Bottom-up governance of cultural heritage. The First Italian National Meeting in Florence.

Bottom-up governance of cultural heritage. The First Italian National Meeting in Florence.

On February 23rd, during Tourisma, a three days International Exhibition of Archaeology and Cultural Tourism, the city of Florence hosted the event “Stati generali della gestione del patrimonio culturale dal basso”, the First national meeting gathering Italian actors involved in the bottom-up management of cultural heritage. The meeting was promoted by Professor Giuliano Volpe, Full Professor of Archaeology at the University of Foggia, former Rector of the same University and former President of the “Consiglio Superiore per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici” (Council for landscape and cultural heritage) of the Italian Ministry of Culture. Over the last years, Professor Volpe has studied Italian practices of cultural heritage bottom-up governance that he has investigated in two of his last publications: “Un patrimonio italiano. Beni culturali, paesaggio e cittadini” (2016) and “Il bene nostro. Un impegno per il patrimonio culturale” (2018). Also, Federculture – the Italian Federation of Public Services for Culture, Tourism, Sport and Leisure contributed to the promotion of the meeting, attended by members of dozens of associations, cooperatives and foundations involved in the management of cultural heritage, from Northern, Central and Southern Italy, and also public officers.

In the first part of the meeting, some representatives contributed with their expertise/experience to the debate on cultural heritage bottom-up governance in Italy: Professor Giuliano Volpe – promoter of the meeting; Antonio Loffredo – Clergyman and founder of “La Paranza”, a cooperative of young people managing Early Christian Catacombs in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Naples; Professor Stefano Consiglio – University of Naples Federico II, who investigates the phenomenon in Southern Italy; Professor Andrea Carandini – Archaeologist and President of FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust for Italy, a non-profit foundation involved in the conservation and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage thanks to a network of volunteers, individuals, companies and institutions; Giuseppe Sassatelli – President of Fondazione RavennAntica, in charge of the management of some of Ravenna’s archaeological, architectural and historical-artistic sites; Valerio Pennasso – Director of the National Office for cultural heritage of the Italian Bishops’ Conference; and Claudio Bocci – President of Federculture. In the second part, participants could listen to dozens of experiences, projects and practices of Italian actors involved in the governance of cultural heritage including archaeological sites, intangible heritage, churches, historical buildings, maritime heritage etc, having different legal status, organization, mission and territorial scope.

The event was also the occasion for the launch of a national network with regional representatives and the approval of a formal document through which all participants asked the Italian Parliament to ratify the Faro Convention and claim for a better acknowledgment of the actors involved in the bottom-up management of cultural heritage, a higher commitment of public bodies to facilitate the participatory governance of cultural heritage, as well as a stronger cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and the University and School sectors. Here below a summary in English of the original document approved at the end of the meeting:

The participants are convinced that such a diffused heritage cannot be valorised without the commitment of citizens, of Third sector associations, of foundations, of society and professionals of cultural goods. It needs a public and coordinated action to orientate, value and monitor the quality of the projects submitted and of the applicants.

They underline the quality and efficiency of actions undertaken by people on the national territory, in particular regarding the reuse of cultural and landscape goods (often striken by degradation and abandonment), the restitution to local communities, social inclusion, the creation of qualified job, healthy, clean and sustainable economy, social promotion, city security and liveability, as well as living conditions improvement.

Besides, they stress how, from a very preliminary study emerged an important phenomenon of citizen engagement (concerning hundreds or thousands people with different types of employment contracts) and created uppermost and measurable economic benefits excluding knock-on effects, which were estimated to generate a dozen million euros.

They also hope that all public administrations, whether city centres or in remote areas, will from now on work to valorise and support the country energies, passions and skills which work for the ‘promotion of knowledge and research development’ and for ‘landscape as well as historical and artistic heritage conservation’ (art.9 of the Italian Constitution). They hope to increase the collaboration between the MiBAC (Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities) and Schools/Universities.

