Normally I am known for being attached to my technology in London, however, this trip was also an opportunity for me to revert back to “manual” mode. With this in mind, I wrote many of my entries and while it is after the fact, am uploading them in one post with the hope of maintaining their integrity… for the most part. I apologize for my handwriting and have transcribed them. 🙂
Sunday 15 May, 2011@JL Bangkok
Night before Site work: Concluding Week One
After a week of meetings with government and private officials, we have finally organized as a team for our sites. Some provocative meetings with a community architect and former GHB director, questions emerge at the scale of CODI and BM make one question this relationship speculated to be of a more cooperative nature. Coming away it appears that CODI’s relationship with some (not all) central government organizations is characterized as one of forced commitment and less of a willing and partner nature.
Additionally, the new GHB loan makes one question the target and applicable nature of its conditions as one to access the “poor.” Ultimately perhaps because of its physical nature, the presentation by the community architect, Chawanad Luansang, was empowering in its swift moving processes. The nature of ACHR’s work at a larger scale seems to have successful ties and links as well as a nice emphasis on vernacular methods.
As we enter the site, I hope to be able to look more into the low cost and energy saving techniques in the community brief and perhaps see links between ACHR’s efforts and a sense of community cooperation around this.
Wednesday 18 May, 2011
@Sang San Community House
Halfway there… the bigger Questions of $$ and Land
Tonight we are spending the night in the community and while I originally opted out it seems to make the most sense logistically. Today couldn’t have been further than planned and being almost done with the site work, some big questions are still lurking for me. This morning we planned a community workshop that was nothing like what we anticipated. Our plan to focus part of the workshop with children we saw the day before was completely foiled as yesterday was a holiday for them ad today they all elft for school and the men for work. Regardless, half of the group stayed in the main working area to speak with a group of women while a few of us went off and did more sought-out interviews. We found a disconnected community with some past issues it didn’t want to “reveal”- the world they used. The deeper issue beyond this is that while the community feels secure on the land, they have been living here for 100+ years they have no tenure. Therefore, they are limited to how they can use CODI funding. This concept of not desireing to first acquire the tenure before they upgrade is personally a tough one for me to understand but also high risk. The issue of land is much more complicated than I expected and not addressed at the more complex level within CODI and upgrading.
In the afternoon we ha a meeting with the municipality and community leaders about the “CDF.” While finance is not my forte, somehow I feel as though I’ve been come an expert after this 4 hour discussion. The idea itself of a “back-up” generator of funds regulated by community networks is a brilliant idea generally well done- expanding beyond just housing and land to capacity training in Rangsit. However, there seems to be some major gaps within the CDF and I was shocked to learn that funds could be given by the community network to a community for land purchases or on site upgrading with no criteria. I.e. communities could use the funds to “bypass” CODI’s own regulations without any mechanism to safeguard this. This means a major conflict of interest for the big donors such as ACHR, The municipality and CODI and communities themselves as relationships and legalities can be compromised.
Aside from these overarching questions, it has been hugely enlightening and a fun night with community dancing, bonfire, and karaoke. However, facing these issues in our criteria will be much more of a challenge.
Friday 20 May, 2011
Site Group Wrap-up: Rangsit
This day, though long has been truly a great reminder of how luck I am to have this experience and exchange. My UDP colleagues have made me think outside my box and yet capitalize on one another’s strengths in such a great way. Today reminded me how smooth a team can still work when given constraints of space, diverse backgrounds and find common ground. It really makes me wish we had this opportunity to learn from earlier in the program.
Our last day on site yesterday was again split between the community and the municipality office. Our community leaders have been amazing, as well as our Thai colleagues we’ve bonded with. The “presentation” in the morning was focused on a group decision that our community really needed to focus on getting the entire community on the same page as information sharing and transparency within the community were big issues that needed to be addressed. They took some of the ideas such as painting a community savings tracker for all to see. We also re-presented all of the strategies including re-blocking and relocation that was met with mixed reviews. Vanessa, on-site with us for the day, pushed us to continue to ask “why” when community was less perceptive to some of the precedents of previous projects.
In the afternoon meeting, our SWOT of Policy, Finance, and Partnerships was met with good and some questionable views. The community leaders agreed that the CDF might need to reconsider criteria and external funding options, while also explicit that limitations could hurt this even more so. Overall it has pushed for Sunday’s presentation to come.
Seeing upgrading as a strategy to attain land tenure is still tricky and risky for community. And while at this point in time the community is not feeling the threat of eviction, I can’t just live or think in this moment as a designer or planner (it isn’t our nature). How communities can negotiate these issues amongst themselves and especially in these suburban conditions will foretell how successful CODI can reach these communities more effectively.