Having a Say in Government: How residents of Makassar get involved in city planning

November 17th, 2020 | Story

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Citizen empowerment is a core value of the Building Healthy Cities (BHC) project model. This means citizens have the power to speak about issues that affect their health and everyday living. In Makassar, Indonesia, BHC works closely with Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Daerah’ (BAPPEDA), which coordinates all planning and budget preparation for the city. BAPPEDA uses some citizen-powered (or “bottom-up”) processes in planning to inform the traditional “top-down” directives, indicators, and outcome goals that come from the Ministry of Home Affairs. This process is called musrenbang, an annual forum in which citizens articulate their needs to the local government in hopes of directing funding to their neighborhoods.

The term musrenbang comes from three words:

  • musyawarah, which means a community meeting to reach consensus
  • perencanaan, which means planning and budgeting
  • pembangunan, which means development.

Musrenbang can link citizen’s needs directly to city planning, which is particularly important for under-represented populations that often lack other ways to request help.

A participant holds a sheet for fellow community members to brainstorm.

This photo is from the pre-COVID training held from March 2–3, 2020.

While this process facilitates public participation in government planning and budgeting and encourages government policies and programs to meet citizens’ needs, the musrenbang could be improved. It is a time-consuming process that demands significant resources to complete intensive consultation, compile results, and prioritize the needs of 1.5 million people spread across 15 districts. In addition, BAPPEDA has to complete this major effort within the provincial and national budgeting cycles’ brief window of time, which leaves no room for delays or deliberation.

Prior to the launch of musrenbang in January 2020, BHC conducted an assessment in four villages, including Cambayya and Barang Lompo. The assessment identified a number of health issues, and BHC joined the musrenbang process from village to the city levels to help the residents advocate their priority activities.

Facilitating public participation in government planning and budgeting and encourages government policies and programs to meet citizens’ needs in urban health and urban planning.

This photo is from the pre-COVID training held from March 2–3, 2020.

In addition, BAPPEDA asked BHC to facilitate trainings on using a systems approach to prioritize programs suggested through musrenbang. BHC conducted a series of trainings and recommended priorities for 2021. The trainings helped city officers compare the traditional priority-setting method with the systems approach promoted by BHC. According to one BAPPEDA staff member, “This is [a] new reference for us in prioritizing program[s], analyzing data with [a] comprehensive picture using [a] system map. Hopefully, we can learn more on the system approach.”

Community participants pose for a photo after a Building Healthy Cities hosted event.

This photo is from the pre-COVID training held from March 2–3, 2020.

Recently, the BHC team in Makassar talked about the musrenbang experience. Project assistants Ayub Kusumaningrum and I (Andi Alam) were familiar with the process, but this was the first time they participated. Kusumaningrum said that she was surprised by the fact that some of the proposed issues (even from the previous musrenbang) were not incorporated in priority programs. Alam remarked that the forum was similar to public hearings and wanted to learn more about how communities assess and identify their needs, and how programs (proposed by the district) are selected and eliminated. Alam participated in the Barang Lompo musrenbang and Kusumaningrum in the Cambayya musrenbang. The response for a systems approach workshop was highly positive, and BAPPEDA is considering applying a systems approach to its 2021 work planning process.

Processes like the musrenbang offer a rare opportunity to engage the community and government simultaneously. BHC looks forward to continued partnership with BAPPEDA and the residents of Makassar in pursuit of better health for all.

Written by: Andi Alam & Karin Christianson

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