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Why Changemakers Are Needed At Every Level

Ever heard of the phrase "Be the change to see the change in the world"? That Gandhi quote was perhaps used more as a motivational speech among the youth. But I do like its implications on policy strategies. I like to see its potential in tackling the "oh, it's the Government's control, we have no power" argument.

Hey there, Fabian from the Think-team trying to give my two cents to bottom-up policy strategies. Be aware I am covering a highly complex topic, so I will be oversimplifying processes for the sake of explanation. Let me know in the comments if I am missing out on crucial details.

For those unfamiliar with some basics, you can either go Top-down or Bottom-up policymaking (among others of course). To understand what this means, you need to look at levels of Governance (which is not the same as "Government", but may involve them).

Bressers & Rosenbaum (2003)

To oversimplify a very complex process, Top-down, as self-explanatory as it is, roots from the top-level. This can be from law enforcement or mandates, etc. Meanwhile, Bottom-up sources the ideas of regulation from the lower levels. There has been increasing attention over the past decades on bottom-up as it seems more eligible in providing relevant strategies.

A few weeks ago, we were having a meeting with another 'anonymous' potential collaborator. We took a visit to one of our farmers who own our biogas digester, Pak Putu Rudi that I mentioned in previous blogs. Pak Rudi is such a dedicated farmer, I cannot help but think he is very cute in treating the biogas digester like his own child. After the visit, our anonymous guest mentioned: I have yet to see a government officer as dedicated as the farmer we just saw. This appreciation of the lower governance got me thinking a lot about power.

Putu Rudi, Farmer from Munggu

People assume that the people in power are the changemakers, which is true! Think of it this way, in a logistic company the driver has the least power in making big changes. The decision-maker is of course the CEO, who mobilizes the resources here and there. In a sense, the driver is replaceable, which is why society puts a higher (social) value on the CEO (those who can lead). However, a leader is meaningless without an executor, which makes the driver powerful in finalizing decisions.

The same applies to policymaking. The knowledge gap between the upper-level governance and lower-level is usually the bigger problem, compared to the problems policies are actually trying to solve. Which is incredibly ironic and superfluous. If we can close that gap somehow, then we can find that silver bullet. But how??

This is where bottom-up became attractive. There are many other terms such as co-creation, co-design, etc. The point is, involving the bottom layer crowd. That the solutions being used by the frontliners are supported instead of restricted. That the needs of every layer of governance are addressed and not just the highest level. An example is our Climate Field School held with BMKG.

Cool right? But then, how would change happen quickly?

As I mentioned in this blog, it is difficult or almost impossible to make a big leap. And so we need examples, Proof of Concepts of what works so that we'll slowly climb up the ladder and show the higher levels what's up. We create changes incrementally. Slowly but surely.

To conclude, I think it is very dangerous to assume that we cannot make a difference because we are not at the top. Without information from the bottom, the top will never deliver what is needed. And a vicious loop of nonsense is the only output between two people who fail to make ends meet.

I hope you realize now that changemakers cannot only be the people up-top. Us down-low may not be the shot callers, but we aren't necessarily too slow.

Thanks for reading!

Further reading:

Bressers, Hans & Rosenbaum, W. & Rosembaum, W.. (2003). Social scales, sustainability, and governance: An introduction in. International Journal of Computational Engineering Science - IJCES. 3-24.

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