Theory of change
- enhancing heritage stewardship & community resilience through tourism & visitor management
A theory of change describes a problem and the types of interventions needed to bring about certain outcomes depicted in a causal pathway map.
This is an invitation for all community members to engage in discussions and collaborative efforts that over time aims to emerge as a co-created and applied approach supporting stewardship of World Heritage while enhancing the resilience and adaptive capacity of people and communities living in and/or around these sites.
This page will be updated on a regular basis as the theory and pathway emerge.
Recognising the inherent unsustainability of the economic growth-based development paradigm, pressures on natural and cultural heritage applied as resources in a rent seeking tourism economy, and increasing vulnerability of tourism dependent communities, World Heritage Catalysis’ seeks to contribute a theory of change applicable across World Heritage and associated communities.
The emerging theory of change is based on Elinor Ostroms work on the governance of commons for which she was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2009). It specifically looks to the potential of polycentric governance - a distributed form of governance and citizenship that protects the integrity of a system through multiple centers of decision making, and where each center has a certain degree of autonomy (Ostrom Workshop, Indiana University Bloomingdale).
In simpler words it suggests an expanded relevance for World Heritage beyond tourism. By considering World Heritage 'commons' - heritage belonging to all - supporting a model where appropriate rules aned infrastructure supporting connectivity, stewardship and resilience.
World Heritage Catalysis’ Theory of Change seeks to explain how World Heritage sites, through a technology supported process aspiring to improve visitor management, could develop a more polycentric (inclusive and distributed) form of governance model.
Interventions & casual pathway
The following posters seek to describe the application of tools and technologies (specifically VMAST and WHETS) as interventions the emerging ToC.
UNESCO, ICOMOS & IPCC co-sponsored meeting (6-10 December 2021): Culture, Heritage & Climate
ENHANCING WORLD HERITAGE STEWARDSHIP & COMMUNITY RESILIENCE THROUGH TOURISM & VISITOR MANAGEMENT - A POLYCENTRIC APPROACH
Presenter: Cecilie Smith-Christensen
Communities are highly complex and distributed networks of individuals, businesses, and organisations. Well-functioning and sustainable communities have a diverse economy where goods and services are exchanged between community members meeting basic needs and contributing wellbeing and development.
Tourism can contribute economic development but also change the social fabric of a place. Sector success and growth can reduce economic diversity and create tourism dependent communities vulnerable to risks and disruptions affecting the sector.
Where economic leakages and imports are high, monetary supply and means of exchange could dry up. Covid 19 demonstrated that tourism can collapse and quickly deprive communities of income, liquidity, and sustainability.
World Heritage are global tourism attractions, and nominations are often economically motivated. Once inscribed, States Parties take on the governance responsibility which by default is hierarchical.
As key resources in the tourism sector World Heritage often come under pressure from economic exploitation and overuse. Their sustainable use and protection rely on local stewardship.
Irrespective of private or public ownership, ignoring World Heritage their intangible status as commons - resources shared by many rightsholders and in need of appropriate governance - could increase community vulnerability.
Elinor Ostrom, recipient of the Nobel prize in economics (2009) for her work on the governance of commons dedicated her later career to polycentric governance - a distributed form of leadership and citizenship that protects the integrity of the system and multiple centers of decision making, where each center has a certain degree of autonomy (Ostrom, Ostrom workshop)
So how could a polycentric approach possibly enhance resilience and adaptive capacities while strengthening the stewardship of World Heritage?
The UNESCO World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST) is a free and voluntary tool supporting site management authorities in their efforts to manage visitation and tourism for the protection of heritage values while localizing sustainable development goals.
By facilitating an open and inclusive strategy development process placing World Heritage at the centre, collaborating stakeholders and partners would help extend the strategy objectives beyond the site management organisation.
While participatory tourism development and visitor management has the potential to distribute efforts and responsibilities, it would likely not be enough to strengthen resilience towards climate risks and economic disruptions.
