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Empowering the Informal Sector: Street Vendor Management



Surakarta, also called Solo or Sala, is a city in Central Java Province in Indonesia of more than 500.000 people. The increasing number of street vendors, people struggling to make a daily income in a weakened economy due to Indonesian financial crisis of 1998, brought a large number of complaints to the City Mayor’s desk. These questioned the existence of apparently unregulated street vendors which tended to occupy the public space indiscriminately, thus difficulting traffic flows, degrading the scenic quality of the city and polluting the environment, questioning also what measures the city would/could take on the problem that the large number of street vendors and the nature of their activities represented.

Interest of the Program

With an empowerment and re-structuring program, Surakarta managed to solve the very sensitive issue of illegal street vendors and all the effects it had for the public space, like waste, traffic and poor conditions. The relocation and re-arrangement of street vendors in Surakarta has been done with great consideration of the local culture and humane methods. The Mayor convinced street vendors that these efforts will improve their condition, not to eliminate business. The Solo administration provided four major lines of action for the street vendors namely: the building of better communication amongst stakeholders, the creation of dedicated space for the streets vendors by relocation,  provision of umbrella-tents,  traditional Javanese style carts or modified shelters; (The new place for relocation  was chosen over several meetings held by the government, NGO and the street vendors’ representatives), the provision of legal status to the street vendors’ business and training for street vendors on how to manage and expand their business.


The street vendor management team was preceded by forming a technical and non-technical team. The technical team was responsible to find alternative good locations for street vendors, blueprint for new constructions, traffic arrangement, etc. The non-technical team was in charge to manage the community response (rejection or acceptance), thus minimize potential horizontal and vertical conflict.

Main results

The beneficiaries of the initiative were the inhabitants of Surakarta city (the originators of the early complaints) and its visitors, since the city has benefited not only from higher revenue, but also more beautiful and liveable public spaces, but foremost the street vendors (now referred to as traders) who have been able to improve their business while enjoying better conditions to carry out their activities.

The consultative and participatory approaches were introduced by local NGOs to the local government based on their experience and knowledge of other best practices. The city mayor, with his strong leadership had responded to the issue and recognized the benefit of an inclusive approach.

Impact of the program

The initiative of relocating street vendors demonstrates a good practice of strong leadership and stakeholder participation in developing the city. The concept of social investment supported by multi-stakeholders and local government regulation had put the initiative to be suitable for the local condition.

Furthermore the initiative demonstrates its potential for replicability, since there are some other local governments interested to learn the practice from Surakarta. These local governments are facing similar problems of street vendors. They have visited the city to learn about the process and key factors leading to the success of street vendor management. The City mayor has been invited by various institutions such as the State Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Home Affairs to share his vision and experience and speak about the street vendor management program