Working Politically for Pro-Poor Policies in Indonesia

A comparative political analysis by the Asia Foundation

Many in the official development community often agree that ‘politics matters’ in the process of development, but often ask: ‘So what? What does it mean to work in a politically informed way, and how can we do it?’ Moreover, official donors often appear to think and act as if institutional and policy change can only be brought about from the top, through the formal organizations of the state and sub-national governments. This excellent paper by Laurel MacLaren, Alam Surya Putra and Erman Rahman of the Asia Foundation shows that facilitating and supporting the emergence and activities of coalitions of leaders and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) can be a highly effective means of achieving pro-poor policy outcomes in some institutional contexts. 

The paper explores the politics of local coalitions working to expand coverage of health services for the poor in two municipalities in Central Java, Indonesia – Semarang and Pekalongan. The research shows that a necessary condition for working in a politically informed way to influence social policy requires a detailed analytical understanding of the local political, organizational and institutional terrain. But it also entails learning how to facilitate networks, how to broker coalitions of organizations and individuals, how to seize opportunities – or critical junctures, or ‘windows of opportunity’ (such as the Indonesian Decentralization Law) – and how to encourage and support the articulation of public demand, combining well-informed technical knowledge of budgets and procedures and the political skills of smart and locally-appropriate advocacy.

Download the paper:

Laurel MacLaren, Alam Surya Putra & Erman Rahman (2011) “How Civil Society Organizations Work Politically to Promote Pro-Poor Policies in Decentralised Indonesian Cities” The Asia Foundation Occasional Paper No. 6 

To read more of DLP's recommended publications please visit our publications page.

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

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