K2K Idol: Singing to Support the Urban Poor

k2K Idol

We regularly read in the news how the economic and social consequences of Covid-19 are felt exponentially higher by the urban poor. As CITI Malaysia’s long-term partner, we at Think City have tried something different to de-stress a B-40 community at PPR Kg Baru Hicom in Shah Alam, build social networks and find talent with the potential of jobs in the music industry. This is part of a wider public housing programme.

Research has shown that singing can reduce anxiety, enhance mood, improve mental health and quality of life. Building on this knowledge, Think City has partnered with Karyawan, impacted by Covid-19 themselves, and Perwacom, a local NGO, to deliver this intervention of a different kind. 

Would a mix of singing and competition in form of a talent contest be enough to mobilise the community, get them thinking of something positive and band together over three weeks but with impact reaching much beyond?  

We can tell you that it worked. With the support of CITI Malaysia, we printed banners and posters, set up a Facebook site and very active social media management to inform the community in mid-November 2020. Baby Shima, a well-known singer with a PPR background herself, promoted the event via video clips on Facebook and WhatsApp. 

After three rounds of judging, the 50 registered entrants became five finalists. During this time participants got to know each other via a very active WhatsApp group. Some days over 400 messages were posted! Amazingly, Covid-19 restrictions turned out to be a great opportunity. Designed as a fully online competition, people sang in their homes and sent their recordings to be uploaded to the Facebook site. We learned that some of the singers were particularly shy and from very conservative families. They would have never sung at a public event at the PPR. We were thrilled that it became a way to include community members who often miss out on activities and opportunities in their communities. 

To give the finalists a chance to really shine, the livestreaming of the finals took place at a sound studio with professional equipment. Our panel of professional judges listened and provided detailed feedback, essentially a mentoring session for the final five. The livestream lasted over three hours, generating more than 1.4K comments, 2.5K engagements and achieving a reach of almost 9,000 people in several countries. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the prize giving was a very small affair featuring live performances by the winners. The floor prizes were sourced from resident F&B entrepreneurs, directly supporting those in-house businesses.

K2k idol

The best part of the K2K Idol competition is that the finals are only the beginning. Our post-event survey showed that 100% would recommend taking part to friends, 86% said they interacted with new people either online or in real life as a resukt of the competition, and over 50% said it improved their mood and their relationship with neighbours. My personal highlight was when a resident posted how proud he now was to live at this PPR.

We have found so much talent at PPR Hicom, including a writer who will help us to compile more stories on ways this project has impacted lives, and we hope to share these with you over the following months. Thank you, CITI Malaysia for supporting our team and the community at PPR Hicom. 


Uta Dietrich

Uta Dietrich is the Social Resilience & Urban Health Lead at Think City.