Participation in urban and rural heritage within landscape: a systemic approach exploring social and institutional impacts

Gallou, Eirini and Fouseki, Kalliopi (2018) Participation in urban and rural heritage within landscape: a systemic approach exploring social and institutional impacts. In: ACHS 2018 Conference, 2018-08-23 - 2018-08-29.

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This paper argues that there is a reciprocal relationship between social and institutional impacts derived from participation in heritage. By reciprocal relationship, we refer on how participation in heritage projects can benefit community wellbeing while leading to benefits in processes of heritage management (Smith,2006) and heritage protection, and the other way around. More specifically, the paper looks at heritage participation in rural landscapes which constitute a rather under-examined context. Through an in-depth case study from the remote and rural context of Orkney islands, Scotland, UK, the analysis focuses on participation in five projects realized within the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership scheme, a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported scheme (2009-12). 40 semi-structured interviews were conducted with local inhabitants, including 16 heritage professionals and 24 community members who were involved in the projects. The qualitative data were firstly analyzed thematically with particular emphasis on motivations for participation, perceived social impacts on community level and institutional impacts on organizational level. A second method of analysis was applied to understand how impacts are interrelated: employing a systemic conceptualization (Avrami, 2012) of interactions between community, place and institutions, we use causal loop diagrams ( a tool from system dynamics) to illustrate causal relationships between variables and understand how participation has contributed to output and finally impact formation and what are the interactions between social and heritage related impacts. One of the key causal interrelationships observed is that people’s interactions with rural elements of the historic environment increase social capital (assessed through social indicators such as social networks and social cohesion among others). Through the creation of new social networks and heritage associations this leads to reinforcing sense of place and community awareness of rural heritage. This locates local heritage institutions at the heart of local place -making processes, increasing community links with and trust towards heritage planning related agencies. This paper provides the first systemic attempt to illustrate the causal interrelationships by offering a novel methodological approach applicable for complex heritage systems such as rural heritage landscapes. We hope that this approach will inspire practitioners to think “beyond boundaries” of specific sites (Ackerman, 2014), understanding further socio-spatial associations between communities and heritage but also between communities and institutions. Key words; participation, engagement, rural landscapes, social impacts, heritage for sustainable development, institutional impacts, reciprocity