Indonesia is a plural nation-state made up of communities with diverse social backgrounds: ethnicity; customs; culture; language; and religion. Pluralism is the very fabric of the daily life of every Indonesian, and it is the basic capital for Indonesia to grow and develop into a strong nation. All elements of Indonesia’s plural society need to work together to build harmonious social relations, strengthen cohesion and give priority to equality – not exploit differences – in order to realise the national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).
The breadth and depth of knowledge and aspiration that emerges from local communities in Indonesia should become the basis for development policy formulation and implementation in this plural nation. Nevertheless, this has not always encouraged policy makers to a better understanding of the importance of knowledge about the local context for the planning cycle. References to policy implementation are mostly from empirical studies that often lack local context and relevance to the policy being discussed.
The mid-term evaluation of the Indonesian National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2015-2019 conducted by Bappenas in 2017 shows that two key issues that hinder the achievement of (p.viii) economic growth targets are low absorption of government spending and slowing private sector activity; these two are related to the structural barriers of policy implementation in technical and subnational agencies. The results imply that despite implementation failure being the main problem, knowledge about implementation is still missing and needs to be further explored. The empirical experience in implementing government flagship programmes points to the importance of taking local context into account for the success of development initiatives.
Bappenas welcomes the publication of this book because it is relevant to addressing the increasingly complex development challenges we face in Indonesia, and to building our understanding of the role of local knowledge in the critical stages of the development cycle, especially in policy formulation and implementation. This book also represents collaboration between local communities as knowledge producers, local civil society organisations as managers and crafters of knowledge and district governments as the implementers of public policies at the sub-national level. In a joint effort to strengthen knowledge-based policy processes in Indonesia, this book is a product of a partnership between the Indonesian Government and the Australian Government, which are represented by Bappenas and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The main contribution of this book is the presentation and processing of ten case studies on the link between practical discourse and social policy; on how local knowledge is produced, communicated and used to influence the overall policy cycle. Coupled with references to the rich literature on the topic, the authors invite us to reflect on the kinds of knowledge we often use to assess the reliability of knowledge in the policy-making process. Through presentations of empirical evidence in the policy cycle in the real world, the case studies demonstrate the knowledge-to-policy process at the local level, who is involved and how local knowledge can be effective in influencing public policy-making processes.
The main hypothesis of this book is that development policies will be more effective when using a variety of sources and types (p.ix) of knowledge, whether generated from academics, professionals or communities. Local knowledge is a valuable asset that contributes to national development, emphasising the close and interconnected relationship between culture and development. Development policies will be easier to implement if the local context and local knowledge are taken into consideration, because local knowledge anticipates technical feasibility, political dynamics and the socio-cultural dimension at the local level. This principle is important and highly relevant to the diverse development context in Indonesia. Bappenas hopes that this book will contribute to promoting the use of local knowledge in policy making in Indonesia. (p.x)