COMMUNITY-LED URBAN STRATEGIES IN HISTORIC TOWNS (COMUS)/Communities at the heart of heritage governance - Principles for heritage based urban development of small and medium-sized heritage towns in countries in transition

Book · June 2017with505 Reads

Publisher: Council of Europe, Editor: Hakan Shearer Demir; Alison Helm
COMUS brings heritage and communities together, in the heart of decision making on urban regeneration and local development. It introduces a methodology based on existing heritage resources, laying out an integrated approach with emphasis on the process. It further argues that urban heritage is not an isolated concept on its own, but is part of a larger system, and therefore should be considered in the entirety of a heritageled and community-based development process. In the context of the COMUS project, heritage is considered as a means and not the end result itself, demonstrating an increased role by communities in decision making. Thus, COMUS advocates for working with all layers of society simultaneously, encouraging a new constructive dialogue among all involved.The final publication shares the wide-ranging experiences gathered during the implementation of this methodology, presenting its key technical and organisational principles, with the aim of applying this methodology successfully elsewhere.
Communities at the heart of
heritage governance
Principles for heritage based urban development
of small and medium-sized heritage towns in
countries in transition
The COMUS project “Community-led Urban
Strategies in Historic Towns” builds upon the
policy priorities of the Council of Europe and
European Union in the context of the Eastern
Partnership Programme (2015-2020),
targeting co-operation activities with
Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova,
Ukraine and Belarus. Based on
community-led processes, COMUS provides
each town with eective support to develop
an integrated, sustainable and participative
approach, by mobilising all relevant
stakeholders and incorporating the
protection, planning and management of
heritage resources as a real component in
urban renewal policies. It promotes
increased understanding of democratic
participation and respect for human rights in
heritage management.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading
human rights organization. It comprises 47 member
states, 28 of which are members of the European
Union. All Council of Europe member states have
signed up to the European Convention of Human
Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights,
democracy and the rule of law. The European Court
of Human Rights oversees the implementation of
the Convention in the member states.
The European Union is a unique economic and political
partnership between 28 democratic European
countries. Its aims are peace, prosperity and freedom
for its 500 million citizens - in a fairer, safer world. To
make this happen, EU countries set up bodies to run the
EU and adopt its legislation. The main ones are the
European Parliament (representing the people of
Europe), the Council of the European Union (represent-
ing national governments) and the European
Commission (representing the common EU interest).
Communities at the heart of
Principles for heritage based urban development
of small and medium-sized heritage towns in
countries in transition
heritage governance –
Published by
Council of Europe:
Division of Culture and Cultural Heritage – DGII
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Marina Neagu, Expert consultant, MKBT,
Matthias Ripp, Organization of World Heritage Cities
Nils Scheer, Urban Expert,
Philip Stein, COMUS Lead Expert
Hakan Shearer Demir (Division of Culture and Cultural Heritage, DGII)
Alison Helm (Division of Culture and Cultural Heritage, DGII)
Other contributions:
Claudine Nonnenmacher-Cancemi (Division of Culture and Cultural Heritage, DGII)
Marion Muller (Division of Culture and Cultural Heritage, DGII)
COMUS project ocers: Sarhat Petrosyan (Armenia), Alla Stashkevich (Belarus),
Rusudan Mirzikashvili (Georgia), Dumitrița Efremov (Republic of Moldova) and
Oleksandr Butsenko (Ukraine)
Mikhaël de Thyse (DG II)
Sarah Wolferstan, Expert consultant
This document was produced within the framework of the Joint Project EU/CoE
“Community-led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns”. The content does not necessarily r
epresent the ocial position of the European Union and/or the Council of Europe.
June 2017
Table of Contents
1. Forewords.........................................................................................................................................4
1.1 European Union ............................................................................................................................................5
1.2 Council of Europe..........................................................................................................................................6
1.3 Organization of World Heritage Cities – a valuable partnership................................................................8
Executive Summary...........................................................................................................................10
2. The COMUS project – Community-Led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns...................................18
2.1 Context and Challenges ..........................................................................................................................19
2.2 Objectives and Approach............................................................................................................................22
2.3 Benets.........................................................................................................................................................25
3. Principles for Sustainable Actions in Community-Based Heritage Development .............................26
3.1 Development of a cultural heritage-led urban development strategy...................................................28
3.2 Detailed analysis of the current cultural heritage and urban situation...................................................30
3.3 Identication and evaluation of priority heritage-led urban interventions
through feasibility studies..........................................................................................................................34
3.4 Joint collection of new uses for the heritage rehabilitation projects......................................................37
3.5 Community based set-up of a vertical and horizontal governance system............................................39
3.6 Thorough preparation of the development process................................................................................47
3.7 Capacity building of the team in charge....................................................................................................49
4. The main messages from COMUS...................................................................................................51
5. Programme synergies and follow up..............................................................................................55
6. Resources for Replication and Follow-up Projects...........................................................................59
12 principles for good governance at local level....................................................................................................66
1. Forewords
1.1 European Union
Reinforcing economic resilience and promo-
tingstabilisation at the EU’s borders are key goals
of both our revised Neighbourhood Policy and
of the Eastern Partnership. Citizens across the
Eastern Partnership countries aspire to economic
development, prosperity, stability and a greater
sharing of common values and heritage.  It is in
this spirit that the European Union launched the
Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, now in its
second phase (EaP II), of which this Community-led
Urban Strategies Project (COMUS) was part. The
EaP programme reects the increased weight that
culture has gained in EU external cooperation
worldwide, and particularly in the Neighbourhood,
where it is being supported and valued as a vector
for economic and social development, growth
and job creation, innovation and social inclusion.
These are also the very objectives of EU external
policy and assistance in the region. 
Under the Community-led Urban Strategies Project
(COMUS) a signicant sample of historic towns in
the EaP countries has been the target of focused
interventions in historic centres. The Project
contributed to the regeneration of the urban
and social fabric and the strengthening of local
communities. Through capacity building, policy
advice and public debates, the project promoted
democratic standards in local communities, by
including civil society in the decision making
process, and enhanced role of culture as a driving-
force for reform, promotion of inter-cultural
dialogue and social cohesion.
The work carried out under this Community-led
Urban Strategies in Historic Towns (COMUS) also
met the stated goals of supporting municipal
development and helping the preservation of
cultural urban heritage in small towns. All the
participating 9 pilot towns in the 5 EaP countries
have cooperated on urban rehabilitation projects
and increased regional cooperation. 
The EU has put an emphasis on cultural cooperation
throughout its bilateral, regional and cross-border
cooperation in the Eastern Neighbourhood.
Programmes and policy dialogue in support of
culture involve our partner governments, public
administration and non-governmental actors
alike. But we are aiming at doing more. We aim
at having a systemic impact by promoting policy
and institutional change, by improving the
regulatory environment and increasing business
opportunities for cultural operators. The EU Year of
Cultural Heritage 2018 we hope will oer an added
chance to reinforce this link between politics and
culture and to deepen our partnership with our
Eastern Neighbours. 
Lawrence Meredith
DirectorNeighbourhood East
DG European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement
Negotiations European Commission
1.2 Council of Europe
Technical co-operation has been one of the
Council of Europe’s key components in the eld of
cultural heritage for over forty years. The focus has
increasingly been on sustainable development and
quality of life, with an enhanced understanding of
heritage and its role in societies.
Setting standards and carrying out pilot actions
have allowed us to retain a dynamic process where
we learn from the experiences across our member
states and make the necessary adjustments. Our
strength has been in the ability to work with
national and local authorities, communities
and experts simultaneously, providing exible
methodologies to adopt and adapt to local
circumstances. In this respect, we have been very
aware of the importance of guiding the processes,
rather than directing them, bringing together all
relevant stakeholders for constructive dialogue
around the principles of democratic participation.
Through this approach, we have observed the
successful integration of policies at local and
national levels, where the stakeholders have been
active players in the process.
The European Union / Council of Europe Joint
Project Community-led Urban Strategies in
Historic Towns - COMUS is a very good example
of this steady evolutionary process, ensuring the
essence of human rights, democracy and the
rule of law across our member states, through
the lens of heritage-led initiatives for sustainable
development. Fruitful co-operation between
partner organisations has provided a signicant
number of opportunities for professional capacity
development. Furthermore, it has oered a
sound methodology for social and economic
development, by enhancing cultural heritage and
urban regeneration in small and medium-sized
historic towns.
Considering the community-led nature of the
project, we have been particularly impressed
by the dedication and mindful eorts of the
Ministries of Culture of Armenia, Belarus, Georgia,
the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, where
national coordinators have skillfully monitored
the process while creating the necessary space
for local stakeholders and project implementation
units to be in the driving seat. The hard work and
diligence of the project ocers on the ground has
been remarkable, and this has resulted in a rich
portfolio for each COMUS pilot town, including a
work programme, trained human resources and
tools. Community-based activities have been
equally important throughout the project to
ensure social inclusion and awareness-raising.
We have also incorporated academia into the
project activities, through a research study
among ve universities, where multi-disciplinary
academics studied the community perspectives
at local level. This aimed at connecting project
activities to a longer term engagement through
the Faro Framework Convention on the Value of
Cultural Heritage for Society.
This publication, “Communities at the heart of
heritage governance – principles for heritage
based urban development of small and medium-sized
heritage towns in countries in transition” will be another
building block in the local development processes,
providing increased understanding of democratic
participation and respect for human rights.
We trust that the positive outcomes of this project
will be shared extensively, and that the very
promising network of COMUS pilot towns will be
maintained, in order to improve capacities further
and to provide inspiration for integrating the
COMUS principles into local and national policies.
Claudia Luciani
Director of Democratic Governance
Council of Europe
1.3 Organization of World Heritage Cities –
a valuable partnership
Based in Quebec (Canada), the Organization of
World Heritage Cities (OWHC) has grown since its
foundation in 1993 into a community of more than
280 cities inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage
list. The seat of the OWHC Regional Secretariat for
Northwest Europe and North America – covering
19 member cities from 12 dierent countries – is
located in Regensburg (Germany). Aside from
improving communication within the organization
and the member cities through a variety of
programmes, a key goal of the OWHC is to oer a
platform for international solidarity and expertise
for urban heritage sites.
A goal of using a new scientic approach saw
the publication, in 2013, of the OWHC Position
Paper “Safeguarding and further developing
World Heritage Cities”, which focuses on the
manifold challenges of historic towns worldwide.
It has become apparent that not only UNESCO
World Heritage sites, but all historic towns with
a rich monumental heritage, could prot from
developing an integrated concept when tackling
problems of preservation and development.
One consequence of these two aspects of OWHC
work in Northwest Europe and North America was
to begin to co-operate with the Council of Europe/
EU in the COMUS project from its inception
onwards. The partnership aims to support the
nine COMUS pilot towns with the experience of
experts at OWHC. Consistent feedback was given
throughout the development of the dierent
programme modules and in selecting external
experts from the OWHC partnership. A successful
study visit to the OWHC member Bamberg/
Germany was organized for the COMUS partners
in June 2016. Intense support was provided
by the Regional Secretariat as co-ordinator of
a management course and a workshop for the
COMUS mayors, using knowledge transfer and
methodological training.
Communication support has been provided at
many levels: there is a specic section for COMUS
on the OWHC website; all COMUS towns were
invited to become observer-members of OWHC
for the duration of the programme and their
information has been listed alongside the OWHC
member cities on this prominent World Heritage
international platform; and, several international
OWHC meetings, both regional and global, the
partnership – and the COMUS project and its
towns – have been presented to the audience.
Since 2015, OWHC has focused on the important
topic of community involvement in Heritage
Management. The culmination of this work will
be the OWHC World Congress in Gyeongju/Korea
in November 2017 with the theme “Heritage and
Communities: Tools to engage local communities”.
In an OWHC guidebook, edited by the Regional
Secretariat Northwest Europe and North America,
a selection of Best-Practice examples from OWHC
cities as well as EUROCITIES will be presented.
Entitled “Community Involvement & Heritage”,
there will be a specic chapter devoted to good
practice examples, in which COMUS towns present
their approaches to community involvement.
