Home ITCHelping the poorest people in Indonesian cities to get ahead

Helping the poorest people in Indonesian cities to get ahead A story from the communities of Bandung

In Indonesia, attempting any involvement in the relationships between poor people and powerful city councils can be a challenge. All the same, Dutch and Indonesian researchers are doing their best to give a voice to people in the kampungs of Bandung and Semarang. 'Members of the community said to us, "Thank you for not treating us like we’re just research subjects”.' On nwo.nl there are two stories about projects from the Merian Fund. In one of these, ITC researcher Mafalda Madureira was strongly involved.

This is an excerpt from the full story on nwo.nl.

Bandung - known for its architecture or for creative batik?

The city council wanted to promote Bandung as a hip, creative city, with a particular focus on design and architecture. Urban geographer Adiwan Aritenang of the Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) in Indonesia was disappointed about the news. With such a large creative industry in Bandung already – typical Indonesian batik, doll-making, knitting, musical performance – why not use those to put Bandung on the map, giving an instant boost to the smallest (home) businesses?

Aritenang met with colleague Mafalda Madureira from ITC at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, who has a special interest in the creative industries. The two researchers worked with other colleagues, students, and the NGO Inisiatif to map creative activity and pinpoint opportunities. Where are these small businesses located, what do the entrepreneurs want, and what do they need? 'We noticed that people were often tired of taking part in research,' Madureira says. 'They were thinking, if you’ve just come to get data and then take off again, then don’t bother.’

Women working from home 

By showing genuine interest, the researchers were able to convince people to participate. Madureira: 'The medium-sized companies want to grow. They need marketing skills, as well as spaces where they can showcase their work. They also want to collaborate with small businesses, to commission work from them. The smallest entrepreneurs are often women working from home, and they have no growth ambitions, for example because they don’t have the administrative skills required.’

Mafalda Madureira

At our activities where all the stakeholders were able to meet each other, it turned out that politicians were open to the needs of entrepreneurs.

Mafalda Madureira

This means that workshops on administration skills and, for example, how to make good videos to promote your creative skills and business can make a lot of difference. 'We helped people to establish useful contacts. Some of the courses already existed, but only in other locations.' And then came COVID-19. Madureira: 'Knitting businesses closed, the owners and staff went back to their home villages. The tourism-dependent batik industry struggled, and businesses looked for ways to continue online. City marketing was no longer a priority; everything revolved around the pandemic. We lost our momentum.'

Start building the economy 

In 2022 researchers were at last able to organise meetings with businesses, communities and policy-makers again. 'We organised a marketing workshop and a symposium where all the stakeholders were able to meet each other. That was when it turned out that politicians were open to entrepreneurs’ needs. They wanted to start building the economy following the disastrous COVID-19 period. They didn’t make concrete promises, but they showed an interest in the needs of the smallest entrepreneurs. The dialogue started, which was really good to see. And people from the community said: thank you for not treating us like we’re just research subjects.'

Continue to read the whole story on nwo.nl.