The problem to solve became how to fit the bottle stacks into different size openings securely. During this session we were approached by Ibu Bete, a single mother in the kampung with bags full of plastic bottles, requesting we replace her broken window with bottles.

Workshop 1:

Opposite page: workshops experimenting with plastic bottle construction. In a city which is slowly sinking building exploring the possibility of using lighter construction materials is imminently needed. 66


Workshop 2:

Workshop 3:


Below and opposite: workshops using plastic to create headbands, lamps, seats...


Workshop 4: filling Ibu Bete’s Wall. Her upstairs floor

beams had started to sag, so the preliminary discussions with her were about how to correct this sagging. This was followed by how to fill the hole. Ibu Bete asked us “and what about when there is a flood, and I must clean the bottles, or if I must replace a bottle stack?� Thus the problem to solve changed again, from a mechanical question of how to fill the hole, to a maintenance one. Eventually we developed a system in which the bottle stacks are strong, and can be replaced easily. As infill the bottles can be crushed and covered in a thin layer of cement, these workshops served as a way to feel in more detail the

opportunities in incremental infil. There are technical challenges, but also social. While some people saw bottles walls as a viable alternative, others felt it looked ugly. The ultimate goal however is that people have the freedom to fill their walls with the material of their choice, bottles merely being one option. As plastic bottles are considered a waste product they offer an incredibly accessible and bottomless resource in the context of Jakarta. Bottles can be crushed and covered in thin layer of cement such that you can’t even see it anymore. These workshops served as a way to feel out in practical terms the opportunities, limitations and flexibility of using alternative infill materials. Unless a system of bottle construction can be tested such that properties of safety, resilience and longevity are better understood, the government, and the majority of the community will see it as risky. As a practitioner there’s a push and pull between the desire to implement what you see as an opportunity, and holding a sense of responsibility in experimenting with peoples lives. Another bottomless resource is plastic straws, so we explored the possibility of reusing plastic straws to create a woven material that could potentially be used for screens, roofs, or cladding. Possibly because of the delicacy of the straws, or the colour, boys were rarely interested for very long, and the workshops evolved of their own accord into how to use plastic straws to make fashion accessories. Our headbands have been popular within the kampung, and outside, since then Ciliwung Merdeka has been invited to host workshops to showcase these products.


Planning around eviction in Bukit Duri

Mapping the kampung Mobilising people




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Community mapping is often considered a tool of empowerment, but such an outcome is not guaranteed, and if maps don’t have purpose or an audience, the positive impact can be short lived. How to ensure maps have a life? Sometimes the trigger or target comes from outside. Ciliwung Merdeka has helped facilitate many mapping exercises across Bukit Duri, some end products of site work conducted by university students, other made with the individual RT leader heads, however none captures a specific kampung character. These maps lie nested together in the attic of the community house. The question of ‘community profile’ came up many times in talking with various stakeholders. “You can’t rely on an act of generosity to save the kampung, you must show its worth”, I remember one man saying. How can one individual community show its worth? But that’s how extermination is legitimized. Kampung life in general is under threat to new development and Bukit Duri, along with all the other settlements along the riverbank, represent and stand as a large frontier to this mass deletion. What makes these kampungs unique is how communities have been organised and invested a lot of money and time over the years in the building of services and amenities such as mosques, roads, water infrastructure, toilets, health clinics, schools, to overcome marginalisation and build a better life for themselves. We agreed that a spatial profile could show the special hybrid and evolving nature of the kampung, how it has grown as a product of people’s individual and collective endeavours

and investments met with with sporadic government and/or third party interventions. Eviction compensation is only for individually owned buildings, discrediting communal systems of labour and investment. Mapping collective investment could theoretically help people bargain for more fair and collective forms of compensation, on top of individual. As we held more informal discussions about the unique nature of the kampung, interest in creating a community profile started to grow, but we didn’t really know how to start, and we were still uncertain about what we wanted to show. The trigger came unexpectedly, through a delicate collaboration with another NGO, Solo Kotakita, which specializes in increasing the accessibility of community data via visuals and media representations. Solo Kotakita sent us two interns from Harvard University to produce a community profile of Bukit Duri and Kampung Pulo. They arrived with a fixed notion of what they wanted to produce, our participation was limited to that of collecting survey data for their infographic. It wasn’t clear how this process was beneficial for us, nor what context the product could be used in. However what existed was a large number of people excited to work together in producing a community profile, this presented an opportunity impossible to pass by, if only we could get our hands on the process! The interns had a short time in Bukit Duri, so were concerned about getting systematic data, within a specific time frame in order to compile the graphic, but weren’t so concerned about how the data was collected. Our response was twofold: first to remake the survey according to what people in Bukit Duri felt to be important characteristic data of the kampung, such as percentage of indigenous Botowi people. Second to conduct mapping ourselves in all 35 RT’s to collect the remaining data while holding informal discussions about the oncoming normalization. Knowing that mapping can be a lengthy process we devised an action plan with the keenest mappers, to ensure the interns could trust us in getting them the data on time. We created mapping teams, discussed where to map, by whom, on what day, as well as what the maps will communicate, and created a guide so that first time mappers were


confident facilitating the process and we could have multiple maps being made at once. The interns were relying on us to collect the data, so when we proposed our plan to gather the data ourselves they didn’t hesitate to say yes, possibly relieved to forget about the details and use their field time for other observations. In the end we didn’t succeed in mapping all 35 RT areas, however we did gather all the completed surveys, and the interns were able to produce infographics for us from their rooms in Harvard. I’m not sure if these images will ever see daylight, but it can not be denied their presence in Bukit Duri was instrumental in triggering the initiative to start working on a community profile. The relationship was not a pleasant one at the beginning, we fought, and cried a lot, but ultimately this disagreement gave us the resources and will to do it ‘our way’.

Incremental mapping to close the gap


Many maps have been made of Bukit Duri and Kampung Pulo, but none catch the essence of kampung life; “kampung” is simultaneously a physical and social environment, how to represent the built environment so that it speaks of its social life? At the local scale the resolution is high enough to see individual activities, practices, public spaces etc. but misses the significance of cross-cutting conditions on kampung life and growth. Maps produced at broader scale are too simplistic, including important features only, losing the importance of individual practices. How to show the kampung life across the whole aree without losing the individual? To map the area in one sitting would be impossible to organize, so we decided to map at the local scale, and stitch the maps together like a patchwork. In areas where we know people personally we spontaneously gathered people together and mapped as far as we could in every direction, were the information ended we found another group to take it further. Where we had no contacts we had to meet with the community leader, and map with fewer participants. Mapping in a public space such as a street with high foot traffic was always our first choice as nearly everyone who walked by was curious and would engage in some way, but public spaces can be a premium in very dense areas. (as)

Mapping Guide: together we created a list of questions and system of colour coding and symbols to ensure that all the maps would speak the same language, and potentially come together into one larger map. 73

Different ideas on ‘community profile’ The interns arrived wanting to map where, and to what extent areas lacked access to basic services, a mapping process Solo Kotakita had already conducted with great success in Solo. However the situation on the ground in Solo was very different, and as a result many challenges arose. In Solo the mayor had started to experiment with participatory budgeting, so visualising an area’s lack of access to basic services relatively to other areas made it easier for communities to participate in budgeting forums. The interns stated from the outset they didn’t want to touch the situation of eviction here in Bukit Duri, however it was clear that producing a map showing what the community was missing was far less useful than a map showing the extent of what the community and the government has already invested in the area. Another discrepancy was the scale of resolution. The interns wanted to create block data per RT from the surveys to visualise the diversity which exists across Kampung Pulo and Bukit Duri, but again we weren’t sure how this would be useful, and in the challenge of mobilizing people we felt we couldn’t afford to lose sight of the individual, so pushed to map in more detail. However the interns felt it was too difficult to plug the self-drawn maps into the CAD maps they were intent on using “It just doesn’t fit, and the maps aren’t an accurate representation” they kept saying. We agreed to try using the CAD map as the base image for community mapping, so the information could be inserted easily, however it was impossible for the community to locate themselves in the CAD maps, as the building outlines constructed from an aerial views bear virtually no resemblance to how things look on the ground. Before meeting it seemed like our collaboration was perfect, we needed someone to help us visualize the kampung environment, and they were keen to create a spatial profile in Jakarta, but over time we discovered our understanding of participation and ‘community profile’ were very different, as were our interests. However, with a delicate combination of trial and error, patience and trust, we managed to find common ground, and both groups benefited. In hindsight if we had planned more prior to their arrival, the discrepancy in our approaches would have surfaced, and it’s very possible we would have seen more differences than similarities and given up before trying! (as) 74

People from different RTs with their maps. 75

Planning around eviction in Bukit Duri

‘Affordable’ housing Mobilising people




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Erasmus Haus hosted a design workshop and exhibition titled Affordable housing and super-kampungs in Jakarta earlier this year. The event was curated by Daliana Suryawinata, an Indonesian starchitect from SHAU, and The Why Factory (T?W), a research arm of Dutch architecture office MVRDV. It followed up on an exhibition previously held in Amsterdam which introduced the ‘super-kampung’ as a conceptual design solution to save ‘urban-villages’ facing extinction to the rapid propagation of anonymous superblocks spreading across Asian cities. The workshop valorized characteristics such as ‘individuality’, ‘human-scale’, ‘flexibility’, ‘collectivity’ ‘organic-growth’, ‘publicness’ and ‘diversity’ within Jakarta kampungs. To bring innovative solutions to the discussion table around Jakarta’s housing problem, famous architects were invited to suggest strategies for increasing vertical growth in kampungs, while making sure to preserve their essence and livelihoods. ‘Affordable housing’ housing, Suryawinata pointed out in the opening speech, means a lot more than cheap to build, and if we want to develop appropriate housing solutions for Jakarta’s urban poor, this must be addressed head on. In a way kampungs, particularly the informal ones, present the best method around (albeit unplanned) to house low-income people in Jakarta, as characteristics such as the opportunity for incremental infrastructure, the ability to appropriate and use space in temporary ways, and the blurring between public and private spaces and amenities afford financial security, safety and community life to the residents which

conventional housing solutions do not. The workshop encouraged us to expand on the meaning of affordable housing in relation to mainstream housing solution. Ciliwung Merdeka was invited to present their community design for a vertical kampung mid rise living. Eko Prawoto, a famous Indonesian architect, spoke about the incredibly delicate and tangled nature of kampungs, warning that copying aesthetics and construction characteristics alone wouldn’t directly translate into the dynamic characteristics of kampung life, calling for participatory design if retaining kampung qualities was really the goal. CM followed on a similar line, talking about how in the kampung economic spaces are produced over time via micro practices of

Elasticity and affordability Collective appropriation and temporal use of spaces maximize space in the kampung while reducing the cost of daily life. The privatization of livelihoods and amenities in most standardization solutions brings with it many hidden costs, for this reason the possibility of sharing amenities should remain an option that must be built into the design. Marginalized individuals are usually surviving on low as well as inconsistent incomes, and so a flexible environment that adapts to the waxing and waning of resources reduce vulnerability to external shocks and pressures. Features such as blurring between public and private spaces, live-work economies, and communal and elastic public spaces are key features to affordability of the kampung environment. (as)

The various ways use and ownership of spaces extend in and out.


