CLC: Promoting Whole-of-Government Knowledge Sharing in Urban Development
Centre for Liveable Cities

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Singapore has developed from a fledging, chaotic urban centre of the 1950s to a modernised and highly sophisticated nation-city it is today. The path taken by Singapore in its urban development journey, i.e., attempting to balance high liveability with high-density is considered an interesting case for other cities around the world to examine. Prior to the establishment of the Centre for Liveable Cities, there was no single public agency to conduct systematic and thematic oral, pictorial and verbal documentation of Singapore’s urban development journey. Individual public agencies which were instrumental in the collective urban planning of Singapore, e,g., the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Development Board, Land Transport Authority, Public Utilities Board, had their own documentation processes to archive their past records for the benefits of the prosperity. However, these records often dealt with operational plans and implementation, without holistically routing back the records to the overall and consolidated perspective of Singapore’s urban planning. The absence of a single public agency documenting Singapore’s urban development journey meant that there was a lack of holistic picture of Singapore’s history in its spatial planning and implementation. Though the research and tertiary educational institutes would commission independent research and documentation projects, these were often thematic and specific to a particular spatial topic within a specific timeline or era. Further, Singapore’s urban planning processes and experiences were often resided in the minds of Singapore’s urban planning pioneers, e.g., Alan Choe (first Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority), or Dr Liu Thai Ker (former Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Development Board and prominent local urban planner), and these experiences were not summarily documented and recorded. Without proper and systematic documentation of the urban planning experiences and expertise, with the passing of these urban planning pioneers, Singapore would lose collective memories and expertise from these pioneers and it would have drastic implications to the knowledge bank as far as Singapore’s urban planning was concerned. In addition, there was no overall training institute to document and spearhead the sharing of Singapore’s spatial planning experience. There was also no systematic infusion of this knowledge to our younger urban planners and promising government leaders, resulting in a considerable ignorance of these personnel towards some of the critical factors shaping Singapore’s urban planning, i.e., in the formative years of Singapore’s independence in 1965.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
To guide Singapore’s long term sustainable development, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD) was set up in January 2008. The objective of the IMCSD was to formulate a national strategy to coordinate a whole-of-government approach towards developing Singapore is a sustainable way. The IMCSD was co-chaired by the Minister for National Development Mr Mah Bow Tan, and the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. The members of the committee included Minister for Finance Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Transport Mr Raymond Lim, and the Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran. One of the key recommendations arising from the IMCSD’s sustainable blueprint report, “A Lively and Liveable Singapore: Strategies for Sustainable Growth”, was to position Singapore as a sustainable development hub. A major thrust of this strategy was then to facilitate global knowledge exchange. Although Singapore is a small country, we could help to promote and build environmentally sustainable cities beyond our shores. To this end, the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources established the Centre for Liveable Cities, a policy-oriented think tank. The Centre would bring together Singapore’s expertise on sustainable urban development in the areas of good governance, urban planning, effective resource management, quality living environment, affordable housing and sustainable transport solutions. The Centre would distil and deepen Singapore’s urban development expertise through developing case studies and undertaking projects and research of an interdisciplinary nature. It would facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practices among cities in the region through workshops, seminars and training programmes. The Centre would also develop links and strategic partnerships with key regional and international organisations, cities and other centres of excellence. The Centre was organised into three focus areas: 1) Research, 2) Capability Development and 3) Promotion. Research is central to the Centre’s work, and is conducted in close collaboration with local and international partners. The Centre’s research activities include its Integrated Urban Solutions Research, and Research Workshops, as well as Urban Systems Studies. The Centre develops print and digital Publications for global audiences, to share its research as well as the knowledge of its partners, through such titles as the Singapore Urban Systems Studies booklet series, the biannual Urban Solutions publication, as well as the monthly CLC e-Newsletter. Capability Development is a key arm of the Centre’s activities, as it aims to draw on its research to become a leading academy for cities. The Centre’s flagship initiative in this area is its Leaders in Urban Governance Programme for local public servants, as well as the Temasek Foundation Leaders in Urban Governance Programme, which is aimed at international city leaders. Promotion refers to the Centre’s efforts to collaborate with partners to share knowledge, particularly through Events. The Centre is a co-organiser of the World Cities Summit - the global platform for government leaders and industry experts to address liveable and sustainable city challenges, share innovative urban projects and forge partnerships. The Centre also co-organises the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum, and the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. The regular CLC Lecture Series is another platform for thought leaders and experts to exchange ideas and share knowledge. Supporting these efforts, the Centre forges strategic Partnerships with local and international experts and organisations.