Grassroot solutions provide a determined path for urban development in Indonesia

May 19, 2021

One green and spotless alley in Glintung Village

When residents in East Java’s Kampung Glintung (Glintung Village) in Malang city entrusted Bambang Irianto to become their chief in 2012, the urban village was notoriously known for its flooding and high crimes. Now, Kampung Glintung has become a model for green urban development in Indonesia.

Dotted with narrow lanes and small semi-detached houses, the densely populated Kampung Glintung carries typical characteristics of an urban village in Indonesia. But upon closer look, you’d find that there’s nothing ‘typical’ about Kampung Glintung, as the area is now well-equipped with community-based recycling system, and absorption wells to mitigate flooding. The gritty walls of the narrow lanes have also been upgraded with vertical garden.

At the heart of this remarkable transformation is a grass-root initiative led by Mr. Irianto, involving multiple stakeholders in the public and private sector. Many social scientists describe Mr. Irianto’s collaborative and holistic approach as ‘cross-pollination’ model in urban planning. It’s a community-based model which puts the need of communities at the center.

As more Indonesians move from rural areas to urban pockets, it is imperative that we take cues from such model, if we want to turn sustainable development into a full circle in Indonesia.

At the Accelerator Lab, we acknowledge that facilitating cross-pollination is essential for breakthroughs. We believe such experiments can help communities to innovate using local sources. Therefore, replication of cross pollination solutions in urban villages are a viable path to empowering communities for a better and sustainable living

Urban development has been identified as one of the top challenges faced by communities worldwide.

The World Economic Forum identified five of the biggest challenges confronting the future of cities which hold some relevance to Indonesia. These include environmental threats, inequality, and impacts on resources, technology, and governance. The COVID-19 crisis has also brought additional pressures for cities, particularly for the poorest residents who have no coping mechanism to the pandemic impact such as rising inequality.  

Recognizing these challenges, Indonesia’s Accelerator Lab seeks to explore the issues impacting urbanization.

Building from ethnography and exploration

In our previous article we tried to decipher coping and adaptation mechanisms through observing likeness and contrasts in communities impacted by water related disaster. It was revealed that identity and social cohesion prevent communities from relocating. We also conducted remote ethnographic studies of low-income urban communities affected by disasters. The exercise was part our objective to  get the big picture of the challenge, we can understand the depth of recurrent urban development challenges in Indonesia.

Reflection from Acclab launching

Building from the lessons we learned in the first few months, we tried to gather a deeper perspective on urban development from the public. During the launch of Indonesia’s Accelerator Lab on 24 March, we engaged with participants and invited them to share their insights of future cities.

The opinions from participants – including governments, practitioners, development experts, and students-  reflected a strong need  for collaboration to address the gaps such as unclear regulations,  and lack of skills and ability for communities  to adapt.

We also heard suggestions for future cities to have technology-based public services and capacity building for inclusive and resilient communities. The audience was also eager to find solutions for the unequal access to technology. Some even highlighted the importance of moving forward and the need to consider the existing imbalances in the quality of life and living costs in the city.

Cross-pollination experiment

Back to cross-pollination model, urban communities in Hong Kong, and the Silicon Valley are among those in the world who have innovated quickly due to the extensive cross-pollination of ideas between individuals and corporations.

This model could also be applied on a smaller scale here in Indonesia as in the case with Kampung Glintung.

Looking ahead, the Accelerator Lab aims to facilitate more cross-pollination experiments in capital city Jakarta’s several urban villages. We hope to identify some more local innovators and connect them with communities, as we address some of the most pressing urban woes.

It’s a small intervention to create a leap in a determined path towards sustainable and livable cities.


Written by Muhammad Didi Hardiana, Head of Experimentation and Scholastica Rania, Intern for Innovative Financing Lab

Edited by Tomi Soetjipto and Ranjit Jose