By Dr Winnie Law and Dr Jessica M. Williams


Rural decline is a pressing matter for rural communities and for the continued strength and vibrancy of urban areas.  Building sustainable and resilient urban-rural systems requires increasing collaborative approaches between communities and finding innovative solutions to maintain functional and mutually-beneficial connectivity.  The APAC Initiative for Regional Impact (AIRI), initiated by the Centre for Civil Society and Governance at The University of Hong Kong, the HKU Hong Kong Lab, has adopted the “network of networks” collaborative approach and established a regional consortium of university intermediaries to create ties and facilitate revitalisation actions within and between communities at the local through to regional levels.

As part of this initiative, the university intermediaries and change fellows, recruited from civil society, conducted a knowledge exchange tour in January 2024.   They witnessed inspirational examples in Bangkok of rural communities coming together to co-create and innovate to restore, revitalise and safeguard their communities and values.  The Organic Farming Group, in Nong Bua Sub-district, established community rules between farming groups to enable standard- and protocol-setting for participatory and green production.  This facilitates the group in experimenting to create their own markets and products and build long-term relationships with their broader community.  The Thaiberng Folk Museum demonstrates a socio-economic revival model of traditional cultural practices, providing an alternative source of revenue and social support for the community, whose land was repossessed due to a nearby dam, and a retreat for urban dwellers.  In another example, the Hua Takhe community, using a local school as the hub, has organised to proactively revive their town, which was destroyed in a fire, in an environmentally conscious manner while re-instating itself as a culturally attractive and sustainable alternative to over-crowded and resource-intensive floating markets for the wider community.  These examples helped inspire the AIRI fellows and the university intermediaries, providing lessons into how communities can converge, overcome adversity and innovate, creating more sustainable and resilient rural societies, while also contributing to broader rural/urban systems.


Demonstration of traditional weaving practices at Thaiberng Folk Museum.


The HKU team and change fellows from civil society in Hong Kong, part of the HKU Hong Kong Lab, undertook a knowledge exchange trip to Bangkok to learn how communities can collaborate to co-create and innovative solutions to rural decline and so support resilient rural/urban systems.