The OWHC wishes all COMUS towns and the
respective countries in transition a successful
continuation beyond the COMUS project and a
fruitful follow up!
Denis Ricard
OWHC Secretary General
Matthias Ripp
OWHC Regional Secretariat North-West Europe
and North-America
Executive Summary
Communities at the heart of heritage
On-going eorts towards sustainable deve lop-
ment require sound and innovative perspectives
on human rights and democratic governance,
beyond solely economic concerns. With the
consideration of heritage as a social, economic
and political resource, it is essential to develop
a new way of looking at heritage, by setting the
ground to reframe relations between all involved
stakeholders. An enhanced denition of heritage
and a new approach to heritage governance
present challenges for countries, particularly those
in transition that are of concern to the European
Neighbourhood Instrument – Eastern Partnership
The European Union and Council of Europe Joint
Project Community-Led Urban Strategies in Historic
Towns – COMUS, implemented by the Council of
Europe in partnership with the Organization of
World Heritage Cities between January 2015 and
June 2017, presents a sound model for countries
in transition, including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia,
the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The Council of Europe has been working in
the area of culture and heritage with countries
involved in COMUS bilaterally and regionally for
over a decade. Multilateral co-operation has been
developing since 2007 in the framework of the
“Kyiv Initiative Regional Programme.
The primary aim of the Council of Europe is to create
a common democratic and legal area throughout
its 47 member states, ensuring respect for its
fundamental values: human rights, democracy
and the rule of law. The Council of Europe’s pan-
European reach allows constructive dialogue with
member states and generates political leverage.
The Council of Europe’s legal instruments and soft-
monitoring tools serve as valuable benchmarks for
the European Union in the context of its cultural
and other related sectorial policies, enlargement
and integration of new members, reconciliation
and neighbourhood cooperation objectives.
Political objectives and assistance to countries
have been implemented through community-
led and place-based approaches in reference to
fundamental European conventions, in particular
the 1985 Granada Convention for the Protection
of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, the revised
1992 Valletta Convention on the Protection of
the Archaeological Heritage, the 2000 European
Landscape Convention and the 2005 Faro
Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural
Heritage for Society.
It is within this context that the COMUS project
was initiated in nine pilot towns: Goris and Gyumri
Streetscape in Dusheti, Georgia
(Armenia), Mstislavl (Belarus), Chiatura and
Dusheti (Georgia), Soroca (Republic of Moldova),
Pryluky, Lutsk and Zhovkva (Ukraine). The richness
and diversity of the heritage in these pilot towns is
of major cultural signicance to Europe, and is an
important resource given the present economic
context and on-going societal transformations.
The activities that fall under COMUS have been
implemented in order to convince communities
that small local initiatives are signicantly better
than inaction, and could lead to more ambitious
opportunities and new partnerships.
Each pilot town has gone through a compre-
hensive and transformative process, producing a
signicant amount of outputs including essential
technical les as well as promotional materials.
While focusing on the tasks in a relatively short
time, the capacity development of practitioners
and local / national professionals was emphasised.
Community awareness-raising and involvement
were encouraged in various degrees through
community based activities, and established
human infrastructure at local and national levels.
Although a large number of stakeholders have
been involved in the project, it is important to
note that learning curves and active engagement
have varied regarding the understanding of the
competencies and skills. However, a constructive
dialogue has been activated among stakeholders,
leading to joint actions locally, nationally and
internationally. Such momentum should be
carried out by local and national entities, sharing
the methodology, principles and lessons learned
from this experience with other towns in the
respective countries. Furthermore, the momentum
and enthusiasm generated by the COMUS towns
network in ve countries should be maintained,
beneting from each other’s signicant skills,
experience and wisdom.
Four phases, introduced throughout the project,
focused on the development of technical les
with guidance provided, and oered continuous
capacity development opportunities for
professionals. In view of the community based
nature of the work, equal importance was given
to local demographic mapping, in order to
understand what the community was composed
of in each town, and whether all community
Regional training in Chișinău, Republic of Moldova View from Cable Car in Chiatura, Georgia
members had the opportunity to be involved or
take an active role in the process.
Setting up the management structures and
human infrastructure was time consuming and
challenging; however, this proved to be a very
important part of the project. This investment in
human resources at the beginning is essential for
the sustainability of the action beyond projects,
as human resources, particularly at local level,
may require more time to adjust to new ways of
While each town had a dierent pace in
implementation, the development of reference
plans, including a shared vision and priority
actions, was identied as a tipping point for many.
This generated extensive and inclusive dialogue
among community members, authorities and
experts. This period was valuable, allowing the
deconstruction of xed positions, questioning of
the rationale for the selection of priority actions
and considering future use and benets for the
The technical work on the selected priority actions
through assessment and feasibility studies allowed
further questioning of whether decisions would
be benecial to communities in the short-medium
term, as they all experience diculties in accessing
nancial resources.
Consolidated experiences throughout the project,
together with the concrete outputs, were reected
on the relationship with potential donors, as the
COMUS approach received positive feedback
and attracted donors locally, nationally and
internationally. Integration of COMUS outcomes
into local and national policies, strategies and
development have been taking place in all COMUS
countries in various levels.
Throughout the COMUS project, nine pilot towns
collectively produced a hundred documents, and
further revised twelve. All documents are available
on the COMUS website in English and local
languages. These documents include heritage
assessment reports, preliminary technical les,
reference plans, preliminary technical assessments
and feasibility studies, oering details of the
technical work.
Increased community-based initiatives have
mobilised the local communities and engaged
them in the COMUS project at various levels,
introducing public debate and direct participation
of inhabitants in the decision-making process.
These actions were well documented and
presented through news and promotional lms.
It is important to note that a dynamic network was
developed through periodic regional workshops
and study visits, where each pilot town was
represented and had the opportunity to gain rst-
hand experience of the issues at stake.
COMUS brings heritage and communities
together, in the heart of decision making on urban
regeneration and local development. It introduces
a methodology based on existing heritage
resources, laying out an integrated approach with
emphasis on the process. It further argues that
urban heritage is not an isolated concept on its
own, but is part of a larger system, and therefore
should be considered in the entirety of a heritage-
led and community-based development process.
In the context of the COMUS project, heritage is
considered as a means and not the end result itself,
demonstrating an increased role by communities
in decision making. Thus, COMUS advocates for
working with all layers of society simultaneously,
encouraging a new constructive dialogue among
all involved.
The Council of Europe has had a long lasting
relationship with the COMUS countries in the
region, and perceives the project as another
step in this cooperation. COMUS’ integrated
methodological approach and outcomes
should gradually be included into local and
national policies and strategies, furthering the
institutionalisation of the processes. As some of
the impact has already been demonstrated with
the results in Georgia and Armenia, this positive
momentum should continue between pilot towns.
Following a thirty-month process, the COMUS
project stands out as a good exercise in
democracy through consideration of heritage as a
resource. It advocates the creation of an inclusive
platform, based on the principles of democratic
participation and community empowerment as an
essential part of policy making. It demonstrates a
new way of looking at heritage management and
shares concrete results for future considerations.
It is hoped that the outcomes and lessons learned
from the COMUS project are duly taken into
account in the next European Neighbourhood
Instrument Strategy.
This publication is aimed at both international
and national donors as well as national and local
decision-makers. It demonstrates key principles for
sustainable actions in community based heritage
development to be incited through international,
national and local policies and programmes.
Interested stakeholders should not take each step
and activity as a strict model, but rather draw from
the principles of this integrated approach. Each
community is unique and has its own internal
dynamics. However, they all share aspirations for
more democratic societies and a better quality
of life. Democracy is more meaningful when it
mobilises innovative powers in the perspective of
building more just communities, respecting human
rights and dignity. This has been the core value and
message of the COMUS project.
Degraded Carmelite Church in Mstislavl, Belarus,
proposed for rehabilitation under COMUS program
In the context of eastern Europe, there are
many small and medium-sized heritage towns
with historic urban areas and valuable cultural
heritage assets facing various challenges. Some
of these challenges include economic downturns,
emigration of skilled people, as well as ageing
populations. Experience with participatory
practices and local community engagement for
the preservation and reactivation of the cultural
heritage to support the cultural, socio-economic
urban development is in its early stages. In this
context, preserving and reactivating heritage sites
– whether they are historic, spiritual or industrial
– implies the double challenge of dealing with
low investment in capacity and limited skills and
Sites that had previously been signicant for their
heritage value and importance for local or national
identities became neglected or even derelict;
others suered due to the legacy of centralised
planning systems and limited capacity and
resources at the local level to deal with the growing
responsibilities of decentralisation. As these
countries have been going through a transitional
period in their economic and political structures,
new ways of addressing these challenges become
important for the democratisation process where
heritage may play an essential role in mobilising
innovative powers in communities.
The COMUS project “Community-Led Urban
Strategies in Historic Towns” aims to address these
challenges and demonstrate how cultural heritage
and its regeneration can provide opportunities
for the nancial, social and cultural development
of a town (heritage based urban development).
Heritage and Community for the COMUS project are
dened as
Cultural heritage
Cultural heritage is a group of resources inherited
from the past which people identify, independently
of ownership, as a reection and expression of their
constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and
tradition*s. It includes all aspects of the environment
resulting from the interaction between people and
places through time.
(Faro Convention, Council of Europe 2005)
A community is a group of people that have
something in common, i.e.
a. living in the same area (geographical
b. having similar cultural, religious, ethnic
backgrounds and characteristics (cultural
c. having similar interests, believes, attitudes,
objectives (social communities).
(Nils Scheer, OWHC Regional Conference.
“Heritage and Community Involvement” 2016)
Heritage Community
A heritage community consists of people who value
specic aspects of cultural heritage which they wish,
within the framework of public action, to sustain
and transmit to future generations. (Faro Convention,
Council of Europe 2005)
Therefore, the European Union, the Council of
Europe and the Organization of World Heritage
Cities jointly developed a community-based,
cultural heritage-led, development methodology
and tested in nine pilot towns in Armenia, Belarus,
Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
This publication shares the wide-ranging
experiences gathered during the implementation
of this methodology, presenting its key technical
and organisational principles, with the aim of
applying this methodology successfully elsewhere.
It aims to support international, national, regional
and local policy makers to plan and implement
eective and successful projects, using tried
and tested policies and funding programmes, so
that cultural heritage assets are used sustainably to
improve the quality of life in small and medium-sized
towns in countries in transition in eastern Europe.
For further information on COMUS, please refer to
the project website:
Chapter 2 provides an overview, setting out the
context and challenges of small and medium-sized
heritage towns in countries in transition in eastern
Europe (cf. 2.1). It lays out the ways the COMUS
project has addressed these challenges (cf. 2.2)
through a description of COMUS’ approach, its
benets and opportunities (cf. 2.3). Key facts and
project partners are also presented here.
Chapter 3 looks into “Principles for Sustainable
Actions in Community-Based Heritage Develop-
ment”, presenting examples from the COMUS
project. It further introduces the key principles of
a successful heritage-based urban development
strategy – including technical and organisational
features – that create the conditions for an
integrated and synergetic approach to heritage
as a valuable resource in these small and medium-
sized towns.
Chapter 4 draws the main messages from the
COMUS project implementation. It summarizes
the principle lessons learned for the benet of
future projects of similar scope.
Chapter 5 focuses on “Programme synergies and
follow up” oering an insight into how the COMUS
project may continue and link to other Council of
Europe and EU programmes, including the next
Eastern Partnership programming period.
Chapter 6 “Resources for Replication and Follow-
up projects” provides further information about
COMUS documents, diving deeper into the COMUS
approach, its application and lessons learnt.
2. The COMUS Project –
Community-Led Urban
in Historic Towns
2.1 Context and Challenges
The challenges that eastern European countries
face in preserving and capitalising on their cultural
heritage using community-based processes are
unique. The COMUS project team needed to
deal with a very dierent context compared to
similar endeavours in other European countries.
The challenges faced by the COMUS teams and
stakeholders, as described below, reect both the
particularities of heritage and community work
in the post-socialist space of eastern Europe and
the complex question of how resilient small or
medium-sized towns can be, in a globalised big-
city biased economy.
