HERIWELL: Cultural Heritage as a Source of Societal Well-being in European Regions

  1. Background

Cultural heritage has been gradually streamlined in different policy areas, such as the EU Cohesion policy, thus showing the growing strategic importance that the topic has gained on the European agenda. Several initiatives at the European level contribute to the general appraisal of cultural heritage, such as the European Heritage Days, the European Heritage Label, the European Heritage Awards and the European Capitals of Culture. Despite recent efforts to improve cultural heritage statistics by the European Commission, it is still a challenge to fully capture the significance of its impact on the economy and society.

On 7 December 2018, the European Commission presented the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage which among other things calls for evidence-based decision-making in the cultural heritage field and enumerates a number of projects that are going to be carried out in order to address the issue of measuring the impact of culture and cultural heritage on economy, society and local development. The Framework mentions that ESPON’s study “Cultural Heritage as a Source of Societal Well-being in European Regions” (2020–2022) will play an important role in providing evidence and data on the impact of cultural heritage on societal well-being.

The ESPON European Grouping on Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) has been established according to European law to deliver the content envisaged by the ESPON 2020 Cooperation Programme, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The new project will complement the ESPON Targeted Analysis of 2019: “The Material Cultural Heritage as a Strategic Territorial Development Resource: Mapping Impacts Through a Set of Common European Socio-economic Indicators” (https://www.espon.eu/cultural-heritage ).

The research is carried out by a consortium consisting of the following partners, all of which are recognised as non-profit bodies and can look back on decades of European collaboration and joint research experiences:

  • Istituto per la Ricerca Sociale (IRS) – Project Leader –, founded in 1973, based in Milan (with Associazione ACUME as a sub-contractor)
  • European Association of Cultural Researchers (ERICarts Network and Institute), founded in 1993, based in Bonn and Cologne
  • Associazione Economia della Cultura (AEC), founded in 1986, based in Rome.

Over 40 thematic or country experts and other specialists from across Europe will be involved in the new project. Its duration will be 24 months, starting from May 2020.

2. Objectives of the research

The main objective of the research is to measure the relationship between culture and societal well-being through the development of a pan-European methodology and territorial analysis of impacts of cultural heritage that can be associated with societal well-being, including but not limited to quality of life, social inclusion, educational benefits and other aspects. The research will cover both material and intangible cultural heritage.

The objectives of the study have been synthesised into six preliminary research questions.

  1. How can the societal impact of cultural heritage be defined? To which societal domains does cultural heritage contribute? How significant is this contribution?
  2. How to measure the societal impact of cultural heritage? How to express it in quantitative terms, considering reliability and validity, at the territorial level?
  3. What disparities exist between societal impacts of cultural heritage in different types of territories and for different groups of stakeholders (particularly as regards residents, tourists, arts and heritage professionals, minorities and migrants)? And how to narrow these disparities?
  4. How to compare impacts of cultural heritage across different European regions?
  5. What are the impacts of EU funded heritage investments on societal well-being in cities and regions?
  6. To what extent can the digitalisation of cultural heritage and related offers influence well-being in terms of education, knowledge, etc.?

The main outcome of the study will be a methodological framework, defining the most important societal domains in which impacts of cultural heritage can be observed, and providing evidence of such impacts.

The geographical coverage of the study encompasses all 32 European countries participating in the ESPON 2020 Cooperation Programme.

3. Documentation

You can find the reports published here

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