All over the world, rural areas tell us the story of a thousand of years long collaboration between nature and human society. These places embody unique examples of cultural and natural heritage, which not only needs to be safeguarded but also recognized as communities of sustainable development. The RURITAGE project turns rural areas into laboratories to demonstrate natural and cultural heritage as an engine for regeneration.
Rural areas all over the world are facing chronic economic, social and environmental problems. This is resulting in unemployment, disengagement, depopulation, marginalisation or loss of cultural, biological and landscape diversity. There are numerous examples of good practices showing how Cultural and Natural Heritage can function as an engine for development. The RURITAGE project suggests that the challenges of rural areas can be overturned by utilizing heritage potential.
RURITAGE is a four-year-long EU-funded research project, initiated June 2018, which strives to enable rural regeneration through heritage. The project aims to sustainably enhance local heritage for regional and community development. The intention is to regenerate rural areas with the help of the Systemic Innovation Areas (SIA) framework which identifies unique heritage potential within rural communities. The recognised SIAs are Pilgrimage, Resilience, Sustainable Local Food Production, Integrated Landscape Management, Migration and Art and Festivals.
Throughout the RURITAGE project, thirteen rural areas have been selected as Role Models. The Role Models are recognised as prosperous cases that have regenerated with the help of cultural and natural heritage. The Role Models have been selected in reference to the six different Systemic Innovation Areas. Prosperous practices of the Role Models are analysed and furthermore transferred to six selected Replicators. There is one Replicator per SIA. These Replicators represent local communities within rural territories that are in the process of building their own heritage-led regeneration strategies, although in need of support to improve their skills, knowledge and capacity building.
Each Role Model and Replicator has established a so-called Rural Heritage Hub. The hub is constituted by a community of local stakeholders as well as a physical meeting place where co-creation activities take place. The knowledge and skills coming from Role Models’ experience are transferred to Replicators through a participatory planning process that allows to tailor and adapt the Role Models’ strategies to specific needs and challenges faced by Replicators. It is thereby a living lab where local stakeholders and inhabitants cooperate for developing new heritage-led regeneration strategies for their territory.