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Discussing strategy in heritage conservation: Living heritage approach as an example of strategic innovation

Ioannis Poulios (Hellenic Open University, Patras, Greece)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 13 May 2014




The purpose of this paper is to discuss the concept of strategy in the field of heritage conservation, with a focus on a new conservation approach that promotes the empowerment of local communities and sustainable development: a living heritage approach.


The approaches to heritage conservation are outlined: a material-based approach defines the principles of western-based conservation, a values-based approach expands these principles, while a living heritage approach clearly challenges the established principles. These approaches are, then, analysed from the perspective of strategy, and a living heritage approach is seen as an example of strategic innovation. The process by which ICCROM develops a living heritage approach at an international level is also examined.


Choosing the “appropriate” conservation approach depends on the specific conditions of each heritage place. Yet, for the cases of living heritage in particular (with communities with an original connection with heritage) a living heritage approach would be more preferable. Living heritage approach can be seen as an example of a strategic innovation in the field of heritage conservation: it proposes a different concept of heritage and conservation (a new WHAT), points at a different community group as responsible for the definition and protection of heritage (a new WHO), and proposes a different way of heritage protection (a new HOW).

Practical implications

A living heritage approach (presented in the paper) may potentially influence the theory as well as the practice of heritage conservation in a variety of parts and heritage places in the world, especially in terms of the attitude towards local and indigenous communities.


Developing a new approach is, in a sense, developing a new strategy. In this context, the paper aims at bringing the insight of business strategy into the field of heritage conservation.



The paper benefits from the authors experience as a heritage consultant with the Living Heritage Sites Programme at the ICCROM. The paper is also the product of the insight from the London Business School courses on business strategy and management. The author is indebted to his supervisors at the ICCROM Gamini Wijesuriya and Joe King, and also to the Professors Costas Markides, Markus Reitzig, Julian Birkinshaw, and Yiorgos Mylonadis from the London Business School and he owe special thanks to his colleague at the London Business School Mr Stelios Prodromou for his most constructive comments on an earlier draft of the paper. The author would also like to thank Dr Jenny Moore for her help with the editing of the text. The views are the author's.

With regard to ICCROM, this work benefits from the work of other colleagues carried out throughout the development of the Living Heritage Sites Programme. The author would like to thank ICCROM for allowing him access to this work and also for approving the dissemination of this work.


Poulios, I. (2014), "Discussing strategy in heritage conservation: Living heritage approach as an example of strategic innovation", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 16-34.



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