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The main objective of the Centre for Liveable Cities aims to deliver valuable, practitioner-oriented knowledge to local and global audiences in engaging ways. Firstly, the Centre conducts research interviews with Singapore leaders to distil their tacit knowledge of city planning and governance. The Centre also collaborates with others to address emerging challenges, like creating liveable high-density cities, and community engagement. Whether retrospective or forward-looking, the research is grounded in Singapore’s experiences, and focused on useful outputs for practitioners. Secondly, the Centre delivers regular and tailored capability development programmes in an engaging and experiential way. Hallmarks of the capability development include the use of the Centre’s Liveability Framework and Urban Systems Studies in the curriculum, dialogues with senior leaders, local and foreign study trips, and workshops to develop solutions to real-world problems. Finally, the Centre organises global-scale dialogues to facilitate exchange of views, ideas and solutions. Since 2008, the Centre organises four editions of the World Cities Summit. Taken together, the Centre aggregates critical knowledge of Singapore’s experience in developing a high-liveability and yet high-density city within a nation, and shares this knowledge with our local and overseas stakeholders and partners in engaging, practitioner-oriented way.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Research Research at the Centre focuses on studies of Singapore’s planning, development and governance since Singapore’s independence. The objective of these retrospective studies is to distil and document important lessons from our development journey. The Centre’s research process involves extensive interviews with Singapore’s urban pioneers and collaboration with relevant agencies. The retrospective thematic studies are published under the Urban Systems Studies and has covered themes such as Sustainable Environment: Balancing Growth and the Environment; Land Acquisition and Resettlement: Securing Resources for Development; and Financing a City: Developing Foundations for Sustainable Growth. The Centre also conducts forward-looking research into emerging challenges and issues related to liveability and sustainability. A collaborative approach is taken in the Centre’s research where the Centre works with government agencies, private organisations and people sector organisations. For example, the Centre has worked with organisations such as the Urban Land Institute, Royal Dutch Shell and the Urban Redevelopment Authority to study community engagement, liveability in high-density cities, energy, and active mobility. Promotion The Centre promotes knowledge sharing with partners through a series of local and global platforms and awards. The World Cities Summit (WCS) is a biennial premier platform for global government leaders and industry experts to address liveable and sustainable city challenges, share integrated urban solutions and forge new partnerships. WCS programming focuses on strategic thought leadership and dialogue among leaders on integrated urban development and sustainable governance practices, with exclusive forum sessions including the WCS Mayors Forum and WCS Young Leaders Symposium. These platforms are meant to promote peer-to-peer sharing of best-practices between city leaders as well as to facilitate companies and international organisations’ sharing of sustainable urban solutions with city leaders. The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize also highlights exemplary case studies of successful sustainable urban development. Knowledge and research is also shared through various platforms such as periodicals and events. Our periodicals, including the monthly CLC e-Newsletter and biannual Urban Solutions publication, reach over 30,000 recipients. The online version of the Urban Solutions is at ( The CLC Lecture Series creates a platform to discuss and share knowledge on urban sustainability issues. Past lectures have featured environment and sustainability experts, addressing biodiversity, greenery, water management and conservation issues. Details of the Lecture Series, are at ( Capability Development The Centre designs and conducts capability development programmes for local urban sector practitioners comprising mid-level to high-level officers from the public and private sector. The programmes, anchored around CLC’s Liveability Framework and facilitated by a series of modules on Singapore’s urban systems aim to familiarise the participants with Singapore’s challenges and development journey to transform itself into the highly liveable city it is today. The modules, presented by sector experts and pioneers, highlight how Singapore effectively managed its development trade-offs and ensured a sustainable clean, green and liveable environment. The take-aways are also reinforced through site visits and learning journeys to projects as ABC Waters project (Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park), the Singapore river, Clean Tech park etc. These programmes also encourage deeper understanding of sector strategies and policies through group project assignments. As Singapore continues to develop and face new complex challenges, the programmes encourage the participants to reflect on policies and strategies to be adopted to ensure Singapore’s high liveability and continued sustainability. The Centre’s capability development programmes also reach out to an international audience of city leaders and decision makers through its anchor programme, the Temasek Foundation Leaders in Urban Governance Programme (TFLUGP). This programme focuses on sharing lessons from Singapore’s development experience with high-level city leaders and emphasises the use of specific projects and action plans to put the lessons to practice.