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Pasar Malam reinvented UPDATED 13/12

Local night markets are still common in Singapore. Let's make them truly local by having citizens contribute to what's on offer.

Photo of DeletedUser
19 12

Written by DeletedUser

The idea is to turn passive citizens active in a way that is not forced or painful for them, by integrating community activities/activism into the national past times of shopping, eating and meeting friends.

Step1: Create a happening that gets the general public into the public space.

Step2: Encourage and facilitate for people to take part, interact and connect.

Step3: Within interaction, integrate activities and discussions that build and benefit the community.

Step1: A market is, in itself, a happening that gets people into the public space. The existing Pasar Malam already has a large fan base; the reinvented Pasar Malam just builds on and develops a well-established concept.

Existing Pasar Malam: Lots of people love them. Reasons: temporary, fun, random, “happening”, food, outdoor market like in the old days (reviving the kampong spirit). It seems a lot of people go for the activity of a market rather than the actual products for sale. Problems: lack of staff and high rental (according to organiser).

Step2: Reinvented Pasar Malam: Citizens can take part in a flea/designer market way by selling second hand clothes and bags, their own designs, home cooked food etc. Citizens take active part in community activity (they do it for their own benefit, but outcome is the same.)

Step3: Market facilitates workshops, provides space for interaction (and topics for discussion?), and sets up a stage for performances and jamming sessions. I.e. provides best possible environment for people to connect and community spirit to grow. Step3 accomplished: people learn to recycle and reuse through workshop, discuss important community issues over a shared meal and most importantly: they bond with their neighbours.

Market layout:

Original Pasar Malam remains but expands to include more interaction space, a stage and workshop space. They also provide empty space/stalls for citizens to sell food, second hand items etc.

Some kinds of stalls/activities are set up by the organiser as well as by the public.

- Food stalls

- Vintage/second hand clothes and bags

- Local design items

- Music

Some kinds of stalls are only by the public (but website for keeping track of items may be provided by organiser).

- Lend & borrow

Organiser should provide the interaction sections.

- Stage for performance/jamming sessions

- Workshop space and facilitation (upcycling, planting and growing etc.)

- Eating area (for potluck, discussions, recipe sharing etc.) and/or other bonding activity (suggestions see below)


Perhaps the government could sponsor some rental cost for community benefit. Staff issues and wages solved as public will be selling their own things.


The market will evolve over time, as some sections most likely will be more popular with the public than others. But as a market is temporary in nature it will not be a big problem for the organiser to allow for it to change.

The market may become a regular go-to for tips and advice on sustainability and household money saving. It can hold workshops for school children during the day when the market is not open.

The workshops, stage and socialising/discussion space will need some initial input and care in order to communicate to the public what they are.

- There would most likely be a lot of interest in a workshop if it is set up and advertised the right way.

- The same goes for the stage as there are lots of aspiring young musicians in Singapore who would be interested in performing.

- To encourage socialising, here are some thoughts on what could trigger people to talk to strangers (neighbours): potluck (Hao Dinh's dish-in, dish-out), layout like cocktail party, for mingling, playground for kids (parents will talk), exhibiting plans on future development of area.

Initial post:
The night markets travelling around the city these days are professional businesses selling standardised food and cheap, low quality clothing and toys.
How about turning them into flea markets where people can sell second-hand clothing, designer bags and shoes, where local talent can sell their artwork or designers try their concepts on a small scale. There could be a Lend&Borrow section for items such as tools, ladders, baby items etc, and the food section would be an excellent place for aspiring chefs and bakers to try their recipes and for grannies to share their traditional dishes.

Both flea markets and designer markets are quite common to find in Singapore today and very popular with the young. Lots of people bake or cook as a hobby and, I think, would love to make a little bit of extra cash and have a reason to bake for others. Personally, I would love the Lend&Borrow section! Everybody in Singapore is tight for space and I love lending things to friends purely to have the items out of my house for a while.

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

The setting of a market is, in itself, a good place for people to meet and connect. The market will create a connected, inspired and enabled community that will take more initiative because they care, have knowledge and feel involved. The citizens, market organiser (private sector) and local government will be interdependent on each other in order to pull off the happening (which is in everybody's interest but for different reasons).

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

The market travels around Singapore, continuously connecting with new people and connecting them with the fans that follow it around.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

It would be best to tag along with the existing Pasar Malam. The scale of it ensures lots of visitors and would be a good place to find out the level of interest from citizens. However, the main target group of the new concept may be slightly different from that of the traditional market so the word of the new concept would need to be spread.

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. How easy would it be for citizens to get involved and take initiative for this idea?