The kampung’s spatial arrangement allows for affordable living.


negotiation that can not be copy-pasted into a design without thinking critically about how, when, and by who spaces are used, repeating Eko’s point, that the future users themselves must participate in the design for housing that fits their lives. In closing the exhibition, groups exhibited their proposals for fostering vertical kampung growth, made during the workshop. To be honest I was skeptical, anticipating merely aesthetic applications of kampung characteristics, however the results were surprising. The proposals almost unanimously presented sensitive strategies to scale up already existing economies, and introduce physical and social infrastructure, adding to the existent built environment rather than tearing down and building anew

such that the kampung doesn’t lose its essence, or its people, incrementally triggering and activating organic growth at a pace which doesn’t ‘shock’ the system, including labour from inside as well as outside. Often the people themselves were earmarked as the drivers of the vertical growth process, governing where and when new infrastructure should enter, managing the production of space themselves. Admittedly it’s an idealist notion to imagine Jakarta’s housing authority to even consider taking these proposals onboard, however, the housing ministry team did seem to recognize affordable housing must be more than cheap to produce, and must consider how people are to continue supporting themselves and their loved ones, which contrasts sharply to how housing has been thought of in the past. What groups struggled to visualise was the participatory process, stating the image represents ‘one possible scenario’ only. I could relate to this, and was reminded of the dilemma in YuSing’s image of the Humane Vertical Kampung, where to ‘sell’ the idea it needs a physical form, and such form brought necessary visibility to the Bukit Duri community, but at the same time the rich and ever so delicate input which can emerge in participatory design and planning was lost, and locked people’s image of the future. Given the scale of the case sites in question, the number of families, and size of the area, coordinating participatory design from the ground up would be an unruly task. Kampungs are built collaboratively by the community over time, but we don’t refer to these as cases of participatory planning, because it was never sketched out ahead of time by the residents. In the same way I think the proposals by more mainstream architects pushed the limits of our conventional understanding of participatory planning and design, from one in which all the future residents gather around a piece of paper and design together their new layout to a more active participative production of space, within a time-based process. As an architect I see the opportunity in design to both frame, and manage participatory processes at scale, such that communities can govern the growth of their environments, while questioning conventional understanding of participatory planning.


“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity, nothing exceeds the criticisms made of the habits of the poor by the well-housed, wellwarmed, and well-fed� 80

Herman Melville


MANILA, Phillippines Informal settlement on water in Manila.



The Philippines has a peculiar character: though geographically situated in South East Asia, the country resembles the Pacific coast a lot more than its neighbouring countries, due to five centuries of Spanish and American colonization. Spreading across more than 4000 islands, the archipelago is home to many different ethnic groups, languages, religions and traditions, although Tagalog has been adopted as a lingua franca, and English is spoken or understood by the majority of the population. The country’s economy is currently booming, and cities the main drivers of development. However, the pace of urbanization is not matched by shared economic growth, as state policies are directed at the creation of wealth, rather than job places. In such a labor surplus economy, with the highest population growth (1.9%) and urban population (68%) rates in the region, housing for the lower income sectors of society is a preeminent issue, especially in urban areas. Land in cities is becoming increasingly valuable, with concerns of a realestate bubble: as there is no socially responsible land use policy in place, the urban poor experience tenure insecurity and evictions. In addition to this, state services in support of lowincome citizens are completely inadequate: for example, only 0.09% of the GDP goes to public housing (in Thailand is 0.53%).

The government now runs a Community Mortgage Programme to supply loans to legally organized communities to purchase the land and cover construction or improvement costs (both for on-site upgrading and relocation), and a recently started scheme of mid-rise social housing in urban areas. However, these policies only touch the surface of the highly contested land problem. The Philippines is also prone to natural disasters, from typhoons to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Environmental degradation, particularly in urban areas, only increases the problem, and most poor communities are subject to flooding every year in the rainy season. At present the government is relocating families located in what are identified as high-risk areas, mainly waterways, as a pre-emptive disaster response and better flood-control. Although the process is intended to be consensual, and alternative housing will be provided by the authorities, the urgent clear up of waterways is the priority, with precedence over participatory upgrading. Such urban pressures are brought to an extreme in Manila, a sprawling metropolis of more than 10 million inhabitants that serves as the country’s political, economic and cultural hub, where uncontrolled sprawl, pollution and speculation put poor communities under high pressure to relocate.

Manila Bay, one of the most polluted areas in the Philippines.


Working Context, Manila


Team TAMPEI, the role of the young

The Phillippines is very unique in that the country works in unions, and people are often part of many organizations. This may be one reason for why the ACHR process of community-driven change is significantly developed and organized. The ACHR network in the Phillippines is driven by the Phillipine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc. (PACSII) who encourages and assists communities in getting organized, starting savings groups, and mobilizing themselves to acquire land and housing. PACSII have 3 main divisions; a technical arm, the Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment, Inc (TAMPEI), a financial arm, the Philippine Action for Slum Upgrading Facility, Inc (PASUFI), who together collaborate with Homeless People’s Federation International (HPFPI), stretching across cities in the Philippines, especially in disaster prone areas. Each organization has its own individual strengths, skills, and responsibilities, but in working together towards one goal as an alliance, gaps in the process are filled-in in a collaborative, and synergetic way, which is vital to the process. Many organizations are working together covering the ACHR process from orientation to savings implementation, and coordination with the authorities on multiple levels. At first the scale and political context of the Phillipines was overwhelming, but the various partners working across parts of Manila made it easy to adjust. As a practitioner in a foreign context the challenge of translating languages as well as technical know-how, was less of a challenge than I was expecting because PACSII is partnered with

translators, so knowledge and support was always readily available. I worked in close collaboration with the youth group TAMPEI, who acted as my companions, translators, teachers, motivators and friends throughout my time there. I realized it is so important to involve young people for a number of reasons, beyond the humor and fun they bring to the workplace. First of all their motivation; given their young nature, they will go over and beyond what is asked from them. Secondly as they are still learning, and open to working outside the box, they have fresh and constantly evolving expertise, and are happy to share it via practice with community members and other non-architects in simple terms in a practical way. This expands the learning circle significantly while closing the gap of professionalism superiority. There’s a chance to affect the conditions of the next generation: the eagerness, optimism and creativity of the youth brought alternative and innovative perspectives to the challenges the communities face. And because they are local students they possess local knowledge and local language making them excellent translators for English but also for culture. The biggest challenge TAMPEI faces is is the high turnover of members, which they hope to tackle in the future through more outreach and more financial incentives.

The PACSII and TAMPEI team.


Realizing the city scale in Manila


The CAN regional workshop in 2013 was hosted in Metro Manila. The regional workshop invited architects, engineers, urban planners and academic institutions from across the CAN network in Asia, from Japan to India, to share about the progress of community-led upgrading in their country. Using the incredible enthusiasm, incentive, and diverse perspectives brought together in the same place, members worked together for this short time to try to find creative solutions to overcome challenges faced by individual communities, as well as obstacles and bottlenecks in the upgrading and land buying process more generally in the host country. The evolution of ACCA into a city-wide approach in regards to financing, organization, and strategic alliances is new. For CAN and its affiliations, the workshop in Manila gave critical space and opportunity to share and reflect between countries and practitioners what such a citywide approach means in practice on the ground, how to get fragemented upgrading projects to support each other, work together at a city-scale, and what are the tools needed to continue bringing a city-wide focus to other cities. For Metro Manila, the new element of a city-wide approach in the CAN workshop, brought an opportunity to consolidate and concentrate efforts, and find a common direction to the various separate activities currently happening in the metropolitan area, both in preparing for the workshop, and at the workshop itself. My main role in preparing for the workshop was to bring onto one page the upgrading processes already

taking place in cities across the Greater Meropolitan Manila area, visualizing how they are already working towards a city scale but with having little idea of what it meant, working at a city-scale! The workshop worked with communities from three municipalities in the Greater Metropolitan Manila area: Bulacan, Valenzuela and Caloocan. From the beginning of my time in Metro Manilla I helped prepare all three cities for the workshop. But given the vast reach of the communities and the distance between cities as well as the independence of local initiatives as the workshop drew closer we decided it was best to split into teams. I helped focus on Valenzuela and four communities within it: Pinagbuklod Tadhana Homeowners’ Association, Bagong Nayon Neighbourhood Association, Samahang Magkapitbahay ng Sapa Area, and Del Rosario Compound Neighbourhood Association. The Philippine Alliance has been working towards a citywide process for a while, but the workshop became a fantastic ‘goal setter’ and vision to attain for many of the ACHR affiliated organizations. With a high-profile event and deadline to prepare for, mapping and data collection already in motion was able to have an achievable goal of city-wide to work towards.

Community mapping in Valenzuela in preparation for the CAN workshop.


Realizing the city scale in Manila

Making links across Valenzuela Mobilising people

Community activities in Valenzuela: telling a community’s story, and measuring the roads according to the BP220 standard.




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

The communities within Valenzuela, Caloocan and Bulacan are connected only via the Urban Poor Alliances working within their city, the workshop and preparations aided the citywide process by linking the communities together. Preparing for the workshop required working on two scales, the local and the city scale in parallel, with a constant back and forth between the two. The data collection, mapping and discussions needed to prepare the communities for the CAN workshop presented an opportunity to start thinking for the first time about how the separate activities happening in Metro Manila are linked, and how to strategically enhance this link.

Together with the young professionals and student architects, we conducted mapping activities across many communities to make more transparent the connection between their activities and situations within the greater context of the city, while at the same time assembling and visualising how the alliance is currently working across Metro Manila more generally. The series of mapping exercises had a twofold impact. Firstly they helped communities see that there weren’t alone in the challenges they experienced, as many other communities were dealing with issues such as threat of eviction, inadequate site development proposals, land purchase, lack of adequate drainage, access to government housing programs and exposure to natural disasters; communities could envision more easily the benefits of participating in the workshop, as a way to

A map produced during the CAN workshop, showing the relations between Pitahoa community and other settlements in Valenzuela City.


Mapping Lolomboy community.


trigger an initial platform for working together across the city. Secondly mapping across communities layed out the priorities and lines of inquiry for the workshop, and formed the first steps of larger citywide map showing the environmental and housing issues experienced across communities, as well as individual priorities.. Spatializing these issues across the cities of Valenzuela, Caloocan and Bulacan aided thinking about solutions at the city-scale, and enter conversations with stakeholders and local members of government more easily. Owing to the cross migration of people across the country and its location as the northernmost point of Metro Manila, Valenzuela City has developed from an agricultural area into a well-mixed, multicultural metropolis, an economic and industrial centre. Valenzuela is composed of 32 barangays, the smallest administrative unit. It was reported in 2012 that Valenzuela city alone has 31,273 informally settled families, a number that does not include families who are not part of any community associations.

