The “Asian Hero” on Sustainable Community Development
Mechai Viravaidya founded the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) in 1974 to address the unsustainable population growth rate in Thailand of over 3% annually at the time. A variety of humorous, innovative, and unorthodox methods were utilized in conjunction with mobilizing and educating a network of rural school teachers and village community members to make contraceptives available throughout Thailand. This resulted in the more sustainable population growth rate of 0.5% by 2003. When HIV/AIDS first appeared in Thailand in the mid-1980s, similar methods were used to launch a major prevention program, which resulted in a 90% decline in new infections according to UNAIDS and an estimated 7.7 million lives saved according to the World Bank, within 12 years. In between running PDA’s activities, he was appointed to such key positions as Thailand’s Cabinet spokesman, the Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister, and Chairman of several of Thailand’s largest government-owned enterprises. He was also elected to the Senate between 1987-1991, 1996-2000, and 2000-2006.
Recognizing that civil society organizations cannot survive and expand solely on the generosity of others, Mechai Viravaidya established Thailand’s first social enterprise to help fund the operating costs of PDA in 1975. Since then, this company has spawned 18 other social enterprises which have contributed significantly to the financial needs of the association. Perhaps the best known is the Cabbages & Condoms Restaurants and Resorts.
Following his success at promoting contraception and HIV prevention, Mechai has aggressively approached the problem of rural poverty by empowering the poor through the Village Development Partnership, to build sustainable entrepreneurial capacity, community empowerment for health, and income generating activities at the village level in Southeast Asia. This project is marked by extensive community involvement as beneficiaries, planners, managers, and most importantly – as partners and leaders. In 2010, the VDP was expanded from Thailand into Cambodia through assistance from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 2008, the Bamboo School was established by the Mechai Viravaidya Foundation to be a lifelong learning center for students as well as other citizens and a hub for social and economic advancement. This school strives to produce a new generation of honest, capable, and socially-conscious students who will perform at their full potential. The Bamboo School has also launched a new integrated rural development initiative to assist government primary schools in poor areas to also become a lifelong learning center and hub for social and economic progress in that area. This project is now known as the School-Based Integrated Rural Development program (School-BIRD).
For his efforts in various development and educational endeavors, Mechai Viravaidya has been acclaimed with numerous awards, recognition, and honorary doctoral degrees. These include the United Nations Population Award, the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health, the Prince Mahidol Award for Public Health, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. He was also named one of Asiaweek’s “20 Great Asians”, and one of TIME Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” to mark the magazine's 60th year of its publication in Asia.
Despite vast improvements in infrastructure in rural Thailand, the educational system for the underprivileged is completely inadequate and in urgent need of reform. Students in Thailand are taught through ineffective techniques involving rote memorization, and they are actively discouraged from using their imagination and creativity to solve problems. Furthermore, recent standardized tests in Thailand show that the educational system is not creating the citizens needed for the 21st century.
To help address the need for out of the box educational innovation, we created the Mechai Pattana School (also known as the Bamboo School) in 2009. The Bamboo School provides quality education to underprivileged students in northeastern Thailand to craft a new generation of honest, caring, resourceful, and philanthropic citizens. The school also functions as a lifelong learning center and platform for economic and social advancement for communities in the rural areas.
Beginning in May 2012, the school will enroll a total of 120 students, Grades 7, 8, 9 and 10. Grade 10 students will be spending thire academic year at a second campus in Pattaya to foster a new learning experience by the sea, where they can learn about business, marine biology, maritime affairs, manufacturing, and other new areas of education.
The Mechai Pattana School has developed into an innovative and reputable secondary school in its strive toward crafting a new generation of good citizens. With this strong foundation, the school has begun to serve as the center of life and a hub for social and economic advancement for the entire community. This endeavor has begun through the School-Based Integrated Rural Development Program (School-BIRD), which uses a government primary school as a platform for rural development.
The Greatest Comtemporary “Khon” Creator
Pichet Klunchun bridges traditional Thai Classical Dance language with contemporary sensibility, while keeping the heart and wisdom of the convention. He trained in Thai Classical Mask Dance, Khon, from age 16 with Chaiyot Khummanee, one of the best Khon masters in Thailand. Recently, he received 'Routes' ECF Princess Margriet Award for Cultural Diversity from European Cultural Foundation on December 9, 2008. The purpose of the award is to honor artists and thinkers in the field of cultural diversity for helping to combat fear and disrespect of 'the other'. The Award is an initiative of the ECF in cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, generously supported by the Association of Charity Lotteries in the European Union (ACLEU) and the Rabobank.
