The first formal group exercise for the Studio course (BU3) was to develop a so-called Actor Mapping for the complex case of Dharavi. Before starting the master, the most of us did not know even what Dharavi was and where it was located. Some students had a previous idea on how to approach a mapping exercise but we had no clue about how to apply it to actors. Through some readings, internet research and a few examples of mapping given in classes (which were not related to actors at all) the different workgroups proposed mostly intuitive and diverse approaches of what an Actor Map could be in Dharavi.
Four months later, we had the same task but for another case study that we are going to investigate directly in the field in May. The Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI) in Thailand designed what seems to be a paradigmatic example of an integral housing programme implemented from the community organisations: the Baan Mankong.
Having finished the core and optional modules, the amount of information that we had to approach this new task was highly different from the Dharavi exercise. In addition, a huge amount of readings directly or indirectly related to the case gave us a different starting point to analyse how the actors operate and how they are related in the implementation process of the Baan Mankong programme. However, it did not necessarily mean that the job was going to be easier.
From the beginning of the analysis there was no doubt that CODI was the key-actor in the implementation of the successful programme, but the discussion inside the workgroup started when we tried to categorise and place the organisation in a diagram or a map. In 2000 the Urban Community Development Office merged with Rural Development Fund to form CODI, made up of one-third community representatives, one-third government and one-third from civil society (NGOs and universities) according to UN-HABITAT (UN-HABITAT, 2009). Consequently, some members of the group argued that it was part of the structure of the government, others stated that CODI was a hybrid that needed to be considered as a special category (myself included) and the last ones were still trying to find a proper answer.
The idea of the hybrid was not only supported on its composition in thirds but also in the fact that CODI works as a development fund accessing to government and outside resources. However, taking into consideration that the organisation was created from the merger of state institutions and its main budget comes from the central government, the workgroup finally agreed to consider CODI as a central government institution. Having taken position about the location of CODI in the actors-space, it was easier to translate its work and relations into a graphic representation.
If the actors-space is defined as a circle divided into four main areas (public, private, CBOs and NGOs-plus international-institutions) and the Baan Mankong program is located in the centre as it is shown in the attached scheme (it is just a draft of work in progress), it is possible to realise that in spite of the fact that CODI is a public actor, it is the great exception in the way it works and in the way it is related with other actors. Firstly, most of the actors are static in the space with a very specific individual role. Nonetheless, some actors like NULICO, the Assembly of the Poor and CODI are arrows themselves, indicating that their main job is basically to establish relationships among other actors. Secondly, among the three arrow-actors mentioned above, CODI is the only one that works beyond its category (public sector), being involved also in the CBOs and NGOs-plus-international-institutions arenas. Finally, in the scheme it is possible to see that there are two main kinds of relationships between actors: the concentric ones that show relationships between actors which are not related directly with Baan Mankong and the radial ones which represent direct links between the actors and the programme. The interesting issue is that almost all the radial relationships go from the actors to the Baan Mangkong programme (or vice versa) through CODI.
This draft illustrates the relevance of challenging the traditional understanding of the institutions to generate policies which can succeed in complex issues like overcoming poverty and housing provision. It is possible to argue that an effective approach to reach transformative results must involve actors that work as links and establish relations beyond their own categories.
UN-HABITAT. (2009). Slum Upgrading Facility: Exchange Visit to the Community. Retrieved January 2010, from UN-HABITAT: http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/listItemDetails.aspx?publicationID=2678