Defending alternative thinking This picture shows a comunnity leader’s practical demonstration of why landfill is not the right answer to inundation problems, not only for her community specifically, but on a broader scale for the city. She filled a glass full of water, threw a handful of stones in it and described that by this landfill, the water spills out. She questioned her fellow members as to where this water goes, whom it affects and if neighbouring communities are land-filling too then are they in turn affected by the water spill? By demonstrating that landfill may only exacerbate flooding problems, sheurged Valenzuela’s communities to work together on alternative ways of building resilience. (zk) Many families are recipients of various social housing finance programs such as the CMP (Community Mortgage Program), CLASP (Community Land Acquisition Support Program), and GLAD (Group Land Acquisition Program) however Valenzuela’s communities face many similar issues; they are all prone to flooding and typhoons in the rainy season and must follow the BP 220 standard for reblocking. Re-blocking obstacles are due to a combination of a lack of technical and legislative awareness, funding or savings groups mobility, and minimal support from the authorities. Working with professional engineers in the past has not proved very successful as it was expensive and generally produced inappropriate, unaffordable solutions. VUPA (Valenzuela Urban Poor Alliance) helped HPFPI, PACSII and TAMPEI introduce the savings groups and the housing process to Valenzuela communities. Having the cooperation of the community members is vital but so was the local knowledge, intimacy and passion of local alliance VUPA. Given that savings groups really demand community mobilization, it can be difficult to get the process off the ground, but the local confidence and information sharing of VUPA helped more adverse members trust the


process, and overcome their concerns, by discussing with and confronting people from other communities. Many communities in Valenzuela participating in the CAN regional workshop were new, preparing them for the workshop involved introducing them for the first time to the upgrading process and the work of the Alliance, community data collection, and city-scale mapping. While working with these new communities the question was always how the local situation contributes to and is affected by the city scale to find common struggles between communities across the city, and envision


working more collectively across the city. It can be difficult to see the value of looking at problems at the city scale when they are experienced locally, and tempting to get drawn into site specific issues. How to bridge local and city scales concerns? We used mapping at a city-wide scale in communities to introduce the notion of city-wide planning, in the exercises we used a large city map to locate and identify personal links to the city such as family and friends, also areas they travelled for work and other purposes, as well as transport links, to see the embeddedness of the community within the city, and the

Mapping Lolomboy community.


position in regards to other communities. These mapping exercises helped everyone involved to gain a better understanding of the meaning of citywide. It became quickly apparent that the process of preparation was not a passive exercise at all, and that my role of preparing for the workshop carried with it the potential and responsibility of being a catalyst, using the workshop as motivation to really push processes forward towards a large

Expanding the influence of local conditions


During one of the mapping workshops, we placed a map of the city on the wall and asked community members to locate their settlement on the map. I thought this activity would be short, but to my surprise it took a lot of discussion to locate their position. Once identified it, people were asked to mark areas in the city visited frequently, be it for work or personal reasons, and they identified areas were their family lived, work locations, as well as major transport links, hospitals and schools. After visualizing the multiple personal connections to the city, it was easy to introduce the idea of “citywide” and to understand the need to avoid thinking of upgrading as only community by community upgrading, but why we should instead think of the city as an interconnected whole. For example, a community which experiences flooding multiple times a year wanted to do a land fill as soon as they purchased their land. We followed the city mapping exercise with mapping activities that outlined the flow of water, and how their personal situation will be affected if they land fill their entire area. Through the mapping it quickly became apparent that if all the land was filled there would be no space for the water to flow out of their community and into the ocean. As a result, community people started thinking about alternative solutions to their flooding problem, designing a new drainage plan and presenting to their fellow communities the reasons why they should learn to live with water instead of always resorting to land fill. As practitioners we don’t know what works, what will trigger thinking outside the box, but it’s in the collective process of thinking through alternative ideas that contributes to a level of confidence, and empowerment to be open to non-conventional methods. (zk)

scale of interaction and management. I was amazed at how the process of preparation alone can impact these processes so much. Throughout the preparation stage I constantly questioned how my activities would help implement the city-wide perspective, but it came together at the workshop where the lengthy mapping preparations served as an invaluable resource to develop stategies towards city-wide action and to bring people’s needs and community initiatives into a position of collective action, planning, and decision making circles about the future of their city. At the workshop communities across Metro Manila were able feel how working together and coordinating activities at a city-wide scale, could have beneficial impact, and how such collective action enabled a positive dialogue with local government. The communities of Del Rosario, PITAHOA, Bagon Nayon and Samasa Parada within Valenzuela city were introduced to each other for the first time at the workshop, this brought overdue awareness of each other’s existence, and empathy; with a deeper understanding of location, distance and consequences of upgrading between communities, design proposals started to develop a more holistic approach, being more sensitive to how their individual upgrading efforts would affect their friends. For example in preparing for the workshop, one community in Valenzuela, previously adamant on landfilling as their only option upon purchasing the land, became open to other more ecological solutions. I used the term ‘city-wide’ liberally throughout the preparation process as if I knew with confidence what it meant to be working to a city-scale, but actually behind the words I realised that the term cannot be imposed on every project. In hindsight I realise that how we approach the citywide planning must remain case specific to community-driven processes, a structural change at the city scale will not follow codes or a prescriptive concept able to be copy-pasted across cities, it is instead something that emerges over time in response to the evolution and strategic use of local resources and scaling-up of local initiatives. So maybe no one knows ahead of time what city-scale will mean in each context, and that’s okay!


Realizing the city scale in Manila

Playing with standards Mobilising people

Opposite page: overnight mapping session in Bagon Nayon community. 96



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

A considerable obstacle to the legalization of informal settlements is construction regulations: standards imposed by governments are often not easy for low-income communities to attain. In the Philippines, the standards for socialized housing projects are regulated by the Batas Pambansa Bilang 220 act, known as BP220. Informed by concerns around health and safety, it includes standards such as minimum lot size, housing size, setback and road width, among others. In cases of settlement formalization, to reblock an existent tightly packed neighbourhood such that it is considered legal under BP220 requires reconfiguring, opening-up and de-densifying the area, and such thinning of assets and resources, combined with expensive land values, makes it difficult for most poor communities to rebuild on site or relocate within the metropolitan area of Manila. Vertical designs are rarely considered due to higher construction expense, ownership complications and disruption of livelihoods. Thus lower-income communities are faced with two options: either move to cheaper suburban areas, severing their socio-economic livelihoods, or build illegally again. PACSII helps to lobby the local government into subsidizing the land purchase. However there’s room for contesting such requirements, as the BP220 admits variances in cases in which strict observance “will cause unnecessary hardship to the case of regional considerations/characteristics, peculiarities of the location and other relevant factors�. In early 2013, a community in Valenzuela proposed to rebuild their settlement with roads narrower than the standard, and after seven

Mapping to be taken seriously During the CAN workshop, in Bagon Nayon we were assigned to develop a reblocking plan that could satisfy concerns of fire safety and density, (even without complying perfectly with official standards). A settlement map already existed, made by an engineer hired by the community some time before, but we quickly realized it wasn’t accurate, containing many mistakes, particularly in how the more dense areas with maze-like alleys and self-build structures were represented. After discussing with the community how and where the map was wrong, we together realized the need of having an accurate map to work on, when proposing viable and convincing alternatives plans to the government. From here the entire settlement, 352 households, was involved in a very careful remapping process; not only the officials of the community association as it happens most of the time, but the majority of the residents as well. They all learnt how to measure their houses and how to represent this information on a scaled map. It was hard work but all the residents were amazingly committed, and perfectionist about the details, working overnight to finish the map within the workshop. It was evident that even expert engineers are not able to map properly without the participation of the inhabitants, as only community members have the necessary depth of knowledge and orientation capacity within such extremely dense and maze-like settlements. (bd) 97

Design at the threshold

People in Samasa tried hard to make a layout according to the standard; but the only way to bring in enough people to reach affordability without infringing the law too much, was building vertical.


My group in the CAN workshop was working on a relocation plan for Samasa community with the aim to involve families from neighbouring communities to share the land cost. People were pushing for a 20sqm plot solution with minimal open spaces, to squeeze as many families into the site as possible to keep the costs low while owning individual plots. The convenience of such a design was its affordability, but for the rest it was unsuitable for community life, and likely to be rejected - the representative from the local authority declared that such a plan “would never be approved”. We mediated between two rather unyielding positions, the community’s and the government’s. We concluded that, if every family was to have its own lot, in compliance to the BP220 standard not more than 75 families could be accommodated: not enough to purchase the land. It was unavoidable to bring in more families, either by reducing the lot size, road widths, and commons spaces or building up vertically. We visualized the first option with mock up models and sketches, to show that it was small and packed, but they still preferred it to the idea of stacking families on top of one another: it was important for them to own the lot individually! Eventually four layouts were developed, one reflecting the community’s wishes, one sticking to the BP220, highlighting their respective drawbacks, and others that mixed different housing typologies to accommodate different financial means and requirements, while respecting the standards as much as possible, to reach a compromise. Given the many uncertain factors, the goal was not to provide any definite layout, but to develop collectively an understanding of how such variables interact, in order for the people to be able to play with these variables on the edge of the standard, and negotiate successfully their relocation. (fp)

re-submissions had their plan approved by the municipality. This case of legally bending the rules created a very important precedent for the rest of the city: following this many other communities submitted ‘below the standard’ plans, and thanks to Valenzuela’s willing administration, four more were approved this year. Community architects PACSII and community builders familiar with BP220 regulations and building codes, assist communities in designing upgrading plans with reduced standards, such that they can afford land purchases on or near site. Such alternative planning proactively questions and successfully works around the very regulations which in practice are continually cutting low-income groups from being included in the formal city. The BP220 standards were conceived as planning guidelines to ensure new neighbourhods are built to a standard of health, safety and liveability. Such a narrow understanding of planning assumes that good quality urban spaces, housing and general well-being can be generated merely following a set of numeric guidelines, without consideration of the social-economic constraints and capacities of the inhabitants. Building codes aren’t necessarily suited to the particular conditions experienced by people on low and inconsistent incomes and should not be implemented without critical questioning of their suitability and greater impact on people’s lives. The alliance is actively pressuring the approval process of upgrading schemes to open up and consider readjusting norms such that the formalization process is more accessible to needs on the ground. Questioning of the appropriateness of rules and regulations, and their impact on how the city redevelops is not likely to come from the government or the communities alone as both are working under highly constrained resources, and pressures to turn over slum areas, the workshop brought to the forefront our responsibility as the ‘third sector’ designers, engineers, etc. to bring to the table the needed resources, attention, creativity, experimentation and openness to work through sensitive alternatives. This does not mean handing over designs for communities to ‘make work’ on their own, but instead facilitating a process of realizing possible scenarios and evaluating impacts, desirability and feasibility


It’s hard to get a sense for what new layouts will feel like on the ground, and how will impact on people. If people act out their activities at 1:1 scale the real impacts are instantly realized, being a great trigger to discuss better layout and reconfigure of housing and open space so that common spaces are maximized.


together; this requires careful balancing of available resources and assets, weighing out the costs and benefits of different choices and sacrifices, while challenging particular aspects of BP220 norms. There is not one way to plan a cluster of houses, or neighbourhood; when we play with plot sizes, setbacks, construction methods, infrastructure arrangements, sharing of resources and ammenities, different social properties emerge, with diverse impacts on livelihoods, affordability, and sense of well being. Owning a private toilet will always be the most desirable option, however if resources are limited this wish can come at a great cost.W hat we can do is create a space of dialogue which allow people to weigh out the costs and benefits of having a communal toilet, versus a semi-public toilet versus a private toilet, for example. Maybe it will turn out that the space saved in sharing such an ammenity can hold a playground, or another family, or the construction costs suddenly become affordable, which is worth more to the community. The attention and time needed to facilitate sensitive discussions and design is met with an impulse to apply standardized regulations to formalize areas as quickly as posssible. If we

however develop and share succesful strategies, each site of formalization is not starting from scratch, such tension can be reduced. Codes don’t make areas safe, healthy or liveable, human practices do. Unpacking the reasons behind regulations around health, safety and liveability can help to develop alternative, more inclusive methods of securing people’s safety and the quality of their environment. For example regulations around fire safety demand a particular road width for greater accessibility by the fire truck, and easy, quick evacuation of people. An alternative solution, proposed by Bagon Nayon community in Barangay, has been to negotiate a “swap agreement” with factories that sit on their land, whereby the factories are asked to create exit ways through the occupied areas in exchange for remaining there. This negotiation, in combination with widening some of the alleys to achieve the minimum 2m width, and “cleaning” of street clutter to make the transit fluent, and finally identifying sites for a fire protection water supply offers an alternative system than that of the stand fire safety code under BP220. It is possible to achieve health and safety requirements without strictly complying to these regulations, by incorporating strategies of often already existing social infrastructure to complement physical adjustments. Design, employed in the broadest sense, is key to mediate between communities and governments; redrawing the line between legal and illegal, and complementing material infrastructure with organizational structures, communities can submit upgrading proposals that touch a meeting point between their aspirations and available means, and the government guidelines. Furthermore, with the assistance of technical supporters the communities are able to substantiate their claims and convincingly justify their challenging and adjustment of the law. Planning is not merely an act of creating subdivision schemes to fit a set of standard requirements, but instead ought to be seen as a complex process in which many other aspects need to be taken in consideration. Participatory planning as an active, open process was one of the central issues during the CAN workshop, in which communities worked with international teams of technical supporters to overcome obstacles in upgrading, and prepare plans for upgrading.


