Participatory Heritage Practices in, for, as Sustainable Urban Development

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisExternal


Urban heritage in all its forms and its management processes are widely advocated for fostering sustainable urban development, and people are considered key actors of change towards more sustainability-oriented heritage practices. The participation of multiple stakeholders is considered fundamental for a sustainable heritage conservation, safeguarding, and good governance, for inclusive societies, as well as social, environmental, and economic development. In the past two decades, participatory heritage practices have been widely investigated across regions, however, research has mainly focused on specific case studies, while little attempts have been made to compare and theorize the wide spectrum of participatory heritage practices’ contributions to sustainable development objectives.
This research addresses that gap by theorizing the different roles that participatory heritage practices can play in addressing sustainable urban development from a management and governmental perspective. To do so, participation is regarded as a wicked social problem and is investigated through a Soft System Methodology (SSM) that moves from practice to theory and from theory back to practice, employing a combination of systematic approaches and flexibility. On the one hand, the first part of the thesis develops the model of the roles of participatory heritage practices through the systematic review of literature (ch.1), international heritage regulatory documents (ch.2) and their assessment frameworks (ch.3). Three roles of participation emerged – as a right, a driver, and an enabler of sustainable urban development – and nine subcategories, determined by the quality of participatory heritage practices (inclusiveness, forms, and timing), empowerment processes (education, training, and capacity-strengthening activities), and integrated long-term planning (adequate resources and specific regulation). On the other hand, the second part of the thesis compares individual elements of this model with current practices in World Heritage Cities internationally, through an online survey (ch.4) and a SWOT analysis workshop (ch.5) in collabroation with the Organization of World Heritage Cities; and locally, through a one-year- and-a-half observation of the development and implementation of the Stuivenberg Program in Antwerp, and a mixed-methods workshop with its coordinator (ch.6).
This thesis contributes to the advancement of the knowledge of the relationship between heritage, participation, and sustainable development through the modelling of the roles of participatory heritage practices. By doing so, it offers an awareness-raising framework (the model) that highlights the common ground among relevant existing theories and tools, and it proposes a mixed-methods approach for the strategy, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of sustainability-oriented participatory heritage practices. As such, it offers guidance to heritage practitioners – the cultural brokers – on how to align regulations, strategies, and practices to sustainable development objectives for the benefits of heritage, the living urban environment, and society.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Antwerp
  • Jacobs, Marc, Supervisor
  • Pereira Roders, Ana, Supervisor
Award date7 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

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