Commonlands: Cultural Community Mapping in Alpine Areas, Parco Nazionale Val Grande, Italy
Commonlands is the result of the efforts of 250 inhabitants from ten mountain communities in the Val-Grande National Park, a protected area of remarkable natural beauty located in Piedmont, in the north of Italy. Commencing in November 2016, the initiative activated local mountain communities in co-designing and managing cultural and touristic initiatives and enhancing local tangible and intangible heritage. The participants were involved in the community mapping of the most significant cultural assets of their communities, producing the comprehensive Commonlands Map along with 10 individual maps for each of the communities. The initiative was funded by its partners, the ARS.UNI.VCO Association, the Val Grande National Park, the Piedmont Region and the VCO Community Foundation.
The aspirations of the project were manifold: it would be a way to familiarise communities with the local tangible and intangible heritage, as well as the cultural identity and history of the region they inhabited; it would stimulate local initiatives promoting cultural and touristic events; it would map out the region in order to open it up to sustainable cultural tourism; and finally, it would preserve the memories and experiences of inhabitants, storing the gathered knowledge in a digital community archive. This digital archive includes interviews, images, videos, and documents which were shared by the inhabitants.
Tangible and intangible heritage from the past of the communities was given visibility through an innovative digital-storytelling platform. Community-based tourism initiatives stimulated dialogue, sharing, and collaboration between inhabitants and institutional actors. The initiative stimulates permanent process of awareness-raising and activation of communities in sustainable local development. “This project brings a fresh understanding of a landscape through community engagement with it,” the jury said, “it has a clear agenda with a collaborative digital impact and raises community awareness in depopulated areas of the importance of regeneration and the reinforces a sense of place and local identity.”
The project has had a positive impact on the region. Through various activities, the role of communities in preserving and promoting local cultural heritage has been underlined. By working together, sharing experiences and visions, by giving everyone the opportunity to contribute and play an active role in planning the future development of the region, the community has been empowered.
The jury commended the level of cooperation and the communities’ vision for the future: “The project promotes innovative ways of securing sustainable futures in the area through the use of simple, yet effective, tools to create locally viable attractions and to clearly communicate the benefits of the project to both local and wider audiences. Additionally it creates added value by encouraging cooperation between communities, strengthening local synergies, improving the cultural offer and widening public participation.”