A new guidebook for community involvement in heritage management

A new guidebook for community involvement in heritage management

“Heritage is only relevant, when it is relevant for the people”.

The Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC), founded in 1993, gathers 280 cities hosting sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its aims are “to favor the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, to encourage co-operation and the exchange of information and expertise on matters of conservation and management as well as to develop a sense of solidarity among its member cities”.

OWHC has 8 Regional Secretariats, besides the General Secretariat in Québec. Since the ever increasing importance of the connection of local communities with cultural heritage, the Northwest Europe and North-America Regional Secretariat, based in Germany, has published the guidebook “Community Involvement in Heritage Management”, in cooperation with the Joint Project European Union / Council of Europe COMUS and EUROCITIES.

The guidebook, consisting of a theoretical background and case-studies, provides practical exemples in the following areas: Promotion & valorisation of Urban Heritage, Supporting owners in safeguarding their Urban Heritage, Use of Urban Heritage for community and cultural development, Participative development of actions, management plans, guidelines, policies for Urban Heritage.

In order to increase citizens involvement and connection with urban cultural heritage, the guidebook identifies three major objectives:

  • Recognise, understand, coordinate and balance needs of both local communities and urban heritage
  • Link, connect, communicate, empower to produce long-lasting benefits for the communities while safeguarding cultural heritage
  • Strengthen abilities and capacities to favor citizens engagement, also in decision making processes, in the preservation, management and promotion of urban heritage.

The guidebook refers to some theoretical approaches of community involvement in heritage management, people-centred approach to conservation (like Co-management (Reggers 2013; Office of  Environment and Heritage NSW 2015) and the Living Heritage model (Poulios 2014) and to the Communication model for built heritage assets-COBA, elaborated by the World Heritage Coordination Secretary “to increase the identification of citizens with their built heritage asset in order to get their support in allocating more resources to and preserving cultural heritage”, for the scoping of heritage communication  processes, their evaluation and improvement. The model proposes an identification process made up of 5 steps defined by the following indicators: the attitude of the “citizen” (A), the state of identification (B) and proficiency (C), the level of involvement (D), the communication efforts (E), the methodologies that can be applied (F). The 5 stages are the following ones:

  1. Definition of heritage assets
  2. Awareness of heritage assets
  3. Exploration: From Knowing to Doing
  4. Participation: Action-orientation and self-commitment
  5. Transfer: Expertise and assimilation of asset.

Within the process, the citizen can pass through the stages of being a recipient, stakeholder, multiplier, expert, lobbyist and, combining the 5 stages and the related indicators, the COBA model results as follows:


What was missing is a model that can be used to scope and structure local community involvement processes, and all of them of course start with communication” (page 68). This is even more important in view of the celebration of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.

L’Organizzazione delle Città Patrimonio Mondiale (Organization of World Heritage Cities – OWHC) ha recentemente pubblicato delle linee guida sul tema “Community Involvement and heritage management”. Un quadro teorico e interessanti casi studio con l’obiettivo di promuovere un maggior coinvolgimento dei cittadini nella gestione del patrimonio culturale urbano.