Realizing the city scale in Manila

Capitalizing on an event: what’s next? Mobilising people



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Over the course of the workshop the diverse practitioners together with communities brought enthusiasm, excitement, passion and creative solutions to overcome the problems being faced by communities in Metro Manilla. By targeting how programs are inaccessible to communities and highlighting the bottlenecks in the upgrading process while recommending


solutions to strengthen community-driven action for land tenure and housing at the city scale, the workshop helped to bridge the gap between government-led housing and land programs and communities. Community-driven initiatives in Metro Manila have been happening for a while, but the CAN workshop was an opportunity to consolidate and expose the collective achievements of the Alliance to each other for the first time while eliciting recognition, validation, and support for scale of the achievements from the local government and local stakeholders, and greater CAN network. The involvement of various partners, and their commitment to the whole process rather than only parts, is vital to the success of the upgrading process. Such a large-scale endeavour needs to be complemented by the financial support and city-level funding. Through the workshop activities new communities were exposed to the management, and workings of Group picture in Valenzuela, CDF’s. CDF’s give the space for communities to take initiative, and lead their at the end of the workshop.


Working together

Mayor of Valenzueala at the CAN regional workshop


There are so many facets of teamwork that are exposed at different times and in different contexts. Teamwork is so crucial in this process, we all know the benefits but more often than not we forget to mention that we are more productive within a team not only because of the joint knowledge but more the compensation of an individual’s limitation in strength and energy. In such a team like I had in the Philippines, there a number of dynamic and motivated people and in such a process as the people’s process, there is a large amount of face time and effort involved (which we all admit is one of the greatest things about this work) but it can also burn you out very quickly. What I found, as I was building up my stamina for this work is that a lot of the team will compensate for your limitations without any formal indication of them doing so. In other words, people step in when they see a gap, not for status or for merit but to get the work done that they believe in. ‘This is not something I was expecting at such a large scale of work, I do not know what to attribute it to, perhaps the energy of the people involved in such a dedication to change the situation, perhaps the process of empowerment itself, perhaps the belief one has….it could be multiple reasons . (zk)

own devleopment, with the support of Government and other parties, this can become a process that is institutionalized and supports the action of simultaneous change at a city level. During the workshop members developed a greater awareness of how the upgrading in high flood risk areas impacts other communities. This awareness grew from thinking about the impacts of development on how flooding is experienced by their neighbours, to impacting the state of flooding in the city more generally. As more communities started to develop more holistic, integrated and environmentally sensitive visions for a better flood management solution, new platorms for social change partnerships and collaboration were created. PACSII and HPFPI offices are holding a National Mapping activity for the communities of Valenzuela later this year to take a new approach to flood management forward. With many communities meeting each other for the first time, togehter with the focus on city-scale and with the energy and intensity of the workshop, these community members began to realise they are not solely responsible for the housing environmental problems they face, nor can they solve them alone, instead solutions must emerge at a larger scale discussion involving local government, universities and professionals who believe in people driven change. Furthermore community leaders, HPFPI, PACSII and the Mayor of Valenzuela have signed an MOU to continue with this people driven process towards a city-wide upgrading plan in Valenzuela.

Shifting the focus: projects to programmes Our role as community practitioners often begins working project by project, in our thinking and financially in our budgeting. This conventional process is what governments and donors are familiar with and prefer to work with, as stand-alone projects are more quantifiable and less risky. However as organizations grow and practitioners get more experienced and networked in the field we are pushing for a more process based governance system, whereby the project based outlook is only a stepping stone to a larger goal. (zk)


“Knowledge is always acquired through some form of participation in a community of practice.� Silvia Gherardi and Davide Nicolini




Vietnam A view from post-Doi Moi Vietnam: a communist propaganda billboard with a corporate sponsor, and Ho Chi Minh’s statue in the background.



Only forty years ago Vietnam was desecrated and dreadfully wounded by the war, but amazingly it has revived mainly due to its population’s strong character. It’s a country extremely rich in culture and environmental beauties, with 4000 years of awkward history and fascinating legends. Vietnam is a single-party Socialist Republic, officially espousing communism. There is an electoral system, however only political organizations affiliated with, or endorsed by the Communist Party can participate in elections. The Party has a central role in all organs of government, politics and society, performing key administrative and executive functions at all levels together with the relevent unions. The different unions have a hierarchical organization similar to the party, and they have representative members included in the Government People Committees at all levels. The Vietnam Fatherland Front is an umbrella group, covering mass organizations such as the General Confederation of Labor, the Communist Youth Union and the Women’s Union, and is regarded as representative of the people, a political seat of their power, and for this reason Vietnam’s constitution gives it a special role in the political system. The country experiences many of the growing pains and contradictions of modernization, being continuously stretched between

deep-rooted local practices and inevitable development pressures. While rural areas of the country continue to exist in a distant past made of local knowledge handed down through traditional practices, the cities rapidly become a new metropolis. Some mountains are still untouched and coastal areas deserted; meanwhile sites both in the north and the south are among the most touristic places in the world. The youngest generations are both curious and fascinated by new and international new trends, yet protective and proud of their culture and nationality. These dynamics affect even a small city like Vinh, of around 500,000 inhabitants, located in north-central Nghe An Province, on a delta surrounded by mountains, bordered by the East Sea. From the early 30’s, it developed as a port and banking town, known for its strong working class, revolutionary movements, and important figures such as Ho Chi Minh President. The cityscape is characterised by low-rise housing with standardized narrow frontages and deep interiors, houses are brick, typically pastel coloured and highly decorated. Dilapidated “collective housing” in the form of row houses and apartment blocks is also quite common. They sit in sharp contrast with the new high rise buildings scattered around the central area of the city, the result of the Doi Moi (“Renovation”), a series Collective housing in central Vinh. Large families share of economic reforms initiated in 1986 with the goal of creating a socialistjust 30 sqm so suspended and tumbledown illegal oriented market economy mixing state control with market mechanisms extensions made with wood and metal are frequent. and external private investments.


Working context, Vinh

Hung Nghi community, the first and most successful CDF-run housing upgrading projects in Vinh.


Vinh City CDF and city-wide participation Nowadays Vinh is a developing city, expanding quickly from its construction and trade-in industries and incorporating its peripheral rural areas into the urban context. Since 2005 the government of Vietnam has approved the development strategy for Vinh to become a ‘first class city’ and cultural and economic hub for the Northern-Central region. At the same time Vinh is following a progressive trajectory in urban planning, making room for participatory planning and the needs of poor communities in the urban and rural areas of the city. Vinh has been selected as one of ACHR’s Big Sister Cities in Vietnam and plays an important role in ACHR’s Asian Coalition for Community

CDF s operation across different scales in Vinh.

Action Programme (ACCA). This is possible due to the Association of Cities of Vietnam (ACVN) and the efforts of the city to support communityled upgrading of collective housing and small infrastructure projects through the establishment of a city-wide Community Development Fund (CDF). The CDF operates at different scales receiving funds from various international donors and the city government, and acts as a revolving fund for communities, incentivizing individual community members to organize themselves into community savings groups. By allowing communities to access soft loans with longer repayment periods, and oversee upgrading activities themselves, the CDF is the principal mechanism supporting poor people’s participation in decision-making and upgrading activities in both urban and rural areas of Vinh. Following this progressive trajectory in Vinh, the city government together with ACVN and ACHR invited us to explore new, scalable methodologies that could strengthen the participatory dimension in rural development planning with the aim of creating a more integrated and holistic planning process, able to include not only physical but also sociocultural, environmental and economic aspects in the development of Hung Hoa Commune.


Huu Nghi community: our home in Vinh


We had the great opportunity to live in Huu Nghi Community, with the 29 families who are the protagonists of the most successful ACCA housing project in Vietnam. Previously the families lived in dilapidated collective row-houses, facing hard living conditions, lacking support or recognition from city authorities. In 2007, the authorities announced plans to redevelop all collective housing in Vinh using the traditional top-down approach, using in-situ upgrading or relocation. But thanks to the ACCA programme, ACVN and Vinh City’s community development fund (CDF), as well as help from the community architects, the families were able to re-design their houses themselves, which allowed them to negotiate with the city authorities and finally get their plans approved. The new houses are built with recycled materials and share walls and foundations, and the loan was repaid by organizing an efficient system of community savings. This case set a powerful precedent for housing policies in Vietnam. What it is amazing about this place is the feeling of pride, happinessand solidarity of the people. Here everything works like in a big family! Our favourite part of the day was in the afternoon when everybody came back from work to play badminton in the street. Everyone is chatting and laughing, mothers run after babies giving them food, kids invent new games every day, and some collect vegetables in the garden. We will never forget their lively street parties with traditional wine, fruit, and techno music to dance all night long! We will also never forget our host Mr Hung, who played a fundamental role in the re-development, thanks to his strong character, heart, and amazing leadership skills. When we asked him what the strength of the process was, he said that “without common sense and solidarity among the community they wouldn’t be able to do anything”. He helped us with precious advice, encouragement, and the attention and care of a father. His family welcomed us in their world with great availability and an open mind, teaching us important values and principles of their culture and real life which will stay with us forever.


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

Going to work between paddy fields and irrigation canals, which characterize the landscape around Vinh.


The work in Vinh City unfolded at Hung Hoa Commune, an area facing transformation from rural to urban environment. In Vietnam the “commune” is an adminstrative entity referring to rural areas of the city, while the urban parts are referred to as “wards”. Hung Hoa is located in the outskirts of Vinh, still preserving typical Vietnamese rural features including strong social networks, traditions, and livelihoods such as rice farming, aquaculture, fishing, and sage cultivation used for handicrafts. Hung Hoa has been benefitting from the attention of the city government, as community groups in some of the hamlets have been active in participating in development activities by forming savings groups and accessing the CDF to finance upgrading of small infrastructure, mainly roads, as well as disaster relief projects.

To contribute to the pro-active engagement of the people and the intentions of inclusivity and participation of the city government, we introduced community mapping as a tool to facilitate a dialogue between communities themselves and between them and the government. The purpose was to find common problems and solutions in the area, and generate together a new vision for Hung Hoa commune based on the needs, realities and priorities of the people. The six months work process in Hung Hoa was achieved in six phases, however, this doesn’t mean that the process happened linearly. The division into phases came out at the end of the process, in hindsight, only after having the whole picture. Even if we had a general idea about what we were trying to achieve, and organize in each activity, the overall evolution of the process was continuously stepping forward and backward, depending on the different resources, energies and availability of communities.

Landscape in Hung Hoa Commune with water acquaculture and fishing.


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

Starting with community work Mobilising people

Afternoon in the riverside hamlet of Hoa Lam, set for relocation by local autorithies.