At last, they call for a real engagement and application of the Subsidiarity principle as supported by the art.118 of the Italian Constitution which encourages “citizens’ autonomous initiatives, whether as individuals or groups, to carry out actions of general interest”, notably regarding cultural heritage. They invite the Parliament to shortly ratify The Faro Convention on cultural heritage societal value. Eventually, they urge the creation of a national network with regional referents so as to have a stronger impact and call political organisations, local and regional national entities, Schools, National Associations and International organisations such as UNESCO and ICOM to engage alongside.

World Cities Culture Report 2018, openness and inclusivity for urban challenges

World Cities Culture Report 2018, openness and inclusivity for urban challenges

Culture is driving regeneration, creating the jobs of the future and diverting young people from crime. Culture makes us healthier, facilitates civic engagement and gives tourists a reason to visit. It continues to shape the heritage and identity of our cities. In short, culture addresses all the major city challenges we face today – it has moved definitively from niche to mainstream. (…) While there remain serious challenges in all our cities, there has never been a better moment to unlock the potential for culture to transform them. (Justine Simons, p.5)

“How do cities use culture to provide solutions to our contemporary urban challenges?”. This is the question underpinning the World Cities Culture Report, a compendium of the most innovative programmes, policies, key trends and infrastructure projects in culture developed by 35 cities[1] across the world. The Report is the annual document of the World Cities Culture Forum, a collaborative network made up of 38 members from local governments and cultural sector of leading cities around the world, whose activities are delivered by BOP Consulting, on behalf of the Greater London Authority and the members of the Forum. The network was founded in London in 2012 by eight cities (London, New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Istanbul, Sydney and Johannesburg) convened by the Mayor of London, for the purpose of “advancing the case for culture across all areas of urban policy” and “sharing ideas and knowledge about the role of culture in building sustainable cities”. Beyond the annual Summit and Report, the network provides themed symposia, regional summits, policy workshops, collaborative publications and a Knowledge exchange programme.

Two major trends emerge from the 2018 Report, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies: the “critical role for culture in addressing the inclusion of all citizens and a new definition of how, where and by whom culture is experienced”.

As for the first trend, there seems to be a shared commitment across the cities in increasing participation to “culture for all citizens”, by means of different tools and programmes, recognizing Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. The report thus contains some examples of urban practices in access and inclusion, among which the TURN Project in Tokyo, Kulturpass in Vienna, the Agreement to Promote Reading in Milan, Neighbourhood Lives and Memories in Lisbon and many others.

As for the second trend, that is the “opening out of culture”, we assist to a change in both cultural spaces, places and forms and in the approach to support programmes and policies at the urban level. For instance, the Culture Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, the Bronx Creative District in Bogotá, as well as the Opera Camion in Rome, the Cultural Hotspots in Toronto and so on. At the same time, new governance and policy solutions have been envisaged, such as the Cultural Matching Fund in Singapore, the Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact in New York, the Citizen participation shaping public art in Paris etc.

By providing “a city profile” containing data (45 indicators), trends and innovative programmes, the Report refers to more than 200 cultural programmes and practices (considered as the most innovative from the responding member cities), classified into 9 different categories:

  • Cultural Diversity and Representation
  • Cultural Access and Inclusion
  • Culture in the Outskirts
  • Citizen-Led Cultural Policies And Programmes
  • Making Space for Culture
  • Culture and Climate Change
  • 21st Century Cultural Infrastructure
  • 21st Century Cultural Event and Formats
  • 21st Century Cultural Governance and Strategy


Already in 2017, within the World Cities Culture Summit, the 27 participating cities signed the “Seoul Declaration”, with the following commitment: “To ensure that culture is a golden thread in all aspects of city policy (…); To make culture available to and empowering for all citizens (…); To generate and learn from evidence and research, in pursuit of an enlightened and progressive approach to policy development and implementation; To act as leaders in our field and to continue to collaborate in the face of shared challenges and shared opportunities (…)”.

A shift is ongoing in urban culture-related policy across the world, a valuable phenomenon as demonstrated in the Report, especially in a time where “The resilience of world cities resides in their capacity to envision a different future, one rooted in interdependency that reflects and supports all the people they represent. An open culture builds that capacity” (Richard Naylor, p.17).