Heritage and Community in Countries in
Transition in eastern Europe
Over the past three decades, as the transition
process unfolded, communities have faced a
shifting base for previously stable local identities.
Sites that were previously of signicant heritage
value and importance for local or national
identities became neglected or even derelict,
much to the regret of many of today’s residents.
The reverse is also seen, as underlying ideological
frameworks change, communities have been (re)
discovering and remembering long-forgotten
symbols and histories.
The legacy of centralised planning systems
includes limited experience with participatory
practices and local community engagement. At
the same time, local administrations have limited
capacity and resources with which to meet the
complex needs of their constituencies in the
context of a growing tendency to decentralise
Another particularity of this region is that
eastern European countries top global rankings
in demographic decline (UNDESA, 2013). Small
towns have been most aected by this loss.
Population decline is often associated with
industrial restructuring. Community projects
face the additional challenge of building trust
in small historical towns, where in many cases
people’s civic pride has been eroded and they
believe their towns have no future, resulting in the
exodus of young people. Heritage preservation, in
this context, can act as the glue to bring people
together towards a common cause, generating
local pride and sense of purpose.
Economic restructuring and emigration of
those most able to work means that local skills
are increasingly dicult to retain. Faced with
a diminishing economic base, small towns are
confronted with low income levels and an ageing
population. Thus, preserving heritage sites – be
it historic houses, spiritual and cultural edices
or industrial heritage sites – implies the double
challenge of dealing with low levels of investment
in capacity and limited skills.
Property vacancy and abandonment is also a
frequent feature of small towns in eastern Europe,
as their demographics and economic bases have
shrunk. Often, buildings and sites of signicant
heritage value have changed uses and are more
prone to degradation, as they remain empty.
However, this may also encourage innovative
approaches to rehabilitation and conversion of
such sites can stimulate new uses to support
community functions or entrepreneurship and
employment opportunities.
Finally, civil society in eastern Europe has been
less developed, and tends to have fewer active
grassroots organisations and community groups.
For this reason, knowledge and resource ows are
more dicult to facilitate and the community is
less adept at mobilising, supporting and pursuing
larger-scale community projects.
Heritage and Community in Small Towns
In an urban era dominated by the big city rhetoric,
small towns may only survive and ourish by
proposing an alternative to the noise, crowd and
alienation of the big city life. Cultural heritage
creates a sense of place, identity and makes small
towns distinct, thus consolidating the sense of
belonging and attachment of local residents.
Buildings and sites of heritage value often
accommodate public spaces, culture and leisure
functions, contributing to residents’ quality of life.
Cultural heritage in small towns can act as
a connector, create a sense of purpose and
pride. Heritage brings the community together,
motivates locals to keep their memory of places
alive, and bridges current realities with past
However, small towns may often manifest a ‘lock-
in syndrome’ (Knox, 2009); an inertia into long
established perceptions which may impede locals’
understanding of the value and potential of local
assets. Indeed, heritage sites may be of prominent
interest and importance to constituencies outside
the local community. For this reason, residents of
small towns need help to reconnect to external
networks, to be exposed to communities of
interest that may lie beyond the territorial limits
of their town, as well as learn to look at their own
environment through a variety of lenses.
Finally, the local community can capitalise on its
heritage in order to boost the visitor economy,
contribute to creating jobs and diversify revenues.
However, one should bear in mind that successful
tourist destinations are generally wider regions,
rather than individual small towns. For this reason,
the tourist inow of small heritage towns is often
dependent on wider regional aspects, such as
connectivity and accessibility as well as availability
of tourist services and information.
School children waiting for the cable car in the old mining town of Chiatura
The cable-car system of Chiatura is a soviet industrial engineering work of art consisting of 26 cable lines carrying both people and manganese
up and down the steep slopes of a spectacular valley. Unrestored since the 50’s, when it was set to function, this cable line represents a challeng-
ing duality as label of a hidden industrial heritage treasure - of interest for an increasing number of foreign tourists, but also as a serious safety
risk for its daily commuters.
The Pioneer Palace, in Chiatura, Georgia, left abandoned during
transition years
A common feature of post-socialist towns were the community centres
hosting activities for the meritorious youth (named ‘pioneers’). Given
that such centres were often associated with ideological symbols that
lost importance in the transition process, many were left abandoned.
The local community in Chiatura wishes now to revive this centre,
reconciling a new use pattern with its initial vocation, and valuing its
role for the town’s youth.
A former machinery deposit in the picturesque setting of
Dusheti, Georgia, currently being envisaged as a potential arts
residence for artists in nearby Tbilisi
The small town of Dusheti has lost much of its transit visitors as the
road on which it is situated lost trac to a newer modern axis. The
local community is seeking to generate new uses for its abandoned
patrimony so as to attract visitors of a younger creative prole.
2.2 Objectives and Approach
COMUS in Brief
COMUS is a bold project, jointly supported by the
European Union and the Council of Europe, that
brings together nine small historical towns in
eastern Europe to work on enhancing their cultural
heritage resources.
In line with the common priorities of the Council
of Europe and the European Union, COMUS works
to improve the living conditions of European
inhabitants and the quality of their living
environments, while giving citizens a more direct
role in dening, deciding and implementing local
economic development projects. It presents an
opportunity to bridge heritage preservation
concerns with municipal, empowerment,
democratisation and economic growth.
Throughout the 2½ years project timeline,
communities in the participating towns have
worked together to draft urban development
strategies based on heritage, as well as design and
prioritise project concepts that would preserve and
capitalise on the heritage values of their towns.
COMUS builds upon the policy priorities of the
Council of Europe and European Union in the
context of the Eastern Partnership Programme by
targeting co-operation activities with Armenia,
Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and
The partnership with the Organization of World
Heritage Cities has generated opportunities for
longer-term co-operation with other European
historic towns. The COMUS experiences aim to
serve as examples to inspire spontaneous projects
in other towns in participating countries, and also
in other international contexts, while impacting on
existing national policies and intervention models
to encourage local development processes.
COMUS Key Facts
30 months: Jan 2015 to June 2017;
Nine small historic towns: Goris and Gyumri
(Armenia), Mstislav (Belarus); Chiatura
and Dusheti (Georgia); Soroca (Republic
of Moldova); Lutsk, Zhovka and Pryluky
Three implementing partners: European
Union, Council of Europe, Organization of
World Heritage Cities (OWHC);
Over 200 national and local stakeholders
involved in participatory processes;
45 heritage sites analysed and transposed
into project concepts;
€ 650,000 project budget.
COMUS Objectives
COMUS seeks to stimulate social and economic
development through enhancing cultural heritage
and urban regeneration in historic towns by:
1. Broadening the concept of heritage as a
resource in the context of human rights and
2. Increasing the capacity of local and national
authorities in the management of their
heritage resources;
3. Empowering communities and citizens as the
main actors in carrying out their heritage-led
development processes.
COMUS Approach
COMUS was designed to be implemented in
phases, each corresponding to a set of actions and
planned outcomes. These phases involved target
groups, stakeholders at local and national levels,
as well as partners working together throughout
each step. The four main COMUS phases consisted of:
I. The Inception Phase created a context
for explaining the project objectives and
methodology, mobilising stakeholders,
setting up the management structures and
providing local sta with the required skills
and competencies to use the methodology;
II. The Planning Phase consisted of detailed
analysis, vision setting and prioritisation.
National stakeholders and communities
worked together to debate and decide
on their shared objectives for the future
development of the pilot towns and decide
on the priority interventions;
Page 2 ŹCommunity-led urban strategies in historic towns (COMUS)
Map for illustrative purposes
Country participating in the project
* Non-member state of the Council of Europe
1 Gyumri
2 Goris
4 Dusheti
5 Chiatura
6 Soroca
7 Lutsk
8 Zhovkva
9 Pryluky
Countries participating in the COMUS project
III. The Project Phase, during which projects
targeting the rehabilitation of monuments,
buildings or sites were elaborated through
technical documents to be used for promotion
and mobilising of funds;
IV. The Consolidation Phase enabled target
groups to take stock of their experiences, learn
about the experimentation and formulate
decisions to be taken at national level
regarding the relevant adaptation of policies
and strategies, with a COMUS inspired future
To help navigate through these phases, guideline
documents were provided for each one, explaining
the aims, targeted results and methodology.
The local teams were supported throughout
by a lead expert, accompanied by several other
international and national/local experts involved
in co-ordinating thematic regional and country-
based workshops, assisting with feedback and
review of work produced.
Promotion, Communication, Dissemination
Preparatory Actions
Memorandum of Understanding
with National Authorities
Identification of Pilot towns
Assessment Report
Guidelines for the Inception Phase
Identification of key actors
National Coordinators
Project Officers
Project managers
International and Local expert
Setting up Management
Steering Committee
National Stakeholders Group
Local Stakeholders Group
Guidelines for
the Planning
Analysis Shared Vision Actions
Reference Plan
for the
Project Phase
Scoping and
Selection of
study (FS)
and Planning
for the
development of
and local
Linkage between
COMUS towns
and other sectors
and towns in
Integration of
the results into
National and
Local policies
and Strategies
2.3 Benets
Having gone through the COMUS process, local
communities benet in several ways, as COMUS
can be a useful precursor of donor and funding
bodies’ decision-making processes as well as
national and local authorities’ work. The benets
from the COMUS process and methodology for
the stakeholders as described below can vary,
depending on the local conditions.
Benets of COMUS approach for:
Donors and funding bodies National authorities Local authorities
Provides a thorough process
proling town context, needs
and potential, as a prerequisite
for targeting of funds and
tailoring of interventions;
Supports community
involvement through the entire
process, essential for ensuring
relevance and sustainability of
follow up actions;
Involves prioritisation and
well-documented investment
design, based on sound
methodology and instruments;
Strengthens the commitment
of local and national authorities
to intervention sites;
Facilitates transfer of know-
how in preparing investments,
which sets the background for
smooth implementation;
Supports the promotion of
the principles of heritage
and sustainability to local
stakeholders, concepts
which may otherwise remain
abstract national policy
Creates bridges for interaction
and direct work with local
Provides tools and context
for national policies to trickle
down into concrete local
Generates feedback for the
improvement of national
policies so that they meet
local needs and challenges;
Consolidates the capacity
of national authorities, by
exposing them to practices of
other countries;
Creates a channel of
reference between national
heritage legislation and local
perceptions and needs
Assists in engaging the
community in heritage
preservation, by providing a
method of participation;
Exposes network to
‘know-how’ and experience
of other countries and
facilitates exchange of best
practice and lessons learned;
Provides instruments
to structure work and
approach donors and
funding bodies;
Oers support in working
with national and
international stakeholders;
Provides resources for
engaging with qualied
national and international
experts in the eld;
Raises visibility of local
challenges and heritage
potential, essential for
mobilising resources.
3. Principles for Sustainable
Actions in Community-Based
Heritage Development
International, national and regional policies and
funding programmes employing a comprehensive
and community-based approach to heritage
should refer to the following principles in their
work. This will contribute to their impact on the
sustainable use of cultural heritage to improve the
quality of life in small and medium-sized towns.
These principles are based on the outcomes and
results of the COMUS project.
Technical principles
1. Development of a cultural heritage-led urban
development strategy (hereafter referred to
as the strategy);
2. Detailed analysis of the current cultural
heritage and urban situation;
3. Identication and evaluation of priority
heritage-led urban interventions through
feasibility studies;
4. Joint collection of new uses for the heritage
rehabilitation projects.
Organisational principles
5. Community based set-up of a vertical and
horizontal governance system;
6. Thorough preparation of the development
7. Capacity building of the team in charge.
In the following sub-chapters, each principle is
explained in detail: what they set out to achieve
and how they can be put into action.