Very easy; this would rely on ground-up participation from the beginning. - 0%

Somewhat easy; there are ways for citizens to get involved, but an outside organiser may be needed to sustain and grow this concept. - 83.3%

This concept needs to be led and maintained by the government or private business. - 16.7%

2. Can you build this concept on top of something that already exists, like an organisation, physical space, or system?

Yes. This could fold into, or extend from, something that already exists. - 33.3%

This concept taps existing networks for a few things, but also needs a lot of new processes, materials, relationships, etc. - 50%

This concept requires a new system to be built to support it. - 16.7%

3. After the initial launch and support, could this concept be sustained and cared for over time by the community it's designed to serve?

Absolutely! This concept is easy to keep going. - 33.3%

It depends. There are opportunities for growth, but it's not yet clear how the concept would thrive after launch. - 50%

Probably not. A lot of effort would be needed to keep this concept going. - 16.7%

4. Does this concept create community?

Yes. It naturally brings people together and inspires them to take care of one another. - 0%

There is potential to create a thriving community. - 83.3%

No. It doesn't galvanize people to come together for a common cause or interest. - 16.7%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 33.3%

I liked it but preferred others. - 33.3%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 33.3%


Join the conversation:

Photo of OpenIDEO

Maria & Team - we're so sorry that we may have lost some of the updates to this concept over the last 72 hours - we lost the AWS server stack which included the backup and even after working through the night some updates escaped us. We have put in place some measures to ensure that this won't happen again.

We've extended the Refinement Phase to the 27th to give everyone extra time to re-upload their content and to push your concept even further - apologies again if you did lose any updates...

Photo of Hao Dinh

Maria, got inspiration on your "night market" concept. What do you think of the below idea:

After reviewing James Robertson's "Flash Sports", Eugene Tay's "Community Recycling Center", Hao Dinh's "Dish In Dish Out" and Maria Malcus "Local Night Markets", I had the below thought on connecting the 4 concepts:

Have "flash night markets" (these are night markets that are scheduled to occur in specific communities during specific times) that will enable vendors, both from the community and from other night markets, to sell their goods. Great opportunity for community vendors to highlight their goods to their communities and allows vendors from other night markets entry to "new" customers.

The entry fee to the "flash night market" is a potluck dish. Each "flash night markets" will have a theme associated with a community issue. Once in the market, participants will be able to meet new people, try all the potluck dishes, buy items from the vendors and most importantly, contribute to organized discussions on how to resolve the community issue.

Lastly I was thinking of having an "community recycling center" at the "flash night markets". The center will educate people on reuse, recycle and reduce. Additionally people will receive "market cash" for bringing in their recyclables. The "market cash" can be used to buy products from the "flash night market". (Checkout "Delicious Recycling" in Brazil

What do you gals/guys think?

Photo of Lindsey Zouein

Maria, I love Hao's idea of an alternative entry fee. I wonder what other inventive admissions ideas we could come up with? Perhaps the night markets could be sponsored by a local charity, and to enter, people could commit to a certain number of volunteer hours; bring a dish; or "like" the charity of Facebook to increase its visibility.

I think setting the stage for the revamped Pasar Malam at the entry point could help people to reframe the night market experience they're about to enter. I wonder what other ways there might be to round out an end-to-end experience?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great thoughts on alternative entry fee! Reminds me of a previous inspiration on OpenIDEO:

Photo of Meena Kadri

A friend of mine knows one of the organisers of the Global Citizen Festival. One day he answered the phone and it was Bono – *asking* if he could come and play at the festival!

Photo of Tan Yan Ling

Agree with the alternative entry fee. Anyway, just to let all of you know, we have many Pasar Malam lovers in Singapore! Check out the Facebook page with 926 members!

A lot of Singaporeans love the somehow ad-hoc, ground-up feel of pasar malams . which bring back the old days. Also brings back a serendipitous feeling to our neighbourhoods cos we never know when a pasar malam comes!

Anyway, I think the pasar malam is actually organised by a commercial organiser. We need to work out the revenue models on that.

I actually think getting charities to sponsor is not too realistic an idea, cos charities in Singapore all need money! Also, sponsorship doesnt allow for it to be sustainable and long-lasting. For it to be sustainable, I think working out a model with the commercial organiser is key..

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Thanks for all your input and ideas!

I realised, like you mention, Yan Ling, that there are lots of Pasar Malam enthusiasts out there. I think it's important to maintain the things that people love about Pasar Malams. The food ("has anyone seen the balding stinky-tofu uncle lately?"), the surprise ("Pasar Malam spotted at Clementi last night. Go check it out!") and the not-perfectly-groomed atmosphere. The things organisers seem to be struggling with are rental and lack of staff.

Something I really like about the facebook page is that it's used by both visitors and vendors. It means that offers can be posted and advertised directly to the people interested. Links up with the flash-markets that you suggest, Hao.

