FROM STRANGERS TO NEIGHBOURS
Achieving Sustainable Riverfront Development
The civic group Friends of the River (FOR) has been at the forefront of advocating for the sustainable development of Bangkok’s riverfront. A few years ago, FOR was looking to expand the reach and impact of their campaign launched in response to the increasing construction along the Chao Phraya River where the city’s oldest historical sites and communities are located.
We planned to go beyond traditional campaigning methods to encourage Bangkokians to show their support for sustainable riverfront development via friendship and collaboration.
Interviews and studies conducted by Sidekick found that many people viewed the communities affected by the proposed plan to build a promenade along the river as “intruders” or “trespassers”, who, therefore, should make way for the new development. Meanwhile, people sympathetic to the communities’ plight felt that traditional campaign activities were outside of their comfort zone and wanted alternative ways to participate and get involved.
Through field visits, Sidekick spent over a month talking with riverside residents and discovered that, in fact, the communities have lived in the area for generations and past projects along the river, built and then often subsequently abandoned, have become hotspots for criminal and drug activity or breeding grounds for diseases.
Bridging the Perception Gap
In “From Strangers to Neighbours,” Sidekick created an event based on an experiential marketing approach designed to help Bangkokians, both the public and river communities, reconnect to their shared roots and heritage, and form genuine bonds. No longer “strangers” living in the same city but “neighbours” who care for one another and the future of their home, the communities’ struggle then became something much more personal to the participants and their actions all the more urgent and important.
In the lead up to the event, Sidekick worked with a variety of networks from conservation, parent and architect groups to museum enthusiasts and travel clubs. Each group provided an authentic voice to their audience about upcoming activities and the ‘Social Networks’ approach contributed greatly to the success of the event and its large turnout.
The "Bangkok River Fair"
The activity was held at the River Community Museum, for which locals fundraised and managed the construction, together with the City Hall – emphasizing the fact that these communities are built on a shared culture and history.
The Cognitive Experience
Upon entering the event, the public was greeted by colorful displays explaining the history of each river community dating over 200 years as well as the opportunity to learn about sustainable riverfront development.
Sensorial and Relational Experience
Participants met like-minded individuals through activities, such as arts and crafts, and cooking workshops. Authentic cuisine from each community, which had roots in various cultures, further engaged people.
Communities told their own personal stories and discussed how the public can offer help and support. Additionally, a mini concert was organized by artists who came from the river communities and those that supported them.
Participants could show their support either by expressing their opinions on an art mural, painting the kind of ideal development they envisioned or by voting to support sustainable development on a physical petition board.
1 million baht
raised for the communities
mainstream media hits
social media impressions
people participated in the one-day event
The event was a great success for communications, resulting in top-tier national media coverage and consequently the reevaluation of the Chao Phraya Promenade project.