Local and national authorities meeting COMUS team to discuss a heritage based strategy in Soroca
“Constructive dialogue, established and reinforced by
the COMUS projects, has emphasised the importance
of community involvement as an essential component
of the long-term success of local development
projects. Local communities and civil society, as
local stakeholders, have been able to recognise the
capacities and diverse ideas at local level, and have
adopted a democratic approach to improve quality
of life for all organically”. (Alla Stashkevich, COMUS
Project Ocer, Belarus)
Participatory exercise engaging youth in Mstislavl, Belarus, in formu-
lating a shared vision for their town
Joined strategy planning work sessions in Ukraine
3.1 Development of a cultural heritage-led
urban development strategy
The intention of the strategy is to:
1. Develop understanding and raise awareness
of the existing and diverse cultural heritage;
2. Recognise and stimulate the use of the local
cultural heritage assets as a positive impulse
for the improvement of the quality of life in
the town;
3. Develop a co-ordinated and shared strategy
on how to make the best use of local heritage
in urban sustainable development through a
community-based, heritage-led elaboration
process [cf. 3.5];
4. Guide public actions and limited public and
private resources towards the urban heritage
intervention areas achieving the best impact
on the local development, capitalising on
cultural heritage assets.
The COMUS experience has demonstrated that
such a strategy should contain the following
1. Presentation of the local cultural heritage
and its distinctive features, highlighting the
opportunities for reinvestment, economic
activities and the improvement of the
quality of life of the town to make the case
for preservation and investment (cf. Faro
Convention, which emphasizes the important
aspects of heritage as they relate to human
rights and democracy:
2. Coherent setting of a shared vision,
operational objectives and priority ur-
ban intervention areas to advocate for
cultu ral heritage-led urban development as
opportunities for the town;
3. Description of the integrated manage-
ment system for cultural heritage-led urban
The involvement and co-ordination of relevant
stakeholders using constructive dialogue [cf. 3.5]
is of crucial importance during the development
process; this also reinforces democratic processes,
allowing diverse ideas to compete and the most
suitable solutions identied.
Recommendations and Considerations
It is of crucial importance that:
1. The strategy is widely accepted by decision-
makers at all levels, and institutions
responsible for its implementation and the
wider public, and that it corresponds to
community and urban development needs;
2. The decision-makers (in particular mayors,
key national ministries and institutions
responsible for relevant funding programmes)
are fully aware and understand the potential
opportunities of cultural heritage as a tool
to improve the quality of life and an asset
for sustainable urban development. This is
essential for local authorities to support the
process, both in terms of political will and
nancial resources;
3. The strategy is understood as an important
initial step for the implementation of a
heritage-based, urban development process.
To support this, international, national, regional
and local institutions are encouraged to draw
on the following in their programmes and policy
development. To ensure that:
the strategy, with its vision, objectives and
urban interventions areas, is developed
through dialogue and participation at
each step of the process [cf. 3.5] and results
are shared by the relevant stakeholders,
in particular those responsible for its
implementation (i.e. stakeholders sign up to
the strategy). This will increase the credibility
of the decisions made:
needs are identied together with communities
and feed into the strategy [cf. 3.2];
prior to developing the strategy, the potential
contribution of cultural heritage to improving
the quality of life and sustainable urban
development should be demonstrated
to local leaders and key decision makers.
Eective tools may include site visits to
comparable cities that have been successful in
using their cultural heritage and peer-to-peer
presentations of good-practice [see also 3.6];
the strategy contains implementable and
feasible actions and target intervention areas,
agreed by the stakeholders [cf. 3.3].
Some good examples can be found at
Another key lesson learnt is to ensure that the
strategy is not seen as the ultimate document to
identify a town’s most important heritage buildings
and dene how to rehabilitate them. Instead, it is
about identifying the needs and interest of the
communities and the cultural heritage assets.
It is about how to dene the best use of these
cultural heritage assets whilst satisfying the needs
and interests that have been identied, and putting
a joint vision and objectives into practice. This will
multiply the benet of cultural heritage rehabilitation
and further the development of the town.
“COMUS indeed brought a new perspective to urban
planning, including heritage management as a
component of development. This was a new type
of exercise introducing the principles of sustainable
planning on one side, and public participation on the
other. It also insisted on bringing together dierent
sectors of the public administration, local or national,
who generally do not communicate directly about
common problems, but preferred to oer sectorial
solutions according to their legal responsibilities”.
(Dumitrița Efremov, COMUS Project Ocer, Republic of
3.2 Detailed analysis of the current cultural
heritage and urban situation
Development of an eective cultural heritage-led
urban development strategy, which encourages
the use of the local cultural heritage in favour of
sustainable development, requires a thorough
analysis. Without it, it is not possible to conduct
a professional local heritage-based development
The analysis should be designed to provide an
overview, describe and raise awareness about the
current urban heritage and see the challenges
to cultural heritage in the light of future
developments. Such an analysis should take into
account the objective of heritage as a resource in
the urban development and renewal. The analysis
1. The general characteristics and signicance of
cultural heritage;
2. The relationship between heritage and the
key urban challenges and community needs.
Through such an analysis – involving stakeholders
in reecting on urban development needs
together – coherent and reliable shared visions,
operational objectives and priority interventions
can be produced.
For this analysis, the following activities are
1. Mapping demography and community needs,
problems and goals as well as key issues
related to the urban situation as regards
heritage-based urban rehabilitation;
2. Mapping cultural heritage resources, their
general characteristics and signicance,
producing a SWOT analysis of community
needs and key urban issues;
3. Assessing how heritage assets can be utilised
to improve the general prosperity and well-
being of citizens;
4. General desk-based interpretation of thematic
maps and historical maps;
5. Analysing existing policies, plans and by-laws
for urban and cultural heritage development.
The “Analysis” ultimately provides the framework
within which future proposals for beneficial
change can be made. It is crucial to discuss the
results with relevant stakeholders to achieve a
shared understanding of the current situation
[cf. 3.5].
Recommendations and Considerations
During this rigorous analysis of the cultural
heritage and the urban situation, it is of crucial
importance to:
1. Ensure a “neutral” institution or person with
the requisite experience and skills, is charged
with leading the task;
2. Involve communities and key stakeholders
in the analysis as a primary resource for
gathering information i.e. through interviews,
surveys and other activities that enable
them to determine their needs, interests and
Heritage walks with local stakeholder group members and experts,
in Gyumri, Armenia. Black stone buildings represent the architectural
distinctiveness of this town. Heritage preservation does not solely
imply targeting specic listed buildings, but perpetuating specic
construction practices, aesthetics and urban landscape.
Architectural sketches and current condition
of the Jesuit Church in Mstislavl, Belarus.
The degree of degradation poses signicant challenges to the local
team in identifying the proper architectural and construction solu-
tions for its renovation.
This archive photo reveals the intricate cave dwellings system of
Goris, Georgia, whose ruins can now be barely seen. The local com-
munity wishes to revive this system as a tourist attraction.
Mapping exercises in Mstislavl, Belarus, help the understanding of
heritage sites in the overall context of their surroundings.
3. Record, share and discuss the results of the
analysis with the stakeholders involved in the
development of the strategy to encourage
joint diagnosis and establish a common
understanding of the current situation and
existing key needs, challenges and conicts.
This will facilitate a joint development of
the strategy, dening principal themes
for consideration, common objectives
and actions, based on the challenges,
opportunities and needs identied [cf. 3.5];
4. Examine the validity of identied cultural
heritage assets and whether they respond to
assessed needs and interests of communities.
To support this, international, national, regional
and local institutions are called upon to include
the following standards in their programmes and
Support the selection of a suitable person /
institution to lead the analysis i.e. by forming
a pool of suitable experts and institutions;
Require that desk-based work is enhanced by
eldwork, (photographic) surveys, interviews,
information from specialists (local economists,
property consultants, etc.). Ensure that
information is up-to-date and from a variety
of perspectives;
Ensure that the results are summarised in a
written report including a SWOT responding
to the main issues identied;
Require that results are shared and discussed,
and where possible co-produced with key
In the COMUS context, an analysis, vision,
objective setting and list of actions were
brought together in strategic reference plan;
Use an external expert to validate the nal
draft of the preliminary technical le to
ensure that both the content and quality is of
a suitable standard before using it to further
develop the strategy.
This approach to analysis has helped project teams
in dealing with the complexity of the rehabilitation
process, which far exceeds the restoration of a
few monuments; helping teams to ensure that
the national authorities consider the problems
and challenges of implementing the project,
and in communicating to potential international,
national, regional and local partners.
Some good examples can be found at
“The functioning of local stakeholder groups has been
broadly successful and locally appreciated across the
Pilot Towns. Some have even extended this forum to
reach out to the wider community, so capitalising
on the project dynamic to raise understanding and
awareness, promote community ownership of the
project and establish ongoing wider engagement.
Engaging the stakeholders was the most useful and
necessary part of the process”. (Alla Stashkevich,
COMUS Project Ocer, Belarus)
The thorough documenting of archives for photographic stock, engineering and architectural sketches are essential for a righteous preservation
and restoration of heritage sites.
This archive photo, found by the Georgian team, illustrates the rst years of the Chiatura Cable Car functioning, at the beginning of the 1960s a
remarkable example of soviet engineering.
The Market Square with “Ratusha”, ХVI c. Ar t reconstructions of
Oleksandr Dyshko
The Middle Town and the extended Market Square in Lutsk
ХIV – ХVI c. The reconstruction of the architect Oleh Rybchynskyi
3.3 Identication and evaluation of priority
heritage-led urban interventions through
feasibility studies
Following this analysis, it is crucial to select
heritage rehabilitation projects that are both
owned by the local community while technically
and nancially viable. This can be facilitated by
preparing feasibility studies that allow project
teams to:
1. Gather all relevant information in one place
in order to present sound, comprehensive
and implementable heritage rehabilitation
projects to regional, national and inter na tional
funding bodies and investors, encouraging
public and private partnerships, investments
and funding;
2. Guide public actions and allocate limited
public and private resources to the most
eective urban heritage rehabilitation
projects with the highest, positive impact on
local development.
A further role of the feasibility studies is to
enable project managers, local stakeholders and
political decision makers to assess the potential
and challenges of specic heritage rehabilitation
projects. A presentation of the results in this
format will allow discussion and nal decisions to
be made jointly.
Such feasibility studies have been more eective
for participants of the COMUS project when
they follow a two-step selection and evaluation
process, consisting of:
1. Preliminary technical assessments of the
priority urban intervention areas: these
set out the operational design of heritage
rehabilitation projects and help stakeholders
to understand whether to take a project
any further. They consider the nancial
implications, human resources and assess
2. Feasibility studies for the heritage
rehabilitation projects: these set out a
scenario for project implementation within
the next 3-5 years so as to present the project’s
viability. They have implementable, realistic
and fundable components.
Recommendations and Considerations
In order to identify priority heritage-led urban
interventions through feasibility studies, it is
crucial to:
1. Single out priority interventions together
with stakeholders, considering the stake-
holders and community heritage values and
interest levels; the potential for use in the
“The Feasibility Study is a new type of document which
focuses on proposed activities rather than on buildings.
This opened up new perceptions for experts who are
used to more technical approaches”.
(Dumitrița Efremov, COMUS Project Ocer, Republic
of Moldova)
Orthodox Church in Pryluky, Ukraine, planned for rehabilitation works
The Mihai Eminescu High School Soroca, Republic of Moldova, cur-
rently abandoned, was evaluated for rehabilitation and reconversion
to new educational uses
Local stakeholders in Mstislavl, Belarus, discussing project prioritiza-
short term; needs; how to improve quality of
life in historic towns; the possibility of local,
national and international funding; and, the
potential impact on local development;
2. Ensure the feasibility study reports on: the
signicance of the monument or site; degree
of risk or danger of deterioration; aim and
scope of the project; the constraints to be
acknowledged or overcome; the stages
necessary for project implementation; the
organisational structure required for the
project and the long-term management of the
monument or site and broad cost estimates
for the various rehabilitation options, from
initial conservation to full rehabilitation;
3. Base the rehabilitation options upon the
potential uses identied for the building or
site [cf. 3.4];
4. Elaborate the preliminary technical
assessment and the feasibility study using
local experts;
5. Inform and discuss the results of the studies
with the involved stakeholders [cf. 3.5] to
ensure decisions on which and how the
buildings are to be rehabilitated and reused
are taken jointly, and in particular, to check for
potential and available resources.