[1] Amsterdam, Austin, Bogotá, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Chengdu, Dublin, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, Moscow, New York, Oslo, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Seoul, Shenzhen, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Warsaw, Zürich

Cultural heritage leading urban futures:  The Horizon 2020 ROCK project

Cultural heritage leading urban futures: The Horizon 2020 ROCK project

“ROCK focuses on historic city centres as extraordinary laboratories to demonstrate how cultural heritage can be a unique and powerful engine of regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth for the whole city”.



32 participants from 13 countries[1], among which 10 cities, 7 Universities, 3 networks of enterprises, 2 networks of cities, a foundation, a charity, companies and development agencies. This is the large and heterogenous consortium, coordinated by the Municipality of Bologna, leading the ROCK project: Regeneration and Optimisation of Cultural heritage in creative and knowledge cities. The project has received 9,837,585€ of EU funding under the Horizon 2020 topic “Cultural heritage as a driver for sustainable growth” (SC5-21-2016-2017).

The main objective is to support three Replicator Cities (Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje) − that are already experimenting urban innovation processes − in the transformation of historic city centres areas affected by social problems and physical decay, following the example of seven Role Model cities experiencing a knowledge-based economy (Athens, Cluj-Napoca, Eindhoven, Liverpool, Lyon, Turin and Vilnius).

The underpinning idea is to develop a collaborative and circular approach through which implement successful heritage-led regeneration models and test their replicability. The project is organised around four complementary phases: Knowledge Inventory (thanks to an open knowledge portfolio and atlas); Sharing & Modelling through mentoring visits and work-shadowing; Piloting & Demonstration, by developing a shared model of local development resulting in integrated management plans; fourthly, the assessment ad upscaling phase.

The project comprises Local Actions in the replicator cities related to the organizational and technological innovation domains, Transversal Actions related to the social innovation domain, and Piloting Actions including implementation activities also in Role Model Cities. The entire process is facilitated by a Multi-actor Advisory Board, made up of seven experts, serving as a consulting board for the project implementation, and by a Regional Board, made up of six representatives of participating Regions, fostering collaboration and a structured cooperation among the different regional bodies.

A range of tools, tested in Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje, supports the development of the project activities, such as a web platform for networking and mentoring, a multiplatform app related to cultural heritage experiences, integrated cultural heritage analytics, large crowd monitoring tools, environmental control monitoring as well as creative industry green tools.

In each replicator city the project focuses on the regeneration and sustainable development of different areas, with the support of three Living Labs, set up for the specific purpose of facilitating co-creation processes. In Skopje, the aim is to transform an historical area – comprising a medieval fortress, the Old Bazaar area and the Jewish quarter − into a knowledge, culture and technology-driven hub.

The Skopje Urban Living Lab “SkULLab” has been established especially for the development of creative industries and technology-driven models involving the local communities of the Old Bazaar area, also in order to reverse the decline of artisans.

In Bologna, the aim is to transform the university area located in the historical city-centre into a sustainable cultural and creative district; for that purpose, on December 2017 the Living Lab “U-Lab” was launched, already organising open meetings for stakeholders and a call for proposals to select and fund projects that involve local communities in the transformative visions of the area.

In Lisbon, the focus is on the innovative re-use of historical buildings and spaces – namely the Olisipo Archaeological area in Santa Maria Maior District, Tagus River and Beato zone (Marvila) – by attracting creative industries talents and developing ICT infrastructure. An important role is played by the “LLL” Lisbon Living Lab, raising awareness of local communities and stakeholders about their heritage, in order to develop participatory projects and processes and to support start-up actions. In 2018 LLL has already promoted a range of activities like exhibitions, an international culture forum, a hackathon, a city-branding workshop, the “Marvila days” and the “Bibliogamers” (a collaborative technology game-based event).