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

The mapping process in Hung Hoa was kicked off with a workshop organised with the leaders of the nine hamlets comprising Hung Hoa commune, the city and commune government representatives, with the support of Tee and Minh Chau from ACHR, Nga from ACVN/CAN, Boram working at UN-HABITAT in Hanoi, and very important for us, the “Hung Hoa Learning Team�. The workshop sought to bring different actors together to discuss, meet each other, and identify the common development priorities of the commune. Community representatives participated in a mapping exercise, mapping the impact of flooding across their commune.

Mapping the impacts of flooding and water pollution across Hung Hoa In the first workshop, representatives from hamlets across Hung Hoa mapped the impacts of flooding and associated problems of water pollution experienced in their commune. By using different coloured paper to represent varying degrees of impact (high, medium and low) we were able to see the geography of both flooding and water pollution, more specifically how vulnerability, exposure and impact differs between hamlets, and fluctuates across the commune. At first sight this map might look simple but it is in this simplicity where its real strengths are. Looking in more depth the map can be seen as a creative space giving the people the opportunity to visualize and raise awareness within their community, and to the governent about the mangitude of impacts of flooding. At the same time the flood map is a space where people learnt to work together for a common interest. We used this map in later meetings to introduce discussions about the flooding, where it acted as an important catalyst to inspire the leaders who had not been able to participate in the first workshop to get on board and support the community mapping process. (jb)

Woman presenting a map of flooding in the commune.


Mapping in Hoa Lam: preliminary meetings and the workshop itself.


The impact of flooding on their livelihoods and living conditions was identified as the common priority and most pressing problem of the area, and they mapped how the yearly flooding impacts the nine hamlets differently. At the same time, a mapping exercise was conducted with the community members in the hamlet of Hoa Lam. People in this hamlet are fishermen living on the river banks, and are going to be relocated to another area as they are significantly impacted by flooding once a year. The aim of the mapping was to explore and understand community relations in their current settlement, to be taken in consideration for the new relocation site. This workshop was an important platform supporting people in conducting an initial survey of the situation and identifying the development priorities to be explored in more depth later. The mapping workshop was also a way of introducing the mapping process in Hung Hoa and building support and credibility in it. Also, by people coming together, discussing, and working through their commonly held problems, relationships were formed between community people themselves as well as with government representatives, producing a good environment for collaboration in the future.

Our voices: Hung Hoa learning team Without translators we wouldn’t have been able to do anything, so as a priority we focused on organizing a group of students to help us converse. The vice chairman of Vinh City contacted us with the vice chairman of Vinh University, who arranged for us to work with students of the Foreign Languages Department. After a selection based on the students’ motivations, we set up the “Hung Hoa Learning Team”, a group of 18 English-speaking volunteers who were enthusiastic to work with communities. At the beginning we thought that it was a matter of pure translation, but soon we realized how important it was the students understood the significance of participatory planning, and what it means in the context of Vinh, for them to really be able to help us. Sometimes we had to suggest they use a more tactful attitude, or stop them from drawing on the maps, or request they translate our questions to the community, rather than answering on their behalf. Translators are not passive actors in participatory practice; they need to understand carefully community dynamics and be truly engaged, otherwise the activities will definitely suffer. We experienced a mutual learning process not only with communities but also with the students. They made us aware about some cultural aspects and local manners, fundamental for our social relations and work and we guided them from scratch in the process of community participation. Gradually we built a relationship of trust and were able to work as a team ensuring the meetings and mapping sessions were beneficial and constructive. This was an amazing achievement for all of us and some students became really passionate and strong believers in the process of people-driven change. (bd)


Learning how to facilitate


Our mapping activity in the hamlet of Hoa Lam, will stay in our memory forever! It was extremely confusing and not effective at all in terms of outcomes. It started with a brief introduction (which, in hindsight, wasn’t very clear!) followed by getting people to group themselves according to their neighbourhood relations. Each group took the big papers and started hastily drawing their houses and an approximate subdivision of the hamlet. From the beginning they talked loudly, and in the end were literally shouting to each other and the groups kept going in this way for two hours. It was impossible to hear translations by the Vietnamese students and difficult to interrupt the lively discussions to ask what was being included in the map. Even our ACVN colleagues who came to help us that day, found it challenging to manage the situation. We had no idea what was going on! Or how to bring any direction to what appeared to us as total chaos! Following the mapping session we met with the students/ translators to give us feedback about the exercise, and help us understand what happened. It turned out people thought we were there to facilitate the construction of their new houses, so what the groups had done was to draw their current plots, including the names of the family members, and the heated discussions were a debate among neighbours over the true number of people living in each house as some were trying to include their sons or daughters who already had a home elsewhere. Possibly they thought by reporting more family members they could be entitled to more land on the new site. Moreover, there was a misunderstanding of the term “community relationships”: rather than mapping how people in the hamlet manage their lives together or they perceive themselves as a community, they took the question literally to mean the number of relatives living in the settlement and where. From this experience we learnt to be more organized, more coordinated and clear in explaining our role and the reason why we were there to the community, as well as the purpose of the mapping activity . Mapping sessions improved in the other hamlets, becoming more productive and “calm”, however getting people to understand our position and kind of support we wanted to provide remained a challenge throughout our time there. Probably they had a clear picture only at the end of the 6 months process! (bd)

Mapping in Hoa Lam.


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

Getting ready for mapping Mobilising people

Below, and next page: premapping meetings in various hamlets around Hung Hoa.




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

We organised an initial briefing session in each of the nine hamlets prior to the mapping activity, to facilitate community engagement in the mapping process. We felt very anxious but excited every time we we jumped on the motorbike and arrived at the community hall, wondering who will show up and whether or not there would be interest in the process. Many times we were welcomed with karaoke and the traditional Nghe An province tea, and typically the representatives of different unions such as women, youth, army, and farmers unions would be present to participate in the meetings. Some union representatives had deep understanding of the particular situation and history of the area, but possibly most importantly,

knew the people of the commune well so were able to advise on how best to structure the mapping exercise so it would be successful. The meetings started with a discussion identifying the problems and opportunities that the people were experiencing in each hamlet, as well as prioritize topics people felt were more important to discuss further and visualize with mapping. Across the nine hamlets flooding and associated problems were the main topics of discussion, and we thought about different ways in which the mapping could help to respond to this problem. We also conducted transect-walks guided by the community representatives, giving us the opportunity to see with our own eyes some of the problems people were facing in the area, and learn from their


The transect walks in Khan Hau, Hoa Lam, and Phong Phu.


responses, practices and ideas to resolve them. We also visited important places to the hamlet such as temples and rice fields, learning how people live and work together. Finally the community representatives and other members organized a local team, to be responsible for organizing the mapping activity, acting as our point of reference and main contact with the hamlet. All these activities worked together as a set of strategies to facilitate community engagement and incentive ownership of the mapping process by the people. It proved to be successful in building understanding between different groups such as the young, old, and women on how mapping could work for their interests, as well as for the interests of the whole hamlet. The activities were also an opportunity for people to discover ways to get organised using their internal resources as well as existing community structure to work together for common purposes.

Walking in Phong Yen Our transect walk in Phong Yen was one of the most lively and richest walks we had. We were led by the head of the hamlet, very young, kind and available together with two older vice-leaders. An interesting team in a context where the hierarchy of power, particularly related to age and roles, is quite strict. They showed us the strengths and weaknesses of the hamlet: the condition of the roads, the lack of proper drainage, and the embankment constructed by the government which prevents flooding on one side but worsens it on the other. They then showed us some traditional older houses which some people still maintain with great care, the ponds for aquaculture, the paddy field, the sedge plantation, and pointed to a forest in the distance telling us how it protects them from flooding, and contributes to clean water and air. They also told us the story of a princess, who was given the land by her grandfather, the king, to take refuge in during hard times. It seems during a war she hid there, and the hamlet originated around her presence. The community had built a temple in memory of the princess, that they showed us with great pride, the temple is also a museum holding her belongings and ancient documents. One of the leaders takes care of it with devotion, and he explained how the use of the temple has changed over time, and that it was a secret meeting place for revolutionary groups during the Ho Chi Minh era. As the Vietnamese culture taught us, we paid our respect to the princess standing barefoot on a sedge mat in front of the altar, keeping incense lit between joined hands, we closed our eyes and bowed three times before pinning it in a bowl full of ash. (bd)

Walking on the embankment in Phong Yen



Differences and their impact in our visits In each hamlet we visited we experienced different responses to our presence by the communities, and different levels of interest in the mapping process. Some of them where welcoming and curious, others could see in this process an opportunity and took ownership of it, while other communities were skeptical and didn’t have an interst participating, despite endless hours spent trying to convince them about its value. We noticed that it was in the more disadvantaged hamlets, like Phong Yen, where discussions flowed more smoothly, people were more willing to share their situation with us, and transect walks were richer. Also out of these hamlets some of the best maps were produced, and some representatives played leading roles in latter stages of the process. The difference in responses between communities was evident and made us ask ourselves, why? ‘If Hung Hoa is an area where people share a common lifestlye and culture, and are equally affected by the flood, then why are some people reluctant to participate? There might be many answers, but from our experience we can say that more disadvantaged communities were more open to try new ways and risk more in order to bring change to their living conditions. And we considered this as a great resource, bringing energy and initiative to the mapping, so that the process gained strength and scaled up to levels we never thought it would have. (jb)

Opposite page: group pictures of some of the local teams set up in the hamlets. Below: head of Phong Quang hamlet talking in depth about the problems of the area.


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

Mapping priorities Mobilising people



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

To initiate each mapping session we brought forward topics raised in the previous discussions, chose which topics to explore in more depth, and assigned a focus group to map each topic. Across the hamlets, people’s main interest was to map the drainage and associated problems caused by flooding. In parallel to ‘problems’ mapping, another group mapped the resources and positive aspects of their hamlet, including the saving groups. All hamlets used the existing government map as a base for their mapping, however some hamlets had to complete the map by hand as not all the information was present. The flood map was different in every hamlet. Some mapped the existing drainage channels identifying and prioritizing the ones that needed upgrading. Other hamlets mapped solutions, identifying the flow of water in one particular drainage channel, and ideas on how to get the water to flow out of the commune better. People also included important geographical features in the area such as lower and higher ground, the sources and sites of water pollution, and the areas more impacted by the flood. Some activities went beyond mapping. For example in Phong Quang after drawing an accurate drainage plan including technical devices for improving the system, people then worked on a cost estimate. They made a list of materials and cubic meters needed and calculated the cost of each, as well as the total amount. The result was a very high figure and people were quite discouraged, but with a bit of encouragement they started to discuss how to reduce the costs.

Following page: mapping the drainage and savings groups in Phong Yen.



The power of a line The mapping sessions were a way to explore both the positive and negative aspects of people’s lives in a broad sense. It sounds like an easy exercise, but actually it was hard to implement! Vietnamese people are generally very practical and realistic, wanting to focus on the present, on the current constraints and main issues. Every minute they dedicated to working with us was an investment; it needed to have meaning for them, a clear purpose and an objective. This was so clear in their mind that at the beginning they asked us to pay them to participate in the meetings, since that time with us could have been used in the paddy field. It was a long time before they felt that such time investment was for them, and not for us! To encourage people to talk about the positive aspects we tried different ways of asking questions about their livelihood, their traditions, community events and internal ways of organization... But the reaction always was to focus on the flooding issue and the possible drainage system, this was their priority and the need to deal with it became the focal point of everything we did. Across the hamlets, as soon as the mapping session started people were keen to draw the drainage lines; the meaning and strength of all our work with the community is embedded in those lines, and it was through this issue that people were keen to mobilize and work together. Yet in thinking about possible drainage solutions, community members started to reflect on their assets, and explore the availability of different resources, creating a space to think about planning their future. Without flooding, for example, they will be able to enjoy two rice harvests instead of one, improving their livelihoods and life in general. Talking about possible scenarios with the improved drainage system, allowed us to explore together community life in the hamlets with a positive attitude, getting at the end what we were trying to achieve, probably wrongly, at the beginning... (bd)


They ended up cutting the labour costs (as they realized a lot of people in the hamlet have building skills) and uncovering ways to get some of the materials for cheaper prices. In this way the community discovered and reorganized their social capital until the total cost was significantly reduced, understanding the value of ‘doing it themselves’.

