This is an exciting week for us at NIKU, as our role in the project comes to the fore. We are hosting the second of the three workshops for the Heritage Values Network. Before the last of the summer leaves Oslo, we will be welcoming 25 delegates and 13 project partners from 15 European countries to discuss heritage values and their assessment.
The topic of heritage values is both very specific in its scope, but also very varied in its application. Different kinds of heritage, different roles within heritage and different reasons for assessment can mean that people have very different ideas of how value can and should be measured and what approaches should be used. As a result, we have a diverse range of delegates, representing policy, practice and academia.
Looking at something complex and varied in a short space of time meant that we would have to find ways to bring out peoples’ very different experience and perspectives, but have something coherent at the end. Although we had an idea of how we might do this early on, ideas and content grew the more as the project went on.
I’ll explain a little bit of how we approached this.
Based on teaching experiences, I looked at how case studies were taught to consider the best ways to ensure meaningful interaction. Having learned from the Case Study guru Mike Leenders, I adopted the approach of slowly building up interaction thorough three stages – individual preparation of delegates, small group discussion and finally gathering together to tie the threads of the separate conversations.
In teaching, the small group discussions are often the same material, but this was an opportunity to pick the brains of interesting and experienced heritage professionals. We wanted to be more ambitious. Consequently, the small groups would discuss five interconnected themes. I took inspiration from the late Harold Lasswell’s elegant, simple definition of politics (who gets what, when and how) as something I had recently connected to heritage. That something as complicated and thorny as politics could be described in such terms became the starting point for our broad themes: Why, Who, What, Where & When and How. The themes are deeply interconnected but offer a range of issues to discuss. The aim was to be able to get some in-depth discussion that would not be impossible to connect later.
This informed the individual preparation, as the project team wrote short discussion documents to generate ideas and fuel for thought in the build up to the workshop. Each of the five partner groups tackled a different theme. We knew that everyone was limited for time, so we kept the text short. They were not trying to provide answers, but a platform for people to share their approaches and experiences. We sent these out a couple of weeks ago, and will briefly present each topic again on the day.
The small group discussion? Because delegates were talking about different topics, unlike the case study model, we needed to connect discussions before everyone joined together. As a result, we had two group discussions (valuing these as opportunities for in-depth talk) where delegates moved around. This way, there would be the chance for cross-fertilisation before the group met as one. Having seen various workshops in action in the past, we decided on the ‘World Café’ approach to group discussion. Delegates could draw on tablecloths to help explain their ideas and ideas could be shared, like they might in a restaurant or cafe. Then, people could move groups and see a record of those ideas discussed in the previous session.
The final group discussion isn’t meant to be a big surprise to everyone, but a gathering of those shared ideas and thinking about a way forward. Hopefully, we can map some directions for future research and key issues for value assessment.
So, that’s the plan.
Before we start discussions in earnest, we’ll be getting to know one another. This includes carrying out some exercises to examine how different delegates use the term ‘value’. We’ll also be looking at a heritage site with some interesting challenges and considering different kinds of assessment to connect the event to real cases and share experiences that can be referred to. We’ll have time to eat and make sure everyone is comfortable. Then the discussion really begins!
We’re really looking forward to hearing the different viewpoints and seeing the outcomes. It’s exciting to be meeting the delegates, and we hope they find it interesting and enjoyable. Hopefully, we will come away with much to think about and build upon.
Dr. Joel Taylor