Criteria (to consider a best practice)
The criteria that provide the basis for evaluating the ecomuseums as best practise are based in the traditional criteria, through a questionnaire which contains the measurability, innovation, sustainability, replicability and added value for each case.
The self-assessment of good practices’ measurability has involved the possibility of describing in the questionnaire the performance indicators adopted by ecomuseums to assess the impacts of the application of good practices, in order to monitor the implications in terms of change of indicators.
Not all surveyed ecomuseums have provided an answer on this specific point of the self-assessment questionnaire. Many ecomuseums in the sample stated explicitly that they had carried no or very poor monitoring activities. This shows that for ecomuseums it is still difficult to address the measurability of their initiatives. The same reasons that make it difficult to formulate a standard method to identify an ecomuseum have contributed to the lack of attention paid to assessing the performance of an ecomuseum. The diversity of answers provided to the questionnaire highlights the difficulties in giving a univocal assessment criterion for different ecomuseum conditions.
Within our research context, the issue of measurability of good practices has been closely linked to the kind of practice under consideration. You find below an attempt of systematising the measurability indicators in questionnaires.
The prevalence of measurability criteria has been assigned mostly to tourism indicators. In fact over 30% (12 out of 29) of ecomuseums have been measured in terms of increase in the number of residents and tourists participating in events and initiatives.
Networking and cooperation indicators
Six ecomuseums included in the sample have explicitly indicated the number of new collaborations established with institutions at various levels and with other associations as the performance measurability parameter.
Other ecomuseums identify a measurability indicator in the growing number of volunteers and people cooperating in the implementation of ecomuseum initiatives. In particular, some ecomuseums report that the good practices of involving the network among volunteering associations and of “ciclica” planning and continuity of events allow an increasing number of people to participate actively, as both volunteers and experts, in promotion and research activities.
Economic-employment-territorial marketing indicators
Some ecomuseum experiences interpret the measurability of good practices as the ecomuseum capacity to catalyse the development of new economic initiatives. This effect is sometimes attributed to the ability of ecomuseum initiatives to develop distinctive marks that condense effectively the brand identity.
Indicators of growth of cultural opportunities
Four ecomuseums have identified the increase in cultural and art initiatives as the measurability parameter.
In a single case the measurability parameter is specified as the capacity of ecomuseum practices to be a driver towards the repopulation of abandoned villages.
Indicators associated with biodiversity
The recovery of natural and agricultural biodiversity in plants and animals constitutes for some ecomuseum experiences a measurable parameter of good practices.
The analysis of the answers provided on the issue of innovation achieved via the application of good practices, shows different options for further areas for discussion. Assuming that Ecomuseums operate across the borders of tradition and innovation and meaning by innovation the result obtained by the introduction of actions mainly planned to create a positive change in the status quo, we have considered it appropriate to group answers into reference subsets.
Some answers identify innovation as the raising of the quality of proposals and cultural and/or scientific events provided by the Ecomuseum. An example is the organisation of thematic symposiums or scientific seminars, limited to a small number of scientists and aimed to discuss a theme of common interest. Through a cultural proposal of excellence, the residents and users have been stimulated towards better awareness and knowledge about local traditions and have started to promote them.
In other case the innovative outcomes are attributed to the improvement in the quality of training services provided to the local population through various and diversified initiatives. We would mention, by way of example, the free labs delivered for local schools and the agreement with a local company providing professional natural and historic guiding services, presented by the Argentario Ecomuseum. Another significant example is the continuing vocational training for fishermen delivered by Tricase Port Museum.
Also in the context of training offer, the Vanoi Ecomuseum identifies the innovative potential of its practice as the ability to reach younger age groups in the community through educational programmes and seasonal projects targeted at the use of social media tools and the introduction of GPS mapping, workshops and photo contests (intended for young people under 29 years of age) to be applied to the ecomuseum planning ability. Youth participation was also further developed through educational programmes on knowledge linked to ancient craft traditions (braiding, embroidery, knitting, cooking, etc.) combining learning opportunities and occasions for social and convivial strengthening of the local community.
