OpenHeritage: Organizing, Promoting and ENabling HEritage Reuse through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment

OpenHeritage aims at creating sustainable models of heritage asset management. The project puts the idea of inclusive governance of cultural heritage sites together with the development of heritage communities at its center. This means empowering the community in the processes of adaptive reuse.

OpenHeritage works with an open definition of heritage, not limited to listed assets but also involving those buildings, complexes, and spaces that have a symbolic or practical significance for local or trans-local heritage communities.


In 2018 “Co-Roma”, a coalition of urban actors (local NGOs, local public authorities, Luiss University and the LabGov research and innovation center, community hubs and local enterprises) started the process to obtain recognition from the Council of Europe of its work in in the area of the heritage co-district ACT (Alessandrino- Centocelle-Torrespaccata) to create value around the Centocelle archaeological and cultural heritage as a “heritage community” (pursuant to the Faro Convention, 2005).

The organised meetings and created documents provided the perfect occasion to show all the activities that the community has developed for the valorization of the heritage district and the inclusion of different narratives in the cultural values.


As part of the Faro Convention Network, the CO-Roma coalition took part to the annual Council of Europe initiative of the European Heritage Days organizing Heritage Walks on 21-22 September. Participants discovered some key locations of the co-district. Not only local communities but also some European actors (such as Eutropian and the European Cultural Foundation) took part in the walks. The walks started from the urban garden “Isola San Felice”, a green space taken up for adoption and managed by 100eacapo APS Association. This area has a strong social value for the community, it is in fact the first micro-regeneration activity carried out together with LabGov and National Agency for research on renewable energies and sustainable development, ENEA.

The next stop was at the Osteria di Centocelle following for the Tower of San Giovanni also known as “Torre di Centocelle”, from which the group continued to the so-called “Parco della Cultura” and “the vegetable garden of collaboration” hosted by the Rugantino library in Torre Spaccata. These vegetable gardens have been important instruments of involvement and awareness at local level. Passing through the Alessandrino waterworks, another historical monument that crosses the Co-District, the walk then stopped at Fusolab 2.0, an important space for social gathering, training and innovation.

The common thread of the walks was to tell through visiting the Co-District key places the work done so far by the community and the great potential that characterizes those areas, both from a social, economic environmental and cultural point of view.


On December 2018 the community of the Co-District, including the Alessandrino, Centocelle and Torre Spaccata districts, formalized and formalized the establishment of a neighborhood cooperative “CooperACTiva”. The community that for years actively worked in the area and that 3 years ago as part of the Co-Roma coalition had joined forces for a common interest, giving life to a shared path of activism and entrepreneurship. The goal that pushed urban cooperators to set up this collective urban enterprise was to create jobs for the inhabitants of the area through activities related to sustainable tourism, culture and neighbourhood services (including digital).

This cooperative is the first in Italy to be born in a complex urban area, characterized by low human development rates and high poverty indices. This tool represents a model of social aggregation capable of building responses shared by citizens to collective needs, as well as an instrument of cohesion of the community itself. It is a shared, participatory project that enhances and strengthens relational capital, community heritage, active citizenship in the management of urban common goods, and networking the resources of the territory through a democratic and intergenerational entrepreneurial tool. The cooperative became part of the Co-Roma coalition of stakeholders.


The co-design process aimed to define together with the local community the activities to insert in the Local Action Plan of the project, which was to serve as a guidance of the work for the upcoming 3 years. The co-design aimed to build the activities in a way that they meet the interest and need of the locals, empowering the community in developing them. The co-design activities allowed to increase the ownership of the citizens and ensure that the scope and the goal of the activities were aligned with the interests of the territory.


In the immediate aftermath of the lockdown measures’ ease, the Luiss team kept the Lab activities alive and rearranged and adapted the program of the Lab Capacity building as a digital process. The Digital Capacity Building process was offered in collaboration with Confcooperative, the national level organization representative of cooperatives, and the National Agency for research on renewable energies and sustainable development, ENEA (the same organization that supported the initial fieldwork that led the Luiss team to create the Co-Rome coalition in 2015).

The aim of the process is to foster the birth of cooperative businesses that operate at the neighbourhood level and offer services that respond to the emerging needs of inhabitants of distressed city neighbourhoods, as well as to the existing needs that are exacerbated by the post-pandemic scenario.

The overall goal of the process was to (re)discover neighbourhood co-operators who can contribute to the implementation of such businesses, already active or in progress in other city districts and generate new forms of urban co-operativism (in fact, during the pandemic communities have rediscovered the importance of neighbourhood, proximity, and of places where they live and that surround them).