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Domestically, the Centre works with agencies to capture and distil Singapore’s developmental experience, and promotes the Singapore model to the international audience of city planners, experts, business leaders etc. This in turn positions Singapore as an epitome of urban development and attracts international organisations, businesses and governments to look to Singapore for intellectual and business exchanges, thus value-adding to the domestic economy. In addition, the Centre receives guidance from its Advisory Board, comprising senior figures from academia, industry and the public sector. A high-level panel of Distinguished Advisors - comprising prominent former politicians and senior civil servants - contributes to the intellectual development of the Centre. The Centre also engages a group of distinguished experts, i.e., CLC Experts, who are domain experts with technical knowledge and expertise that the Centre will tap for future consultancy projects. In the international realm, the Centre actively engages a network of urban experts and partners to undertake forward looking researches to have an in-depth understanding of the region’s development and best practices, which will be translated back to the local agencies for knowledge and capacity building. The Centre also works closely with other partner organisations and entities to share knowledge about liveable cities and sustainable development, as well as jointly promote such concepts at relevant platforms. The Centre also works with these organisations to develop relevant capability development programmes, or to solicit support and sponsorship for the Centre’s flagship events. Till date, the Centre has established partnerships with more than 200 public and private organisations. In addition, the CLC Visiting Fellowship is a programme for distinguished researchers and practitioners to undertake research in their areas of expertise and interests. The programme is an excellent opportunity for the CLC to exchange knowledge on sustainable and liveable cities and strengthen our ties with like-minded researchers and practitioners, in the joint effort to create solutions to meet future challenges.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Fully funded by the government, the CLC was established in June 2008 by MND & MEWR as a knowledge centre on liveable and sustainable cities which integrates across stakeholder agencies. There are currently 22 stakeholder agencies where the CEOs of these agencies form the CLC Stakeholders Steering Committee. The Committee meets regularly with the aim to guide and support CLC in achieving greater alignment. Stakeholder agencies are also encouraged to leverage the growing network and knowledge base of the Centre to advance their respective agency’s mission. At the same time, CLC aims to augment the stakeholder agencies’ knowledge-base and open-up more economic opportunities for Singapore. The participation of our stakeholders is invaluable to CLC’s success and the vision of making Singapore a global integrated urban solutions hub. CLC has an existing staff strength of about 40. It targets to double its manpower resource by 2016. Other than full-time staff, CLC is supported by its Panel of Distinguished Advisors, Fellows and Experts. Our Distinguished Advisors and Fellows are prominent individuals who play an advisory role and CLC works closely with them to enhance its intellectual development through tapping on their wealth of knowledge and experience via oral history interviews, lectures and roundtable discussions. On the other hand, our Experts form a pool of domain experts and practitioners in the fields of technical knowledge and expertise related to CLC’s work. CLC Experts are an invaluable resource to CLC in its capacity to act as a knowledge platform and urban incubator. Based on the requirements of specific projects, CLC could tap on their relevant expertise to work together with CLC staff in active or advisory roles.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1. CLC Liveability Framework. At the hallmark of the Centre’s work is the development of the CLC Liveability Framework. The Framework explains that the underlying systems of integrated master planning and development, and dynamic urban governance are key elements to achieve the three outcomes of a liveable and sustainable city – Competitive Economy, Sustainable Environment and High Quality of Life. 2. Urban System Studies. The series of monographs seek to unpack the systemic components that make up the city of Singapore, capturing knowledge not only within each of these systems, but also the threads that link these systems and how they make sense as a whole. The studies are scoped to venture deep into the key domain areas the Centre has identified under its Liveability Framework, attempting to address the key question: how has Singapore transformed itself to a highly liveable city and sustainable city within the last four to five decades. Since 2011, the Centre has completed 15 series of the monographs. In addition, the Centre is currently embarking on another 13 series. 3. World Cities Summit (WCS). WCS is the flagship biennial event organised by the Centre. Since 2010 where the Centre took over the organising of the WCS, the event has grown from strength to strength, with the number of countries/region growing from 49 in 2010 to 67 at the 4th WCS, 2014. The number of Ministerial and Mayor-level participants has grown over the years as well. 26 ministers and 128 mayors attended the latest edition of the WCS in 2014, which was held in conjunction with the Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore. All three events garnered over 20,000 delegates from 133 countries and regions over four days. 4. Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is a biennial international award that honours outstanding achievements and contributions to the creation of liveable, vibrant and sustainable urban communities around the world. The Prize is awarded to cities and recognises their key leaders and organisations for displaying foresight, good governance and innovation in tackling the many urban challenges faced, to bring about social, economic and environmental benefits in a holistic way to their communities. Cities such as Bilbao, New York and Suzhou have been named as prize laureates in 2010, 2012 and 2014 respectively. 5. Capability Development Programmes and Workshops. The Centre provides a range of capability development programmes for both local and overseas officials and city leaders. These programmes consist of cross-sector training and curriculum based on CLC’s integrated systems approach, and has proved useful in getting public officers and beyond to better appreciate Singapore’s urban challenges and what is needed to chart the way forward.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The Centre has put in place a systematic framework and platforms to monitor its strategic objectives, major initiatives and routine activities. At the highest-level platforms are the regular Stakeholders’ Meetings and the Advisory Board Meetings during which, the Centre reports its progress and achievements to the respective groups of stakeholders for their comments and suggestions. The Centre also holds regular meetings with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Development, to seek strategic directions and suggestions from the Permanent Secretary. At the Centre, annual corporate retreat and workplan planning take place to summarily take stock of the Centre’s yearly achievements and to plan ahead on its activities and projects. To this end, the Centre produces quarterly progress reports to document the current statuses of the Centre’s work, and to make forecast of its activities and projects.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Since the Centre was established in 2008, it has faced two key challenges as highlighted below: a. Difficulty in obtaining critical data. Approaching the public agencies for information is not always seamless, given some sensitivity involved in the nature of some of the information and data sets. Further, there is inertia from some public agencies in sharing of data, given the uncertainty in which the data and information would be used and the accountability should the data and information be mis-construed and mis-interpreted. To overcome the challenge, the Centre maintains close and regular contact with the relevant public agencies, through joint research collaborations and meetings (e.g., CLC Stakeholders’ Meetings). This is to build trust between the Centre and the various public agencies in a transparent, collaborative manner. The Centre also sends regular updates and publications to the public agencies to close the loop on the Centre’s work, and also to acknowledge the public agencies’ contributions and provision of critical information. b. Seeking out Professionals and Experts to contribute to the Centre’s work. To ensure that the work of the Centre is holistic, the success and comprehensiveness of the Centre’s work, especially in the arena of research, hinges on the ability to identify and engage professionals and experts who have partake in Singapore’s urban planning. In this aspect, the Centre actively identifies these personnel through existing contacts or networks, and invites them to become members of the Advisory Board, Distinguished Panel of Advisors, or the Panel of Experts. The Centre would also invite them to be Fellows, or Visiting Fellows.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The impact of the initiative, since the Centre’s formation in 2008, has been to foster a strong connective network which brings cities closer. The Centre’s three main focus areas – research, capability and promotion – aim to extend the connections in which the Centre has made into a virtuous cycle, to bring positive developments to Singapore and other cities. More specifically, in research, the Centre focused in on sustainable environment and housing in order to document and analyse Singapore’s achievements in these areas in the last 50 years. Such retrospective research helps the Centre to transform a treasure trove of tacit knowledge – through official records and oral interviews – into useful references for present-day practitioners. In more forward-looking research, the Centre led the Cities Roundtables, where experts from international research institutes gathered to consider various scenarios for the future of Singapore, using tools such as big data, mobility and connectivity planning, as well as the social sciences to decode human behaviour. In November 2013, the Centre co-hosted its annual Cities Roundtable with Singapore-ETH Centre’s Future Cities Laboratory. The Roundtable surveyed a number of crosscutting issues, including: 1. Social aspects of high-density living 2. Big data/smart city 3. Mobility and the environment The Roundtable brought together researchers working on cities from public, institutional and academic sectors. Researchers from A*STAR, National University of Singapore, Singapore-ETH Centre, MIT, Housing and Development Board, N-Parks and the Singapore University of Technology and Design presented case studies and data, and proposed models for various aspects of Singapore’s future as a smart city. In addition to the research findings and case studies shared at the Roundtable, collaboration between private and government research centres and institutes was also proposed in order to operationalise the knowledge and data. The Centre extended the impact of its capability development programmes by linking experts from Singapore and around the world. With participants from Mongolia to Kiribati, and through study trips from Singapore to