Further innovative effects are recognised to the increase in the level of quality and technology of information and promotional services. In particular, the Argentario Ecomuseum places innovative value on the good practices linked to the setting up of an office and information point of the Ecomuseum seated for free in the public library, the production of very innovative tools (3D tours, animations, Apps) to share the local heritage with the public through the participation in international projects within a network involving public institutions (Virtual Arch Interreg Central Europe 2014-10 in collaboration with the Heritage Department of the Autonomous Province of Trento), the promotion of activities above all through social networks and newsletters (Argentario).
Another innovative aspect is related to the specialised and professional collaboration and consultancy services, which means that previously the projects, the provision of services and the design of solutions were not usually based on specialist expertise.
The Ecomuseums operating in difficult conditions, or in any cases not well-structured, consider improved logistics and better structural organisation as an innovation.
Other ecomuseum experiences identify an innovative potential in the capacity of good practices to foster a participatory and inclusive approach in the management and organisation of the ecomuseum (employment of young local people, with high level of schooling, regularly employed and paid, and appropriately trained). In this regard, another innovation attribute is deemed to be the capacity to involve volunteering and ecomuseum networks that make it possible to mobilize more significant economic resources and to participate in translocal and regional projects.
In some cases, the replies provided indicate, among good practices’ innovation attributes, the ecomuseum’s participation in partnerships with research bodies and institutions and universities. The innovative value lies in this case in the possibility of enhancing the scientific approach of the projects implemented. A good practice in this sense is related to the presence of the MARE Outpost in the Tricase Port Museum that links scientific research and higher education to the maritime and coastal territory’s propensity towards cooperation and internationalisation.
Lastly, the ability of good practices to produce creative and innovative solutions is associated with the adoption of innovative approaches to the integrated use of the ecomuseum. In this framework, pilot experiences are reported which propose new models for the use of environmental and cultural heritage through the creation of itineraries to experience the wild and creative dimension of the museum, using, for example, emotional signs (cutouts of old trades and widespread modules of rest areas and spaces for tourists to explore cultural issues and taste typical products through the design user experience and the materials of the local tradition).
The analysis of the theme of sustainability meant as the ability to be based on the existing resources or the ability to generate new resources, has led to the identification of different types of behaviour of the ecomuseums that have participated in the survey.
In the replies to the questionnaire six different modes have been indicated to tackle the problem of sustainability. It is worth pointing out that these behaviours are often adopted in combination rather than on an exclusive basis.
The most frequent way of supporting ecomuseums is the direct sponsorship by public and private bodies. This is the form used by about 75% of the ecomuseums involved in the survey.
A very important source of support (about 50% of the sample) is the cash flow generated by visitors’ flow, deriving from the sale of tickets, guided tours, participation in ecomuseums’ events.
Volunteer work is very frequent (60% of answers).
An important source of support is also provided by the participation in regional and international projects funded on the basis of calls for tender, as shown clearly in the experience of Tricase Port Museum.
The survey finally shows that the sustainability of initiatives is also addressed through the sale of sites and activities to third parties and via training activities.
Most of the ecomuseums involved in the survey are basically favourable to the transferability of their good practices to other ecomuseums. However, the positive outcome of this replicability is often linked to the creation of favourable pre-conditions for success.
The first pre-condition suggested is the need to customise the good practice to the target ecomuseum.
A fundamental similarity in the governance model between the starting ecomuseum and the target ecomuseum to which the good practice is transferred is indicated as a necessary condition for transferability.
For example, a good practice generated and applied successfully in an ecomuseum where the governance model involves volunteer work as a component, has a good chance of success in another ecomuseum in which there is a similar presence of active volunteers.
