THE PROJECT METHODOLOGY

The project had the ambitious goal to find and develop challenging examples of working with contested or marginalised heritage. Seven partners formed a consortium that implemented the project collectively: 2 organisations that are responsible for a small scale place of memory (a historic house; a synagogue), 3 organisation addressing memory (in public space, in a European Capital of Culture, in a national cultural institute), one university formed the link with the academic discourse and one EU network concerned with innovative heritage policy making. Not only did the partners represent diverse target groups and stakeholder networks and different cultures, they were also from different age groups and with different professional backgrounds: academics, artists, curators, activists.   

HCZ took the diversity of the partners less as a challenge but as a clear advantage. Partners represented a diverse and complementary set of skills and experiences. In the light of the project rational and its overall goals the partners collectively and in an ongoing conversation identified the most appropriate and effective ways to reach these goals. In 7 life partner meetings and weekly online meetings the partners iteratively discussed actions to be implemented, evaluated past actions and consequently adapted the plans for the following steps. This classical quality cycle (plan-do-check-act) allowed for finding a unique way of collaboration ‘on the go’. The overall goals as set out in the initial project application were formulated in a generic manner and the ongoing, moderated conversation between all partners made them concrete and unique. 

As an underlying principle the partners adopted a collaboration ethos that derived from Open Space Technology. Whilst OST was develop to organise conferences and address corporative change in a participatory manner, Heritage Contact Zone applied OST’s main principles to project management: (1) formulating sharp overall goals, or an overall research question, (2) the dynamic of discussing it and solving the question relies on the collective intelligence of a multiple heterogenic group, (3) those participants who bring in ideas take responsibility for them, (4) the others join into these efforts or propose alternative solutions, no-one stays in-active, (5) the project co-ordinator acts as an overall facilitator for the partners that take the lead for various sub-activities, (6) achieving broad consensus through an ongoing dialogue between critical friends. 

Most activities were organised on a local or regional level with a distinct local focus, theme, language, and form. Bringing them together in the project (and its website) as a sort of synopsis allowed for conclusions on a meta level. These were compiled in a toolkit. Also HCZ made partners feel the heterogeneity of Europe and how – in an ongoing conversation – this can be made fruitful and productive for their local context.

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