Mostly remaining a blindspot, this is an opportunity to bring focus onto money as a social construct. Since the gold standard was abolished, most new money has been issued as private debt and thereby underpinning the inherent unsustainability of our current perpetual economic growth-based development paradigm.
To address this fundamental and systemic challenge, we need to enhance our economic and specifically monetary literacy and identify new partners able to unlock new and transformative potentials. More specifically we could support efforts looking to historic and indigenous knowledge systems of polycentric governance of scarce resources practiced across communities of our concern. There are already inspiring social currency innovations supporting connectivity, inclusivity, economic just transition, local transformation, and resilience.
WHETS - the World Heritage Exchange Trading System, proposed and incubated through World Heritage Catalysis set out to provide an economic infrastructure supporting stewardship of World Heritage.
As a mutual credit system applying time as unit of account, WHETS embed values of inclusion, reciprocity, and trust - all values that help build and sustain thriving communities.
Designed for the protection of World Heritage and implemented through deliberate visitor management, WHETS could support collaborative exchanges among local tourism stakeholders building polycentric networks and strengthen local stewardship.
Made available to anyone willing to accept it and extending across distributed networks of autonomous individuals, businesses and organisations, WHETS could grow a people centred economic infrastructure and means of exchange decoupled from any specific economic sector, and thereby potentially enhance community resilience and allow the consideration of a more regenerative pathway.
ICOMOS Scientific Symposium (9-10 November 2021): Living Heritage & Climate Change
Building Community Resilience Through Visitor Management & Monetary Innovation
Presenter: Cecilie Smith-Christensen
Key words: tourism; resilience; risk preparedness; monetary innovation
World Heritage sites are among the most visited places and attractions in the world. Many communities living in and around World Heritage sites have become dependent on tourism generated revenues. Climate change is threatening natural and cultural heritage alongside livelihoods. Covid demonstrated that disruptions in tourism can deprive communities of income, liquidity, and sustainability. Innovative and integrated approaches that respond to this vulnerability enhancing resilience, adaptive and transformative capacities are needed.
The poster presents the World Heritage Exchange Trading System (WHETS) - an emergent innovative platform cooperative including a marketplace and time-based medium of exchange (￦) facilitating collaborative exchanges among World Heritage stakeholders and within communities hosting World Heritage.
It elaborates how WHETS, integrated into efforts to develop and implement visitor management strategies applying the UNESCO World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST), could enhance heritage protection, increase community resilience, and improve visitor experiences.
Poster abstract & presentation
Adaptive and transformative visitor management - Applying the UNESCO World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST)
Presenter: Cecilie Smith-Christensen
Keywords: visitor management - transformation - VMAST
CHNT Reference: Smith-Christensen, C. (2021) Adaptive and transformative visitor management - applying the UNESCO World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST) in CHNT – ICOMOS Editorial board. Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies. Heidelberg: Propylaeum.
World Heritage sites are among the most visited places and attractions in the world. Unmanaged, tourism can threaten heritage values, exploit resources, and make communities less resilient. While facing many similar challenges, sites’ uniqueness and diversity prevents a ‘one model fits all’ approach. Recent and increased risks of future disruptions make long term strategic planning difficult.
The poster presents a methodology and theory of change developed through World Heritage Catalysis applying the World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST) for adaptive and transformative visitor management.
The World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST) is the newest addition to the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Toolkit availed through the UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme (https://whc.unesco.org/en/tourism/). As a free and voluntary self-assessment tool it helps site management authorities manage tourism for the protection of heritage values while localizing sustainable development goals.
The tool was developed with input from a broad spectre of stakeholders including the Advisory Bodies (IUCN, ICOMOS, ICCROM), site managers, sustainability- and tourism professionals, aligning with relevant policies, guidelines, and resources.
Methodology and theory of change
Structured upon for main goals, forty management objectives and more than 200 achievement indicators VMAST recognises many different efforts that can be considered good visitor management, and that ‘best practice’ is an ongoing process rather than status.