To support this, international, national, regional
and local institutions are encouraged to include the
following considerations within their programmes
and policies:
Apply the two-step selection and evaluation
process set out in the preliminary technical
assessment, which identies priority urban
intervention areas, and – within these areas –
selects heritage rehabilitation projects based
on a feasibility study;
Select with care a local person / institution
with the requisite experience and skills to lead
the study stage; if suitable, provide access
to national and international experts i.e. by
forming a pool of suitable experts;
Require that results are summarised, shared
and discussed with key stakeholders and the
communities to ensure that the rehabilitation
projects are in-line with the community
Use an external expert to validate the nal
draft of the studies and cross check with
international standards before nal decisions
are taken.
Some good examples of Preliminary Technical
Assessments can be found at
Some good examples of Feasibility Studies can be
found at
3.4 Joint collection of new uses for the
heritage rehabilitation projects
Base the rehabilitation of heritage
buildings on their future use for the
commu nity
It is crucial to understand that rehabilitation
is not an aim in itself. Rather it is a tool to
reactivate cultural heritage and provide space
for the community for cultural, social and
economic functions to take place. It is important
that potential uses be identied at the outset.
Responsible and sustainable use of the sites
provides the best protection for a heritage asset.
Through this approach, cultural heritage will serve
the local community to enhance their quality of
life. It is important to involve the communities in
dening new uses.
Embed the reuse of the cultural heritage in
the urban development context
In order for heritage rehabilitation projects to
benet the community and enhance quality of
life, it is important that they are embedded in the
urban and neighbourhood development context.
The intention is, in the best-case scenario, that
the rehabilitated space will become a nucleus, a
starting point for the sustainable development of
the neighbourhood or even the entire town. This
can attract further public and private resources
for the cultural heritage assets. Using a holistic
approach, taking into account the surroundings,
uses, etc. is important, as it builds a climate of
change, generating a new dynamic based on
understanding and condence. The new uses and
functions should be linked as much as possible to
the daily lives of the citizens.
The level of success in the reuse of a heritage
building also depends on its accessibility and
whether it is well connected through roads and
other means of transport. Thus, the improvement
of the accessibility of the site for the citizens is an
important part of the process.
Recommendations and Considerations
To develop new uses for the heritage assets and
improve the quality of life in town in partnership,
it is crucial to:
1. Base potential uses on the needs and
interests of the communities identied
during the analysis phase [cf. 3.2] to ensure
that the projects are in-line with the public
interest or even directly involve communities
in the identication of potential uses i.e.
public consultations, workshops and idea
competitions [cf. 3.5];
2. Bear in mind that the future use(s) of
the building or site must include both
rehabilitation and long-term maintenance to
avoid “dead investments”;
3. Reconsider the idea of singular investment in
an empty, hard to access environment.
“We see some changes in the current mind-set both on
local and national levels. Current projects in both pilot
towns are quite heritage-oriented with an intention to
consider heritage as an asset for economic and social
development. Both towns, especially Goris, are con-
sidering heritage as a tool for economic investments”.
(Sarhat Petrosyan, COMUS Project Ocer Armenia )
Local stakeholder group members joined experts involved in COMUS to discuss - in an interactive group work exercise - on post-rehabilitation
uses of heritage sites.
‘Which new uses could we add to the Library building, after its rehabilitation, considering that the actual library functions need less than a half
of the space available?’
‘How can we reconvert a former industrial site to host cultural events and residencies that could boost the cultural life or our town?’
These were just a few of the questions raised by participants at this exercise, as part of the Feasibility Studies Workshop, held for COMUS stake-
holders in Dusheti, Georgia.
3.5 Community based set-up of a vertical
and horizontal governance system
Stakeholders from the national to the local level
must be involved in developing a cultural heritage-
led urban development strategy that guides and
co-ordinates public and private actions in favour
of a cultural heritage-led urban regeneration.
Involvement has the specic intention of:
1. Raising awareness about the opportunities
that heritage-led, community-based urban
development can provide for the sustainable
development of towns;
2. Highlighting the role cultural heritage can play
in addressing urban challenges;
3. Setting up synergies between all levels of
authorities in order to share responsibilities
and mobilise and combine their capacities
and resources in agreeing a joint strategy and
available resources;
4. Encouraging inclusion of cultural heritage as
a factor of development in national and local
sectorial policies;
5. Promoting democratic processes, public
debates and direct public participation in
decision-making processes, broadening the
concept of heritage as a resource in the context
of human rights and democracy;
6. Setting up a structure of co-production and
7. Addressing the idea of dysfunctional policies
and laws that can be addressed based on
grassroot ndings.
For principles of good governance at local level,
see Appendix “12 principles for good governance
at local level”.
Mayors’ gathering in Tbilisi, Georgia. COMUS pilot town mayors,
deputy mayors, national coordinators and project ocers discussed
future perspectives and strategic actions to integrate COMUS meth-
odology and recommendations into local policies and strategies.
Local stakeholder group consultations in Gyumri, Armenia
The COMUS experience has demonstrated that a
governance system needs to be set up, considering
that decision making processes should take place
together with the elected ocials, authorities,
experts, local communities and other relevant
stakeholders. The COMUS governance model
establishes a new platform for co-operation,
fostering new ways of working together. It creates
management and co-ordination structures,
new partnerships, and shared responsibilities
between central and local authorities as well as
between public and private stakeholders and
the local communities. It is recommended that
the following management and co-ordination
structure is set up:
1. Local Stakeholder Group
At local level it is recommended that a local
stakeholder group (LSG) be established, bringing
together the different perspectives, viewpoints,
skills of local government partners, relevant
stakeholders and the local community. Potential
members could include: elected representatives;
local departments; experts; specialists; local
institutions; civil society representatives;
associations and interest groups; residents; and
investors. The aim of the local stakeholder group
is to:
create an environment where people from
dierent (professional) backgrounds can
interact, come to understand each other’s
roles and aspirations, and can benet from the
exchanges on a personal and professional level;
develop, together with the Project Imple-
mentation Unit, the cultural heritage-led
urban development strategy in the spirit of
co-production, recognising the capacities and
diverse ideas circulating at the local level;
ensure stakeholders have a role in determining
their future and quality of life, with the aim of
increasing their sense of belonging;
introduce public debate and direct participation
on shared visions, objectives and actions
in the decision-making process, promoting
community ownership of the dened projects;
raise the understanding and awareness in
respect of the opportunities presented by a
cultural heritage-led urban development;
share responsibilities between inhabitants,
elected representatives and technicians;
strengthen the LSG’s condence in its capacity
to take the initiative and build partnerships,
especially in implementing the priority
For further information about the concept of Local
stakeholder groups see:
local-groups .
“I think one of the successes of the COMUS project
is related to the participatory work. The most
important thing was that we had an opportunity
to get acquainted with the experience of other
countries in this sector. In general, Goris can create
great opportunities for the city development through
tourism development. And by these steps we will be
able to achieve our vision on how we imagine Goris
later”. (Susanna Shahnazaryan, COMUS Goris LSG
2. National Stakeholder Group
It is also recommended that a national stake-
holder group (NSG) be established. Potential
members could include key national ministries
and institutions, partners with competencies,
responsibilities who have a role in cultural heritage
and urban development. The aim of the national
stakeholder group is to:
assess required professional capacities
and training needs of the local authorities
developing a cultural heritage-led urban
development strategy;
organise adequate capacity development,
training and exchange opportunities;
discuss alignment of the cultural heritage-led
urban development strategy and the local
heritage revitalisation projects with national
policies and programmes (strengthen
the national political back-up toward the
identify improvements national regulations
and programmes and ensure these are
communicated to the responsible parties;
consider and provide expertise for the urban,
heritage-led, development process to the
local authority;
advise on the objectives and practicalities
to be included in the Memorandum of
3. Project Implementation Unit
To manage decisions at an intermediate level, it is
recommended that a project implementation unit
(PIU) is set up to co-ordinate between the national
and the local levels. The PIU acts as a steering group
to ensure that dialogue is timely and eective, and
involves the necessary stakeholders. The COMUS
project PIUs typically consisted of a representative
of the Ministry of culture, the co-ordinators of the
national and local stakeholders group, the project
ocer and project manager, even the mayor and
external specialists when required. The task of the
project implementation unit is to
identify a project ocer who would be in
charge of overall coordination of activities
and facilitation between all stakeholders,
ensuring a coherence of approach across all
participating towns. It is essential to note that
this should be a paid position.
prepare, support and co-ordinate the
elaboration of the cultural heritage-led urban
development strategy (driving the process) by
drafting key objectives, priority interventions
and rehabilitation projects, building on the
results of the analysis phase [cf. 3.2] and of the
assist in the set-up of the Local Stakeholders
help in identifying needs, knowledge or
capacity gaps, and bring in additional skills
related to the preparation of the cultural
heritage-led urban development strategy
through the Expert Pool;
update the National Stakeholder Group
regarding advancement of the cultural
heritage-led urban development strategy and
to co-ordinate its conformity with National
policy frameworks as well as providing the
opportunity to seek support for the town
initiative where necessary or opportune;
communicate goals, advancement and
achieve ments at local level to the partners;
prepare the process of validation of the
Strategy by the municipal authority and
endorsement by the National Stakeholder
4. Direct involvement of communities
through community-based activities
Besides the involvement of key stakeholders
through the national and local stakeholder group, it
is crucial to engage and work with local inhabitants
and the dierent communities directly: to discover
their interests, their relationship with the heritage,
to give them the opportunity to get involved and
express their viewpoints (social inclusion).
It is recommended that community involvement
activities be developed to achieve this aim,
integrating them in the development of Strategy.
Youth Activist school in Zhovkva, Ukraine
To provide relevant information about the city and its heritage to active community members in order to collect ideas for
the development of the urban heritage, an ‘activists school’ took place.
The ‘Youth Activists’ was a full four-day school programme. During the rst few days, the participants received basic
information on the town history, about the most important cultural heritage objects and prominent personalities of
Zhovkva, from its foundation to the present. In the afternoon, the students enjoyed an excursion and visited several
heritage sites, in particular sites not currently accessible to tourism.
During the second day, participants talked with local ocials to familiarise themselves with the work of the city council,
the formation of the local budget and decision-making. Furthermore, the participants talked about municipal enterprises
(also responsible for the cultural heritage) and discussed ways to improve their work. The activists visited some of the
During the third day, three types of investments in Zhovkva (urban heritage) were discussed: public, private and grants.
After the discussion, the participants visited ve Zhovkva-based private enterprises set up with foreign investments.
On the fourth day, in addition to receiving further
information about project management, the
participants became acquainted with special aspects
of the city and with the international concept of “right
to the city”. Based on this, the participants drew ‘rich
pictures’, working in groups: two groups drew Zhovkva
today related to their urban heritage, the other two the
‘dream city’. Thus, the situation today and the vision for
the future of the city based on the urban heritage were
identied. Part of that session was a SWOT-analysis and
the development of a problem tree.
This all led to the development of ideas for the
development of Zhovkva’s urban heritage based on the
views of the city’s young people.
Team work at the Youth Activist School in Zhovka, Ukraine. Young
people drawing a dream city.
5. Pool of Experts for outside assistance
At national level an expert pool (EP) was set up,
which – as and when required – supported the
communities in developing their Strategy or in
capacity building activities.
Recommendations and Considerations
When setting up community-based management
and co-ordination structures, and establishing
new partnerships, shared responsibilities between
central, local authorities, public and private
stakeholders, and the local communities, it is
crucial to:
1. Create the necessary human infrastructure
to steer and guide the governance and
co-ordination structures by recruiting co-
ordinators for the LSG and NSG.
NSG co-ordinator
The tasks of the National stakeholder group co-
ordinator include:
supervising and supporting the elaboration
of the deliverables produced by the Project
Implementation Unit;
assessing the existing national and local
skills in order to assess required professional
assessing needs for professional capacities
and developing capacity development
activities [cf. 3.7];
drafting the Memorandum of Understanding
of the NSG [cf. 3.6];
ensuring the follow-up of an integrated
approach involving all relevant stakeholders.
