Also in The Jakarta Globe
A researcher on “ non-traditional security issues” from a university in Singapore asked me how to give meanings to what she thinks are now just empty jargons: community, participation, capacity builidng, knowledge generation and all that.
My answer was, “You think those are jargons because you are not in it, but for those who practice it, they are actually very real. And, by the way, we are now beyond knowledge generation, we are into knowledge dynamics, because we need to not only generate knowledge, but more importantly to share and activate it to feed into policy making process.”
But indeed the question about “community” is a serious issue. Modernist European writers and sociologists in late 19th and early 20th centuries suggested that there is no such thing as “community” in modern urban conditions.
But now I am writing this blog from Makassar where I am collaborating with a community of 41 families of Kampung Pisang to design the lay-out of their “urban village” during day-time, and meeting all kinds of “community” ranging from bikers, heritage enthusiasts, bloggers, urban study groups, to culinary enthusiasts, during night time. The concept of community is traditionally applied to a territorial community, a neighbourhood. It is currently also used to cover urban kampong settlements, as well as non-territorial, interest-based groups such as cyclists or green map makers. They all rightfully deserve to be called communities in that they know each other, spent time togeher and work together to pursue their interests, including demanding policies and government programmes to support them. In most cases, their interests reflect those of the public at large. In these instances, they actually work not only for themselves, but for all.
In the case of territorial communities, their interests are naturally mostly connected to their neighbourhoods, but good and healthy neighbourhoods make up a good and healthy city.
And, by now, we know how impossible it is to maintain, change, and build our cities for the better, if not for the role of the people organised in groups, in communities.
Knowledge dynamics, in which people, communities, co-produce and share knowledge and use it to find more opportunities to act, to change, is the very foundation for a sustainable future. Knowledge dynamics reflects a right that is more than just to access public information, but also to produce knowledge to construct worldview together.