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Roundtable discussion panel at ICAS 13 (Surabaya, Indonesia)

For ICAS 13, Southeast Asia Neighborhoods Network (SEANNET) and River Cities Network (RCN) organise a collaborative roundtable discussion featuring SEANNET and RCN partners who use or intend to use community engagement approaches and tools in their project.

RCN and the Southeast Asia Neighborhood Network (SEANNET) are jointly organizing a roundtable discussion panel at the 13th edition of the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS), which will be held in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia from July 28 to August 1, 2024 ( The roundtable, titled Rethinking Community-engaged Approaches I: Principles, Methods, and Tools takes place on 29 July from 14:00 - 18:00 hours (GMT+7).

The roundtable panel brings together representatives of SEANNET and RCN project teams for a joint discussion about the role, methods, and challenges associated with using community engagement tools in their work. Since teams in both networks are using these methods, we thought it would be a good idea to “join forces” and share notes and insights. 

Roundtable panel abstract

Why do we conduct community engagement in our academic life and as a basis for policymaking? The term ‘community engagement’ is widely used in academic and policymaking realms, but the conceptualization and the application of community engagement vary. Community-engagement generally refers to a spectrum of approaches and commitments and a range of applications that are relevant and sensitive to community well-being and that promote the active involvement of community groups and organizations in collaboration with researchers and planners. 

Community engagement has attracted a range of criticisms, which include furthering power inequalities between researchers and research subjects; objectification of community groups; perpetuation of local social inequalities by relying on elites to provide access; and others. Amidst such criticisms, community-engaged research is facing continuous resistance, which might also accelerate more broad-based resistance towards this participatory approach. Therefore, community engagement requires deeper thinking and insights about both its conceptual and practical dimensions to enable it to be a meaningful approach. Essential questions for practitioners of community engagement are: Why do we conduct community engagement in research, teaching, and other aspects of academia, as well as in policymaking? What are the principles of community engagement? What are its effective methods? 

In this roundtable discussion, panelists will be asked to reflect on their own experiences in using community-engaged methods and how they learn these methods. Panelists will also reflect on the advantages and challenges of this approach, and what needs to be done for more meaningful community-engaged academic endeavors—both in research and policymaking—in the future.  

Panelists will include principal investigators from Southeast Asia Neighborhoods Network (SEANNET) teams as well as principal investigators from selected River Cities Network (RCN) teams that are applying community engagement techniques in their RCN projects. 


Rita Padawangi (Singapore University of Social Sciences), SEANNET Coordinator and Advisor to RCN.
Paul Rabé (International Institute for Asian Studies), RCN Coordinator.


Established in 2017, SEANNET is an initiative involving research, teaching and dissemination of knowledge on Southeast Asia through the prism of the city and urban communities. Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation in New York, SEANNET focuses on the development of contextualized knowledge on the spatio-human environment of neighborhoods in select cities of Southeast Asia. This is done through participative field-research, in-situ policy roundtables, local capacity building exercises, academic conferences, publications, documentary films and web-supported interactive syllabi. 

SEANNET is coordinated by Dr. Rita Padawangi, Associate Professor at the College of Interdisciplinary and Experiential Learning at Singapore University of the Social Sciences. Rita is also an advisor for RCN. For an overview of the project teams in SEANNET, please visit: 

Roundtable participants


Adrian Perkasa – International Institute for Asian Studies, Boonanan Pan Natakun – Thammasat University, Anton Novenanto – Universitas Brawijaya, Amanda Reichelt-Brushett – Southern Cross University, Anuradha Sen Mookerjee – Institute for Human Development, Dang Ly Quoc – Can Tho University, Mira Lubis – Tanjungpura University, Mohamed W. Fareed – The American University in Cairo, Sankha Nath -  IFHE, Xiaomei Zhao – Fudan University, Xavier Benedict – AARDE Foundation, Hayley Henderson – Australian National University, Siti Maimunah – Sajogyo Institute, University of Mulawarman, Teerapong Pomun – Mekong Community Institute Association, Yulia Y. – IDN Liveable Cities.


Lyno Vuth, Surajit Sarkar – Kerala Museum, Huiying Ng – Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximillians University, Awang Firmansyah – Surabaya State University, Ikhsan Rosyid Mujahidul Anwari – Universitas Airlangga, Puspitaningtyas Sulistyowati – Community Architects of East Java (Arkom Jatim), Try Thuon – Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Photo by Satya Maia Patchineelam: Community of Cachoeirinha, Iriri River, Pará, Brazil.

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