Participatory Approach

One of the most important tools in this people-driven upgrading process is flexible, accessible finance, in the form of housing and land loans and infrastructure subsidies. No need to get all theoretical about what kind of housing approach is the right one: the lesson from Baan Mankong is that if the resources can flow in a flexible way and people can see these resources are accessible to them, they will plan for what they really need and do what’s right. Once they know this financial resource is available, people can see possibilities, can organize their savings groups, can search together for land, can start their land negotiations, can learn how to plan and develop projects from friends in other communities, and can be free to develop their own unique land and housing solutions. Everybody in urban poor communities around the country knows this now.

SAVINGS GROUPS : To join the Baan Mankong program, communities have to have fairly well-established savings groups. These savings groups act as a crucial stabilizing force when the upgrading project begins, so that the flexible finance can link with people’s collective financial base and to the money management skills they have already developed through their internal community savings and credit activities. When you put people’s own collective resources and these collective management capacities together with this flexible external finance, it gives people a new power to change things.

COLLECTIVE EVERYTHING : Another important requirement to join the upgrading program is that communities have to find ways to do things together, and that everyone in the community (even the poorest) has to be included in the process, as a way of creating and strengthening their organizations. This collectivity is not a radical socialist imperative, but a tool to pull people together and create a new strength within their group. Working together as a group is never easy, but it gives the poor, who usually have no power at all, the strength and confidence to do all kinds of things they could never hope to do individually. Doing things collectively also creates an important balancing and proactive mechanism between community members and various outside forces: collective land, collective finance, collective management and collective welfare.

HORIZONTAL SUPPORT : As more and more upgrading projects get underway, and as community people get on buses and trains to join in a constant stream of project visits, exchanges, workshops and inaugurations, the Baan Mankong Program has made the whole country into one great big university of housing and land options for the poor, offering learning opportunities from kindergarten to Ph.D. level. If people see their peers doing something, they realize they can do it themselves, and there is nothing in the world more powerful or more immediate than this kind of exchange learning. The national upgrading process is also balanced and braced in many ways through these horizontal links.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT : The Baan Mankong program also supports the involvement of a growing number of community architects, planners, architecure faculties and design students to assist communities as they develop their settlement layout plans and housing designs. These professionals and students play an important role in the upgrading process. In a program which has to do with physical change, their ability to make lovely drawings and models helps communities to visualize new possibilities, and their professional presentations are essential ingredients in the success of the upgrading program.