Leaders and Organizers of Community Organizations in Asia (LOCOA)
Founded in 1993, Leaders and Organizers of Community Organizations in Asia (LOCOA) is a regional network consisting of community organizers and community leaders from urban poor communities around Asia, all of whom are working to claim and obtain the fundamental human rights of the urban poor. Besides disseminating the community organizing approach as a means for communities to become empowered, come together, and take action to solve their own problems, LOCOA’s work also focuses on coordinating among its members to stop evictions and secure housing rights, as well as promote sustainable alternative urban development initiatives that improve the quality if life of the urban poor.
LOCOA traces its origins back to the Asian Committee for People’s Organization (ACPO), which was an ecumenical organization founded in 1971 to develop and disseminate community organizing throughout several countries in Asia. In its heyday, ACPO supported the work of 300 full-time community organizers working with the poor around Asia. ACPO ceased operations in the early 1990s, but LOCOA took up the task as its quasi-successor, self-consciously trying to keep alive the spirit and substance of community organizing to meet the newly emerging challenges brought about by the expansion of neo-liberalism in Asia.
During the initial period of its existence, LOCOA served generally as an informal grouping of key people coming from a community organizing background in different Asian countries. A series of meetings of this group was held under the constraints stemming from the lack of formal institutionalization of the organization, at which common plans, goals and a program were gradually worked out. Later, LOCOA became more institutionalized and benefited from a small but more secure funding base. These enabling factors permitted LOCOA to begin regularizing meetings, during which the principals could consult and plan more proactively to conduct activities to sustain community organizing in those countries where it had already been established, and eventually promote it in countries where it had not yet taken root. Today, LOCOA has become more explicitly conscious about the importance of strengthening itself as a network so that it has the capacity to tackle head-on the challenges posed by mainstream development under the neo-liberal paradigm.
The transformative capacity of community organizing has been proven many times in the past. LOCOA is now attempting to harness its potential once more to create a social movement network of the urban poor around Asia that will take action jointly to bring about structural change to reduce the oppression of the poor. By working and mobilizing together, LOCOA and its members hope to create the pressure necessary to realize human rights for all, thus enabling the urban poor in communities around the region to live their lives with greater human dignity.
LOCOA currently has members in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, and affiliates in Bangladesh, Burma, and Cambodia.