LSG coordinator
The tasks of the Local stakeholder group co-
ordinator include:
supporting the identication and selection
of the stakeholders to be involved in the LSG
through a stakeholder analysis together with
the PIU [cf. further below]
supporting the acceptance by the local
authorities of the involvement of the
identied stakeholder in the LSG;
giving practical advice with regards to the
development of LSG;
setting up the working programme for the
LSG in co-ordination with the PIU’s project
management team;
identifying the needs and priorities of the
keeping the LSG active and facilitating
dialogue in the LSG, making sure that each
voice is heard to support and contribute to
the process;
facilitating communication and co-operation
between the stakeholders, in particular
between the public institutions;
maintaining contact with project leaders;
supporting capacity building eorts;
disseminating and communicating infor-
mation about the project to LSG members;
developing a specic communication stra-
tegy toward the civil society.
For guidelines on bringing together city stakeholders,
facilitating collaboration in the analysis of urban
challenges and the co-creation of solutions, download
the URBACT LSG Toolkit. It provides tools to support
cities in setting up and running a LSG and in producing
an integrated local action plan.les/urbact_toolkit_
Typical activities of the LSG involved with the
COMUS projects include: regular meetings and
workshops; exploratory walks; questionnaires and
photographic surveys.
2. Set up a project management team for the PIU,
to act as the core group for the development
of the strategy, based on the input provided
from the LSG and the community activities.
Recommendations on running a Local Support Stakeholder Group
The stakeholders should benet from participating in the LSG;
Do not raise expectations: clarify at the outset the rights and duties of the LSG; be open and transparent;
Build trust between the involved stakeholders;
Invite no more than 15 people to be involved, any more and the groups work is detrimentally aected. If needed,
involve more stakeholders in subordinated groups or an open forum;
Bring public and private stakeholders with dierent needs together and help them understand each other’s needs;
Do not duplicate structures: if a comparable body exists, use it. Add activities and stakeholders if needed;
Establish durable structures: structures should continue after having elaborated the strategy e.g. using the LSG for the
implementation and monitoring of the strategy and the dened regeneration projects;
Have a skilled ‘neutral’ moderator in charge of the LSG, accepted by all partners, his/her task will be to animate the
LSG members to contribute to the development of the Strategy and organise the work of the LSG;
A successful LSG requires time and thorough preparation;
Ensure the city council and mayor support the LSG. The direct involvement of the mayor in the process might be
essential to receive political and nancial support;
Involve the stakeholders according to their needs and interests;
Take opinions and feedback of the key stakeholders seriously and try to integrate their comments into the Strategy;
Raise stakeholder-awareness concerning the signicance of cultural heritage for the development of the area. Only
then will they take the best care and feel ownership of this “resource”;
Plan sucient time for the LSG: the process of involving a wide range of stakeholders and incorporating meaningful
reaction to their concerns is essential but requires time;
Involve stakeholders from the very beginning: Involving stakeholders from the initial stage of developing the strategy
is crucial to making them feel comfortable about the whole process and encouraging them to participate;
The involvement process has to be well organised in terms of structuring the aspects of the matter in discussion;
further it has to be transparent to generate enough interest and ability to come to conclusions;
Have a ‘project champion’ who represents and stands for the project in public and spreads the message of what is
happening to a wider community;
Let the LSG sign the nal version of the strategy and action plan.
Project management team
The tasks of the project management team should
be to:
take responsibility for the elaboration of the
technical documents [cf. 3.2 and 3.3] and
coordination and supervision of international,
national and local expertise in support of
it - quality control and validation [cf. Pool of
manage the Project Implementation Unit;
include the LSG in the development and
planning process as well as the organisation
of local events with partners;
facilitate dialogue between inhabitants and
public authorities (local and national);
facilitate the transfer of experience from
the project to local technical departments
(increase local competencies);
organise international and national expert
missions and study visits to transfer
competencies to local stakeholders;
organise public relation activities to
communicate the project and improve its
A key factor for success is the presence of a
professional facilitator at the heart of the project
management team. The project management
team should work together with international,
national and local specialists interacting closely
with the Local Stakeholder Group i.e. to develop
the technical documents [cf. 3.2 and 3.3]. A further
success of the PIU, has been its work, through
steering committee meetings and presentations
to the town council or public debate, in enhancing
the value of the dialogue between parties and the
quality of the participation of local stakeholders in
the debates. This has led to the adoption of a shared
vision for the future heritage-based development
of the town which is led by the locals.
3. Engage professionals in the organisation and
implementation of community engagement
activities to ensure that the voices of the
people concerned are heard and can inuence
the result of the Strategy. Typical activities
involving the communities taking part in the
COMUS projects have included:
periodic sessions to inform the public
and seek their opinion;
heritage walks (Gyumri, Goris, Soroca);
workshops with local children and
teachers discovering the town (Mstislav);
interactive workshops with young people
and children at local museums (Dusheti
and Chiatura);
urban sketching workshop and
competition (Dusheti and Chiatura);
children’s painting and exhibition
programmes on local radio and TV (all
COMUS towns);
outreach and information sharing
through social media (all COMUS towns);
collection of heritage related stories
through local libraries (Soroca);
competition for children “cultural
landmarks” (Soroca);
organisation of activities and promotion
of the COMUS project during the
European Heritage Days celebrations;
photo exhibition “COMUS: towns of living
history” (Zhovka, Lutsk, Pryluky).
Regional training in Chișinău, Republic of Moldova
4. Select a variety of experienced international,
national and local experts with dierent
technical and organisational skills to support
the community-based development of the
Strategy. This requires expertise in the elds
management and governance;
urban and trac planning and cultural
capacity development.
COMUS Practice examples
COMUS Armenia has made the most of its resources by bringing together community activists, business owners and
local authorities around their heritage. According to the COMUS team, the synergy and energy between these parties
will inuence decision-making processes in the long-term, and this will improve urban development for sustainable
heritage management.
In the Republic of Moldova, COMUS has mobilised community members to be actively involved in the process of urban
strategy-making. Promotional and community-involvement activities have taken place in order to increase the impact
of the technical steps. Conferences, public debates, local presentations, academic research and outdoor entertainment
events have been organised, involving a wide range of stakeholders, who were mobilised at both local and national
levels. The process has fostered more open dialogue and awareness about the importance of local heritage among
communities. Specic activities have included heritage walks and creative competitions, organised to promote the value
of heritage and local history among the younger generation.
The COMUS project in Georgia has been very productive and enriching throughout its implementation. Local
governments have been empowered by the process and their motivation has increased, the mobilisation and awareness
raising of local communities, and the growing interest of national and international donors are the clear and positive
trends created by COMUS. Small towns are gradually gaining recognition, attention and respect. Some of Chiatura’s
industrial heritage sites have already been listed as cultural heritage monuments, and preliminary agreements have
been reached on the possible rehabilitation of these public assets with national government and donor organisations.
The COMUS process has prompted the local government in Dusheti to compile concrete plans for setting up a
conference, arts centre and other public facilities. COMUS acts as an engine for generating ideas and as a platform for
bringing together partners from dierent levels and disciplines. It demonstrates that anyone can contribute to local
development – it opens up new ways and means for this to happen.
To support this, international, national, regional
and local institutions should encourage the
following within their programmes and policies:
allocation and careful selection of experienced
and skilled persons for the co-ordination of
the LSG and NSG.
allocation and careful selection of a condent,
experienced project management team for
the PIU, as the core group for the development
of the strategy, supported by an expert pool;
link the provision of funding with the set-up of
a horizontal and vertical governance structure
including direct community involvement
3.6 Thorough preparation of the
development process
In order to eectively support the principles
mentioned above, the following steps should be
taken into account:
development of a feasible and imple men-
tation-oriented Strategy;
thorough analysis of the current cultural
heritage and urban situation;
community-based set-up of a vertical and
horizontal governance system.
In order to achieve successful community-based
urban heritage-led development it is crucial to
prepare these important steps and components
thoroughly, in particular by:
convincing national stakeholders, with
authority over municipalities, and the Mayor
and Municipal Council, to follow and apply
the COMUS approach as described in [chapter
2c] and the principles [chapter 3] prior to
beginning the process;
establishing the governance system of the
COMUS approach.
Whilst this preparation may be complex, it is of
crucial importance to the success of the whole
process. Based on the lessons learnt during the
COMUS project, the overall participative and
strategic process should be planned by developing
and agreeing the following documentation:
1. Road Map to dene the timeframe,
milestones, the most appropriate strategy
to involve the local political level, the
best adapted strategy to ensure citizen
participation, information about members of
the LSG, all details related to the content of its
meetings and the way external partners and
experts can be integrated into its work;
2. Memorandum of Understanding to
determine general objectives, action plan,
time schedule, budget, set up of co-ordination
and management structures, as well as the
roles and responsibilities of the various
3. Methodological guidelines for the
application of the COMUS approach. This will
act as a guideline for the NSG and LSG and the
Joined strategy planning work sessions in Ukraine
This should be accompanied by a declaration
of mayors to follow up the continuous local
Recommendations and Considerations
A thorough preparation of the development
process requires the:
identication of relevant stakeholders who
should be integrated in the process and
communities that are aected;
analysis of communication channels, forms
and platforms;
creation of a realistic time-frame;
necessary formal and informal decisions are
taken to start the process;
necessary skills and knowledge, as well as key
persons, are in place throughout to drive and
steer the process;
before starting, communication of the
COMUS approach to national and local
decision makers (head of responsible national
ministry, mayor, city council) i.e. through
presentations, debates and the adoption of
specic local solutions. Raising the awareness
about the potential opportunities cultural
heritage can provide is of utmost importance;
take the necessary time to set up the community
based governance structure [cf. 3.5]. Sucient
time should be allocated in order to include all
relevant parties and to ensure the sustainability
of management practices in the long run.
To support this, international, national, regional and
local institutions are encouraged to incorporate
the following aspects into their programmes and
a detailed discussion of the Memorandum of
Understanding. The MoU must be ocially
adopted by the responsible representatives of
the national and local level and the involved
funding organisation;
similarly, the Road Map should be discussed
and agreed on by the institutions and persons
involved in the LSG. It should be presented in
the city council;
methodological guidelines that provide
relevant templates and practical
recommendations for developing a
community based Strategy following the
COMUS approach should be prepared.
These should be presented to the involved
stakeholders at the very beginning of the
process, in particular to the LSG and NSG
co-ordinators and the project management
team, to ensure that they all fully understand
the purposes and procedures.
“After extensive community consultation, local
authorities have been re-considering possibilities for
investment in the city of Chiatura. The municipality
and representatives of the LSG have indicated that
the COMUS project played a major role in interpreting
and redening heritage from the perspective of local
development”. (Rusudan Mirzikashvili, COMUS Project
Ocer, Georgia)
3.7 Capacity building of the team in charge
The COMUS approach [cf. 2.2] requires the
involvement and coordination of a variety of
stakeholders from national to local level [cf. 3.5]
as well as the qualied elaboration of technical
documents [cf. 3.1-3.3].
This demands certain skills and experiences, which
the responsible stakeholders do not always possess
for the implementation of such an approach.
In order to ensure the successful application of
the COMUS approach, accompanying capacity
building activities are of great importance for the
people in charge of the COMUS implementation
process, in particular the members of the PIU
(NSG and LSG co-ordinators, project manager).
These capacity building activities aim to build-up
and improve local capacity (knowledge and skills)
to develop and implement community-based
heritage revitalisation projects and to reproduce
the process in the future.
Skills gaps should be identied as regards the
participative elaboration of cultural heri-
tage-led reference (development) plans and
related technical documents;
the management of cultural heritage re-
sources and urban development processes
involving communities in improving their
quality of life;
communication of project activities and
project and nance proposal writing and
pitching to donors.
Training events and exchange activities should be
organised accordingly.
One aspect of these capacity building activities is
the identication and illustration of opportunities
of a cultural heritage-led urban development and
how the objectives of the strategy can be rolled
out into the community through ancillary events
and activities.
In COMUS, this was achieved through orga-
nisation of regional workshop, i.e., the COMUS
methodology (Regensburg and Soroca) urban
planning (Pryluky), heritage management
(Gyumri), housing and nance (Sibiu).