I think it's important to not make the market a closed system, though, in order not to deter people from engaging. I have only been to a couple of Pasar Malams, but I don't think there is an entry fee usually. Am I wrong? Knowing Singapore, adding a fee would decrease general interest.

Hm... concept developing! Will be updated soon! Keep your thoughts and ideas coming :)

Photo of Tan Yan Ling

Check out MAAD

Its a 'pasar malam' for designers and artists. It's quite popular now in Singapore. They do it once a month if I am not wrong.

Photo of Tan Yan Ling

Hey Maria, I tried to do abit of sequencing for the concepts that were selected. Almost like a roadmap.

1) I actually see the setting up of a core group of enthusiasts (not the RCs, probably younger, more innovative and more enthusiastic group, interested in ground community activities) as a first step to leading this change. Annet's Wingpost idea could be used to gather and grow such a ground up community enthusiast team. [Annet's Wingpost]

2) Equipping them with the toolkits to effect/manage/structure the community events etc. [Hao's Dish In Dish Out]

3) Setting up and running the different ground community initiatives [Maria's Pasar Malam concept , Eugene Tay's recycling concept and James' Robertson's Flash Sports concept]

Photo of DeletedUser


Thanks Yan Ling! That's great and really useful! I could totally see that kind of group happening and lots of people being interested in joining.

I'm struggling with what scale the Pasar Malam should be... I like it to be local for neighbours to connect (according to my initial concept and in line with your suggestion), but I'm worried it may not be enough of a happening to get people off their sofas and into community interaction. Do any of you have any thoughts on it?

Photo of Tan Yan Ling

I think it should actually start off medium sized to big sized. The MAAD is held in a relatively big space, almost like the size of a multi-purpose hall. The group starting the events off should also do publicity, convincing people to start stalls etc. It could be within a central location where at least a few precincts of people could come by. Publicity is definitely required, and definitely a lot of time (2 months) for word of mouth marketing to happen.

Yea it needs to be quite a scale. Such pasar malams could even be held like two times a year! Especially just before Chinese New Year when people do spring cleaning and realise they have a lot of stuff that they are hoarding.

Photo of Johan Löfström

In my experience you should have really enthusiastic people in the group with large personal networks. Each of participants can invite up to 100 visitors each, so it easily snowballs into a crowd, if you only got the right set of early adapters. and print cheap flyers to place out at different cafés and hair dressers in the area…

Photo of Klementyna Jankiewicz

Maybe Pasar-Malam-Reinvented can be a Pasar-Malam-Cooperative? Where all the participating sellers/ artists/ makers own and manage their Pasar Malam? This could make it more community based and attractive for locals and neighbors. Participants would be more engaged in the event making (as it is their pasar malam and not only their stall) and might volunteer more easily (designer selling her posters can offer to make flayers etc.)
There might be also some membership (loyalty) program for the visitors, where you pay a certain fee, but get extras (special prices, extra products)?

Photo of OpenIDEO

Maria, nice work -- your concept made it to the NEA Challenge Shortlist! We loved the way your concept leveraged an already-existing Singaporean happening: Pasar Malam, aka the night market. It has high visibility and a regular schedule -- two things that are really important for any sustainable initiative.

As we move into Refinement, think about how different activities within Pasar Malam might be described, and how people would learn about them upon entering. You could also think about incorporating Eugene Tay's Community Recycling Centers concept ( into the market, along with Dish-In, Dish-Out ( -- we thought the three could fit well together, but up to you to decide!

For more tips on how to iterate and prototype your idea during the Refinement phase, read here and check this Lowdown:

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Yay! Thank you! I will definitely bring in some more people with concepts that are relevant to mine. Thanks for tips!

Photo of Johan Löfström

It sounds to me like you suggest almost exactly the same as I did, and it sounds like you got expert knowledge about the local scene in Singapore.
So do you perhaps have some free time, to read my concept proposal, and let me know if you find stuff to improve, or if you get additional ideas for my concept? (…or even if you come up with more details for your concept?)

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I think the concepts definitely overlap, although I see your idea as more of a permanent thing and mine is more of a temporary market. But the contents are very similar. And I really like your concept! I will have another read through and see what I can contribute!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting stuff, Maria. What you've highlighted about local goods got me thinking. Sounds there might be an opportunity to create aspiration around supporting local creativity through a branding campaign which could unite the various stalls you're suggesting here (thinking stickers, signs, etc). I wonder what names for the campaign and strap lines might resonate with Singaporeans?

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Great idea, Meena! I mentioned in an inspiration that I find the Singaporeans very proud of their country and of being Singaporean. So I think creating a branding campaign indicating Local would definitely attract the young, socially responsible and aware Singaporeans! Names... hm. Will have to run that by some Singaporean friends... There are lots of expressions in Singlish that could be interesting to use, unfortunately I am only semi-fluent in Singlish :)