Bringing the Tools of Consensus Building to Sustainable Heritage Management Practice

CBI serves as consultant to the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) on a GCI project to improve heritage professionals' capacity to constructively engage stakeholders around the sustainable management of cultural heritage places.

Background and Challenges

Decision making around the important job of conserving, preserving, and managing cultural heritage sites is a challenging endeavor due, in no small part, to the broad range of stakeholders that are often involved: governmental authorities, public and private sector actors, scientists and historians, ethnic or cultural groups, citizen neighbors, visitors, and many others. To further complicate the process, stakeholders may maintain very different interests, values, and priorities, and exist in a context of overlapping management mandates and responsibilities. In this complex environment, heritage practitioners need solid skills and practical, proven strategies for negotiation, consensus building, and conflict resolution to ultimately reach lasting agreements. 

Through its long-standing work in advancing conservation practice of heritage sites, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has seen firsthand the need “for heritage practitioners to engage with the wide range of stakeholders and other authorities who attach importance to heritage places” in order to “ensure a shared understanding of the collective values of a place and help produce better conservation outcomes.” However, consensus building and conflict resolution skills have not typically been included in educational programs for heritage conservation and management, and little if any written guidance has been published on this topic to date.

In an effort to begin to fill this unmet need, GCI launched their “Heritage Values, Stakeholders and Consensus Building” project in 2009, utilizing the expertise of CBI to help in producing a case study and teaching materials on stakeholder engagement in heritage place management.

The CBI Approach

CBI interviews archaeological site stakeholders in Jarash, Jordan to gain insight into a complex heritage management context.

CBI began research work on the case study and teaching activities with the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, at the archaeological site of Jarash. CBI participated in brainstorming sessions, developed an interview protocol, and led individual and group interviews with forty-two stakeholders – ranging from the Director-General of the Department of Antiquities, to scientists and academics from international archaeological missions, to the vendors selling handicrafts from stalls on the site.

The range of stakeholder interviews and concerns allowed CBI and GCI to get an in-depth look into the complex management context of the Jarash archaeological site, including:

  • The economic development challenges faced by the populous modern city of Jarash, located just beyond the walls of the heritage site, yet generally cut off from its tourism benefits.
  • Tensions between ensuring an exciting and fulfilling visitor experience while conforming to international principles calling for minimal physical intervention to safeguard historical authenticity.
  • Questions about which historical eras and cultures to showcase in a site that was populated by numerous civilizations over thousands of years.

Results

CBI co-authors a didactic case study on stakeholder engagement in heritage place management and with GCI, demonstrates the potential for applying conflict resolution techniques in the field of cultural heritage management.

The culmination of CBI’s work with GCI was the publication of a two-part case study, entitled "A Didactic Case Study of Jarash Archaeological Site, Jordan: Stakeholders and Heritage Values in Site Management”. The publication, designed to help heritage professionals recognize the importance of stakeholders and their values to effective site management, teaches skills for identifying stakeholders, eliciting their values and interests, and integrating these into management decision-making. Volume One focuses on Jarash’s history, archeology, configuration, and management context, and offers four activities for engaging stakeholders in order to better understand the site’s value and to guide decisions on current, critical management issues. The second volume contains teaching guides, worksheets, and sample answers to help instructors implement the activities.

This project represents the first step in a broader effort by the Getty Conservation Institute and CBI to bring the tools of consensus building to the sustainable conservation and preservation of cultural resources – and powerfully demonstrates the potential for more durable outcomes through application of conflict resolution techniques in the field of cultural heritage management.