Recommendations and Considerations
International, national, regional and local
institutions should include the following with their
programmes and policies:
1. organise an initial information and training
event to clearly, set out the tasks, explain the
methodology and test it (summer school);
2. build capacity throughout the project, if
possible, through exchange visits to towns
with similar challenges and approaches i.e.
excursions; expert and study visits, peer
reviews, etc.;
3. link towns with larger exchange networks;
4. identify suitable training experts within the
pool of experts [cf. 3.5].
“Increased capacity development activities, through regional and local workshops, expert visits, study visits and ongoing
consultation sessions within and between countries, have been fruitful in understanding better the potential in heritage
management and the essential elements needed for the eective use of these resources. COMUS played an important role
in building the capacity of local and national experts. It is the rst time that Moldovan experts have produced integrated
urban policies, and the collaboration and dialogue between dierent levels of authorities and the interdisciplinary ap-
proach was innovative”. (Dumitrița Efremov, COMUS Project Ocer, Republic of Moldova)
Walking tour in Sibiu, Romania, guided by representatives of Heritas
Foundation, to discuss heritage preservation techniques and par-
ticipatory methods to work with heritage housing owners in Sibiu
town centre.
COMUS Regional Workshop no. 6 in Sibiu, Romania on the topic
of scenarios on housing rehabilitation and funding possibilities in
community-led urban strategies.
Site visit in Alma Vii, a small heritage rich village in central Romania.
The Mihai Eminescu Trust, a foundation dedicated to the preserva-
tion of saxon heritage in Transylvania, shared their practices and
lessons learned with regard to mobilizing the community to support
the rehabilitation and activation of large heritage sites – in this case,
a fortied saxon church of XIV century.
4. The Main Messages
from COMUS
The COMUS programme has served as a valuable
learning opportunity for all involved, generating
insights into the challenges of countries in
transition in eastern Europe, as well as showcasing
overarching tendencies in heritage work.
Main message 1: Heritage as part of a
The COMUS experience has generated an
understanding that urban heritage is not an
element on its own, but is part of a system. This
is nowhere better seen than in countries in
transition, where societies and underlying political
and economic frameworks have gone through
dramatic changes over the last few decades.
In the town of Mstislavl, the shrinking population
left the secondary school with not enough pupils
for it to continue its activity. A spacious heritage
building remains, but whom is it to serve, once
rehabilitated? The Stansia building used to be
a stopover station on a military road across the
Caucasian Mountains. Subsequent geo-political
changes and investments that favoured other
routes meant that this road is no longer used. The
beautiful, though neglected, building now hosts
a museum, with few visitors. Will its rehabilitation
lead to more people visiting the town of Dusheti?
Faced with this kind of reective question,
stakeholders involved in COMUS were challenged
to assume an enhanced denition of heritage
as an integral part of regeneration planning,
whereby their town needs and opportunities,
with or without a built/tangible dimension, are all
interlinked and interdependent.
Abandoned high school building in Mstislavl, locally referred to
as the Gymnasium
Main message 2: Heritage as a means to an
end, not an end in itself
COMUS has served as the context for those involved
to question their perspectives on heritage. It
asked towns to build on their heritage resources
for generating socio-economic development,
thus framing heritage, not as an end in itself,
but rather as a means to attain broader goals.
This subscribes to a wider tendency in heritage
practice, moving away from a rather conservative
and narrow approach whereby heritage ought to
be preserved, to redening heritage as a means
towards an enhanced quality of life.
Preserve – for whom? Rehabilitate – for what
purpose? Reconstruct – with what impact?
These are questions that architects, conservation
experts and historians cannot answer alone. As
perspectives on heritage go beyond preservation,
a change of roles and a demand for increased inter-
disciplinarity is also required. In a conventional
approach, authorities and experts were the sole
retainers of the mandate to decide what should be
done. As roles are shifting, conventional decision-
makers face challenges in coping with this change.
The expertise needed in working with heritage is
also shifting, from physical only, to process also.
Main message 3: Heritage as a shared
asset of a community
Transforming meetings from monologue to
dialogue and active engagement has been a
long road for many of the COMUS local teams
working with the community. With a longstanding
background of centrally planned economies
and decision-making processes, citizens lack
the experience and self-condence to formulate
and express their opinions. The COMUS context
illustrated that, throughout eastern Europe, a
new type of dialogue between communities and
authorities is being developed. Communities
are gradually increasing their awareness and
engagement in taking part in the process of
envisioning, preserving and promoting heritage,
as a shared asset.
At the same time, shifting identities and community
proles imply that there is a coexistence of
dierent narratives with regard to heritage sites.
Preservation and promotion of such sites implies
a considerate assessment of their signicance and
status, for dierent constituent groups.
Main message 4: Heritage as an
incremental perpetual process, not a one-
o investment
Heritage often comes hand in hand with a sense of
overwhelming responsibility towards something
that may exceed community resources (nancial,
technical, know-how etc.). As most rehabilitation
projects designed under COMUS have 7- or 8-digit
euro budgets, this has also created fears that they
will either be impossible, or end in disappointment
through failed expectations. COMUS has set the
context for participants to understand ways of
working towards such projects. Approaching large
heritage sites with complex needs requires the
dismantling of such endeavours into smaller, more
manageable, steps.
Consistency and perseverance is what the site
visit to Alma Vii village showed the COMUS
participants. A village of only two hundred people
having to care for an immense fortication may
seem to be a lost cause to start with. However, the
community embarked upon this challenge in small
steps: a bridge rehabilitation, facades restorations,
setting up a communal stove to welcome visitors,
xing walls etc – all these accomplishments had
a positive eect and increased the capacity for
collective action. Other restoration works are
planned to follow, and they will benet from an
established and successfully tested framework of
community groups and support organisations.
Moreover, managing such heritage sites, during
and after the implementation of various works,
equally requires resources, time and eort.
Responsibility in such a process is shared amongst
all community members, and is not a top down
mandate, as everyone can play their part in
cultivating the memory of place, contributing to
maintenance and promotion, and beneting from
its presence.
The story of small steps towards sustainable heritage preservation
and management, shared in Alma Vii by the Mihai Eminescu Trust
Main message 5: People and heritage –
a winning combination
COMUS as a programme worked with people
and heritage together. While navigating through
a complex programme methodology, the main
focus was not on tasks and deadlines, but the
learning process and personal enrichment of
those involved, as technical condence and trust
Great examples of heritage practice all stem from
networks of people and organisations of reective
thinking, integrated perspectives and committed
behaviour. For this reason, the eort of following
“Through the mobilisation of the community
stakeholders (especially those involved in the Local
Stakeholders Group), the community has become
proud of the results, strengthening the condence in
its capacity to take initiatives and to decide on what
is good for the community, and nding a way to build
partnerships with external contributors, especially for
the implementation of the priority interventions”.
(Alla Stashkevich, COMUS Project Ocer, Belarus)
A marker for recording evolution of structural cracks on the walls of the fortied church of Alma Vii.
While restoration works are, for now, exceeding the capacity of the community to undergo, the condition of the fortied church is strictly moni-
tored and maintained.
the COMUS stages was of even greater value than
the set of concrete deliverables produced, as it
generated personal discoveries and learning for
those involved that may now trickle down, slowly
but surely, into their day-to-day practice.
5. Programme Synergies
and Follow up
The COMUS project is an extension of a continuous
process where participating countries build on
their capacities in working with cultural heritage.
The EU/CoE joint project has contributed to
the practice with innovative and participatory
methodologies and has identied good practices
through pilot actions. Therefore, the conclusion of
the COMUS project is a milestone in stimulating
this process; potentially setting a pattern for
continuing local stakeholder group meetings and
maintaining the network at local, national and
international levels.
It is therefore logical that the COMUS metho-
dology be embedded in municipal opera tional
practice as a next step.
The dynamic which COMUS Pilot Towns have set
up should be enhanced through concrete actions
in order to capitalise on the results of the COMUS
project and ensure that its benets are sustainable
for the participating towns and the COMUS
countries as a whole.
To this eect, a series of actions have been
proposed whose remit goes beyond the COMUS
project. Other towns, national authorities and the
COMUS network are encouraged to get involved.
Follow up recommendations for COMUS
participating stakeholders
Continued advocacy at local and national
level with relevant authorities to integrate the
results of COMUS into all appropriate policies,
legal framework improvements and funding
Share good practices with other interested
towns, particularly those who were identied
and participated in the Kyiv Initiative PP2 project;
Maintain the COMUS towns’ network and
share existing knowledge and human
COMUS study visit to Bamberg, Germany in July 2016
Establish links with the Faro Convention
Action Plan as well as Strategy 21 (European
Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century,
launched in April 2017):
Seek synergies with other programmes and
networks including ‘Mayors for Economic
Growth Programme’ and ‘Culture and
Creativity Programme’;
Disseminate COMUS promotional videos
through social media, websites and other
Encourage the members of the COMUS
pilot towns’ network to be used as human
resources. These professionals include project
ocers, project managers, a local expert pool
and local stakeholders groups;
Use COMUS town portfolios as programming
instruments, as they oer extensive docu-
mentation on the project methodology and
tools; allocate a small-scale budget from
local authorities and relevant Ministries to
disseminate COMUS outcomes and principles;
Lobby the EU to consider the methodology
and outcomes of the COMUS project in
setting up the standards for the European
Neighbourhood Instrument – Eastern
Partnership funding scheme 2018.
Suggested short-term follow up actions for
post-COMUS project
Travelling exhibitions of the results of the
COMUS project, accompanied by infor-
mation sessions for the dissemination of
methodology, to be nanced by the Ministries
of Culture and hosted by local municipalities;
Follow-up event, to be nanced by the
Culture and Creativity Programme; a
workshop focusing on project proposals with
an integrated approach and other practical
Faro Convention Labs;
Production of a technical publication on the
COMUS project for practitioners;
Joint actions among COMUS network
members on ongoing network building and
capacity development in the region;
Identication of community-based initia tives
in-line with the Faro Convention principles
and criteria and joining the Faro Convention
While regional network actions are encouraged,
the Council of Europe Secretariat remains available
to respond to individual requests for technical
assistance from its member states.
“COMUS has clearly demonstrated that citizens
should not only be informed, but also encouraged to
participate in the development of strategies and in the
decision-making process. Several representatives of the
communities in Soroca have repeatedly expressed their
enthusiasm about the COMUS approach. For many,
it was the rst time they had been invited to the same
table with the authorities and asked about their needs
and interests. This helped them understand that as a
community they have an important role to play in the
development of the city and also helped to strengthen
solidarity and the sense of initiative. Some people
rediscovered their city, its history and heritage during
the organised tours and creative activities”.
(Dumitrița Efremov, COMUS Project Ocer, Republic
of Moldova)
6. Resources for Replication
and Follow-up Projects
COMUS was conceived as a methodology to build
capacity and awareness of stakeholders involved.
This methodology, described above, has been re-
duced to a series of resources than can be used,
either for scaling-up work in COMUS participating
towns or replicating COMUS in other towns.
The resources for replication and scaling, generat-
ed by COMUS, are threefold. They are further de-
scribed below:
(1) Programming tools, representing exam-
ples of know-how which describe stages, ap-
proaches and actions implemented;
(2) Resource persons involved in the process,
who may contribute to further development
of the work in similar endeavours;
(3) Funding preparedness resources, consist-
ing in better knowledge and expectations of
donors and other funding sources, and port-
folios of ready-to-fund mature projects.
Finally, the network of towns represents a resource.
Sharing experiences, collaboration and joined-up
action amongst COMUS towns is expected to con-
tinue or expand to new areas of work.
Note that, when tapping into COMUS resources
for replication, it is important to understand that
the application of each tool is largely context de-
pendant. While there are many similar challenges
faced by small and medium-sized historical towns
in eastern Europe, each local community has its
own set of particularities, cultural features and
wider region-specic factors, which all require cus-
tomized approaches and in-depth understanding.
(1) Programming tools
During all stages of COMUS, teams involved had
access to a series of guidelines describing meth-
odologies and created detailed analysis, strategic
planning and project design documents, all lead-
ing to a mature ready-to-fund project portfolio.
