Thematic Kampung and « gotong-royong » culture as the backbone of sustainable development


Semarang City is the fifth largest metropolitan city in Indonesia and the capital city of Central Java Province. Spreading over 373.7 km2, with 13.6 km of coastline, the city is divided into 16 subdistricts and 117 urban villages. With 1.7 million inhabitants, and 20.82% of them still classified as poor, Semarang faces an overwhelming poverty issue, encountered in every city in Indonesia.

Semarang and cullture

Semarang City long-term development plan (RPJPD) for 2005-2025 envisions Semarang as a religious, orderly, and cultured metropolitan city. Here, “cultured” refers to daily behaviour based on work ethos, ordinances, customs, traditions, local wisdom, and long-developed local norms.
The RPJPD is currently on its third period and mid-term plan (RPJMD 2016-2021).

The RPJMD set out the new vision of the elected Mayor as such: "Semarang City as Great Service Trade City Towards Increasingly Prosperous People". This vision shall materialize through 4 different missions, including one mission related to culture, defined as: "Realizing Cultured and Qualified Society Life". The RPJMD also highlights the importance of strengthening the local economy for the people, based on local assets.

The new vision and mission of Semarang will be implemented though the concept of "mutual cooperation" (Goyong Royong). This new mindset is embodied in the slogan: "Moving together to develop Semarang", which was developed in line with thematic Kampoing programme.

The Thematic Kampung initiative emanated from the Mayor of Semarang, Bp. Hendrar Prihadi, in a move to overcome poverty. It was later planned and implemented by the Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda). This program required coordination across agencies on social, cultural, economic and infrastructure aspects.

Goals and project implementation

Main aim and specific goals

The main goal of Thematic Kampung is to overcome poverty and improve the quality of the living environment of the most disadvantaged people, provide basic housing infrastructure, and support the local economy as a leverage for regional development.

It aims to promote the “gotong-royong” culture of cooperation, collective work and social justice. Based on the “gotong-royong culture” and community empowerment, the community is expected to be the subject (active actors) of urban poverty alleviation programs in Semarang.

Specific goals include:

  1. Increase people's welfare through improving the local economy;
  2. Improve the living environment in slum neighbourhoods;
  3. Greater participation and involvement of the population;
  4. Enhance the social and economic potential of local communities;
  5. Increase community awareness regarding local and regional identity, and empower the communities.

Development of the project

Main actions carried out

The Thematic Kampung Programme consists in the establishment of Thematic Kampungs in Semarang, through community empowerment and environmental improvement. Throughout the process, the community gets more knowledge on the characteristics of the region, and can map potential problems it encounters within the area, in particular regarding poor dwellings.

“Thematic Kampung” (“kampung” referring to a village or an inhabited place) defines a territory, under the administration of the urban village or sub-district, that showcases the identity/meaning of its community by highlighting its social, economic and cultural potential. The programme is implemented widely throughout Semarang, with one thematic kampung in each sub-district. Delineation for each Thematic Kampung is not rigid, but generally consists of approximately 50 to 500 houses administratively located in the sub-district area. Each Thematic Kampung has a headman, assisted by the Head of RT and RW Chair.

The implementation follows several steps:

1. Potential Mapping of the area

  • Mapping of social, economic indicators and infrastructure following a dedicated handbook;
  • Ranking of the results of the mapping, according to priority;
  • A thematic approach is identified for the kampung based on the priorities drawn

2. Theme Determination

  • A small team composed of representatives of the urban village and the community is in charge of determining the theme of the Kampung;
  • The proposed theme, accompanied by an associated budget and expenditure plan (RAB), is discussed collectively in a fórum;
  • The agreed theme is proposed to the subdistrict.

3. Selection of Thematic Village

  • Subdistricts form a small team, made of subdistricts and community representatives, to choose among the proposed Thematic Kampung (each urban village has the same rights in submitting Thematic Kampong);
  • Proposals are discussed collectively during a fórum;
  • Proposals are submitted to the Mayor of Semarang, c.q. Bappeda Kota Semarang.

4. Theme Design

  • Draft of the theme design, that describes the conditions to be achieved;
  • Design of the theme visual identity (shady, clean, green).

5. Preparation of Programs/Activities

  • Thematic Kampung Programs/Activities are structured on the basis of local social, economic, and infrastructure criteria, by taking into account the main themes.

The Thematic Kampung Program started in 2016 with 32 kampungs, to reach 80 kampungs in 2017. In 2018, 65 additional kampungs were created, resulting in a total of 177 urban villages.