One day I posted a note about an interview with me on my Facebook page. My headline ran, ‘Pichet Klunchun, People Call Me a Destroyer’.
A friend from dance school commented, “I admire your work but if I see you as a Khon Dancer your skill is not as good as dancers from the Fine Arts Department. And if you claim yourself a western-style dancer you won’t be accepted because your skill is not as good as westerners. As a marketing man, I think you know your real selling point: the combination of Thai classical dance with foreign techniques”.
I was sorry to see such a comment, especially from someone who had not seen my work in ten years. Moreover, she has never done work with Thai classical dance and has discouraged her children from studying it.
How can people make judgments about their beliefs and culture without facts? I quickly responded on Facebook with, “I don’t seek a selling point for my work. My dance is rigorously practiced with a strong faith in Thai classical dance, a method you have neglected”.
Thai people tend not to be concerned with facts, instead believing in culture as some sort of ideology to mindlessly follow. When Thai classical dance is taught, pupils are encouraged to believe that it is part of our national cultural heritage; the dance was created by Lord Shiva and knowledge was then disseminated among the people. But what was the fact of its creation, or who was the real person behind the dance?
We need to remember that Thai classical dance is dance. It has techniques, forms of knowledge and ways of explaining body movements that are comparable to all other types of dance from around world.
From working very hard in my studio for more than 5 years, I concluded that the structure of Thai classical dance is based on 3 aspects: the triangle, circle and quadrilateral. This structure requires rational explanation not legend.
I am not a marketing man. I am an artist. I don’t possess a selling point. I possess knowledge.
About the Performance: Thai Classical Dance, Culture and Fact
I will explain my knowledge of the techniques of Thai classical dance through my theory of the triangle, circle and quadrilateral which I created for the purpose of clarity and tangibility. The performance will be a lecture demonstration by 6 dancers.
"Innovation with Impact"
Toshi is Co-founder and CEO of Kopernik, technology marketplace for the developing world. Toshi has extensive experience in international development gained during his career with the United Nations. He has spent the past 10 years living in East Timor, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, the United States and Switzerland working with the United Nations and dealt with governance reform, peace building processes and post-disaster reconstruction including the tsunami in Aceh and the Yogyakarta earthquake. While in Indonesia he engaged Japanese companies in pro-poor business development. Prior to joining the UN Toshihiro was a management consultant for McKinsey and Company in Tokyo. He holds an L.L.B from Kyoto University, Japan and Masters of Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. Toshi is Guest Associate Professor at Osaka School of International Public Policy, Osaka University.
Design innovation has been making our lives easier. However, most innovation is primarily targeting people in the developed world. What if the effort and creativity that goes into the innovation for the rich minority is shifted towards solving major issues for the majority in developing countries?
Kopernik, the technology marketplace for the developing world, curates and disseminates a wide selection of design technologies that are invented to solve issues that the poor faces, such as energy, environment, water, agriculture, health and education.
In his keynote speech, Toshi will share examples of designs for the developing world, and explain how these innovations are having an impact on poor people’s lives. Toshi will encourage the audience to put their creativity, talent and resources into providing solutions to underserved communities.
Singh Intrachooto, Ph.D.
"Urban Farm Urban Barn" (UFUB)
Singh Intrachooto is Head of the Building Innovation and Technology Program at Kasetsart University Architecture, Bangkok and Design Principal at OSISU, Thailand’s leading eco-design venture. He holds Doctor of Philosophy degree in Design Technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His design evolves around sustainable design concept as his research focuses on identifying patterns of technological innovation in environmentally responsible architecture. Dr. Intrachooto’s investigations also include material developments from manufacturing and agricultural by-products as well as waste reclamation from buildings’ construction and debris. He is considered a pioneer of ecological design in Thailand. Of particular interest is his focus on bridging academia and industry to leverage technology, education and production approaches to stimulate environmentally responsible innovations within the design and architecture industry. Dr. Intrachooto also teaches design at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Washington and gives lectures in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and the United States while maintaining his design practice in Thailand with industrial products, residential works, commercial facilities and urban redevelopments. He is Design Innovation Ambassador for Thailand’s National Innovation Agency. In 2007, he received Thailand’s Emergent Designer of the Year Award, Elle Décor’s Designer of the Year as well as Top Environmentalist 2008 Award from Thailand’s Department of Environment. His "urban farm" project has also been awarded by the Holcim Foundation as a leading example of sustainable building and construction for the Asia Pacific region.