The project includes a tight schedule of project meetings and events: on the 17th of October 2018, the ROCK Cities Session in Lisbon; on the 19th the “Urban centers. Acting Upon or With Cities?” meeting, organised by the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon in partnership with the Centro de Informação Urbana de Lisboa, dealing with the role of urban centers in participatory governance and cultural heritage-led regeneration; from the 22nd of October to the 23rd the ROCK Seminar on “Innovative City Branding” in Turin, including a workshop and a short open conference; from the 25th of October to the 26th, the ROCK Hackathon 2018 in Lisbon, a two day co-creation marathon on “Eco-entrepreneurship, cities and sustainable business innovation for a green & inclusive Lisboa”.

An innovative and inspiring project, with huge potential, to be followed closely!


[1]                Italy, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Portugal, Greece, Lithuania, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Germany, Belgium, France.

Youth & Cultural Heritage – the pioneering projects of IBC Emilia Romagna

Youth & Cultural Heritage – the pioneering projects of IBC Emilia Romagna

The Institute for Cultural Heritage – Istituto per i beni artistici, culturali e naturali (IBC)of the Emilia Romagna Region, founded in 1974, operates as an advising body for the regional government and local authorities in policy making related to cultural heritage. It promotes projects in the field of architectural and environmental heritage, museums, libraries and hierarchies, for different purposes: restoration, protection, enhancement and enjoyment of cultural heritage.

The IBC Emilia Romagna has been developing best practices in youth engagement to the enhancement and management of cultural heritage goods, involving both schools and young associations.

We interviewed Valentina Galloni, coordinator of the pioneering project “I love cultural heritage”.

How the project “I love cultural heritage” works and how does it fit with the IBC’s activities

In Emilia Romagna, The Institute for Cultural Heritage has adopted a new policy to actively engage youth to their local cultural heritage. This policy is realized through two already consolidated initiatives: one devolved to youth cultural agencies of the region – the “Youth for the Region” contest – and the other – the contest “I love cultural heritage” – aimed at targeting students in schools.

The “I love cultural heritage” starts in 2011 to ensure the regional reach to a European project, where at the time IBC was a partner, called “Acqueduct”. The aim of the project was to train teachers and cultural institutions’ operators to understand the value and the importance of cultural heritage as a vital tool to spread key transversal competences to students. Those competences, as established by the Panel of Reference adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2006, are: learn to learn, social and civic competences, initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, and cultural expressions and consciousness. In order to effectively meet those goals, several pilot projects started in partner countries in collaboration with schools and cultural institutions actively involving students. Given the effective methodology employed and the successful results achieved by students, a new regional initiative has been envisioned by IBC. This is how “I love cultural heritage” came to life,  encouraging every year new schools to join the partnership together with museums, libraries and archives, and to present a project adding value to local institutions and/or cultural assets. The active students’ involvement and the development of transversal competences are themselves two key goals of the project.

Which are the projects’ evaluation criteria? Which supporting activities IBC offered in addition to funding, if any?

For the projects’ evaluation we use the following criteria: innovation and originality of the project proposal and communication; clarity and coherence in its articulation; the active participation of students in its implementation; the capacity and modality of schools and other local stakeholders’ engagement; the proposal reproducibility in other scholastic contexts or museums, and libraries. Thus, we support the project not only financially but also in terms of training, documenting and promotion. The referents take part in meetings with initiative’s coordinators, with those who previously implemented projects and with the MOdE’s – Museo Officina dell’Educazione dell’Università di Bologna – professors, for what concerns the documentation and the evaluation of the projects. At the end of every year, results are collected, published, and spread in affiliated websites, in as much they can inspire future projects; they will be further presented by the same students in the final conference.

Which are the main innovations introduced by students in the project’s partners institutions?

During these years, students have achieved extremely original and innovative projects: board games, eBooks, audio guides, videos, interactive and emotional maps, bas-reliefs, design objects, xylographies, didactical routes, web sites, promotional projects for tourism, virtual reconstructions, catalogues and exhibitions, monitoring attentively every phase of the process.

