WashU: Collaboration, Communication and Community Engagement Cited as Key Skills to Develop Livable Cities

Public Health; Research

Researchers and practitioners who focus on livable cities most often cited collaboration, communication and community engagement as important skills in a survey that also revealed gaps between research and practice in the field, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Researchers surveyed more than 200 researchers and practitioners in two phases.  In the first phase, participants were asked to name the five most important skills when working to develop livable cities or towns; second-phase participants ranked the importance of the most-cited skills from the first phase.

Participants generally agreed on the most-cited skills but researchers and practitioners differed on the importance of some. The responses aligned with current curriculum in the field, although gaps remain as a few participants named some skill areas that research has shown to be important, such as prioritization and dissemination.

Developing livable cities is a process that works across varied disciplines, including public health, architecture and urban design, all of which benefit from the skills cited by survey participants, the authors note. “Observing trends and patterns between them can help pinpoint skills and goals that can be shared among all contributors,” wrote Rodrigo Reis, senior author and professor at the Brown School.

The study concluded with three recommendations for researchers and practitioners:

  • The continued use and teaching of “soft skills” like collaboration, communication and community engagement.
  • Training for those already in the workforce.
  • Consideration of group processes and composition when forming teams for livable-city development.

The study was published July 8 in Cities & Health.