Malmö to Tianjin, the programmes consistently achieve high scores in content relevance and engagement. Through these programmes, the Centre also continues to feature and test findings in the CLC Liveability Framework and Urban System Studies. The flagship training programme, the TFLUGP, has also received very favourable responses from the participants. Cities such as Colombo in Sri Lanka, and Quezon City in the Philippines had requested for specific follow-up training subsequent after attending TFLUGP. Kuching North also credited the TFLUGP for helping the Malaysian city improve its “Clean, Beautiful and Safe (CBS) Enhancement Plan 2013–2017”. Quezon City has recently implemented four major projects targeting the biggest problems of the city: sustainable housing for the poor; transformation of the city’s enormous waste problem into an energy resource; transitioning of City Hall into a green building; and the development of an entertainment boulevard that will be a new exciting tourism district in Quezon City. These projects were developed following the participation of Quezon City’s executives and legislators at the TFLUGP in 2013. Initiated by Mayor Herbert Bautista, who participated in Temasek Foundation Leaders in Urban Governance Programme (TFLUGP) in 2012, a customised programme similar to TFLUGP was developed and implemented a group of 70 city councillors and senior urban executives in Singapore in 2013. The programme provided a platform for the participants to adopt an integrated approach to design and develop priority urban projects for inclusion in the city’s 2015 master plan. The Centre also organises outreach activities for the youths, to increase their awareness on Singapore’s developmental journey as well as to solicit their views. For e.g., the Centre organised the Youth Challenge on Urban Governance: HEROES in early 2014, to engage the youths through their choice of a Hero, of which 16 teams from tertiary institutions participated. The winning entries were subsequently showcased at the World Cities Summit 2014 pavilion.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
At this point in time, the Centre is in good stead to expand its capabilities and capacities in its three focus areas, i.e., research, capability development and promotion. Financially, the Centre is heavily supported and financed by the Singapore Government on its major projects and operating expenditures. Nonetheless, the Centre also strives hard to solicit funding support from the private-sector corporations, through supporting the Centre’s flagship events, e.g., the World Cities Summit. The Centre also continues to seek out professionals and experts who could contribute significantly to the Centre’s work. Currently, the Centre has managed to invite a considerable number of past political leaders, senior civil servants, urban planners and urban solution experts to be closely involved in the Centre’s work through the Advisory Board, Panel of Distinguished Advisors and Panel of Experts. Thus far these professionals have been forthcoming to be involved in the Centre’s work and appreciate the opportunity for them to add value to the collective knowledge of Singapore’s urban development journey. The set –up of the Centre has so far been unique and there are no plans to replicate the model of the Centre in other parts of the Singapore Government. On the other hand, the Centre works very closely with the public agencies to continue to distil and share knowledge on urban development. The Centre is thus intended to be a unique, local and global knowledge centre on urban planning and solutions. Many of the cities around the world have been interested to learn about the Centre’s strategic role and operation, and keen to set up similar Centres in their own cities. For instance, the Mayor of Antwerp, Belgium, visited the Centre in October 2014 to obtain insights about the set-up of the Centre, as well as the suitability for a similar centre to be established in Antwerp.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
From the perspective of the Public Service Division, the Centre for Liveable Cities has thus far been progressing considerably towards fulfilling its strategic objective of position Singapore as a sustainable development hub. Through its three focus areas, the Centre has earned a high level of visibility and credibility in the local and international scene, and is well-poised to lead the global discussion on sustainable and liveable cities, via its various events and platforms, from the TLUGP to the biennial World Cities Summit. Among the lessons learnt, a key take-away is the importance of adopting a whole-of-government approach in sharing information and distilling critical knowledge in various aspects of a country’s governance, for the case of the Centre for Liveable Cities, urban governance and spatial development. It is also important that cities come together regularly to share and exchange experiences in urban development and governance. Fostering an openness to share and exchange views, this would contribute towards trust-building amongst the city leaders, which would pave the way for future collaborations. Therefore the role of the Centre for Liveable Cities would be to position itself as the global knowledge centre on city development and urban solutions, and enhance Singapore’s role as a leading centre for urban innovations. A recommendation for the Centre for Liveable Cities would be to expand its role as a think-tank entity. This would enable the Centre to continue to leverage on its close proximity with the Singapore Government to foster close working relations with the various Ministries and Statutory Boards.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Centre for Liveable Cities
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Thomas Liew
Title:   Assistant Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   66459577
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   45 Maxwell Road #07-01
Postal Code:   069118
City:   Singapore

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