What Unspun loves about living in Indonesia is that every once in a while, amid all the muck, detritus of corruption, indecision and self interest there will emerge something wonderful, like a water lily flower blooming resplendent even though it emerged from the mud.

Last night was such an occasion. It was Pecha Kucha Night, the seventh that Maverick has organized, and it had a star studded list of speakers that included film director and Indonesia’s most influential Twitterer Joko Anwar, iconoclast Pragiwaksono, “Bapak Blogger” Enda Nasution. And there was also Joko Widodo, more commonly known as Joko Wi, the legendary mayor of Solo.

Joko Wi, the legendary mayor of Solo

Joko Wi has become a legend in Indonesia because he has shown what one man with integrity and political will can do for a city and, by extension, the country. Last night he shared with the audience of about 250 people who gathered at  Es Teler 77 Resto on Aditywarman what he’s been able to achieve in Solo.

In a country where city administrations flail hopelessly in indecision and moribund projects, Joko Wi, since taking office in 2005 has virtually transformed Solo.  He has, among other things, built 13 traditional markets, rehabilitated 17 km of the banks of the Bengawan Solo with plants and recreation areas and made it easy and quick for residents there to get their KTP (identity cards). His dedication to greening Solo has even earned him the affectionate nickname of Wagiman an acronym for walikota gila taman.

He also shared with the audience the different events they have created to encourage the arts in Solo such as ethnic music, batik and other cultural festivals.

His presentation, that he gamely delivered in the Pecha Kucha 20:20 format (20 slides, 20 seconds each) was so inspiring that he received a standing ovation when he finished. There were also calls from the audience for him to take over the Jakarta administration. A wit in the crowd shouted that he should never grow a moustache, a reference to Fauzi Bowo the hapless and incompetent mayor of Jakarta.

During the break in the middle of the Pecha Kucha event many people from the audience came up to Joko Wi to congratulate him and to tell him how inspirational his talk had been. Unspun thought that this was such a good way to be remembered – for what you have achieved and done for the people – rather than how other Indonesian politicians like to be adored for – through their Hummers, fancy cars, large chunky jewellery or their “cleverness”.

After a break in the middle of the Pecha Kucha event, Unspun and wife had the opportunity to accompany Joko Wi for dinner. Joining us was Linda Hoemar Abidin from kelola for the Arts, another speaker at last night’s event.

During dinner we spoke of many things such as how he ended up being mayor (in his self-effacing way he said that he merely registered hi name at te urging of some friends and was surprised when he was elected, probably because the residents there wanted a change and a new face).

We also asked him what was his secret for success. How did he manage to go such great things for Solo when other mayors had failed. He said it all boiled down to intention (niat in Indoneisan). That and working with communiies who had great ideas and creativity – the city government merely had to empower them and provide the facilities or infrastructure and let them do the rest because public servants did not have the best mind sets to be creative.

One member of our group said that it was ironic that DPR members feel that they have to go to Italy and other countries to learn about administration and development when all they had to do was make a trip to solo. Joko Wi just smiled.

(Disclosure: Maverick is the organizer of Pecha Kucha Jakarta. Unspun works at Maverick)