KISAH Futures: A Disruptive New Storytelling Competition

Wherever you are in the world, whatever the culture or language, people will be telling and sharing stories. They may be meaningful or mundane, hilarious or emotional. They may be the only interaction a person has had all day. We use storytelling to connect dots and negotiate our environment. Stories bring people together. 

Anthropologists believe that story-telling is ‘central to human existence’. It’s a skill we learn in infancy, as anyone who has ever watched a small child spontaneously concoct a wild fantasy to cover some misdemeanour can attest to. The digital world of tweets and photo-sharing is an extension of this urge to communicate and reach out to others. To notice and be noticed.

Think City, in partnership with UNDP Accelerator Labs, Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and MIGHT, has launched KISAH Futures, a competition that invites Malaysians and Malaysian residents over the age of 18 to submit short stories of up to 700 words about the post-COVID future of their lives. Themes for the competition include Urban Design, Community Wellbeing and the Future of Work and stories can be submitted in Bahasa Malaysia and English at this link by 11.59pm on October 31.  

Up for grabs are cash prizes of RM3,000 for the best story, RM1,500 for second place, a RM1,000 third prize and 22 runners up prizes of RM100. Your story may also be featured in an upcoming anthology and the myForesight® magazine. 

Cities and governments are increasingly turning to storytelling initiatives to inform and nudge citizens, part of the growing realisation that what people object to is often not technical change but the social change that accompanies it. In that sense, stories, rather than facts and information, are an effective way to win hearts and minds. 

Viable Cities is a Swedish innovation programme that aims to create nine climate neutral cities in the country by 2030. Projects include using robots to reduce the climate impact of inner-city logistics to smart urban farms and advanced data platforms. The project’s designers realised that there’s more to getting your citizens onside than offering them innovative solutions and last year reached out to Per Grankvist, a well-known journalist and author in the country, hiring him as Chief Storyteller, a possible first for a government-led initiative. 

As Grankvist tells Cities Today website: “Rather than just putting forward plans and drawings, we aim to help cities put forward visions or stories and narratives which help citizens understand what the future will feel like… Our human brains are not designed to process facts. We are not rational beings at all. Our brains are designed to keep track of the relationship between other individuals and to do that we use stories.”

The ideas submitted to KISAH Futures will serve a similar purpose, outlining our hopes and fears for what comes next for a post-pandemic Malaysia. And don’t worry if you aren’t a professional writer or storyteller, you probably can’t do much worse than the opening paragraph of The Citymaker Editor Matt Armitage’s submission:   

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

The Dome covering Klang Valley Island swayed slightly as another wave swept over it. On days like today, when the Earth Ocean sends 100m waves crashing across its surface, faint tones sing out, as though some strange sea creature were idly rolling a tentacle around the edge of a glass. Early in its history, a sound artist tuned the Dome, replacing the white noise of the crashing waves with soothing harmonies…

Information about KISAH Futures, plus the terms and condition and judging criteria can be found at