Who is not a stakeholder in cultural heritage? Inside CHARTER Alliance’s NEW report by WP4

Who is not a stakeholder in cultural heritage? Inside CHARTER Alliance’s NEW report by WP4

stakeholder in cultural heritage
CHARTER's Work Package 4 latest deliverable, "Who is not a stakeholder in cultural heritage?", identifies the need for extended collaboration and ‘skills pacts’ on local and regional level between employers, professionals, and educators to forecast gaps and needs and develop new education and training opportunities. Furthermore, dialogue between internal and external stakeholders need enhancement for developing skills and competences in core areas as well as in transversal strands.

“Who is not a stakeholder in cultural heritage?” is the first report of Work Package 4 (WP4), addressing the heritage sector’s integrated dynamics, develops in this latest deliverable a methodology that frames cultural heritage as an economic sector and labour market. This approach enables the authors to develop a heritage stakeholder analysis and mapping that takes extensive account of the most significant factors inherent in the economic and social contexts, that shape the challenges and chances affecting heritage and the actors involved in its conservation, management and valorization.

WP4 is entitled through this report with providing the CHARTER Alliance with the most accurate material to set a proper definition of who is a stakeholder in the field, and what makes specific actors belong to the category of heritage stakeholder. Reflecting upon the conditions under which one can be deemed a stakeholder enables simultaneously the authors to directly set an essential conceptual groundwork for the broader and overarching goal of the Alliance, that of sustainably addressing skill gaps in the field, notably by identifying potential synergies and fruitful collaborative work between CHARTER Alliance partners and, ultimately, between all those concerned by matching skills and sectoral needs in heritage.

To achieve its goal, WP4 undertook to negatively posit the matter, in order to get a better understanding of who actually is NOT a stakeholder, given that heritage as an ecosystem has experienced an extension of its basis of recognized stakeholders, showing the growing importance the broad field is being given as an employment purveyor, but also as a provider of collective benefits, both intangible and tangible, in Europe and beyond.


Cultural heritage: a field yet to be fully defined

cultural heritageTo know who is a part of a whole first requires an attempt to define what does this whole correspond to. WP4 authors recall the contemporary situation of culture, where integrated conceptions of subfields emphasizing the role of complementarities between actors have gained accuracy, showing the importance now given by observers and scholars to visions of areas like heritage as ecosystems.

This means not only that they have to be understood as wholes whose parts have interdependent functions, but also as very linked sets of socioeconomic actors requiring a certain level of coordination to ensure their optimum contribution to the achievement of overarching goals set at the level of political agency. Yet, the report’s authors highlight the fact that heritage still has not gained an extensive set of conceptual frameworks from experts and scholars, to be fully considered, in the theoretical sense, as an economic and social sector in its own right.

Paradoxically, heritage is plainly generating evident socioeconomic benefits for the many, leading CHARTER Alliance to adopt the ecosystem metaphor to fully catch the reality to which it currently corresponds. Namely, heritage is more precisely in keeping with the notion of “cultural ecosystem services” as developed by Hølleland et al. (2017), according to which the full value of its benefits is not entirely measurable through common performance indicators widely used in other sectors.


The dynamics of an ecosystem, the motive force of cultural heritage stakeholder interactions

In each field of social life, changes are periodically taking place that tend to redefine the normative frameworks, and set new rules of functioning and interplay between the involved actors and their levels and scopes of action.

In the slipstream of the economic fluctuations punctuating the life of societies in Europe and around the world since the second half of the XXth century, employment prospects and labour force requirements have become key themes in debates on the future of what is now most often coined as sectors or segments of social and economic life, denominations pointing towards the high symbolic significance of professional involvements in the life courses of our contemporaries, and notably those in charge of heritage matters for what concerns CHARTER Alliance.

As societies are still evolving in this context, WP4 authors notice that interactions that characterize heritage as an ecosystem are best perceived through the concept of dynamics, that can be viewed, through the example of heritage conservation discussed by former ICCROM director Bernard Fielden, as “the dynamic management of change in order to reduce the rate of decay”, be it, as stressed in the report, ”not only [a] material one but also [an] ecological, cultural, social and economical [decay]”.


How not to be a cultural heritage stakeholder?

stakeholder in cultural heritageAuthors insist on the complex reality characterizing heritage, that is reflected in the work undertaken by CHARTER Alliance, more specifically in the importance given in the project’s framework to the notion of stakeholder, seen simultaneously as a holder of rights, and as the bearer of specific roles in the heritage processes it takes part in.

Resonating with the encompassing vision fostered by the European Heritage Strategy for the 21st Century adopted in 2017 within the framework of parties of the European Cultural Convention (1954), WP4 posits that heritage stakeholders are virtually unlimited in that they potentially include all concerned citizens as per the international normative framework in force notably in Europe with the Faro Convention (2005).

This particular feature whereby stakeholdership is widely open when it comes to heritage matters, is perhaps partly due to the traditionally high significance of heritage in collective identification. It leads authors to see the negative question (who is not, instead of who is) as a better means to find answer elements to the stakeholder mapping challenge. Their research method combines case-specific, policy and scientific literature review, an internal (CHARTER members) and external (Europe-wide) survey and 13 in-depth interviews with stakeholders or cultural heritage experts.


Edifying results

The results obtained are edifying. They show that recent evolutions in the environmental, social, and technical contexts have brought unprecedented challenges for the field of cultural heritage. Climate change, digitalization, new economic and organizational models as well as changing attitudes and expectations, are some of the matters that have most contributed to make heritage reach the XXIst century with mounting concerns for the same global issues all societies throughout the world are now facing – war, the pandemic and climate change obviously ranking at the top.

The increased marketisation has made the sector and labour market more prone to align with the needs of communities, the common good represented by heritage and the value it brings, in an approach sharing many commonalities with the subsidiarity principle guiding European institutions. The fact knowledge about heritage is also produced outside the classical institutional framework of universities, shows the digitalisation and sustainability shifts are already generating new dynamics, innovations, with new stakeholders gaining prominence.

stakeholder in cultural heritage

An example of stakeholder mapping from the CHARTER brainstorming meeting in Riga (March 2021), based on a fictitious, yet common, case of multi-stakeholder collaboration around an ethnological museum


In this respect, the report recognizes the work remaining to be done with actors already taking greater part in the various dimensions of heritage, and growingly being given consideration due to their key role in dealing with the contemporary topics affecting the sector, as is the case for local communities and some private entities. Their strengthened involvement is one of the solutions to the upskilling challenge CHARTER Alliance is working to meet beyond its project timeline. In this deliverable, WP4 provides concrete keys in order to already build a strong legacy in this direction.


Access the report and continue reading WP4’s research in depth, with the results of the cultural heritage dynamics survey, the various workshops that helped design a mapping of stakeholder roles and dynamics (CHARTER in REGIONS, Milan workshop) and the key findings in terms of stakeholders, cultural heritage sector dynamics, and implication to education and training systems.

All bibliographical references are contained in the report’s bibliography (pages 86 to 89).

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