‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Charles Leadbeater on why empathy is essential for city success

Communities / Article

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Each week, it seems someone publishes yet another list of essentials for city success. In fact, at Knight, we have our own list of these essentials: talent, opportunity and engagement. But Charles Leadbeater, a leading authority on innovation and creativity, believes empathy should be right at the top of these lists. Sign up for Podcast Alerts Subscribe

Based in London, Charles advises companies, cities and governments around the world on innovation strategy. Among the books he has authored on the topic is “We-Think: The Power of Mass Creativity,” which charts the rise of mass, participative approaches to innovation.

Here are five things you should know from my interview with Charles:

1.     Any really good place to live needs systems to function.  But cities that are too dependent on systems (or where the systems are too big or too domineering) can become mechanistic and cold.

2.     Cities are places where you meet strangers. What makes a city really exciting is the presence of people who are different from you – people who will cook different food, create different culture, come up with different ideas.

3.     To make a city come to life, people need to be in contact with one another. That’s why a city needs empathy – people who want to understand one another, connect with one another, and reach across divides that otherwise might cut them off.

4.     Innovation is the driving force of cities, and innovation relies on bringing together different people with different ideas. For that, we need a city that is an empathy machine.

5.     Cities have to be empathetic at a level of diversity and scale that includes everyone. And cities need to be fair and inclusive.

Listen to my conversation with Charles here. And sign up for the “Knight Cities” newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted.

Look for new “Knight Cities” content posted every Wednesday here. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear more from, please email me.

Carol Coletta is vice president of community and national initiatives at Knight Foundation. Follow her on Twitter@ccoletta.