In mapping resources people think about the different assets that existed in their hamlet and community. These include financial assets such as saving groups as well as environmental, economic, and cultural resources. Sometimes, they also identified the services and infrastructure that were important for them including schools, hospitals, and sports areas both currently existing as well as needed. As an overall result all the hamlets produced a map depicting the drainage and associated problems caused by flooding as well as their resources. All the maps were shared and presented back to all the people involved in the mapping exercise, where everyone had the opportunity to express their concerns as well as start thinking on how they could develop a solution together. Some hamlets began to see the potential of saving groups in supporting infrastructure upgrading activities, while others began thinking about arguments they could use to negotiate with the government. In this way the mapping was successful in supporting community mobilisation across different levels.

A representative from the Veterans Union explains a map identyfing main drainage channels and solutions for a better drainage in Phong Phu.


A woman presents to her hamlet a map of women savings groups. It shows the spatial distribution of the savings networks, that are not integrated yet. 132

Adapting The activity started with some women, mainly members of the women union, trying to make sense of a government-made map of the area. Our ‘plan’ had been to map the members of each savings groups, and locate their houses on the map. It seems like a simple process right? However after 30 minutes of discussion and confusion, I could see that the women were struggling to read the map and locate their houses, and because of this were losing interest. So my instinct was to intervene, and flip the map over to its blank side… For a moment I thought that the exercise was over, as some of the women were a bit shocked from this change, however, slowly they started to map the information from scratch, according to their own understanding of where the families were located within the hamlet. The result was great! Initially I was not very convinced as I could see a lot of imperfections in the map, but I quickly realised how powerful this map really was, as women could proudly present it to other members of the community confidently and sharing important information. This experience taught me the importance of being engaged and always aware of the moment as facilitator, and the need to adapt to, follow and incentive people’s energy and creativity. (jb)


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

Thinking at scale Mobilising people




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

A meeting was organised involving the heads of the nine hamlets, together with the relevant union representatives who had key roles in the mapping activities, with the support of Linh, a community architect from Hanoi and Tam, a student of Vinh University. All the maps the communities had made earlier in the process, representing the channels and ducts to be upgraded, were exhibited around the conference room, so each leader could present the map made in his hamlet, and people could look closely at the maps from other hamlets. The common priority was still the flooding, but unlike the initial meeting, the issue was explored in far more detail while starting to look at possible solutions. While the lively discussion continued, we layed out a big base map of the entire commune, and people started filling it in using the hamlet maps as a reference. The channels in need of upgrading or constructions in the single hamlets joined together, and the hamlet problems became commune problems. Moreover, the difference between the main ducts connecting the hamlets and the small connections located within them became more prominent, and the map started representing the drainage as an operative system of the entire commune connected to the city. People also discussed how to prioritize the interventions. From discussing the problems together it was realised the main drainage channels, although not performing so well, already existed across the commune, and it was the small connections between, located within the hamlets, that were mostly absent. It was agreed that though the

Lessons from leadership During our time in Vietnam we experienced the importance of having good leadership for development processes of participation to succeed. This might seem obvious, but considering the hierarchical structure of the Vietnamese political system and society, this element is essential, and the mapping process would have never succeeded if it was not for the presence of certain characters. Very interesting leaders operated at different levels in the city, and their capacity to make the necessary links between communities and different levels of government, enabled the scaling-up of community initiates to the city level. From Mr Hung, our host, we learnt the importance of having the capacity to mobilize community members to work together for common goals, and the need to use the right strategies which people can understand to achieve these goals. From Mr. Chinh, the Vice-chairman of Vinh City Government, we learnt the importance of having an open mind, being able to see the opportunities in applying participatory methods and initiatives to development in the city. In Hung Hoa, Mr. Coung, the Vice chairman of Hung Hoa People’s Committee (the Commune’s authority) taught us the importance of having a deep understand of how people think and act in the communities, in order to encourage them to collaborate with one another. Leadership was an essential element in helping people to organize and work together in creating a commune map and action plan. (jb)

Leader of Khan Hau presenting the map of his hamlet. 135

Women Union leader presenting the map of her hamlet.

The woman presenting the map


During one meeting the head of one of the hamlets was absent. When the time came to present the drainage map for that hamlet, we asked who could replace the head of the hamlet in presenting the map and a woman stood up. She presented the map carefully and clearly, explaining the conditions of the drainage channels and ducts in the hamlet as well as the proposed solutions. This was a very important moment for a number of reasons. All the leaders of the hamlets were men, so she was the first woman presenting a drainage map to the other hamlets, but also, in Vietnam, like in many other countries, issues related to technical aspects tend to be a male field. Furthermore the woman presenting the map hadn’t been involved in the making of the drainage map, as she had been busy mapping the saving groups. Yet, the depth of understanding and clarity she displayed in presenting the map demonstrated she had the knowledge and awareness to talk about the drainage issue exactly like the men. The organization of savings groups is run mostly by females, and savings rarely go towards physical upgrading. However, in an informal conversation following the presentations, a group of women were discussing with some men about the financial aspects of the plan, and one of the men asked “Why not use our savinga groups to create a fund for drainage?!� (bd)

main channels did need attention, it could be done later, and it was more important to upgrade the small connections first, one-by one, with the involvement of the entire commune. They also felt it was easier to manage implementation, hamlet-by-hamlet, as well as easier to mobilise and organise the savings groups at this scale. The representatives of the Women’s Union proposed to organize a grounp to coordinate the process at the commune level, including representatives from each hamlet. This meeting was fundamental for scaling up the process from the hamlet level to the commune level, and for people to acknowledge the strength of working and organizing together at a larger scale, considering the physical benefits as well as the more intangible ones in terms of motivation and spirit, when taking action collectively.

Mapping the drainage across hamlets, at the commune level.


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

Being inspired by other experiences Mobilising people

Scenes from the exchange visit: arrival at Hung Chinh community hall, Hung Hoa leader mesuring the road with a stick, and the participants on the way back after the field visit.




Scaling up

Strategic alliances

Two important activities were organized with the support of Minh Chau from ACHR and Linh, community architect from Hanoi: a one-day field visit and a meeting for drafting the action plan. The field visit was organized with the invaluable support of Miss Duong, secretary of Vinh City CDF and member of the Women’ Union at the city level. She arranged a group of around 45 people including hamlet and union leaders of Hung Hoa Commune and two coaches, to give them the opportunity to visit the Commune of Hung Chinh, another rural area of Vinh City, previously involved in ACCA program. The leaders of Hung Chinh Commune shared with Hung Hoa’s people their experience and involvement in the ACCA program, including the process of applying for and receiving small loans from the CDF for road upgrading. They also shared their experiences on how they mobilized families to contribute to the savings groups, and the system to organize these contributions fairly. It had been agreed, for example, that those who

live beside the road had to contribute more money than those that do not. Moreover they organized a group of volunteer labourers from different hamlets to work together on weekends across the whole commune, explaining to us how this local labour force significantly reduced the costs of construction. The questions raised by leaders of Hung Hoa Commune were mainly related to the issue of land. Indeed, according to the current regulations regarding the transformation of land “from rural to urban”, many roads in rural areas need to be widened in order to comply with the road width regulations for urban areas.

Between competition and learning On the tour around Hung Chinh, the first thing Hung Hoa people did when they started walking the upgraded roads was to measure the width of the road with steps. They were checking if the width complied with the government standards. One of them even broke off a branch and started “measuring” with it and asked: “This is 3m wide, not 3.5m... why?”. The guide explained that the road had been constructed before the regulation, and since it was very well maintained it was tolerated. In the same way Hung Hoa people scanned with critical eyes the condition of the houses and their maintenance, the gardens, the width of the drainage ducts and how they were covered etc. On the way back they reflected “Hung Hoa is more beautiful than Hung Chinh, and we can do much better than them; at the end of the day their drainage is not that good!”. Vietnamese people can sometimes be quite competitive, comparing themselves to others and trying to be the “better one”. This is good as it creates an incentive to take action and do the best possible, but it can also prevent people from being open, appreciating and learning from other people’s achievements. We asked :“What are the positive aspects of the process in Hung Chinh?” to trigger a conversation about what they’d learnt, and they only pointed to the level of mobilization there, and that’s it! However, the way they discussed the financial, organizational aspects and road standards in Hung Hoa from then on, was clearly influenced by the visit, and also evident in their action plan. Probably inside they are aware of what they took away from the site visit to Hung Chinh, and how it was important for them, only they did not want to admit it! (bd)


This means that families living adjacent to the road had to give up part of their land. The leaders of Hung Chinh agreed this was one of the most difficult parts in the process of road upgrading and explained the ways they tried to overcome it. For example, all the families benefitting from the upgraded road also contributed to the cost of setback and reconstruction (of walls and fences) faced by the families giving up their land; however they weren’t able to gather proper compensation for the loss of land. This is a concern also for the people in Hung Hoa Commune, so a useful opportunity to learn from other’s experiences. The leaders of Hung Chinh commune then took the people of Hung Hoa Commune on a transect walk, and we had the chance to see the upgraded roads and analyse their improved adjacent drainage and sewage ducts, properly covered and made with cement. Following the day spent at Hung Chinh commune, we organized a meeting with the leaders of Hung Hoa Commune, to prepare the community presentation for the government. The idea was to draw up a first action plan to be presented with the commune map of the drainage system. During the meeting we talked through the issues of road standards and the need to develop the roads and drainage/sewerage systems together. People wanted the government to accept the drainage as the main priority, rather than the roads, and when upgrading the drainage systems by themselves, they agreed to follow the standard road width regulations. Another important topic was how to organise the financial aspects and mobilize savings and resources. We discussed the importance of self-organization in terms of people contributions, and explored the possible establishment of a common fund organized through saving groups specifically for implementation of the drainage plan. The two-day activity was long and intense but we definitely accomplished a lot; the field visit with the community of Hung Chinh was critical and inspiring, as an opportunity for Hung Hoa community to get firsthand experience of an upgrading process from initial mobilization to implementation. 140

Action Plan for Hung Hoa - Setting up a management group at the commune level. - Forming a management group in each hamlet: Making a proper survey of the people to be involved in saving activities; Hamlet level drainage plan with list of materials needed, detailed cost calculation and cost reduction strategy. - Setting up a savings system that balances benefits received from the upgrading with income. Considering subsidy possibilities of accessing other resources (cement from government, loan for the poorest etc). - Community meetings, bringing more details into plans, and calibrating of saving groups to projected costs. - Preparing for implementation (mobilizing money and labour, asking for cement). - Starting construction.

Representatives of Hung Hoa hamlets making a first draft action plan for drainage upgrading.


