Community-Driven Development versus Community Outreach

Tuesday night we had our Colombia Project Director Dr. Santiago Giraldo speaking here in Palo Alto on “Education and Community at Ciudad Perdida”. The Global Heritage Fund (Join Here!) works to preserve the most significant and endangered heritage sites in the developing world, and Ciudad Perdida is a prime example, abandoned in the 16th century after a thousand years of unique urban development, the site was left to the ravages of the jungle, looters and narcotraffickers. GHF worked with the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History to help conserve these amazing structures of stone: huge circular platforms and embankments, connected by myriad stone stairways in a unique open urban system I described two months ago here.
CP i main iBest
But Santiago on Tuesday night was focusing on education and community development efforts. As I am constantly pointing out to everyone who will listen, community development is not an “add-on” to heritage conservation. It HAS to be there or the conservation doesn’t work: local people are the ultimate stewards of every site, so it must work to their advantage (cultural, social, economic) or they won’t keep it around. It is not how much money you spend on a site, or even how clever you are about planning and conservation treatment. Sustainability requires stewardship, and that means the heritage site must be central to community development.
PY Nan st vwS
The problem I often encounter is that many conservation professionals, in hearing that Global Heritage Fund prioritizes community development, will propose a series of community meetings and inputs for their archaeological or architectural project. They will propose conservation skills training, and often community tourism training. These are all good things, especially the ones that provide jobs. But they are only a sliver of what community development is.
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Much of what I see in proposals is community outreach. We explain how we are going to excavate or restore a site to the local population and make sure they are okay with it. That isn’t community development. As we learned last week in a great meeting with World Bank officials, the current terminology is community-driven development, and I think that is very helpful. We are not reaching out to explain or enlist the local community. We are asking for their needs, issues, hopes and dreams BEFORE we plan the project. They are a driving force in the development of the heritage site.
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This what Santiago does very well at Ciudad Perdida. He stops and talks to everyone about what they need, about what they think. And they know he is willing to change plans to support their needs. One of the items we shared at the Tuesday night event in Palo Alto was a teacher’s guide La Sierra Y Yo that uses the heritage site and surrounding national park as the basis for learning science, natural history, culture, history and more. GHF has also supported Guides to the wildlife of the area.
La Sierra Y Yos
We have helped develop sanitary systems that serve the eco-lodges where tourists stay, and more efficient wood-burning stoves for these same lodges. These aren’t just for the tourists: they help improve living conditions for locals who live and operate in the homestay lodges. The stoves also reduce the need for firewood – and the subsequent deforestation – by a third or more.
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Heritage conservation is a process, and that process includes community-driven development. The identification, evaluation, registration and treatment of sites is a process that incorporates a community’s needs and desires from the beginning: they help identify what aspects of a site are important to them and they help define the treatment of those sites. They also drive how the site can be developed for conservation work, for tourism, for retail, and indeed for the enhancement of the value of a PLACE.
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To accomplish this you need more than skills in architecture, archaeology or conservation: you need skills in working with stakeholders, identifying how heritage relates to their social and economic everyday, and planning a project with their input from the very beginning. GHF has always been proud of its planning capabilities, and we aim to enhance those capabilities in the future so that we live up to our motto: Saving heritage globally; changing lives locally.

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One Response to “Community-Driven Development versus Community Outreach”

  1. Nika Says:

    I agree with you that it is all about communities. I am also ( on a much smaller scale) trying to encourage the community to acknowledge its past and embrace its future simultaneously.

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