"Which kind of More?”
As urban populations grow so does the demand for materials and resources to support them. Where such resource demands were once satisfied by local and regional hinterlands, they are increasingly global in scale and reach. This phenomenon has generated materials flows that are trans-continental and planetary in scope, and has profound consequences for the sustainability, functioning, sense of ownership and identity of future cities. Seen from this perspective, the project for urban sustainability must be global in ambition, but cannot be a matter of applying a universal set of rules. Rather, sustainability requires a decentralised approach that both acknowledges the global dimension and is sensitive to the social, cultural, aesthetic, economic, and ecological capacities of particular places to thrive and endure.
Urban sustainability is therefore the capacity of densely populated conglomerates for a social, economic and ecological endurance. In this sense, the urban has to be understood as an open dynamic system with changing parameters characterizing long-lasting measures to achieve a sustainable behavior. In past decades, a phenomena of global “best construction practice” traveled through universities and building industries worldwide. Handbooks of sustainable construction, no matter in which location or context they were produced, were applied in a global scale, leading to a misunderstanding that sustainability could be measured as a universal standard. Sustainable construction methods must acknowledge their specific context und cultural setting, including the skills of local workers. Availability and origin of materials as well as their connection and economic as well as ecological value need to be taken into consideration, before deciding on certain construction methods. The context of a certain construction application includes the cultural space (history, religion, language, etc), the ecological space (which materials and products are produced locally with how much energy and other input sources), the ethical space (who produced the materials and products where and at which costs), as well as the economical space (which materials and products generated a local value chain and which are imported).
The Chair of Architecture and Construction of Prof. Dirk E. Hebel at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in Singapore concentrates its research on alternative construction materials and their application in specific contextual settings, taking into account the availability of materials, human resource capacities, and skills. The ‘alternative’ aspect of this focus emerges from an exploration of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. This approach informed over the past years an urban laboratory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to test new building proto-typologies as open-ended building scenarios. Dirk E. Hebel will introduce three examples of the laboratory.
Being located in Singapore, the “hinterland” could be considered as the Southeast Asian region, including the “magic” triangle of some of the fastest developing territories in the world today with India, China and Indonesia. Within a radius of only 4000 kilometers, covering only 9.8% of the globe`s surface, one third of the world`s population can be found with 2.5 billion people (3.4 billion by 2025) and the steepest urbanization rate worldwide placing highest pressure on global environmental sustainability.
Urbanized settlements in this area have average growth rates of up to 5%, which is comparable to the African continent, where the urban population doubles every 10 to 15 years. The prognostications for the “magic” triangle show a population increase of almost 1 billion people in the next 15 years. Along those numbers, an increased demand for basic resources like food, water, safety, and shelter will occur. The two decades to come will certainly be formative in the further long-term development of those territories. But will developing countries like most of the African nations continue to be depended on imported building materials? Statistics show, that in most developing countries, next to the import of energy, the import of building materials and machineries is responsible for the bulk of trade deficits. The aim must be to re-invent indigenous building methods, construction technologies, and material use and with it coming to an understanding of appropriateness and sustainable thinking.
Jürgen Mayer H
Founded in 1996 in Berlin, Germany, J. MAYER H Architects’ studio, focuses on works at the intersection of architecture, communication and new technology. Recent projects include, a student centre at Karlsruhe University, the villa Dupli.Casa near Ludwigsburg, Germany and the redevelopment of the Plaza de la Encarnacion in Sevilla, Spain, the office building ADA1 in Hamburg, Germany and the extension of the science park in Danfoss, Denmark. From urban planning schemes and buildings to installation work and objects with new materials, the relationship between the human body, technology and nature form the background for a new production of space.
Jürgen Mayer H. is the founder and principal of this cross-disciplinary studio. He studied at Stuttgart University, The Cooper Union and Princeton University. His work has been published and exhibited worldwide and is part of numerous collections including MoMA New York and SF MoMA. National and international awards include the Mies-van-der-Rohe-Award-Emerging-Architect-Special-Mention-2003 ,Winner Holcim Award Bronze 2005 and Winner Audi Urban Future Award 2010. Jürgen Mayer H. has taught at Princeton University, University of the Arts Berlin, Harvard University, Kunsthochschule Berlin, the Architectural Association in London, the Columbia University, New York and at the University of Toronto, Canada.