Participatory mapping in Hung Hoa

People appropriate the process! Mobilising people



Scaling up

Strategic alliances

A city-wide one day workshop was organized together with Minh Chau from ACHR, and Linh and Nga from CAN/ACVN on community-driven upgrading and mapping. The city CDF invited 3-4 leaders from each of the 46 hamlets making up the rural area of Vinh City, so about 160 community members Mister The from Phong Yen hamlet presenting the were in attendance. Two lecturers from the Architectural Department of commune drainage map and the action plan of Hung Hoa Civil Engineering at Hanoi University were also invited to participate, as Commune. well as Mister Chinh, the head of the City CDF and vice-chairman of Vinh


City government, Ms. Huyen, the chairperson of city Women’s Union, and Ms. Duong, the secretary of the city CDF and member of Women’s Union. The four communes of Vinh City, Hung Hoa, Hung Chinh, Hung Dong and Nghi Kim are diverse in their experience with community-led driven upgrading. Nghi Kim commune has a very good experience in mobilizing people to work together, particularly about land contribution; Hung Chinh commune, (which hosted our field visit) has implemented an ACCA project; Hung Hoa has the very new experience of community mapping process, whereas Hung Dong commune has no experience in community-driven process but is facing several infrastructure problems. The workshop kicked off with an introduction by Mister Chinh who emphasized the importance of people’s action in CDF/ACCA approach, followed by Minh Chau explaining the ACHR/ACCA program in Asia and in Vietnam and Ms. Duong presenting a review of ACCA activities in the past 3 years. Following this we held a short activity to prioritize the problems, in which the different communes listed their priorities separately, and compared them in a big panel. It turned out waste water management was the first priority for all communes, including drainage and sewerage, and all their related environmental impacts.

Vinh City’s vice-chairman, Mr Chin, talks in front of representatives from the city’s rural hamlets.


During the “priorities exercise” the leaders of Hung Hoa shared again the action plan with people of the commune, and they decided which two hamlets would be the first start on the construction of small connection channels for drainage improvement. They chose Phong Yen and Phong Phu, the hamlets closest to the urban area and the main connection between the city and the commune. The vice-leader of Phong Yen hamlet then presented the Hung Hoa commune drainage map and the related action plan to the government. It was interesting to see the map made by the community in comparison with the government’s map, which showed the plans for Hung Hoa, and acknowledging that one perfectly completed the other in terms of information and interventions needed. The government gave very positive feedback showing interest in replicating the community-driven mapping process in the other communes of the city. The meeting was successful in terms of starting a networking process among the different communes at the city level, increasing awareness of the ACCA programme and CDF’s work in the city, and initiating a dialogue between the city communes and the city government. In particular, this

Returning the maps


This is not a story but just an image, an image in words. At the end of the meeting we gathered all the community leaders and representatives of Hung Hoa together to return all the maps and other materials produced during our mapping process. Their expressions were really positive and they seemed proud, and the impatience they showed waiting for their turn to collect their maps was quite moving. We struggled during the six months to get people to feel some ownership over the process, so that moment demonstrated to us we had achieved this in some way. It was probably due to the fact that in this final workshop people were able to get a whole picture of the process, to understand it deeply, and as they said, to realize the benefit that the mapping activities had brought them. The image of them leaving the community centre together as a real team, laughing and kidding with the rolled maps under their arms looking ready for any new challenges, is one of the most beautiful images of our work in Hung Hoa Commune! (bd)

was an opportunity for people from the communes to demonstrate their real priorities, which were different to what the government had previously thought. Considering the conventional top-down approach of decision making in the country, and the strict socio-political structure, this small process set an important precedent in rural development planning in the city of Vinh.

All the team feeling proud after the mapping presentation.

Letting go Presenting the community action plan and the mapping to the government officials and other communes was an important step, as it collected all the previous efforts we had made with the communities. Here the main lesson for us was to let go and understand that this was the community space and their opportunity to demonstrate not only to themselves but also to other actors, that they were organized with the necessary information and future planning capacity to continue with the process alone. For us, young professionals, it was very rewarding to see all the efforts needed to initiate this process coming together, and having a very positive response from the government representatives who were happy to support and even replicate this process in other communes. This step taught us the satisfaction to act just as a catalyst for community processes to start, and having the capacity to let go and believing in the people to continue their process by themselves. (jb)



“...There is no definite methodology. People have their own rhythm. People’s thoughts and dreams cannot be formatted to fit into best practice models.” Perween Rahman


Ref l e c 148

c t i o ns 149

Francesco Pasta


Although I went to Cambodia for a so-called “junior professional internship”, I never felt a “professional”. Indeed, I never even liked the word, with its technocratic implications; but still, being qualified as such made me feel in the beginning some kind of pressure and expectations from others. When I was asked at UPDF what I preferred to work on, I answered: “Design with communities!” But actually, I found the prospect of being posted to design something for real with vulnerable people quite frightening: the impacts on their lives can be large, for better or for worse, and I had no clue where to start from; I didn’t have enough knowledge, skills, experience; basically I felt I was not ready at all. Now, after six months, I can say that I am not a “professional”, meaning an individual repository of all the knowledge necessary to solve a problem, and I will never be! But the good thing is that this doesn’t mean that I can’t do anything, actually quite the contrary. Knowledge is scattered across many people and places; what we can do is go looking for them, bring them together, link ideas, and of course add ours too. It’s a collective process where everyone gives, everyone takes, and in the process different kinds of knowledge contaminate each other and produce new knowledges. The meeting of people from different backgrounds and cultures only makes this process more fertile and powerful, miscommunication becomes just a minor issue. No single person has the solution, but each of us can contribute to build one. I didn’t understand this overnight, it took me many months,

feelings of panic, laughter, confusion, meeting and working with many people in different places. At some point in the Philippines I consciously realized this, and suddenly felt full of energy, self-confidence, and lighter. It came to my mind a piece of a poem, which I once saw in a painting, “we have to be light like birds not like feathers”. Feathers are inert objects that can’t oppose the air sweeping them around; but birds, with their subtle structure and their mind, are able to fly, navigate the air streams, and tread wherever they want. Their light flight is not random, it has a direction. So when they sent me to Kep with Danak I didn’t regard it as a kamikaze operation, even if it had rather suicidal aspects. At first I found it slightly unreasonable that we were posted to Kep alone, with no clear instructions or orders as I knew we were dealing with extremely serious issues, and not something to take lightheartedly. But quite quickly I saw it as a great opportunity instead, and became confident and relaxed because I knew that looking around we would find the people, energies, and ideas to set the upgrading process in motion somehow. I think we “professionals” should just forget about this concept; we should stop thinking about ourselves as accumulators of knowledge and information, able to deploy it in practice when we reach an adequate level. We - as all people - are more like nodes where streams of different knowledges flow, intersect, merge, and may change direction. To me this is a liberating thought, which opens the way to endless possibilities. There are many, many people I want to thank for this learning. They helped me not only to grow but to become a happier person, which is possibly the best kind of growth one can experience. I hope through my actions I’ll be able to reciprocate this in some way.


Ariel Shepherd


Working with Ciliwung Merdeka I was fortunate to experience firsthand how urban development processes and projects unfold and are experienced on the ground in a highly contested area; from design and planning (or lack of it), communication and socialisation, to implementation. Within one realm national planning was brought together with the intimate scale of the habitus; we would bounce between discussing methodologies towards a collective management of Ciliwung River to talking through people’s concerns of having a stranger’s wet laundry dripping on their drying rice. The space produced in this feedback between scales is fertile, creative, and best of all bursting with possibilites of collective action, however the everyday is felt to be mundane, so often difficult to catch. I lived in the community of Bukit Duri for over six months. Here I was not only witness the day-to-day practices acted on the theatre of the street, but to some degree part of how people make decisions about both the everyday and the exceptional; preparing the home for business, celebrations, or a change of seasons; preparing the street for various events, making use of her liveliness, openness, protection and other offerings; the creative, and often collective responses to both the daily hardships and surprise shocks, which together produce the rich kampung culture. As a stranger immersed in the everyday I had the privilege of seeing uniqueness in the socio-physical environment otherwise taken for granted. Most of my time was spent experimenting with diverse ways of helping people see the value and strength in what they have together, as

building blocks towards a strategy which increases housing security rather than decreases it, retains socio-cultural practices rather than erases them, and sees the river as a resource rather than something to fear. I have learnt so much that would be impossible to learn at a desk, but the following four will follow me wherever I go: Lesson 1: ‘People not pipes run the city’ as quoted by AbdouMaliq Simone. Whatever your background, however unimportant one feels her input to be, you have something of great value to contribute to a discussion about your future, and the future of your city. Ideas of technological and intellectual salvation run deep, but knowledge as basic as how the housewife choses to prepare her home for yearly flooding is equally important to that of an hydraulogist in regards to planning better flood managment strategies for the city. Producing spaces of dialogue that enable these knowledges to work together is vital for the future of our cities. Lesson 2: Despite shifting a lot between disciplines in my studies the skill I consistently relied on was diplomacy. For the lucky few diplomacy comes naturally, but the art of talking with others in a sensitive and effective way is exactly that, an art, and potential ramifications highly overlooked. Lesson 3: Crises creates drive, but so does feeling valued. If people can feel valued for their differences rather than internalizing condemnation, I sense obstacles of mobilization would become mute points. Lesson 4: When you take something for granted it’s very easy to lose it, and the more special that something is, the more difficult it is to retrieve after it’s lost. From a public well to a forest, if we can learn how to appreciate and value what we possess together, whether it’s at stake of being lost or not, how to defend its existence will fall into place. Terimakasih sekali Ivana for your incredible strength, vision, bottomless affection, vision, and relentless belief in community-driven change, tmksh juga Sanggar boys, particularly Muis and Pele, for making people’s desire to live a better life possible and being subject to my continuous experiements, and Bukit Duri for taking me in with such warm and open arms, I’ve grown a lot, thank-you. 153

Zahra Kassam


This experience has been a steep learning curve, personally and professionally. I was outside my comfort zone and felt I was being challenged in every direction; my eyes saw things I would usually overlook and take for granted. During my time at DPU studying urban development planning we learned a lot about participatory mapping and the notion of social justice, both have been a great help in my work in Manila. I assisted in scaling-up all the mapping previously done in Manila, so I was working with maps almost everyday in preparation for the workshop. Similarly reflecting on concepts of social justice I was able to really appreciate the great work being done by PACSII to bring social justice to many urban poor in the city, I also found that my experience from the Bangkok fieldtrip came in useful, as it opened my eyes for the first time to many dynamics and relations at play in reality that you don’t learn in the classroom. I got to start practicing the art of thinking on my feet, to be flexible, and to recognize and follow the paths and opportunities which people open for me. Fluidity is essential in community work and that is impossible to learn in a classroom alone. ACHR’s famous tagline “the people are the solution” was introduced to me last year, and a year later is as fresh as when I first heard it. Working with people on the ground, is now my passion, and it is the baseline, the core of all interventions. Even though my task was for finance, due to circumstances there I was assigned to mapping, and now I believe more than ever in the power of mapping as a process which allows us to

arrive at solutions in a democratic and open way. It takes time, and the process often looks simpler than it actually is, but it really does get the job done in the best way possible. The DPU fieldtrip to Bangkok working with CODI forced me to be totally immersed in the work and situation I was in at that time, however that immersion was only a very short time. For me this internship was a learning experience and an experiment in finding a balance between total immersion, such as the Bangkok experience, and my work in the past which wasn’t immersive in at all. To leave on a positive note, the changes that have occurred in myself are immense and still going . This was a true learning on the job experience and I feel very fortunate to have experienced this great next step following the Urban Development Planning course at DPU.


