Chair: Susan Wong (Lead Social Development Specialist, GSUSD); Interviewer: Sylvie Debomy (Lead Urban Development Specialist, GSU13)
Somsook Boonyabancha is the Secretary General of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), a coalition of organizations working on housing development for the urban poor in Asia. ACHR’s regional program, the Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA) supports a process of citywide and community-driven slum upgrading in Asian cities. Urban poor community organizations are the primary actors in planning and implementing projects which tackle problems of land, infrastructure and housing at scale in their cities, in partnership with their local governments and other local stakeholders. To date, the program has supported activities in 215 cities across 19 countries.
Formerly, Somsook was the Director of the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) in Thailand. With her leadership, CODI has designed and implemented, among others, the Baan Mankong (“secure housing”) Program, which aims to upgrade communities by providing infrastructure subsidies, housing loans, and technical assistance through a community-driven approach. With foci on communities and networks rather than on individual loans and households, the Program works with a platform of local authorities, provincial governments, beneficiary communities, and community-based organizations for scaling up. Notwithstanding its challenges, this Program has been successfully implemented in almost 300 cities in Thailand today, winning international recognitions. Somsook graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and from the Housing and Urbanization Course in Copenhagen, Denmark.