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Talk: Surabaya’s Pro-Poor Shelters

The transformation of Surabaya’s pro-poor shelter efforts

A Talk by Dr. Ashok Das, Assistant Professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UH Mānoa. 

January 17, 2017
12:00 – 1:30pm
Tokioka Room, Moore Hall 319


The city of Surabaya counts as a pioneer of pro-poor shelter efforts in the developing world for its effective upgrading of urban poor settlements. This presentation synthesizes multiple strands of Dr. Das’s continuing, decade-long research on Surabaya’s settlement upgrading interventions toward urban poverty alleviation. He will illustrate how, with the “local” emerging as the primary locus of governance and planning in a heavily decentralized and democratized post-authoritarian Indonesia, the city’s approach to improving/providing/designing shelter and services to the poor has also transformed, albeit less encouragingly. He attributes achievements and shortcomings of the city’s key efforts to the nature of the spaces that spawned them, shaped by evolving institutional environments and arrangements. He posits that the transformations in planning and design for shelter for the poor lie on a trajectory with three distinct phases: 1) the pre-decentralization phase of the [benevolent, local] developmental state (the New Order, late 1960s-1998); 2) a decade of post-decentralization flux (1999-2009); and 3) an ongoing phase of intensifying influences of neoliberalism and civil society. During the authoritarian era a strong and exclusive local institutional arrangement formed in Surabaya that fostered innovative shelter design and spatial planning for effective settlement upgrading; its sustained implementation and wide replication certainly empowered the hitherto marginalized urban poor. Yet, post-decentralization, this entrenched aspect of the local institutional environment has failed to catalyze state-civil society-community synergy – essential for making new pro-poor, community-driven initiatives effective and empowering. That and deepening neoliberal forces have stymied further local innovation in shelter and settlement design, and augur a continued attrition of the city’s pro-poor disposition in shelter interventions. From this analysis, he suggests “dos” and “don’ts” in the path ahead for Surabaya.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Das researches challenges to and innovations in ameliorating urban poverty in developing countries, primarily in South and Southeast Asia. Community participation and empowerment, slum upgrading and low-income housing, decentralization and local governance, and the role of civil society in development are some key interests. His research has explored the nature, measurement, and comparison of empowerment arising from participation in slum upgrading programs in post-decentralization India and Indonesia. Lately, he has explored community-managed integrated microfinance for urban poverty alleviation and new institutional arrangements for disaster management in Indonesia, and the effectiveness of pro-poor housing innovations in Southeast Asia. He has also conducted joint research on inclusionary housing policies and their impacts on local/regional housing markets in California. He has published in leading urban planning and policy journals, and has advised the Ford Foundation toward reevaluating its urban and rural policy foci. Presently, with Bharat Dahiya at Chulalongkorn University, he is editing a book on urban governance for sustainable and inclusive cities in Asia.

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