Johanna Brugman


In the field life feels more intense, days are longer, the sun seems hotter, feelings are stronger and emotions can easily make you cry… but on the other hand stars seem to shine more, colors are brighter, your laugh is louder, and you learn to see beauty in things that you never considered before. Vietnam was not easy for me. Here I learnt for the first time some of the realities of communities, development work, and my role as urban development planner. And despite the intense moments I experienced, there is now no doubt in my heart that working close to the people is the place I want to be. I believe that only in this way I will be able to understand more in depth the complex realities of communities, making my professional practice more informed and sensitive to people’s real needs and priorities. Thanks to these six months, I found the strength not only physical and mental, but most important, inside my heart to endure and believe in this work. What impacted me the most in this experience was the enormous strength inside community people, and their immense hope in believing that change in their lives is possible. I was very fortunate to see this not only in Vietnam, but also in the ACHR Regional Meeting in Bangkok, and the CAN workshop in the Philippines. Here I witness an inspiring movement of community members coming together and discussing their achievements, challenges, and future strategies for change. I also learnt the powerful way in which a community is built by people sharing their feelings, hopes and suffering together. These experiences allowed me to understand a bit more the deep meaning of a ‘people’s process’ and how our role as development

practitioners is to find the best way to support it. The process in Hung Hoa allowed me to do exactly this. I understood the importance of building a strong platform composed by different actors that can support one another in order to scale-up community initiatives at the city level. I realized the power of having a flexible financial system in place so that money is accessible to the people, giving them the opportunity to bring benefits to their communities in way that transcend the physical level. I also learnt to work with the existing community resources, such as the key people in the communities able to mobilize other members, the skills and creativity available within the community people, and the existing community structure and rhythm allowing people to organize themselves. During my journey with ACHR I learnt that development work is about crossing the boundaries between the personal and the professional, and closing the gap from what divide us from people in the communities by learning from people’s own initiatives and skills. We, professionals, think that our role is to act and do something or give advice to communities on what to do, we have many opinions and sometimes we talk a lot. What I realized is that instead of acting and talking, what it is really useful for communities is to be able to step back, observe and learn from people’s own initiatives and dreams, and find the way to build them stronger. That is the real skill… and it is not easy. I thank you Somsook, Tee, Nad, Minh Chau, Maurice and all in ACHR/CAN network for your immense generosity. I thank Vietnam, Mr Hung and family, all in ACVN, Yen, Tam, Linh, Barbara, Francesco, Ariel, Zahra and all friends in communities. This time was and will always remain precious in my life. “What makes a fire burn is space between the logs. A breathing space. Too much of one thing, too many logs packed too tightly can douse the flames just like a pail of water would. So building fires requires attention to the spaces in between as much as the wood… a fire grows simply because the space is there in which the flame that knows how to burn will find its way.” – Judy Brown


Barbara Dovarch


It is hard to condense into such a tiny space what I learned in my six months in Vietnam, such a range of experiences between the professional sphere and personal growth, with great overlap and enrichment between the two. It was certainly a great opportunity to enter into a real situation in such depth, even if in a very small scale, be part of an articulate process and end up sowing a first seed for what we hope one day will be a consolidated practice. Thanks to the open mind of the vice chairman of the city, the government permitted our presence and work in the rural areas; without that permission we wouldn’t be allowed to approach the community, even if the communities themselves had wanted it. However, for the local authority, the people in the communities and the students, this kind of process was totally new. Thus, our work in Vinh started from scratch with curiosity as mainspring, coming out of our effort and passion and having to cover many different aspects. Day by day we saw ourselves adapting and the process shifting; the local people gradually changing their perspective from one of complete confusion at the beginning about what our role was, to supporting and believing, sometimes even more than us, in what we were trying to achieve. Over time we developed a purpose and kind of contribution we could offer to them that was appreciated. We experienced the slow, delicate and powerful process of building trustworthy relationships and spaces of dialogue, not only between us and the different kind of actors, but also among the communities themselves and between them and local

authorities. We also learnt the unpredictability of participatory practice, such as the need to plan in detail every step, followed by being ready to give up with those plans. I had many “I can’t” moments in which I felt stuck, discouraged and disappointed and I had to stop and try to reassess and reframe the situation. But I realized that it wasn’t only a matter of our capacity or incapacity to support communities, it was equally important that people acknowledge the value and potential of their own involvement in the process and not always this happens easily. When we had the trust, the challenge was to be a good guide without leading the process, passing the leadership to people (even when they counted mainly on us), and at some point, being able to “disappear”. The process of positioning myself was one of the most challenging aspects for me: feeling part of the community’s collective thinking, bridging aspirations with institutional wills, stepping back to let the self-determination process flow. The contextualization was also challenging, stepping into the context “naked” and putting on step-by-step the clothes of reality. It was very hard do deal with the country’s socio-political structure, stable hierarchies and strict bureaucracy with our limited understanding and ability to navigate the internal power relationships. I realized over time it was necessary to accept we could never know everything. Furthermore our knowledge proved much less important than our capacity to trigger already existing creativity, resources and skills within the community, which just need to be uncovered. The diversity of people who got engaged was another important strength of the process: women, farmers, youths and elderly people, veterans, university students and young professionals, all in a shared space of interaction, in which all different kinds of energies and voices came out. Together we deconstructed reality trying to see things from a different perspective, trying to give the right weight to each different angle and actor, constructing a “new knowledge”. The whole experience with all its teachings is now a treasure for me, carefully guarded as a source from which to draw when I will feel lost again in the amazing chaos of practice.




Founded in 1954 by Otto Koenisberger, the Development Planning Unit (DPU) has maintained a clear focus on urban development and planning since inception. This unique combined emphasis underpins a belief in planned interventions in which women and men of different classes, ethnic groups, religions and ages can exercise real individual and collective choice in their lives and contribute towards economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and more just urban futures. The DPU’s mission is to build the capacity of professionals and institutions to design and implement innovative, sustainable and inclusive strategies at the local, national and global levels – working with the enormous potential of urban poor communities. Key to developing such a sensitivity to urban development planning and design, is practice. And practice has been and remains a key foundation of all DPU’s education programmes: through practice-based field-work in London and in cities of the Global South, the MScs seek to build students’ reflexivity and the ethical sensibility that underpins socially just urban development planning and design. This is where the Junior Professionals Internship Programme comes in. The pilot programme, born of inspiring field visits in Thailand since 2010, intends to facilitate the immersion of MSc alumni within active community groups engaging with governments for improved housing conditions across South East Asia. The unique partnership was envisaged as a collective learning process, founded on knowledge-sharing and innovation development, and grounded in the partners’ actual tactical interventions and local experiences. During six months, DPU alumni supported mapping, planning, designing

processes and debated issues of housing, land and settlement; mostly, they shared lives, perspectives, values and stories with communities across SouthEast Asia. The present book retells this collective conversation. It interrogates and (re)confirms the significance of our different practice(s) and the constant need to negotiate and reconfigure meanings and positions – including where we, as “experts”, are located. By refusing a conventional, safe, expert-based, object-oriented culture, the experiences collected in this book illustrate that a different urban planning and architectural practice is possible. Design and planning here, are conceived as a holistic practice loosely aiming at imagining, making, strategising, building and inhabiting urban spaces. This practice carries a twofold obligation. On the one hand, it seeks to facilitate a comprehensive imagination of transformation and change. On the other, it demands a practice that aligns itself with the collective will and voices of traditionally marginalized individuals. Within such practice there is no safe ground because no standpoint is free from interrogations by alternative constructions of power, of knowledge. Instead, a fundamental gesture is required: going beyond one’s personal and professional comfort zone, beyond safe areas of expertise, of representation and culture; crossing boundaries dancing between worldviews and knowledges and in that process, seeing the world differently. Reading the book is a pleasure: the work undertaken is almost palpable and as one progresses through the pages, it is as if new friendships have been struck, new worlds unveiled with their rich tapestry of struggles, aspirations and innovations. In the diverse experiences recounted, the book reaffirms the need to continue working in partnership to challenge the technical expertise of defined disciplinary planning and design realms that produce out-of-touch practitioners, interested in formal aesthetics. This is a call for a practice that is flexible enough to accommodate contradictions and complexities embedded in the production and reproduction of cities and spaces – but stable enough to accept feedbacks, in all its aspects. DPU London November, 2013


Contributors backgrounds

Johanna Brugman / I am an urban planner with interests in participatory tools for slum upgrading and the intrinsic topics of collective action, land security, accessible finance and city planning. In 2008 I completed a Bachelor of Planning with Honours in James Cook University - Australia and recently the MSc of Urban Development Planning at the DPU in London. I have experience working for government in policy development, land use, environmental planning, and housing for remote Aboriginal communities. I have also conducted research into Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA’s) in Australia, the Baan Mankong National Slum Upgrading Programme in Thailand, and the evolution of participatory budgeting in Bogotå - Colombia. I am currently based in Phnom Phen - Cambodia working with a small grassroots organisation specialized in mapping and enumerations.

Barbara Dovarch /


I am from Sardinia, Italy. I am a sociologist looking at the built environment, specializing in community driven approach within architecture, urban design and planning. After different experiences in developing countries such as Kenya, India, Brazil, Chile (including Easter Island), I worked for two years (2010-2012) as teaching assistant and fieldwork coordinator at the School of Architecture and Urban Design in Alghero (Sardinia, Italy). Some of the projects I have been involved in regarded Roma people living in camps, children designing public spaces; co-housing, sustainable local development and sustainable tourism; slum upgrading, community organization within informal economy. In Vietnam, my work entailed a process of exploring community participation in rural development planning. In the future I would like to explore more about mapping within community-driven citywide processes.

Zahra Kassam / I come from Nairobi, Kenya. I’m an urban planner with a finance background specialising in community driven process in urban planning. After completeing my BA in Business Enterprise, I simaltaneously completed the professional qualification as a Charterd Accountant whilst working with UN-Habitat. In my capacity with the UN, I worked in various branches: Youth and Partners, Land and Shelter and Transport. I completed the Urban Development Planning at the DPU, UCL in 2012. In the Philippines I was involved in exploring participatory processes in development planning as well as conducting the build up mapping and other works for the 2nd Regional Community Architects Network Workshop in May 2013.

Francesco Pasta / I studied Architecture in Italy and Turkey and subsequently worked in an architectural firm in Istanbul and in an NGO in Diyarbakir (Turkey). Here, witnessing the effects of exclusionary policies on the structure of cities and the lives of their inhabitants, I started thinking about how we can help build a more inclusive alternative of development also through design. After completing the master at DPU and taking part in a community-based construction project in East London, I went to Cambodia with CAN-ACHR, and I decided to stay some more time in Asia to learn more about community work. From November, I‘ve been collaborating with Openspace, a Bangkok-based community architecture office, and the company Tar-Saeng, specializing in housing and furniture design for disabilities.

Ariel Shepherd / My background and interests lie in the interface between local practices and city planning around land use. While completing my DPU Masters I worked on linking urban agriculture projects with greenhouses within a food security plan for the borough of Lambeth, South London. I arrived in Jakarta to help facilitate the participatory planning of onsite mid-rise housing as an alternative to relocation set on by a potentially hazardous flood mitigation project to normalize the Ciliwung river. I continue to work with CM on developing a larger river platform based on stewardship and adaptive design of the river edge, recognising the need for social as well as physical infrastructure at the neighbourhood and city scale as an alternative plan to normalization.


This book is the result of the collective work of all five interns, with the suggestions and support of DPU, ACHR and CAN. The layout design and editing have been carried out together by Francesco and Ariel. Story boxes authors are indicated by their initials. All the pictures in this book should be credited to the authors or friends from Community Architects Network. Many thanks to Ik Uajirapongpun and Ploy Yamtree for their help with printing in Thailand. Development Planning Unit 34, Tavistock Square WC1H 9EZ London (UK) Asian Coalition for Housing Rights 73 Soi Sonthiwattana 4, Ladphrao 110 Bangkok 10310, Bangkok (Thailand) Community Architects Network 164

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