The Think City Story
Think City is a social purpose organisation based in Malaysia with the mission of making cities more people-friendly, resilient and liveable. As a regional city-making agency, Think City provides urban policy thinking, management and implementation of urban solutions, while acting as a catalyst for change in the way cities are planned, curated, developed, and celebrated.
2009 – 2014
George Town Grants Programme
Focused on historic city centres, Think City was first established in 2009 by Khazanah Nasional Berhad – the investment arm of the Malaysian government. With the advent of George Town, Penang being awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, momentum surged for the conservation and protection of the city’s unique heritage.
A year later, our organisation was born to launch the George Town Grants Programme (GTGP), designed to spearhead urban regeneration, with a mandate to promote community engagement, and to preserve and celebrate heritage through grants and technical support.
Over the next few years, under the GTGP, Think City disbursed 240 grants worth MYR16 million (approximately US$4 million) in special projects related to improving the public realm, conservation, capacity building and content development.
Today, George Town boasts a vastly different urban environment. The demonstrative nature of the grant projects, the knowledge and skills developed, and confidence shown by the market stimulated by co-investments, have successfully sparked urban regeneration efforts on an island-wide scale.
2012 – 2018
Urban Regeneration Catalyst
In 2014, riding on the success and key learnings of the George Town Grants Programme (GTGP), Think City expanded into other burgeoning Malaysian cities – Butterworth, Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur, evolving from a role of grant manager to that of a catalyst, more actively shaping and supporting other aspects of city making. Owing to our position as a neutral party, Think City has enabled synergies between the public and private sectors, the community and international partners.
Together, we work to implement projects that would enhance the heritage, art & culture, environment, economy and resilience of cities in Southeast Asia and beyond.
2018 – Present
Regional City Making Agency, ‘Think & Do’ Tank & Urban Delivery Partner
Through close collaboration and sustained innovation, we continued to develop citymaking knowhow while experimenting with different approaches to strengthen our methodology. Having seen and learnt from the impact of early-stage regeneration, we successfully built local, regional and international partnerships alongside growing community participation to catalyse the citymaking movement in Malaysia.
While Think City’s principles have consistently rested upon higher-level thinking about cities in general, our approach and spirit has always been ‘local’, ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘experimental’, adapting as necessary when implementation challenges arise and new information emerges in the course of our work. This ‘entrepreneurial’ DNA naturally underpins the next phase of our evolution.
Still adopting a community-first, evidence-based approach, Think City now focuses on four main areas of practice: Placemaking, Resilience, Analytics and Conservation & Adaptive Reuse in the Southeast Asian region and beyond.
5 Things to Know About Think City
1 Think City is a special-purpose subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Malaysia’s strategic investment arm, formed to work on urban rejuvenation with the goal of creating more people-friendly cities.
2 We are a regional citymaking agency, a “think-and-do tank”, with an evidence-based approach focusing on four areas of urban practice: Placemaking, Resilience, Analytics and Conservation & Adaptive Reuse.
3 With a diverse team of varied backgrounds, our work spans across a wide range of products from territorial planning to onground interventions such as the improvement of laneways.
4 Our status as a neutral organisation enables us to work seamlessly in partnership with governments, communities and the private sector.
5 We believe in the power of small — that even diminutive projects can have a collective impact. In the last 10 years, many of our projects have spurred others to work on urban rejuvenation movements of their own!