Within the framework of the European Heritage Days 2020 and the activities of the Rome CHL, CooperACTiva, Co-Roma representatives together with the community of the co-district “Alessandrino-Centocelle-Torre Spaccata” (ACT) located in South-East Rome, accompanied the participants along an itinerary to discover the cultural heritage of the district, also thanks to the cooperation the Heritage Community for the Public Park of Centocelle (CPPC).

The first Heritage Walk route started from Parco Rugantino and then headed towards Casale di Torre Spaccata, an ancient, abandoned farmhouse built in an area rich in Roman archaeological remains, scattered within Torre Spaccata Great Park (“Pratone di Torre Spaccata”).

Along the route, the last stop led participants to discover the history of the Tower of San Giovanni and its medieval origins.

The itinerary of the second Heritage Walk (postponed to Saturday 10th October due to bad weather) led participants to discover the Archaeological Park of Centocelle and its history.

Starting from the car park in Via Casilina and along a route about 2.3 km long, the events and testimonies of the Park have been narrated to participants: from the rural villas of Roman times that re-emerged during the archaeological excavations carried out between the end of the nineties and the first two thousand, to the “first flight” of Wright on the runway inside the Park. The walk was an excellent opportunity to make known the traditions and events that characterize the area, even to citizens who do not live in the area, handing down its cultural values for the benefit of all participants.


Starting from October 2020 were held a series of online workshops on the management of art projects related to visual art organized by Co-Roma, in collaboration with CooperACTiva, with the support of Sarteria, a cultural start-up for the promotion of artistic, historical, environmental, literary and cultural heritage and Luiss-LabGov.City.
The capacity building process was part of the activities of the Rome CHL and aimed at activating digital workshops that are going to lead to the creation and implementation of a shared and co-designed artistic exhibition (Living Memory Exhibition) between artists, experts in the field which will be involved in the various sessions, and the community. During each session, the fundamental phases of the artistic project design and management cycle were shown and experimented with:fundraising, also through digital platforms, projects’ governance, and co-design of a public art work to be created for the exhibition, together with the community.

The capacity building was aimed at co-designing some artistic public artworks to be realized in the Alessandrino-Centocelle-Torre Spaccata (ACT) district and linked to other artistic-creative-cultural activities already planned and ongoing thanks to other projects started in the area.


During the spring, the community took action to plan and organize a series of heritage walks for the spring-summer period in order to promote the principles of the Faro Convention, and actively participate in the initiatives of the Faro Community Network. Through the neighbourhood cooperative (CooperACTiva) and its members the Collaboratory designed and scheduled a series of guided tours in the Centocelle Archaeological Park’s. The tours – which started in May 2021 and will be going on until September – were designed to explore different points of cultural interest for different target groups (families, children, other etc.). The developed paths let visitors discover the hidden cultural gems of the Torre Spaccata and Alessandrino districts.


The first heritage walks were held in May and continued through the month of June 2021. Both the neighbourhoods’ inhabitants and others of the city of Rome joined. This is all the more important, as in June, trips were still restricted, even between different Italian regions and from abroad. Despite these restrictions – while the number of participants even for outdoor initiatives – the community was able to organize different routes and achieve a high level of participation. In most cases the walks organized were free of charge. The inspirational idea behind the initiatives was to test if and how these experimentations were useful for the neighbourhood cooperative’s business activities in the forthcoming future.


While co-creating the Living Memory Exhibition’s communication campaign and the Lab’s Local Action Campaign, several online sessions were held during the spring. Members of the neighbourhood cooperative proposed to coordinate the Collaboratory’s activities with those planned for the 100th anniversary of the Centocelle neighbourhood’s birth (to be celebrated in 2021). They were working on a unitary communication campaign, which would be able to collect the spirit of all the cultural initiatives that will take place during the summer in Centocelle and its nearest neighbourhoods, providing them with a common narrative. Thus, the initiative “Giornate ACTive del Patrimonio” (i.e., “ACTive Heritage Days”) was born with its logo. The latter was conceived to describe it as a process of cultural and artistic production that will echo within the ACT district.


After a co-design phase completed during the winter 2020, the first artworks to be realized as part of the Living Memory Exhibition activities were planned by the community during the spring. Some of the street artworks that will be part of the ACTive Heritage Days itineraries have been realized in Centocelle between May and June 2021. Another one is due in Torre Spaccata and will be unveiled during the “European Heritage Days”, annually organized by the Council of Europe in September.


The Living Memory Exhibition focused on creating murals. The illustrated map of the neighbourhood was entrusted to the street artist CROMA who was able to reinterpret the area of Centocelle through its people and activities: the bicycle workshop, the yellow train, the drawing of a sheep right where the burned bookstore was, and again the historic streetcar 19, the partisan history, the market, the aggregative spaces, the Roman aqueduct and the C metro. A map without streets but made of stories and symbolic places drawn on an entire wall right at the entrance to the neighbourhood, at the intersection of Via Prenestina and Via Tor de’ Schiavi.


