This profile was prepared when Roem Topatimasang was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Through Roems organization, the Institute for Social Transformation (INSIST), he builds local institutions as centers of education for isolated, marginalized, and minority communities in rural areas. INSIST s School of Social Transformation (SST) is dedicated to civic and economic rural education to empower community members to create social change. He educates them about customary rights, helps them develop economic and agricultural self-sufficiency, and nurtures local leadership to ensure that communities can mobilize against regional, national, and multinational economic and political exploitation in the future. Roem was the first in Indonesia to use tools of village mapping (i.e. resources, problems, threats, and opportunities) and video for community members to participate in critical analysis, problem-solving, and resource management. At the SST centers, community members can learn by physically implementing new sustainable agriculture techniques at the school s facilities. The educational process motivates people to create positive social change for themselves because they participate in identifying community problems and finding solutions. Once they achieve autonomy, these local institutions join INSIST as member organizations, integrating into a larger national network of citizen organizations (COs) that work with communities on minority rights, natural resource protection, womens empowerment, and other issues. INSIST s approach is both universal and community-specific: They will build the local institution with the community, providing resources based on the context and particular challenges of each place and population, while empowering community members with the universal skills of organization, advocacy, and leadership.