This program is supported by the Regional Budget (APBD) of Semarang city, with a budget of approximately 200 million IDR per kampung. Additionnal funding is provided from Musrenbang.

Facilitation in Subdistricts, Budget of Accompanying Opportunities, Corporate Social Responsibility Funds and NGOs.

In many aspects, the programme can also build synergies with other on-going programmes led in sub-districts, such as Women's Empowerment, Village Health Forum (FKK), LPMK Facilitation, PKK Facilitation, Development Planning Consultation (Musrenbang), Poverty Reduction Facilitation, that can support the implementation of Thematic Kampung.

One of the most successful outcomes of the Thematic Kampung Program as of today is Kampung Pelangi, in Randusari urban village, subdistrict of South Semarang. Originally a slum, the environment and landscape of the kampong gradually improved. In particular, it was embellished by the citizens themselves, which painted the walls thanks to a partnership with a painting business. Today, this colourful, rainbow-like kampong has become viral in social media, and became a new tourist destination, contributing to economic improvement for its citizens and the city of Semarang in general.

The philosophy of thematic Kampung programme is based on "Gotong-Royong" culture of collaboration: the government provides a stimulus in the form of concept and financing, and the community takes over.

The main obstacles encountered in the course of the project were the lack of awareness by communities regarding the potential of their respective kampungs. Some members of the community also tend to consider that government assistance through this projects only targets infrastructure upgrading, and does not improve sustainable local economic development as a whole.


Direct impacts

Impact on the local government

Through this programme, Semarang City Government created synergies with various stakeholders (BUMN, BUMD, Banking, Private, State and Private Universities, NGOs, CBOs and Communities) to enhance the efficiency of poverty reduction programmes.

The success of the project, especially for Kampung Pelangi, also boosted the tourism sector in Semarang City, and subsequently, local economic development. For Semarang City Government, this initiative can serve as a prototype for co-design and community empowerment, which can be replicated in other public policy sectors.

Impact on culture and on local cultural actors

This project established culture as the backbone of sustainable development and urban rehabilitation, and introduced more collaboration and cooperation in the cultural sphere in Semarang. For tangible cultural activities, such as Batik handicrafts, it provided an opportunity to improve and better manage local infrastructure and facilities, procurement materials, etc.

Impact on the territory and population

The Thematic Kampung Program beautified the city’s environment, improved the quality of the settlements and infrastructure, and at the same time improved the local economy reduced the poverty rate, making the city more prosperous.

The reshaping of the environment trademarks positioned Semarang as an icon in the region, which had a positive impact on local residents’ behaviour, pride and concern about the quality of their environment.


Reporting and Evaluation of Thematic Kampung shall be implemented at the latest one month after the development work of the kampung is completed.
The feasbility of the Thematic Kampung projects is determined according to the following criteria:

1. Social

  • The project must give priority to pockets of poverty that can be developed (social or economic potential of the community)
  • Willingness of the community to improve its territory
  • Potential for community empowerment in the region
  • Address urgent social issues addressed (which, if left untreated, will cause/cause greater problems, caused by bad habits or lack of community awareness, such as lack of waste management and environmental protection.)

2. Economics

  • Potential for of local economic development (both in terms of human and natural resources)
  • Existence of productive community groups
  • Existence of local products

3. Infrastructure

  • The proposal must concern a slum area (poor basic infrastructure, poor roads, drainage and sanitation) and barren region (without or with little greenery), with informal activities taking place.

Key factors

A key success factor of the Thematic Kampung Program is communication between the government and public and private parties. Thanks to the "gotong-royong" culture, dialogues between stakeholders are productive, and not just fruitless dialogues and decisions are taken for the common good, and not for the group's sole interest. Another key factor is commitment to realizing what has been planned.


The program ended in 2018 and will be evaluated afterwards. Semarang City Government will continue to perform maintenance in existing Kampungs by providing assistance based on the evaluation conducted.

For instance, in the case of Kampung Pelangi, future development that followed the Kampung creation included a tourism path, a rest area, signage, the organisation of cultural events, the creation of an Awareness Group, the integration of the Kampung with the Flower Market and Kasmaran Park, etc.

Funds for future developments will be sought from APBD, CSR or private parties. It is expected that Corporate Social Responsibility actors will replicate Thematic Kampung in other sub-districts in other areas in Semarang City.

Further information

Semarang was a candidate for the third "UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award" (November 2017 – May 2018). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2016, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture and as a special mention of the Award.

This article was written by Ismet Adipradana, Sub Division Head of Spatial Planning, Land & Environment, Semarang, Central Java Province, Indonesia.


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