The workshop’s objective was to define the content and design of the final artwork of the Living Memory Exhibition. The activity was hosted by the Istituto Comprensivo Montinaro in Torre Spaccata and involved its young students. The pivotal points guiding the initiative were based on Elinor Ostrom’s approach on the governance of the commons, the principle of solidarity and civic collaboration referred to in the Italian Constitution in Article 2, the Agenda 2030 goal on sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), and the recognition of heritage communities operated by the Council of Europe’s Faro Convention, the future generations (Art. 9 of the Italian Constitution). However, all these were simplified to fit the needs of the workshop’s participants.
The outcome was a calligram depicting the above principles and inspired by the students. The birds depicted are of different species, all, however, are linked by a common thread to the same destiny as the institutional, civic, social, cognitive, and economic actors who must contribute to the sustainable development of the city: flying together to progress toward a future still a harbinger of prosperity for humanity and the planet. This was an important lesson for the children and young people who attend the school and thus are today’s and tomorrow’s inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
The birds are constructed through the words of a poem by “Er Pinto,” a street poet whose art has become a recognizable mark of contemporary Rome.
 “Tra gli amici e la natura,
per le strade in libertà,
si vola tutti assieme
verso la felicità” (Er Pinto).


The Luiss LabGov team presented the Rome Collaboratories experience to the local network of stakeholders linked by the Parish of the st. Bonaventure “Giovanni Paolo II”. This occasion was instrumental in highlighting the relations established with local anchor institutions such as the School Antonio Montinaro in Torre Spaccata. The Rome Collaboratory supports the School in strengthening the openness of its activities and level of experimentation. Urban experimentation inspired the School during creating its new program “Officinae”, through which students and families will be involved in outdoor activities in the ACT district for engaged and creative learning about local heritage.
The presence of anchor institutions and municipal representatives was a useful reminder about the need for an enabling public sector for the sustainability of local community-based actions.


The new release of the Co-Roma platform (, was produced by the OpenHeritage project. It builds on the first functionality, which was already present in the old version of Co-Rome, namely the mapping of projects, resources, and activities that can be defined as cultural, environmental, and cognitive commons in the territory of Rome.

Impact evaluation is also included in the platform, which uses automated questionnaires for ex-ante, in itinere and ex-post evaluation. The evaluation scheme used is the result of the past experience of the Luiss research group / LabGov, and applies a multidimensional impact indicator (Territorial, Local and Urban Impact, Environmental Impact, Socio-economic Impact, Socio-sanitary Impact, Technological and Digital Impact).


Open and Common Heritage | Cultural places as spaces of Innovation for sustainable and inclusive urban development – Rugantino library, Rome.

The national workshop focused on the potential of the urban commons to produce new values around tangible and intangible heritage.

The workshop explored three main topics:

  • How to Promote Sustainable Urban Innovation through Culture (a roundtable discussion featuring dialogue between different policymakers and stakeholders to understand how public policies can promote culture from a sustainable development perspective). Reference has been made to policies being implemented in the city of Rome made operational through investments for example related to the PNRR;
  • Culture as a tool for sustainable and inclusive development;
  • Public and Private Finance for Sustainable Urban and Cultural Innovation (how investors, both public and private, are contributing and can contribute, to support sustainable urban and cultural innovation projects).

It particularly emphasized cultural heritage, as an enabling tool for the sustainable development of territories, not only through the involvement of local communities but also by offering spaces, skills, tools, and ideas to promote innovation aimed at sustainable development and improving the social and economic conditions of inhabitants and users in vulnerable neighbourhoods. A crucial challenge for cultural heritage studies concerns the investigation of how to direct institutions to widely experiment with different approaches in managing urban commons (Elinor Ostrom – Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990; Co-Cities, Foster & Iaione 2022, MIT Press) in synergy with local actors (the so-called quintuple helix consisting of public, private, cognitive, social, civic actors) to increase their sustainability over time. New strategies such as adaptive reuse projects and innovative legal-organizational tools such as public-private-community partnerships (PPCPs) stimulate public authorities to make their application more widespread and help enable an entrepreneurial spirit already inherent in many local communities. In this framework, the Luiss LabGov research group’s contribution to the European Horizon 2020 project “Open Heritage” is the result of a field experiment that began in 2014 and merged in 2018 through participation in the project itself into a wider European network with the aim of investigating the conditions for activating commons institutions and heritage communities (heritage communities) as a driver for inclusive economic development at the neighbourhood/district level, while regenerating tangible and intangible cultural heritage.