In this interview, Scott Guggenheim, as a founding party of the Kecamatan Development Program (KDP), details the program’s background and the measures taken to initiate its implementation in Indonesia. He discusses how there was a need for a program in the country that created greater local accountability. Seen through the failure of the Inpres Desa Tertinggal (IDT) development program, Guggenheim explains how the Suharto government became so corrupt and disorganized that no money was going to make its way from the top down to the bottom. Thus, a solution to this problem of corruption would be the distribution of funds directly to the villages in order to eliminate the middlemen who often siphoned off the money. This solution served as the foundation of the Kecamatan Development Program. Guggenheim emphasizes the importance of having an effective and simple disbursement system, to assure that money would be dispersed directly to the communities. Therefore, he states how grateful the designing team was to the National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) who worked out how to make the financing aspect of the project function. The simple design of the KDP that was developed is a facilitative planning system mapped against a disbursement system. There is a direct transfer that does not go through the government, but down to the sub-district. That sub-district allocation gets mapped against village level plans that are prioritized by the villagers. The money is given to the projects in the order that they are ranked in until the money runs out.
He discusses how in 1997, they launched the pilot program of KDP, applying their system to twelve sub-districts. He explains the trepidation in scaling up the program, which was due to the uncertainty as to whether the increase in size would make it vulnerable for corruption. Nevertheless, KDP scaled up to 250 villages in the following year, and Guggenheim talks about the components of the program that stayed constant and that needed to be altered in order for the program to thrive. One of the components that led to KDP’s success was the microfinance, which allowed for the money to reach the poorest people of the villages. Furthermore, the fact that the KDP was a community run organization, and that each village was responsible for their individual funds, makes it so they felt local ownership over the money. It was their responsibility if projects failed within their community.
Scott Guggenheim, the pioneer of the Kecamatan Development Program, began working for the government of Mexico in their Museum of Anthropology. He then decided to further his education, and returned to graduate school where he studied anthropology. During graduate school, he worked at the World Bank, where he focused on the negative impacts of their big investment projects. Guggenheim also spent a few years in Columbia, where he pursued his post-doctorate degree. Following finishing his education, he went to Somalia on behalf of the World Bank to conduct an environmental assessment for their project of building a dam. While working on this undertaking, he discovered that he was very interested in big projects pertaining to development. Therefore, he desired to continue working with the World Bank on such projects, and indiscriminately applied to five different offices around the world. Indonesia was the first to get back to him, so in 1994 he moved to the country and began working in the social capital-working group of the agency.
Guggenheim added Indonesia to a three-country study; consisting of Indonesia, Burkina Faso, and Bolivia; which looked at social capital and development. As part of this study, they found that projects run by communities are more multifunctional, participatory, and longer lasting than those which are done by development agencies. With this fact, and the knowledge of the struggling Indonesia community based development agencies, an example being the corruption of the Inpres Desa Tertingal grant program, Guggenheim knew that a program that worked directly with the villages would eliminate the money being pocketed by the leaders. Therefore, he spearheaded the creation of the Kecamatan Development Program (KDP) in 1998. This program distributes small grants directly to the villages, not going through intermediate people; thus creating greater accountability within the villages and less corruption.