Many projects connect students coming from different schools linking their different competences to reach a shared goal. For example, in a recent project students made a short film to highlight the value of some paintings hosted in a museum: students from high school not only acquired knowledge in various disciples (e.g. art, history, cinema etc.) but also developed the new competences like film-making, writing and acting. Older students from a cinematographic institute helped and guided them in this venture; students from fashion school crafted their costumes while students from art school helped with the scenography of the movie.

Which are project’s main objectives achieved? And which the main criticisms?

The different editions of the contest involved thousands of students who have worked with hundreds of cultural institutions, organizations and associations from all over the region. Museums, archives and libraries are the institutions where students work as a group, learn, create, play and make use of their learned competencies and their talents; each one of them is given the possibility to have an active role in the achievements of a cultural project; each one understands the role he or she can have in taking care of a cultural asset and how this can impact future generations. Students have the possibility to actively experiment the museum, the archive and the library as areas for active learning. Here they can develop new forms of communication to enhance their cultural heritage’s value. Now other cultural institutions are involved as well: initially the project was designed only for museum, later on archives and libraries were involved too. The funded projects have increased (currently 20) as well as the funds allocated for each project (at the moment 4000 euros: 2000 for the school and 2000 to the cultural institution).

Some criticisms are due to the fact that these activities are extremely challenging, since they develop through the whole academic year. Therefore, they require commitment and energy in task accomplishment and organization between the different involved actors. Nevertheless, the overall evaluation is very positive and enthusiastic from the part of the students.

Over the years, also a project called “Youth for the Region” has been developed. What are the objectives and results obtained up to date?

In this case as well, the main objective lies in the active involvement of the youth, in order to create new forms of management and communication of cultural assets. Youth associations are invited to partner up with agency, possibly owner of a cultural good, to present an innovative project with regard to the governance of the asset.

Each year, several projects compete in the contest and, in order to select the 10 best projects, the criteria employed are among inventiveness, active participation and capacity to involve the entire local community. Moreover, a necessary condition for the admission is to receive either from the respective agency or from a third subject, a contribution of at least 2000 euros. As a matter of fact, the capacity to attract new resources is ultimately considered a further the criteria. Each project financed with a 10.000 euros funding, is further monitored and followed up by the Institute for Cultural Heritage becoming example for next projects.

These projects represents occasions to research and to collect historic material, to learn how to use new technologies, to strengthen the link between cultural assets and the surrounding landscape, to give new inputs and awareness to the local community about the importance of cultural heritage. They foster civic engagement in cultural heritage commons’ management, fostering social inclusion and job retrieval.

The participation to the contest can constitute an impulse for some associations, evolving them from start-ups into concrete realities; for others, it has been an occasion to value and acquire recognition for their own work while enlarging the local partners.

As demonstrated with these projects, Culture & Participation are key part of the IBC mission and activities at the cutting edge of in the current debate. Which are the main obstacles encountered? And which the potentialities still to experiment?

Unfortunately, students are often committed to other activities which obstacles the possibility to make a real job from these projects. They should be supported more and for a longer period. A public – private partnership should be promoted to create a financial system to support their activity.


Participation &/in Culture: trends, debates and next events

Participation &/in Culture: trends, debates and next events

On April 18-20 Aarhus University, Denmark, hosted the international conference “Cultures of participation. Arts, digital media and politics”, organized by the Take Part research network on cultural participation. The conference aimed at presenting and discussing how participatory approaches are declined within both physical and virtual contexts, like cultural institutions and digital media platforms, urban spaces, artistic production, architectural design. It dealt with three main themes: 1) Participatory art & aesthetics, 2) Digital media & technology, 3) Cultural policy & participation.

