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What’s in a game?

Policy reports, academic research and data are all vital to the creation of development plans and policies. Oftentimes, these are presented through reports, journals and articles. But there have been innovative ways to communicate research to a wider audience and even make it interactive.

Alexandra Gomes, a research fellow at LSE Cities — London School of Economics and Political Science, was among those who developed “Kuwaitscapes,” a card game that was created based on the LSE Kuwait Programme research project “Public Space in Kuwait: From User Behaviour to Policy-making.”

Gomes, an urban researcher and socio-spatial data analyst, explained that in Kuwait, the dominant car-centric development has resulted in streets being designed primarily for vehicles, thereby posing challenges to active mobility and subsequently impacting human health and the environment. 

She admits that it can be challenging to navigate the landscape of urban policy influence, especially when their work is not directly commissioned by policymakers.

“Recognizing the difficulty of promoting change through current policymakers, we shifted our focus to the younger generation, aiming to sow seeds of hope for the future,” said Gomes.

Kuwaitscapes was designed to communicate the findings of their research into sustainable development in Kuwait, particularly raising awareness about the available policy choices to make urban environments less car-centric.

In developing the game, they hoped to start and amplify discussions about urban issues within families. The main goal of the game is to be the first player to improve an area to a particular character using the matching tools available. 

Gomes said that they have been inspired by the national and international outreach of the project, which is why they will continue to promote the game’s use in various contexts, and with the hope that it will eventually contribute to the sustainable planning and design of Kuwait’s neighborhoods and streets. 

“This dissemination tool underscores the potential for research to transcend traditional boundaries, showcasing the power of innovative engagement strategies across diverse communities,” she explained.

Gomes, who holds a PhD in Planning Studies from the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London (UCL), has led and coordinated research projects across diverse scales and geographies in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Her work has been supported by entities such as the European Commission, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and philanthropies. Her strong interdisciplinary skills uniquely positions her to connect various aspects of urbanization. Her focus spans socio-spatial comparative analysis, urban policy, inequalities, health, sustainable mobility, public space, urban sensescapes, and visual communication. 

She is committed to shaping the future of cities through innovative research and education, and very much interested in exploring the use of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies to address urban challenges and improve cities.

Amidst all the knowledge that she has gained throughout her career, experience has taught Gomes about the importance of knowing how to collaborate and work within a team. 

She emphasizes, “Urban studies is a field where no single individual possesses all the answers, and progress often hinges on teamwork, creativity, and resourcefulness. By pooling diverse perspectives and leveraging collective skills, I believe we can tackle complex urban issues more effectively and generate meaningful research outcomes.”

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