Ash Center: Participatory Governance in Indonesia

March 1, 2013
Ash Center: Participatory Governance in Indonesia
Tara Grillos, HKS Ph.D. candidate, pictured with friends in Indonesia

Comparing the Musrenbang Participatory Planning Process and the National Program for Community Empowerment

By Tara Grillos, Ph.D. Candidate, HKS

The goal of this trip was preliminary research toward my Ph.D. dissertation—to get a better sense of the participatory processes currently at work in Indonesia and explore the possibility of using Indonesia as a site for more extended fieldwork later this year. My research questions address participatory development from two angles:

    • First, how do differing motivations for the adoption of participation alter the de jure and de facto form that these institutions ultimately take on?

    • Second, what effect, if any, does participation have on the perceptions, abilities, and behaviors of the participants themselves?

Why Indonesia?
Indonesia is home to one of the most famous cases of what has been dubbed “community-driven development.” My own interest in Indonesia was first piqued during my Peace Corps training in 2006, when I was assigned a reading about the Kecamatan Development Program (KDP). KDP, originally designed by the World Bank in conjunction with the Indonesian government, created a mechanism for providing block grants directly to small communities to choose, implement, and monitor their own infrastructure projects. Though it has its critics, KDP was widely perceived to have increased transparency, delivered necessary infrastructure to previously underserved rural villages and, at least in some respects, empowered locals to resolve conflicts and place demands on local government.

What was once called KDP is currently known as the National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM) and is now funded in larger proportion by the national government than by the World Bank, though the latter is still heavily involved in consulting. PNPM has been so popular that it has spread both across regions and sectors in Indonesia. Most government-line ministries now have their own version of PNPM (though the form it takes on varies quite a bit), and some local governments have implemented their own block grant processes.

Meanwhile, there is a parallel participatory planning process that operates within the formal governance structures of the Indonesian government, called the Musrenbang system. It involves several layers of participatory discussions to generate, prioritize and propose projects to the local government for consideration in creating the local budget. There are many open questions as to how these two parallel participatory governance structures compare, interact, coordinate, and perhaps interfere with each other.

Research Process
My preliminary research involved meetings with relevant actors in Jakarta, revision of documentation received from those meetings, and direct observation of participatory processes in Surakarta, Central Java. I interviewed various people involved with Musrenbang and PNPM processes, including representatives from the World Bank, The Asia Foundation, Kemitraan, ICRAF, and Solo Kota Kita, as well as local researchers working on similar topics. All in all I conducted informal interviews with 16 individuals relating to either PNPM or Musrenbang or to participatory interventions by non-governmental actors, such as nonprofits or research organizations. During this visit, I was unable to meet with representatives from local government or from BAPEDA, the regional planning agency, but will certainly reach out to them during any future research in Indonesia. I also directly observed four Musrenbang meetings at the neighborhood level in Surakarta. The four neighborhood meetings I attended were in Sondakan, Bumi, Mangkubumen, and Ketelan.

Obstacles and Challenges
The main obstacles I faced were unfortunate timing and scheduling difficulties—all to be expected on a first visit to an unfamiliar place. My initial contact in Indonesia was ICRAF, the World Agroforestry Institute, which is dedicated to using participatory methods in both its research and development goals. While I was able to meet with my original contact within ICRAF, and with three other representatives working on related projects, the work group that would have been most directly relevant to my interests was away on a field visit during most of January. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as it afforded me time to establish new contacts within organizations relevant to the participatory institutions described above.

The other major obstacle I faced was unpredictable travel time between appointments in Jakarta. Due to the size of the city and lack of reliable public transportation, I was only able to schedule a maximum of two visits per day (unless the interviews were in the same geographical location). I was also in Jakarta during the monsoon rains this year, which flooded the central business district. This caused one of my interviews to be cancelled, one to be rescheduled, and another to be changed to a phone interview.

Future Research Plans
Thanks to this HKS Indonesia January term grant, I now feel that I have sufficient contacts in Indonesia to conduct fieldwork related to both of my research aims. With respect to the effects of participation on the perceptions and behaviors of participants themselves, I now have a partnership with a local NGO (Solo Kota Kita) that has agreed to help me gain access to particular communities for the purpose of conducting mini-ethnographic research on the experience of direct participation.

With respect to the motivations of different actors implementing participatory processes, I now have sufficient knowledge of the existing players and relevant organizations so that I can focus this research more precisely and efficiently on a future visit to Indonesia. In particular, I would like to explore the various incarnations of PNPM that have been adopted by different Indonesian line ministries. By reviewing relevant documentation and interviewing key players, I should be able to identify (both stated and unspoken) goals of each organization in adopting participatory processes, the particular institutional form that each has taken on, and the pattern of diffusion of specific participatory methods across sectors.

Tara Grillos is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard Kennedy School. She received a winter research grant from the HKS Indonesia Program in January 2013.