In this context, LabGov participated, with its co-founder Christian Iaione together with Maria Elena Santagati, in the session that provided a reconstruction of the Italian context and initiatives, presenting the experience of the LabGov’s project Co-Rome promoting the participatory governance of cultural heritage in the framework of the Faro Convention, with a focus on the urban commons implemented in the Centocelle’s Archaeological Park in Rome


120 participants from all over the world had the opportunity to attend the three keynote speeches by Lisanne Gibson (School of Museum Studies-University of Leicester) “Museums and participation – Who goes… (and who doesn’t?)”, by Shannon Jackson (University of California, Berkeley) “Civic re-enactment and public re-assembly”, and by Zizi Papacharissi (University of Illinois-Chicago) “Affective publics: news storytelling, sentiment and Twitter”. The first one–starting from a recent study conducted in the UK showing that museum visitors are just a minority of the population (8.7%) who engage with State funded cultural activities–calls for a rethinking of museum practice and role to enhance the citizens’ interest and participation starting from the idea that “Museum can function as places where people can explore their own identities in relation to others, to reflect on how people are different and how they are the same” (Mark O’Neill, 2006: 109). The second one–based on the UC-Berkeley’s research platform on Public (Re) Assembly and the work of Aaron Landsman and Paul Ramirez Jonas–investigated the re-enactment in civic processes. The third one discussed about the concept of affective publics, the role and meaning of social media for the Arab Spring and occupy movements, together with data from recent studies by the University of Illinois at Chicago explaining the relevance of the platform for contemporary news storytelling, framing, and gate-keeping.

A range of sessions provided different perspectives on the topic of participation in culture through the lenses of different disciplines, reflecting the ongoing practices trends across Europe and beyond, including digitized cultural institutions and experiences, participatory art, policies of participation, measurement and valuation of cultural participation, cultural activism, methods for engaging communities in cultural production, arts&media platform, spaces for civic participation, urban and public space, participatory management of cultural institutions, technological transformations, and (non)participation. With respect to participation in policy and management, the session concerning the European Capitals of Culture provided useful considerations emerging from a study on ECOC projects revealing that most of them had an instrumental approach to the participation instead of providing a base for participatory governance (Szilvia Nagy). The session also stressed the need of rethinking the participation with regards to the experience of Aarhus 2017 based on the Rethinking participation Report  (Leila Jankovich and Louise Ejgod Hansen), shared an analysis of arts carnivals programmes and participation within Capitals of culture in UK (Angela Chapell), and, finally, displayed a very interesting project “2025€ x 2025”, concerning participatory projects for Dresden ECOC candidate city for 2025, including one based on the “table-theatre” method (Valentina Mercenaro).

With regard to participation in culture policy-making, interesting inputs were raised from: a critical perspective on Iceland’s official cultural policy and its confusing aesthetic of involvement (Njourour Sigurjonsson); an interesting critical analysis of newly rooted participatory cultural institutions in Poland (Marcin Poprawski); a case study of Leeds cultural policy making as a democratic space (Malaika Cunningham and Elysia Lechelt); and a reflection about cultural participation as a narrative in the German cultural policy (Claudia Steigerwald). Finally, another case treated the challenge of participatory management at the School-Museum of Pusol within the SoMus-Society in the museum project (Lorena Sancho Querol, Rafael Martinez Garci and José Martinez Jurado).

Meanwhile, on April 18th, the European Union published the final report of the OMC working group on “Participatory governance of cultural heritage”, containing both operational and policy recommendations. Moreover, within the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the European Cultural Heritage Summit will take place in Berlin on June 198h-24nd, with the slogan “Sharing heritage-Sharing values”. Among the next interesting meetings and events, some concern participatory issues like: the conference “Cultural heritage communities and audiences in today’s digital environment” dedicated to digital technologies and cultural heritage; the conference “Sharing as a chance. Private initiatives and cultural heritage”: “People want to participate in heritage and be involved in decision processes. It should no longer be a specific task of experts to decide about the future of our heritage but of all those who are engaged in it”; and the students’ summit “Culture Up Your Future – Living out European Heritage in the Digital Age” concerning students’ engagement with European cultural heritage.

Finally, another relevant meeting on the topic of participation will be held on June, 11th-12th in Manchester for the conference “Understanding everyday participation: Re-locating culture, value and inequality”, as the final step of Understanding everyday participation – Articulating Cultural Values, a five-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council advancing a re-evaluation of the link between participation and cultural value.