Between 2004 and 2010, lndonesia was struck by several devastating natural disasters. A major earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that leveled much of the heavily populated coastal areas in Aceh and Nias in December 2004. The disaster destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes – more than one million people were displaced.

The Government of lndonesia and development partners agreed that a community-based approach would be used for rebuilding houses and approved financing for the Community Settlement Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project, known as Rekompak, in May 2005.

Not without risk, the decision led to a successful program that has been adapted and replicated in several post-disaster contexts in Indonesia. Involving community members in the process of reconstructing homes and community infrastructure proved to be an efficient and cost-effective way to rebuild, with high levels of beneficiary satisfaction in the product and the process. In places where community brokerage replaced the hiring of corporate building firms, financial savings of up to 40% were recorded. Through this approach nearly 300,000 houses were rebuilt in Java in two years, one of the largest and fastest housing reconstruction experiences globally.

The fundamental pillars for this approach were

  • Community led
  • Grant funded/partnering
  • Cost effective solution
  • Build back to high standard
  • Ensure more resilient structures for future
  • Employ local contractors and facilitators
  • Establish local supply chain where possible

1 House by House study

Early in the proceedings a comprehensive base line assessment of the work  was made. This was based on a house-by-house and also street-by-street /village-by-village study. It  included community infrastructure as well as houses

For each house or street, based on expert recommendations:

  • Identify level of work required
  • New materials required/what can be re-used
  • Assess the role house holders might take / potential input
  • Estimate cost of work

From this initial assessment evolves

2 Community Planning

This revolves around consolidating a master plan whilst also securing a budget. In reality there was some back and forthing between the two:

  • Draw up initial plan in consultation with community, tenants, home owners, landlords, policy makers, local governance and planners.
  • Draw up standards for work
  • Establish systems and procedures for operation and maintenance
  • Assess the availability of local skills and resources

3 Local jobs

To recap, the objective was to run a smooth community based operation to

  • Rebuild houses to high standards
  • Be flexible to individual needs and preferences of householders (within budget and guidelines of project)
  • Develop good quality infrastructure for least cost

Central to the smooth functioning of the project was locally procured (where possible) workforce:

  • BUILDERS & INSTALLERS: with specific skills in housing construction, fabrics and structure.
  • FINANCIAL ADVISOR/S: accountability, record keeping, procurement, financing.
  • FACILITATOR/S: to oversee communications, meetings and decision-making. To foster trust and understanding between stakeholders; to deal with and remove barriers to progress; to be the oil in the engine of the project.

The project pro-actively enabled participation of householders wherever appropriate. This helped to keep costs down and maximise engagement/capacity building.



In contrast to contracting work out to larger building outfits (who often order materials and employ workers from a wide area, to guarantee supply flows and benefit from bulk purchases), the aim was to encourage local procurement to benefit and balance the local economy. Standard Operating Procedures needed to be more flexible to allow procurement of local contractors and materials, but the approach was highly cost-effective, with good customer satisfaction and demonstrating an innovative approach to upgrading homes for the future.

Studies have shown that Rekompak community approach delivered quality housing at up to 40 percent lower cost than projects that did not use a community-based approach with numerous other social and environmental  benefits.

4 Roles

A structure evolved that could deliver the building and reconstruction programs effectively. It  was driven by a management system that defined specific roles:


  • Dissemination of information
  • Facilitation of community discussions, ensuring all voices heard
  • Organising and internal communications


  • Technical assistance to ensure best outcomes possible
  • Labour
  • Foreman
  • Monitoring construction quality

A TASK FORCE TEAM (15 house block for example) might consist of:

  • 1 foreman
  • 1 facilitator
  • 1 financial specialist with a bookkeeping/budgeting background
  • Paid construction/installation team, apprentices and volunteers from households as appropriate

Provision of continuous and close supervision by well-trained field staff was essential to ensure timely completion to acceptable quality.

Random quality tests (technical audits) were conducted on houses. For those houses found deficient, quality improvements were immediately undertaken.

Transparency & Accountability

Community driven development rested on the principles of transparency and accountability in project implementation. This was achieved through participatory processes, good communications and information flow, and transparent structures.

Funds went directly into the hands of community so that they bypassed layers of bureaucracy and admin costs. Grants were dispersed in several tranches, requiring certain physical progress milestones to be met before the next tranche was released.

In the case of escalating costs of materials and labour, owners were encouraged to contribute their own funds to top up. Another option was to cut back on some measures to ensure the figures stacked up.

Rigorous and accessible complaints handling mechanisms were essential.


It was best to avoid  announcing the details of assistance before collecting reliable data on the households. This was so that no commitments were made that became difficult to keep for logistical or financial reasons.

Consultation with communities and other stakeholders was key. Insufficient consultation can establish a dynamic of mistrust that will be difficult to overcome later.

CAUTIONARY NOTE. Just occasionally it was found that announcing the assistance scheme before assessments were conducted created an incentive for homeowners to damage their houses in order to receive the announced benefit.

6 Summary

The combined efforts of all agencies involved in Rekompak type reconstruction in Java resulted in approximately 150,000 good quality houses within a year after the disaster. Two years after the disaster, the number of completed houses reached 300,000, making this one of the fastest housing reconstruction projects in the world.


  • Focus on building back better to guard against future disasters
  • A maximum cost per house will need to be set. Certain requirements may be too costly. Homeowners can have some flexibility in the choices taken however. Allowing for individualizing the houses can  increase the sense of ownership.


Rekompak: “Rebuilding Indonesia’s Communities” (Java Reconstruction Fund/Multi Donor Fund for Aceh and Nias/World Bank)


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