Interview with Babis Fassoulas: Role Model in Resilience in Greece

Fassoulas is a geologist and Crete’s Rural Heritage Hub coordinator

The Rural Heritage Hub is at the heart of the RURITAGE project. How is your Hub progressing?

The University of Crete’s Rural Heritage Hub was established on March 2019, at the facilities of the Natural History Museum (NHMC), on the borders of Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark, in Heraklion — the biggest city of the island. The location was chosen mainly by its convenience for Heraklion is better served by many public services and the home of some local authorities.

The first Hub event happened on the 19th of April 2019 with many participants. From 27 to 30 of May, the University of Crete hosted the Development RURITAGE Workshop at the Facilities of NHMC.

Which difficulties have you encountered (if any) concerning involving stakeholders in your Hub?

Currently, the Rural Heritage Hub includes 32 individuals representing various organizations, authorities, and groups. The main difficulties we experienced, initially, had to do with understanding RURITAGE’s new philosophy of using heritage as a development tool. In most cases, it required extensive personal communication and rounds of discussions. For some stakeholders, it was also a bit challenging to be physically present in the various meetings.

As an alternative to persuade them to join the project, we exchanged regular email communications and provided materials such as Newsletters, besides organizing Skype meetings, which were very helpful.

On the other hand, what went smoother than you thought?

We received very enthusiastic acceptance by several local Cultural Associations, as they discovered new opportunities for their local initiatives to flourish.

What were the motivations/ expectations of your local stakeholders when joining the Rural Heritage Hub?

The launch of the Rural Heritage Hub revealed participants’ deep interest in exchanging information: both learning from other best practices as well as sharing their knowledge. And not only related to Resilience, the Systemic Innovation Area (SIA) in which the University of Crete is specialized, but also in other topics. The RURITAGE tools, such as Atlas and the Replicator Kit, have also aroused great interest among stakeholders.

NHMC hosts a series of exhibitions and campaigns for raising awareness on local resilience

You were one of the first Role Models to host a learning visit by a Replicator, Appignano del Tronto (Marche region, Italy). Apart from sharing your knowledge, what were your learnings from that visit?

We hosted a group of representatives from Appignano del Tronto, immediately after Crete Workshop. For three days, we presented our achievements, such as designing projects and activities on the topics of raising awareness on Disaster mitigation, implementing temporary exhibitions and campaigns for local people, including both children and adults.

Besides, we have visited Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark and discussed with local authorities and organizations about the area’s natural risks and how they have developed local resilience, especially against extreme weather conditions.

During the visit, the Replicator presented the challenges they face in their territory concerning earthquakes, floods, and landslides. Extensive deliberations helped us to identify their special needs and understand in which topics us, as Role Models, could intervene.

So we agreed to set a direct communication, transferring detailed information and specific priorities before the next visits for the experience to be as much productive as possible.

What are the next steps for your Rural Heritage Hub?

UoC has planned several activities to serve the needs of Rural Heritage Hub members and stakeholders. Our next meetings will have the form of workshops, where good practices of other Role Models will be discussed and analyzed. The digital tools will also be thoroughly presented, as well as the results of exchange visits.

We are also examining the possibility to organize thematic workshops to address different stakeholder groups, like the Local Authorities and the Cultural Associations, which we intend to be open to the community. The Natural History Museum of Crete is also designing a communication channel to support distant communication and knowledge transfer, as well as sharing results from the Rural Heritage Hub to the broader public.