From the beginning of this year 2020 until the end of July, the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), partner of SoPHIA, acted as leader for Work Package 1. SoPHIA is an innovative action with many implications, as it addresses sensitive issues of our time both at European and local levels. This first stage included an extensive literature review on assessing the impact of cultural heritage interventions across the cultural, social, economic and environmental domains; a critical analysis of our findings; the generation of a Holistic Impact Assessment Model draft; and of a Digital Mapping Tool, both to be tested during the current phase of examining case studies. A workshop that would take place in Athens addressing partners, members of the Advisory Board and stakeholders, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was converted into a successful virtual meeting.
The full Review of Research Literature, Policy Programmes and (good and bad) Practices has been made available in SoPHIA´s website. The research draws from academic resources, current policies and regulations, as well as social platforms, with the content structured around four themes: trends, policies, gaps & opportunities, and strategies. Some noteworthy findings extracted from the literature review, are the need to employ both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in cultural heritage social impact assessment and to help create a dialogue between community and governmental agencies (social domain). Cultural heritage can support citizen well-being and cultural memory work, expand the understanding of the relation between people and heritage, and even assist in dealing with conflict (cultural domain). A closer examinations of current methods of impact assessment identified the indeterminacy of the concept of value, the imbalance among impact evaluation domains, as well as the fact that negative effects are usually underrated (economic domain). One of the recurrent themes is sustainability as in overcoming the repercussions of aggravating phenomena such as climate change, over-tourism and the growing urbanization globally and as in adopting circular economies principles as a means of instrumentally integrating built heritage in urban planning (environmental domain). Participatory governance and volunteering that support the involvement of civil society in the creation and implementation of development policies could help strengthen integration and social cohesion; distribute positive effects among social classes and stimulate creativity.
In September 2020, our mission as the leader and coordinator of the first work package for the H2020 SoPHIA project officially ended. It was a difficult period of seven months in which we undertook to coordinate the research (literature review) and to set up a first model of the impact of interventions in cultural heritage environments, which is more human than monument-centred. I am proud of what we have achieved so far, and of our team which for this stage consisted of Dr. Olga Ioannou, doctoral candidate and researcher Hariklia Hari, colleagues at the School of Architecture, NTUA, Dr. Leonidas Koutsoumpos and Dr. Riva Lava and myself, Dr. Nicholas Anastasopoulos.