Moreover, similarities in terms of territorial potential or cultural identity of the ecomuseum that intends to adopt a good pratice from elsewhere, are considered to be favourable conditions for transferability (such as the same mining potential, the same coastal-maritime context, etc..).
In some cases, the transferability of the good practice is expected to require a specific action of training, support and assistance.
Sharing the same ecomuseum network is also indicated as a factor of success and to further facilitate transferability.
These conditions should also be accompanied by extensive dissemination activities among the local population and efforts to involve local actors to ensure the effective transferability of imported actions.
The House of Batana Ecomuseum, for instance, links the ease of replication of its good practice to its inclusion in the UNESCO register of good safeguarding practices. This would constitute a kind of guarantee to ensure replicability.
About one third of the sample has not provided an answer to this specific question concerning ecomuseum good practices.
The estimate of the added value generated by the implementation of good practices is neither easy nor straightforward to be defined by the ecomuseums that have replied to the questionnaire.
Over 40% of the sample have not responded; however, based on the replies provided, two different attitudes may be identified.
On one hand, some ecomuseums identify added value as the acquisition of results of strategic importance with respect to the major environmental issues. For example, for the hydro-ecomuseum of Ridracoli, the value added is likened to a clear positive impact on the conscious use of water resources via significant water saving. Meraki people argue that the scope of their good practice in terms of added value is linked to a significant reduction of C02 emissions and biodiversity conservation. The Valle dell’Aso ecomuseum reclaims a pioneering role in the definition of some environmental protection instruments such as the “river contract”, the agri-food contract for the support to organic farming and the agri-environmental contract for water protection. Other ecomuseums link the tangibility of added value to the implementation of actions that have had positive impacts on the attractiveness, usability and tourist use of their territory (Tricase Port Museum). Meraki people also have high expectations, in terms of added value, from job creation and revitalisation of small fishermens’ community, and advocate meaningful and purposeful tourism (Meraki people).
Some replies provided to the questionnaire refer specifically to the economic benefits that would stem from implementing good practices. This is the case of the Case di terra di Villa Ficana ecomuseum that indicates an urban regeneration effect resulting in the establishment of microbusinesses operating in tourism and the enhancement of local products. On the same wavelength, Menalon trail reports the scope in terms of added value.
Tricase Port Museum reports the increase in the number of local service staff and the increase in the number of businesses (especially young businesses) engaged in small-scale fisheries, as an indirect effect.
Against these positions, a significant number of ecomuseums have circumvented the request to specify tangible effects, and see added value as consisting of different conceptual factors that we will define “intangible” (intangible assets) and that would be a distinguishing feature of the ecomuseum good practice. These distinctive assets are identified as a number of intangibile factors that would constitute the ecomuseum organisation’s intellectual capital. If it is true that responses indicate the willingness to add value to the territory, via good practices, in particular through improving interactions between components, it should however be noted that responses do not define appropriate indicators (continuous and verifiable over a period of time) concerning processes and the results expected from good practices.
Consequently, different conceptual elements are regarded as benefits (added value) yielded by good practices to the frame of reference. They include:
- Greater awareness among local institutions and residents on the promotion of the territory and its history and tradition;
- The community’s recognition of the value of the Ecomuseum as a point of reference for the knowledge and enhancement of the local heritage;
- Planning and research skills at both local and international level;
- Improvement in confidence, credibility and reliability relationships with the community and local stakeholders (both public and private);
- Coordinating abilities and competences;
- Motivations for sustainability of local development processes.
As for the categories of stakeholders that are more frequently involved in the implementation of ecomuseum good practices, the trend of responses highlights an overriding involvement of local actors related to public institutions and local authoritites, associations dealing with the artistic and cultural heritage and rural, environmental and experiential tourism players.
The second group includes donors, farmers, craftsmen, communication facilitators and environmental associations, in an intermediate position.
Lastly, there are fishermen, local development agencies, social innovation actors, associations and lobby groups.