Monday, March 5, 2018

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Cultural Heritage + Local Communities = Powerful Resource for Urban Development

2018, in the European Year of Cultural Heritage, we can find more and more publications and projects that have not only described, but proofed, that cultural heritage is a powerful resource for urban development. A good overview can be found in the meta-study "Heritage counts for Europe".

But the big question remains: What methodology shall we use to implement heritage-based urban development? How to design the process? Which stakeholders to include? How to involve the community? etc.

 

The combination of community involvement and urban heritage to design and develop urban development processes is a winning combination.

In contrast to top-down developed approaches the integration of the communities is a more sustainable approach. In a recently published guidebook on community involvement in the framework of the OWHC we have discussed different approaches and strategies in detail. Please find here more information and access to the publication: https://www.ovpm.org/en/regional_secretariats/news/owhc-guidebook-2017-community-involvement-heritage-management

Local Community in Yerevan, Armenia

Each case is of course different, but for countries in transition, the methodology that we have developed and implemented in the COMUS-Project, might be a good starting point.

Please find here the abstract of an article that provides the essential lessons learned, and a clear description of the process and methodology:

Across Eastern Europe, there is a significant number of small and medium-sized towns with historic urban areas and valuable cultural heritage assets. Today, and almost without exception, such towns are facing various and serious challenges. These often common challenges include economic downturn, emigration of skilled people, ageing populations, physical degradation etc. In this context, preserving and reactivating heritage sites – whether they are historic, spiritual or industrial – implies the double challenge of dealing with low investment in capacity and rehabilitation, and limited availability of skills and resources. Sites that had previously been distinguished by their heritage value and cultural importance, in terms of local and national identities, have become neglected or even derelict. Others suffered due to the legacy of centralised planning systems, characterised by deficits in capacity and resources at the local level to deal with the growing responsibilities of decentralisation. In many cases communities have become disconnected from the cultural heritage, which defines their locality. Experience with participatory practices and local community engagement in preservation and reactivation of the cultural heritage to support cultural, socio- economic urban development is in its early stages. The COMUS project “Community-Led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns” set out to address these challenges and demonstrate how cultural heritage and its regeneration can provide opportunities for the financial, social and cultural development of historic towns (Heritage-based Urban Development). The project represents a starting point to apply an alternative approach, based on a strategic and structured process, focussed firmly on community needs and interests. This initiative must also be situated as introducing approaches embedded in the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, the “Faro Convention”, 2005. In this article the methods and methodology used are explained, to clarify the scope, structure and process involved, in a detailed and systemic overview. 

Here you can access the full article:

Applying the Faro Convention Principles to deliver Heritage-based Urban Development: The COMUS-Project, Community-led Urban strategies in Historic Towns (COMUS)