Fellow Since 2008
This profile was prepared when Bambang Ismawan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Bambang initiated the practice of sustainable citizen-led initiatives over forty years ago when he launched a financially sustainable rural development organization, Bina Swadaya. His aim was to answer rural farmer’s need for education, information, and access to goods and services. However, due to the political conditions at the time, Bambang could neither rely on government support or on foreign funding for his work. Along with programs to build self-sufficient communities of rural farmers, Bambang launched a series of revenue-generating companies that also served his larger goal of rural development, including a publishing company to produce and distribute an agricultural magazine, Trubus. Today, Trubus is a leading magazine with 70,000 copies published monthly, and has expanded to cover many fields. Furthermore, Bambang encourages self-reliance by promoting Bina Swadaya as a model for other citizen organizations (COs) and by training community leaders to organize self-help groups. To date, Bina Swadaya has trained over 10,000 community leaders, spawned the creation of more than 12,000 grassroots self-help groups serving 3.5 million people, and launched 650,000 microfinance institutions with 13.5 million members. The organization runs 16 companies, including a franchising operation for agricultural shops that funds almost 95 percent of the organization’s operations.