Dodo Juliman Widianto
Fellow Since 1996
This profile was prepared when Dodo Juliman Widianto was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
Dodo Juliman Widianto is taking a community-based approach to promoting and financing housing projects for low-income communities in Indonesia. He has developed "cooperative housing groups" that are a departure from the standard housing cooperatives. In addition, he has created a national network of nongovernmental organizations and development consultants devoted to housing issues on both the local and national policy levels.
The New Idea
Using as a starting point the community-based approach to development, which views communities as a major and essential actor in development programs, Dodo is refining and developing the concept well beyond its previous limits. For the first time, the community-based approach is being applied to create urban housing projects for low-income communities in an endeavor that includes a collective financing component to put home ownership within the means of many. To support the grassroots housing finance services, Dodo founded an umbrella organization that brings together 22 such groups of development consultants, nongovernmental organizations, and community-based organizations from across the country. Its members are well versed in land and financial management, negotiations with government bodies, and housing construction processes. The umbrella body plays the role of intermediary and facilitator among all of the actors, employing a partnership approach. It also serves its members as the primary forum for dialogue and exchanges of information, skills and technology. Because of the range of expertise of its members, the organization is able to offer the full spectrum of training programs to low-income communities and to develop the management capabilities of relevant local organizations. At the grassroots level, it trains community groups in housing issues and construction techniques; at the political level, it is the premier organization acting to influence national public policy on housing issues.
Urban slums are prevalent in Indonesian cities, where high population growth rates and rural migration collude to produce an ever increasing number of people locked in miserable, dangerous living conditions. People from impoverished and often overpopulated rural areas are crowding into cities to work as industrial or construction laborers or as small-scale, self-employed street vendors. Many have no home but the streets and a substantial number have no job at all. People rent rooms, join relatives or occupy temporary shelters of varying standards on any available government or private land spaces, in inner cities or on the urban fringes. Such housing generally lacks basic infrastructure and services such as clean water and sanitation facilities; they are over-crowded and children live in unhealthy environments with no open spaces.Development occurs through various programs—urban renewal programs, large-scale government infrastructure projects, and commercial real estate projects—but the improved facilities benefit the rich more than the poor. Too often, the poor are further marginalized as they are evicted to make way for toll roads, high-rise buildings, shopping malls for the wealthy, and the like. Land prices also rise when basic services are supplied to an area, and usually those who rent or who dwell in makeshift shelters cannot afford the fees and must leave. This pattern of development only widens the socio-economic gap in society and hinders the existence of an integrated social structure in the cities.Another aspect of the housing problem in Indonesia is the fact that government programs are designed without the involvement of the communities in the urban areas. Private developers and speculators are allowed to forge ahead with massive, so-called "urban development" projects without proper and adequate planning. There is no allowance made for participation of the people most directly affected by the development of housing projects and related necessary basic infrastructures in an area. All countries, including Indonesia, made a commitment in theory, at the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul in 1996, to provide basic facilities for all, but in reality are unable to meet this challenge, particularly when they do not take a community-based approach.
Dodo has worked since 1988 to develop cooperative housing for low-income communities in the city of Bandung. He believes that developing sustainable and affordable urban housing for all requires community participation. Socio-economic sustainability and stability in urban centers can be maintained only when there is a great degree of interdependence and integration. According to Dodo, each group in urban society should feel—and recognize—the benefits created through the very existence of and the services provided by other groups. His project brings this perspective urban development for Indonesia. Dodo cites how the community-based approach to housing and related basic services has many positive influences in a number of other ways, in addition to the provision of adequate housing. An integrated urban social structure is maintained when groups in the community are not excluded. Also, environmentally sound communities are developed as people's awareness and responsibility improve with regard to the supply and use of basic services.His entry point into communities has been their common need for their own housing. The process is to motivate and assist them to group together, make joint savings for the purchase of a site, then collectively apply for the relevant permits and purchase the necessary materials. Financing for such housing initiatives has traditionally been a significant stumbling block to progress. Even with the backing of an established nonprofit organization, there have been difficulties in obtaining bank loans. Dodo's entrepreneurial skills are evident in the way he has helped the groups organize their own financial "institutions" by pooling their savings right from the start, during the time they plan all the other details of the project. Together, they often have had sufficient funds to finance successful housing projects for themselves. As an example, already a total of 117 modest homes have been constructed in an area strategically located in proximity to the work place of a group of textile workers, and the cost of the homes was half that of similar dwellings provided by the government or private projects. This effectively created a type of suburb specifically for low-income workers and their families.There are two key elements in Dodo's strategy: first, the groups are given training in necessary skills, and second, they are taught to organize and manage the projects themselves, as full participants. Dodo's umbrella organization also links them in the partnership approach to the relevant government and private sector bodies. The umbrella body's institutional role in overall, long-term plan is critical; it is the means to developing mutually beneficial and sustainable networks of nongovernmental organizations in housing that enable the member groups to learn from each others' experiences and to gain strength in lobbying the government and private sectors for greater understanding and cooperation.Dodo is now at the point of expanding his activities to combine community-based urban infrastructures (e.g., clean water and sewage, drainage, and waste management) with housing provision. His network of development service providers has been chosen to work in two crowded city slums destined for urban renewal. In these areas, existing housing must be moved for the construction of an overpass and a railway project, and there is a strong threat to low-income communities from private sector developers. The community-based approach and land consolidation concepts are being used by Dodo in those settings in such a way that residents can actually take part in the redevelopment process, remain in the same location, and even benefit from the improved facilities. He is promoting integration among the three main actors—the community, the government and the private sector—so that all sides win. The community gains better facilities, the government spends less and will later collect more in tax revenues, and the private sector benefits from the enhanced commercial viability of the areas.Dodo also holds workshops that are attended by community representatives, relevant government officials, and private-sector groups in order to explain and promote his ideas and activities. These workshops are serve as a non-confrontational and risk-free way for the government and corporate sectors to become more involved in land management for and with the poor. In addition, his organization runs seminars on community-based housing issues and conducts training sessions for development consultants and community organizations in handling self-managed projects. These are attended by people from many different cities and serve as an additional method of spreading community-based and cooperative housing ideas and strategies throughout the country. Dodo is now embarking on a more complex level of activity by including basic infrastructure in the design of his projects and by involving a wider group of actors in the process. His background and previous experience give him a strong basis from which to work; he is already very familiar with the personal figures and key institutions in the housing field—the Department of Public Works, the Ministry of Public Housing, and the national and local planning bodies (Bappenas and Pemda).
As a child, Dodo lived in neighborhoods that helped him understand the life of the poor in practice, not just in theory. Dodo was in the Scout movement during primary and junior high school and feels that it instilled in him a sense of social concern. In his university and student days, he was interested in social issues, and he supplemented his education by taking courses in development studies. At his university, the Bandung Institute of Technology, he formed the Traditional Housing Study Group that carried out social research projects, among other things, and he graduated with a degree in architecture. Aware that the poor cannot afford architects and that the architectural profession tended to serve corporate interests, he felt compelled to work within the community service and social change sector instead. Dodo worked for two years as a housing specialist with Yaysan Mandiri, an organization that does work with appropriate technologies in villages. He then developed his own institution and networking ventures. Dodo has already achieved much in his community-based housing projects and in his networking among colleagues. He was active in the formation of the Bandung Housing Forum in 1989. In 1993 he also formed the Bandung Working Group on Shelter. Dodo was actively involved in the United Nation's Habitat Preparatory Committee Meeting in Kenya and in the Habitat II Conference in Turkey.