The methodology for applying VMAST elaborated through World Heritage Catalysis involves five main steps and an ongoing visitor management cycle:
- Baseline assessment/ progress monitoring - Use VMAST to assess to what degree visitor management meets objectives set out through achievement/ success indicators;
- Collaborative anticipation and prioritization – Involve key stakeholders in a VMAST based SWOT analysis to identify local development/resilience needs and opportunities, prioritising objectives and success indicators that should be brought forward through strategy development/revision;
- Strategy development - Make use of VMAST to facilitate an open, participatory and SMART strategy development process leading to a more distributed and potentially polycentric governance model;
- Strategy implementation – Support multi stakeholder and distributed strategy implementation potentially applying an incentives mechanism (see WHETS);
- Monitoring– Regularly apply VMAST in adaptive and transformative visitor management.
The VMAST Theory of change set out through UNESCO builds on a consistent design focusing on efforts that can be made through fundamental management efforts (a-e):
Monitoring -> Improved understanding
Use VMAST to improve protection of heritage values while contributing to sustainable development objectives.
Budgeted activities -> Feasible ambitions
Use VMAST to budget for activities and support feasibility of strategic ambitions.
Communication -> Improved outreach
Use VMAST to effectively and in a culturally appropriate manner communicate with stakeholders.
Capacity development -> Strengthened capacities
Use VMAST to engage with relevant stakeholders and strengthen capacities towards the achievements of identified sustainability and development objectives
Collaboration -> Increased impact
Use VMAST as a framework to enhance engagement and dialogue with local and national authorities, rights-holders, and other relevant stakeholders.
An emerging community of practice
World Heritage Catalysis (www.whcatalysis.org) hosts and supports an emerging community of practice applying innovative technologies including VMAST aiming to enhance adaptive and transformative capacities for building resilient and thriving communities.
WHETS - the World Heritage Exchange Trading System (www.whets.club), incubated through World Heritage Catalysis, is an emergent innovative platform cooperative including a time-based currency (medium of exchange) and marketplace enabling collaborative exchanges among community members.
Current efforts explore how WHETS could be integrated into VMAST strategy development and implementation through incentives and exchange circuits visioning WHETS as a local complementary currency that could be applied across World Heritage sites developing economic resilience while placing the protection of heritage values and localising the SDGs at the core.
Adaptive and transformative visitor management – applying the UNESCO World Heritage Visitor Management Assessment & Strategy Tool (VMAST).
VMAST is the newest addition to the WHSTP Toolkit. It is developed as an online tool helping WH site management authorities improve visitor management for the protection of heritage values while localising the UN SDGs.
VMAST open the scope for good practice across four overarching goals, 40 management objectives and about 200 achievement indicators.
Upon appraisal of a visitor management baseline and prioritisation of the most relevant objectives, VMAST allows development of a SMART and integrated visitor management strategy.
VMAST is not only cost and time efficient, but a proactive management tool that can be applied to develop a strategy from scratch or in regular efforts to revise current strategies for adaptive visitor management.
World Heritage Catalysis is in partnership with technology and hosting provider Zegeba, supporting UNESCO and site management authorities making use of the tool in transformative visitor management.
In facilitating an emerging CoP, it supports the application of VMAST with the objective to build resilience and adaptive capacity across tourism dependent communities and stakeholders in and around WH. Doing so it applies a commons oriented, participatory and polycentric governance approach in the elaboration and implementation of visitor management strategies. It specifically provides and promote resources supporting transition away from perpetual economic growth to a regenerative development paradigm.
VMAST is also, together with the new ICOMOS Cultural Tourism Charter, applied in the calculation of a forthcoming Destination Resilience Index commissioned by the Organisation of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) and developed through ICOMOS ICTC.
Please consider this an open invitation to get in touch for the promotion of technologies with potential to support VMAST management objectives and research interests.
The poster was presented during Presented during Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies organised by ICOMOS Austria 2-4 November 2021.