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Towards governing rapidly urbanized small cities under decentralized system: The case of the Municipality of Cirebon, West Java Province, Indonesia

Principal researcher

Paramita Rahayu

Type of research



Prof. Johan Woltjer

Prof. Tommy Firman (Institute of Technology bandung/ITB, Indonesia)


General academic debates about small cities in developing countries have shifted over the last three decades. The discussion changes from strongly put attention on economic potential of small cities into increasingly consider the challenges to govern such cities in a more sustainable way (Cohen, 2004, 2006; Vernon 2010). Cohen (2006) expresses this situation with his argument “small cities big agenda”.

The Indonesian small cities-particularly those in a densely populated region like Java island-are excellent examples to contribute to the current debates about small cities governance in developing countries. First, they are part of rapid institutional changes resulted from sudden change of decentralization policy applied in Indonesia since the last two decades. Therefore, small cities are very possibly facing institutional problems, which have been intensively discussed for big metropolis cities in Indonesia, such as local egoism and narrow-mindedness of local government (Miharja and Woltjer, 2010 and Firman, 2010 ). Second, despite those so-called intangible challenges, the rapid physical growth and lacking basic services, which are part of the core problems to achieve ‘’brown sustainability’’ in developing countries, are also very possibly characterized Indonesian small cities.

Therefore, given the context of rapid physical growth and intense institutional changes in Indonesian small cities in a densely populated region, the main theoretical inquiry of our research-is to reveal ‘’how does the urban governance transformation potentially work to suit the challenging context of rapidly urbanized small cities under decentralized system?’’. We define the term governance in our research as an active notion of micro social relations to build collective action. We apply the concept of institutional capacity building from sociological institutionalism (Healey, 1998, 2006; Cars et al, 2002) to assess the potential transformation in such context.

Last modified:03 November 2014 1.51 p.m.