Earlier this year, many readers of this blog participated in a mapping of participatory governance practices in cultural heritage in Europe. Margherita Sani, Bernadette Lynch, Alessandra Gariboldi and myself used this input and our own research for a recent EENC report on the topic. In this post I present and reflect on some of our findings.
It used to be that if you needed to make sure you got a funder excited about your ideas, all you had to do was add post-its at the end of your exhibition and call it a participatory experience. True or not, participation is a buzzword and as such is often used to make things sound better than they really are. When we started mapping cases of participatory governance in cultural heritage, I feared I’d find many of these: Participation to tick a funder’s box.
Fortunately, we found a wide variety of cases where institutions and communities really tried and succeeded to govern cultural heritage participatory, at least to some extend. In Helsinki citizens work together on the planning and budgeting of new institutions, in the Baltics and Scotland ordinary people take responsibility for the maintenance of built heritage, while in the Netherlands and Germany people work together to document their shared heritage.
We defined participatory governance as the sharing of responsibility. Obviously, responsibility can be shared at many different levels, and in many different ways. To facilitate the discussion about this, in our report we developed a simple framework to compare cases of participatory governance. On the horizontal axis, we combined Wilcox Ladder of Participation with Nina Simon’s participation framework to distinguish different levels of participation. On the vertical axis, we show where a project has been initiated: bottom-up or top-down?
Cases towards the bottom and far right of the framework tend to make the best stories, including my current favourite about the Teatro Sociale of Gualtieri, where a group of young people independently of government decided to renovate an old theatre. Continue ReadingRead More »