Selectively Global, Virtually Local: Assessing Unequal Knowledge Diffusion In Indonesian Cities

SAM GELDIN (FES M.E.Sc. 2017)

New literature on urban climate change adaptation M has begun to assess how the specific policies of government officials and influential practitioners actually transpire. Yet little, if any, work has examined the role that virtual knowledge-sharing platforms and city-to-city learning play in this process. My current research examines how digitally documented best practices shape local policy actions on-the-ground. Through nearly 40 semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and a social network analysis of virtual platform users, my study explores the factors influencing the spread of local policy action among more than half a dozen Indonesian member cities of the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), an eight-year Rockefeller Foundation initiative. Specifically, I tracked how the practice of community “waste banks” became popularized in Indonesia and how digital documentation by local, national, and intergovernmental organizations led to duplicative efforts. Since best practices promoted by most city knowledge networks (online and offline) are not selected, documented, replicated, or shared equally, it’s important to recognize that medium-sized cities in particular have received less access to flows of knowledge and resources than large cities. Through this study, I hope to help direct practitioner efforts to build more technical capacity than virtual knowledge, form partnerships that avoid replicating existing work, and disseminate adaptation strategies with greater targeted impact.