Bangkok Forum: Continuity of sustainable development
of old town areas

Since 1995, Bangkok Forum has been working with the concept of old town areas development.
Our first event was a walking street on Pra-a-tid road which consequently led to the introduction
of “public space concept” to the public. Moreover such event affected behavior change among
community members for example; civic infrastructure and culture were initiated, activities support knowledge creation were generated, collaboration among community members, government
agencies and other civic agencies, namely B-Boy group-a group of young people who organize
creative activities using public space, were established through co-working and organizing
community activities.

Furthermore, the above mentioned event subsequently affected policy making body’s perspectives, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, towards the notion of public space. As a result, there were
efforts to develop other areas in Bangkok to be public spaces like Suansanti Chaiprakan. Crucially
people started to move this issue by themselves through existing networks and civic groups.
At this stage, Bangkok Forum had been involved by joining the alliance and keeping pace with
every progress. There were numbers of communities became alliance of creating public space
and revitalizing old town areas, i.e. Banglumpoo community and Pommahakarn community.

In 2004, Bangkok Forum started brand new activity called ‘Open space: Big Bang’, an event
aimed to support Bangkok citizen to make public policy by themselves. In this regard,
the public policy should focus on better-quality-for-living city. One of policies proposed by
the participants is about the right and ability of communities to administrate and determine
their own way of living.

From 2005 until now, Bangkok Forum has carried out another important project which is
Happiness Fund project. The project’s principal mission is to coordinate and incubate key
stakeholders who have essential roles in urban community development in order to facilitate
happiness among Bangkokian. By running this project, Bangkok Forum has gained certain
set of knowledge of building network of active citizen to support sustain development
of Bangkok.

Although Bangkok Forum started new project, it does not mean that the organization has
neglected the former issue of old town areas development. On the other hand, this happiness
fund project helps refreshing and supporting sustainable liveliness of old town areas, with
endeavors to recreate linkage mechanism that support works in old town areas comprehensively.
In parallel, Bangkok Forum had another project that created important effects to the community,
namely Youth Caf? project. In brief, this project is a pilot public space project for young people w
ho wish to continue working in old town areas specifically Prang Phutorn, Prang Nara and Prang
Sappasat communities located in Pranakorn district, Bangkok.

By running this program, both strength and weakness of these 3 communities were discovered.
The strong point is the communities’ location; they are situated in commercial area. However,
the weak point is people who live in this area tend to be highly individualism, and there are also
conflict between leaders and key groups in the communities. According to our experiences on
social development works, Bangkok Forum foresees an importance of working with young
people because they are significant forces and change agents able to deliver excellent
changes to the communities.

Public space for youth project therefore aims to include young people in community development
programs in old town areas. Bangkok Forum also hopes that these kids will be linking point that
builds good relationship between communities. They are able to raise the issue of old town areas
development through expressing their “voices” and send such message to adult groups.

This project also encourages young people to explore history of their own community by employing
creative activities such as puppet show and social map. Moreover, young people are supported to determine their community’s vision; another important activity is an activities synthesis forum
between development practitioners and youth using dialogue method. This activity then led to
another lively activity- children day activities which is annually organized by 3 communities.
In the past these activities on children day were arranged by community’s leaders solely,
but after the method of dialogue was applied amongst stakeholders and the youth,
collaboration between partiesincluding local government, communities’ members,
young people and Bangkok Forum was established.

All stakeholders share their resources and this consequently created sense of ownership.
Additionally, relationship between people in different levels began for example between
young people and older generation and between Bangkok Forum and government agencies.

The above described activities have been continually organized until present day.
It encourages other communities in Bangkok to create such good changes to their own
communities by using the same strategy- creating collaboration between stakeholders and
support young people to be key player in the process.

Furthermore, Bangkok Forum has expanded collaboration network in order to complete
the picture of old town areas revitalization. The latest parties are Knowledge Network Institute
of Thailand, Makhampom group, Faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University,
Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, and SPAFA. By connecting to arts groups,
drama was applied to develop the youth’s capacity and this then made young people significant
players in the community development process. Besides, the National Museum played important
role in supporting and providing knowledge regarding Thai architecture such as temples,
palaces and houses to the youth.

According to those activities, it is found that every movement was harmonized appropriately.
The findings confirmed important factors support such success are the notion of civic groups and
collaboration. These strong civic groups will lead to the creation of sustainable happy-living Bangkok.
The other factor is the establishment of collaboration between varied partners which smoothly
support the flow of activities.

In the past 10 years, the aim of Bangkok Forum is to develop and extend social capitals such
as strong civic groups or social networks, so that these people can continue all works that Bangkok
Forum started.

The ultimate goal of old town areas revitalization are 1) creating city revitalizing mechanism and
supporting network 2) preserving old cultures and knowing the history from the past, such knowledge
can then lead to process of reserving old town areas and make them a national heritage 3) supporting
the initiation of living local museums especially in Prang Phutorn community by letting people who live
there tell the stories and history of their own community to the society.

In conclusion, in order to accomplish our missions, additional knowledge is required namely
the knowledge of carrying old town areas revitalizing process with participations from local
communities and other agencies. Bangkok Forum foresees the importance of learning such
process through Majisukiri process of Japan and hopes that it can help supporting our work
concerning the revitalization of old town areas. Moreover this initiated collaboration can also
build network of knowledge management on preserving and revitalizing old town areas issue
between Thai and Japan. We also believe that this first step of collaboration will consequently
support the participatory city development and the establishment of community of practice
in the coming future.

[email protected] 2006 Bangkok Forum
104-106 Prang Bhuthon Road, San Chaophorsue Sub-district, Phranakorn District, Bangkok 10200
Tel. 02-228-1362 and 02-622-2316 Fax. 02-228-1362 or or [email protected]