Cultural heritage practices are no longer exclusive to heritage professionals. Across multiple fields, the importance and benefits of collaborating with multiple stakeholders are increasingly acknowledged and promoted, with particular attention to the participation of communities, groups, and individuals. Different forms of multi-stakehodlers’ participation in heritage practices have been widely researched worldwide, highlighting the benefits and challenges of these practices in different contexts, but also revealing that some forms of participation may not lead to the intended results. Research also argues that empowering participatory heritage practices has transformative power, thus contributing to more inclusive and equitable societies, effective management of cultural and natural resources, and sustainable development of the living environment. Hence, participatory heritage practices can be key to tackling contemporary urban challenges and building resilient cities in this time of uncertainty.
Since its adoption in 2005, the Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society has aimed to promote more deliberative democratic processes and to foster the engagement of heritage communities in heritage management for the mutual benefits of heritage, its governance, society, the local economy, and the environment. Promoting co-creation approaches for a more sustainable, inclusive, participatory, and high-quality living environment is at the root of many contemporary urban agendas (i.e. New European Bauhaus, New Urban Agenda, etc.). Co-creation is a form of collaborative intervention that fosters the participation of relevant stakeholders to achieve common goals. Applied to the heritage field, it aims at gathering those who convey value to heritage and are affected by its practices, namely the “heritage community” proposed by the Faro Convention. To explore and address existing needs, opportunities, and challenges, while attending to the ideation, implementation, and monitoring of solutions. However, there is no simple road map for co-creation. The challenges range from engaging politicians and decision-makers to the definition of adequate tailor-made approaches to engage with communities, groups, and individuals in different contexts, and the actual adoption and integration of co-created solutions into urban management practices. Therefore, how to go beyond participation’s good intentions? What resources are there for local governments who want to make a change? How to sustain more deliberative democratic governance structures? How to implement truly transformative participatory approaches?