Thailand: Somsook Boonyabancha

I wish to see communities of the underprivileged people have the opportunity to mobilize power as a group, to develop themselves as part of the ongoing social development.”

— Somsook Boonyabancha

Somsook Boonyabancha (born 1952) obtained a Master’s Degree in Housing and Urbanization from the School of Architecture of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark. Returning to Thailand, she worked in the state-run National Housing Authority of Thailand. For 27 years she has contributed actively to the development of Thailand’s social infrastructure. As director of the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), a public organization funded by government, her main role is to strengthen the capacity of communities for self-reliance and development.

Somsook Boonyabancha believes that the problems of slum communities can only be resolved if the marginalized urban poor are able to live on their own land, and this can happen only if they are actively involved in the decision-making with regard to policies that shape their future. Since CODI is funded by the state, Somsook's most important task is to generate better understanding between other state organizations and the people affected by their decisions. Somsook is determined to push for more recognition of the rights and decisions of the grassroots population. She strongly believes that the people should have a say in the policies that affect their lives, and that state organizations should not assume that they have the right to make decisions for the people. Somsook has also been actively involved in linking different national and international community groups to enable them to exchange information and experiences, so that they gain more confidence as they move towards self-reliance and development. "While the overall picture may show that the problems are not that bad, in reality it is much more complicated," she says. The inequalities of the social system leave one-third of the country’s population without basic requirements that provide security, such as housing and job opportunities. In attempting to reduce poverty in the country, CODI, which is both a development fund and a government public institution, has been channeling funds directly to Thailand’s poorest communities and has been working closely with NGOs and public foundations in generating community-driven welfare programs.

Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI)