Indonesia’s Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM): A policy success?
By: Lilian Velázquez Roldán and Estelle Maud’hui
As the essayist Mark Twain once said: ''They did not know it was impossible, so they did it’’. It seems that any objective could be achievable if we give ourselves the means. In 2005, Indonesia launched a nationwide program, the Pemberdayaan Masyarakat National Program (PNPM), to reduce national poverty from 16.7 percent to 8 percent by 2009.
This goal was very ambitious due the lack of cohesion between 52 poverty reduction programs driven by 27 central ministries. However, surprisingly, Indonesia succeeded and, in fact, exceeded their goal. With the PNPM program the government was able to learn about their mistakes, but also past successes. The PNPM design was based on two previous successful policies: the Kekamaton Development Program (KDP) and the Urban Poverty Reduction Project (UPP).
The PNPM represented a real success because it has been effective in improving the living conditions of the citizens and harmonizing many ambitious but totally separate projects to create a unique and successful one, aiming to help the 17500 islands of the archipelago that were feeling very isolated. It sounds like a real miracle but, on the contrary, it was an effective organization. So, how did the National Program for Community Empowerment achieve very positive results in reducing poverty and improving the living conditions of Indonesian citizens?
To answer this question, we will analyze PNPM program through 4 dimensions, which will help us to understand its success. First, by looking over the programmatic assessment we could say that the program was very successful. The PNPM achieved a valuable social impact by alleviating poverty, empowering local level governance, increasing educational and health coverage and giving access to economic and social services through investments and microcredits. The main goal was to accelerate poverty reduction and after the implementation of the program, the poverty rate reduced from 14.2% in 2009 to 8%–10% by 2014, according to the Government’s National Medium-Term Development Plan.
However, the PNPM really stands out in the process assessment. The PNPM's main achievement was to bring together existing activities under one umbrella of programs, because all previous poverty reduction programs operated in isolation from each other. This required the collaboration of several actors, such as local leader, national ministers and the World Bank. Even if the management structure was relatively complicated, thanks to many layers of controls, it appears to be working relatively well. Also, the PNPM was built upon two previous successful experiences (KDP+UPP), adopting a community-driven development approach and having technical assistance from the International Bank that enrich the management and the policy design of the program.
Due to all those achievements the project was able to improve the living conditions of 3.18 million village residents within 1,500 project villages. So, the citizen satisfaction shows an overall approval of the PNPM and its activities. Most community actors were supportive and participated in program activities demonstrating a positive political assessment. Moreover, the participation of local communities in the process design helped to legitimize and support political coalition.
Nevertheless, if we analyze the PNPM in a temporal perspective, we can argue the success of the policy. Even if most community and international actors perceived the program as a success thanks to its positive impact and good management, some others disagree saying that the program was limited. They argue that the objectives were modest because after achieving the main goals, the government had to launch an Urban Sanitation and Rural Infrastructure Program to support the PNPM result. So, following this argument the endurance of this policy will be weak.
In short, this case study helped us to conceptualize policy success and understand that policy assessment is a multidimensional, multi-perspective and political process.
Irigoyen, Claudia (2017), Indonesia’s Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM), Center for Public impact. Retrieved from:
Sunjoyo Nugroho (2013), Indonesia: A Nationwide Community Program (PNPM) Peduli: Caring for the Invisible, World Bank. Retrieved from:
Friedman Jonathan (2005), Indonesia’s Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM), How to Scale Up and Diversify Community-Driven Development for Rural Populations, Global Delivery Iniciative.
Compton, M., Hart, P., (2019) Great Policy Successes, Chapter 1. How to “see” Great Policy Success, Oxford University Press.