Indonesian Cities as Creative Ecosystems?

Indonesian Cities as Creative Ecosystems?

The Climate Resilient and Inclusive Cities (CRIC) project proposes a long lasting and unique cooperation between cities and research centres in Europe, Indonesia and other countries from SouthEast Asia, and to contribute to sustainable integrated urban development, good governance, and climate adaptation/mitigation. ECOLISE’s role in the CRIC project is to tackle the issue of Water management and Sanitation through a collaborative and inclusive participation and sustainable design lens.

For the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to travel in Indonesia and stay a few days in the cities of Gorontalo (Sulawesi) and Kupang (Timor), engaging with 8 other cities in a 3-day conference on Urban Resilience. In these cities and conference I have met mayors, civil servants, NGO’s, researchers, teachers, citizens and it has been quite a journey! It has been personally rewarding to have the opportunity to dive into topics that have been my passion around urban and regional planning and collaborative participation. I can see how ECOLISE’s expertise, considering the diverse array of its members, and the innovation being led by community-led initiatives (CLIs) can empower these cities, its organizations and citizens.

Gorontalo and Kupang, and other pilot cities who are part of this project lack, in different degrees, basic facilities, infrastructure and the systemic lens to approach the city’s ecosystem. The CRIC project creates for these cities the opportunity to address their current challenges in ways that by-pass the more typical and destructive business as usual solutions (which are being “enforced” at the moment) into nature based solutions and living systems design approaches.

Everyone has been cheering these approaches, shared already by some of the city agencies and NGO’s. What they feel is a lack of support and inspiring examples to back-up and serve as guidance to what they can already intuit.


European consultancy in Indonesia? 

Since the start of this project, I wonder what is the relevance of having European consultancy for a project being implemented in Indonesia, such a different region and culture. The first simple benefit I am witnessing is that of bringing the experience of having already dealt with issues they are currently facing. Not that Indonesians lack knowledge and awareness of what could be the way, but they haven’t been through the experience of having tried different solutions and learnt from the mistakes made. I’m referring not only to technical solutions to manage natural resources and design infrastructures but also to setting up collaborative and inclusive participation practices within the ecosystem. On the other hand, is this really the best approach? ECOLISE’s policy thesis on Development” implies a goal – what’s our vision of bioregional transformative development? mentions that the SDGs opened the door for seeing Europe as a developing country (when it comes to the planetary crisis) and reversing the knowledge and expertise flow: countries from the global south work much more with nature based solutions than the EU for example, and learning from the global south would be crucial for the EU (by Nina Klein, ECOLISE’s Advocacy Lead).
Can CRIC project or future projects, harvest more knowledge on resource management, collaboration and collective envisioning within their culture, traditions and wisdom? And can this place-based knowledge be used to bring the North and South together in tackling climate change and the need and desire for more regenerative ways of living?


A Vision

In CRIC project ECOLISE has the opportunity and interest to support the creation of synergies between cities and community-led initiatives that can inspire and nurture knowledge sharing moments towards a sustainable development. From conversations and sharings I’ve had with a diversity of stakeholders, it is clear that the contact with the power, resilience and creativity of CLIs can be eye opening for these passionate citizens and organizations. An example that has been shared is the work being carried out by the Global Ecovillage Network that has 11 registered initiatives in Indonesia, the Local Transformation Toolkit as a framework for local inclusive collaboration, and the UrbanA project insights into what Sustainable and Just Cities look like.


If you have comments or other examples that could serve as an inspiration to these cities and communities, please write to me at

There is a lot more to say but for now I leave you with some pictures and links:

Sara Silva’s presentation


Images from the presentation on Collaborative and Inclusive practices to Build Urban Resilience.
Sara Silva, from ECOLISE, urging for “Courage” to move beyond business as usual destructive practices and a slide based on Dr. Pedro Macedo’s Collaborative Compass for Transformation for the Local Transformation Toolkit.

The Mayor of Kupang commiting to a Zero Waste approach and the invention of a sign urging to “stop groundwater mining” in Kupang.

Melsi Mansulla, in the Mutiahara Timor (Pearl of Timor) waste bank that she created and which is now employing 10 people.


Field visit to Santorini’s slums, in Gorontalo, where a pilot project is being designed with the citizens to naturalize the river bank and build sanitation infrastructures.

In the picture Head of community Self-help agency, Head of Talumolo village and Mr. Muni, Head of infrastructure sector at Bappeda.


Limboto lake in Gorontalo, since 1970 has decreased its depth from 30mts to 3mts and is expected to dry in the next 2 years.


With city officials from the city of Gorontalo.


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