The full portfolio of these resources is described
Presentation on emerging donors in eastern Europe, by UNDP
Regional Oce for Europe and CIS, at the 6th Regional Workshop of
COMUS. This is part of a wider set of resources shared with COMUS
stakeholders with regards to funding opportunities and approaching
“I think the CoE/EU needs to carry out long-term and
multi-stage capacity building projects to enhance
multi-disciplinary expertise on local and national
levels, which can be spread and have a multiplica-
tive eect on local community actors through the
participative instruments that COMUS successfully
implemented between 2015 and 2017”.
(Sarhat Petrosyan, COMUS Project Ocer Armenia)
Title of document / tool Purpose of document / tool
A. National level
Heritage Assessment Report Outlines the present situation and capabilities concerning the protection and
management of the heritage in the respective country, with particular reference to
small- and medium-sized historic towns.
Self- Evaluation Report Impact assessment exercise stimulating stakeholders involved to reect on the
outcome of the project and lessons learned.
B. Pilot Town level
Preliminary Technical Files
Presents a series of standardized maps about the urban situation and processed
data, outlining town prole, specic strengths and weaknesses.
Reference Plan
Sets out a strategic framework as a basis for operational project activity in the Pilot
Towns, while drawing on the survey material and data gathered in the Preliminary
Technical File.
Preliminary Technical Assessments
(5 per Pilot Town)
Describes the background of each of the selected priority sites for intervention,
its technical status and requirements for its rehabilitation, including broad cost
estimates for each phase of proposed intervention, from initial conservation to full
Feasibility Studies (2 per Pilot Town)
Elaborates and presents the viability of the proposed rehabilitation pilot projects,
continuing and expanding the themes outlined in the Preliminary Technical
Demographic Mapping Based on the local statistical data, provides information about the community
members in order to ensure their participation and assess their needs.
Individual Brochure for each town Presents the town and the projects for potential funding bodies as well as
Promotional Film for each COMUS
Presents the town and priority project sites for potential funding bodies as well as
Self-Evaluation Report Impact assessment exercise encouraging stakeholders involved to reect on the
outcome of the project and lessons learned.
C. COMUS Project level
Description of Action Main project outline, describing objectives, methodology of work, activity plans
and governance structure.
Project Phase related Guidance
Documents (4)
- Inception Phase
- Planning Phase
- Project Phase
- Consolidation Phase
Guidance documents describing each methodology phase of COMUS to local and
national teams involved in implementation.
COMUS general brochure General overview of COMUS programme.
COMUS Project website Website of COMUS:, including database of most of the above-
mentioned programming tools and documents.
COMUS Publication for
Practitioners Publication to be issued at the beginning of 2018, describing COMUS methodology
to practitioners potentially interested in replicating the process for other towns.
Report on COMUS to Faro Country report on their plan on linking the outcomes of the COMUS project to Faro
Convention Action Plan and the Network.
Further helpful documents
URBACT Local Support Group toolkit:les/urbact_toolkit_online_4_0.pdf
Heritage as Opportunity – HerO Guidebook:le/10654/download?token=-
jUu7u8hU. The guidebook gives recommendations on best practice in preparing and implementing
integrated heritage management plans using clear steps that practitioners within historic towns can
follow to support the safeguarding and capitalising cultural heritage as a component of sustainable
urban development.
Documentation produced through COMUS regional workshops and training sessions, which can be
located at
Stencil art workshop for young people from Chiatura
(2) Resource persons
COMUS also provided the right environment to
identify a network of people working at dierent
administrative levels, civil society and other
stakeholder groups and improve their capacity.
A brief list of key people involved in the process
is provided below, according to each country
involved. These individuals can be contacted
to nd out more about the COMUS project or
to express interest in contributing to further
developments of COMUS.
Ms Gohar Grigoryan
COMUS National Co-ordinator Armenia
Deputy Head, Agency for Conservation
of Historical and Cultural Monuments
Ministry of Culture, Government House 2
3 Vazgen Sargsyan Str. 0010Yerevan
Mr Sarhat Petrosyan
COMUS Project Ocer
Council of Europe Oce in Yerevan
Mr Hovhannes Sahakyan
COMUS Project Manager Gyumri
Senior specialist of the Department of the
urban constructions and architecture
10 S. Grigoryan Str., apt. 16 3113 Gyumri
Ms Hayarpi Avanesyan
COMUS Project Manager Goris
Director, “Goris tourism information center”
22 Tumanyan Str., 3201 Goris
Ms Natalia Khvir
COMUS National Co-ordinator
Ms Alla Stashkevich
COMUS Project Ocer
Head of the Department of Preservation of Historic
and Cultural Heritage
Institute of Culture of Belarus, Ministry of Culture
11 Pobediteley Ave, 220033 Minsk
Ms Natallia Biskup
COMUS Project Manager Mstislav
25 K. Marks Str, 213 452 Mstislav
Ms Leila Tumanishvili
COMUS National Co-ordinator
Head of the Information Systems Unit
National Agency
for Cultural Heritage Preservation
5 Tabukashvili Str., 0105 Tbilisi
Ms Rusudan Mirzikashvili
COMUS Project Ocer
Council of Europe Oce in Tbilisi
Mr Beka Garibashvili
COMUS Project Manager for Dusheti
First Deputy of Dusheti Governor
27 Rustaveli Ave, 1800 Dusheti
Ms Khatuna Tsertsvadze
COMUS Project Manager for Chiatura
Coordinator of the Governor Representatives
in Chiatura Municipality
7 Ninoshvili Str., 5500 Chiatura
Republic of Moldova
Mr Andrei Chistol
COMUS National Co-ordinator
State Secretary
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Moldova
1 Piața Marii Adunări Naționale, 2033 Chisinau
Ms Dumitrița Efremov
COMUS Project Ocer
20 Moscova Bd, ap. 126, 2045 Chisinau
Mr Vlad Moldovan
Architect, ICOMOS Moldova
65 Maria Cebotari Str., ap4, 2012 Chisinau
Ms Valentyna Demian
COMUS National co-ordinator
Ukrainian Centre for Cultural Studies
21 I. Mazepy Str., Building 5, 01015 Kyiv
Mr Oleksandr Butsenko
COMUS Project Ocer
Ukrainian Centre for Cultural Studies
21 I. Mazepy, Building 5, 01015 Kyiv
Mr Mykhailo Kubai
COMUS Project manager
Deputy Director of the State historical
and architecture reserve, Zhovkva
Ms Olena Klak
COMUS Project Manager for Zhovka
1 VichevaStr., 80300 Zhovka, Lviv Region
Ms Oksana Shtanko
COMUS Project Manager for Lutsk
19 Bogdan Khmelnitsky Str. , 43025 c. Lutsk
Ms Tetiana Zots
Project Manager for Pryluky
Director of local lore museum named after
V. Maslov
Mr Philip Stein
COMUS Lead Expert
550 Vissenakenstraat, 3300 Tienen, Belgium
Mr Matthias Ripp
Organization of World Heritage Cities
World Heritage Co-ordinator
Stadt Regensburg, Planning and Building Division
1 D. Martin-Luther-Strasse
93047 Regensburg, Germany
Ad-hoc expert group
Ms Alexandra Kruse
Mr Dennis Rodwell
Ms Iris Gleichmann
Ms Marina Neagu
Council of Europe Secretariat :
Mr Hakan Shearer Demir
Division of Culture and Cultural Heritage
DG II Democracy, Council of Europe
1 quai Jacoutot, 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
(3) Funding preparedness
While the COMUS project did not foresee
funding for follow up project implementation, it
assisted pilot towns to go through a process of
understanding the needs and opportunities in
order to mature project portfolios, consisting in
both technical assessments and feasibility studies,
as well as promotional materials such as brochures
and photo-video stock.
In addition to this, the regional workshops provided
training and insights into donor approaches and
institutional funding, assisting local stakeholders
to prepare their fundraising strategies. Harvesting
funds from alternative sources has also been an
aim of workshop sessions and site visits, in an
eort to expose participating stakeholders to a
multitude of approaches to fundraising.
The list below sums up a series of donors and other
funding sources relevant for eastern Europe:
The list of possible funding sources in the region
can be found at:
Council of Europe:
Principle 1 - Fair Conduct of Elections,
Representation and Participation
Local elections are conducted freely and fairly,
according to international standards and
national legislation, and without any fraud.
Citizens are at the centre of public activity and
they are involved in clearly dened ways in
public life at local level.
All men and women can have a voice in
decision-making, either directly or through
legitimate intermediate bodies that represent
their interests. Such broad participation is
built on the freedoms of expression, assembly
and association.
All voices, including those of the less
privileged and most vulnerable, are heard
and taken into account in decision-making,
including over the allocation of resources.
There is always an honest attempt to mediate
between various legitimate interests and to
reach a broad consensus on what is in the
best interest of the whole community and on
how this can be achieved.
Decisions are taken according to the will of
the many, while the rights and legitimate
interests of the few are respected.
Principle 2 - Responsiveness
Objectives, rules, structures, and procedures
are adapted to the legitimate expectations
and needs of citizens.
Public services are delivered, and requests
and complaints are responded to within a
reasonable timeframe.
Principle 3 - Eciency and Eectiveness
Results meet the agreed objectives.
Best possible use is made of the resources
Performance management systems make
it possible to evaluate and enhance the
eciency and eectiveness of services.
Audits are carried out at regular intervals to
assess and improve performance.
Principle 4 - Openness and Transparency
Decisions are taken and enforced in
accordance with rules and regulations.
There is public access to all information that
has not been classied for well-specied
reasons as provided for by law (such as the
protection of privacy or ensuring the fairness
of procurement procedures).
Information on decisions, implementation
of policies and results is made available to
the public in such a way as to enable it to
eectively follow and contribute to the work
of the local authority.
12 principles for good governance
at local level
Principle 5 - Rule of Law
The local authorities abide by the law and
judicial decisions.
Rules and regulations are adopted in
accordance with procedures provided for by
law and are enforced impartially.
Principle 6 - Ethical Conduct
The public good is placed before individual
There are eective measures to prevent and
combat all forms of corruption.
Conicts of interest are declared in a timely
manner and persons involved must abstain
from taking part in relevant decisions.
Principle 7 - Competence and Capacity
The professional skills of those who govern are
continuously maintained and strengthened
in order to improve their output and impact.
Public ocials are motivated to continuously
improve their performance.
Practical methods and procedures are created
and used in order to transform skills into
capacity and to produce better results.
Principle 8 - Innovation and Openness to
New and ecient solutions to problems are
sought and advantage is taken of modern
methods of service provision.
There is readiness to pilot and experiment
new programmes and to learn from the
experience of others.
A climate favourable to change is created in
the interest of achieving better results.
Principle 9 - Sustainability and Long-term
The needs of future generations are taken
into account in current policies.
The sustainability of the community is
constantly taken into account.
Decisions strive to internalise all costs and not
to transfer problems and tensions, be they
environmental, structural, nancial, economic
or social, to future generations.
There is a broad and long-term perspective
on the future of the local community along
with a sense of what is needed for such
➔ There is an understanding of the historical,
cultural and social complexities in which this
perspective is grounded.
Principle 10 - Sound Financial Management
Charges do not exceed the cost of services
provided and do not reduce demand
excessively, particularly in the case of
important public services.
Prudence is observed in nancial
management, including in the contracting
and use of loans, in the estimation of
resources, revenues and reserves, and in the
use of exceptional revenue.
Multi-annual budget plans are prepared, with
consultation of the public.
Risks are properly estimated and managed,
including by the publication of consolidated
accounts and, in the case of public-private
partnerships, by sharing the risks realistically.
The local authority takes part in arrangements
for inter-municipal solidarity, fair sharing of
burdens and benets and reduction of risks
(equalisation systems, inter- municipal co-
operation, mutualisation of risks…).
Principle 11 - Human rights, Cultural
Diversity and Social Cohesion
Within the local authority’s sphere of inuence,
human rights are respected, protected and
implemented, and discrimination on any
grounds is combated.
Cultural diversity is treated as an asset, and
continuous eorts are made to ensure that all
have a stake in the local community, identify
with it and do not feel excluded.
Social cohesion and the integration of
disadvantaged areas are promoted.
Access to essential services is preserved,
in particular for the most disadvantaged
sections of the population.
Principle 12 - Accountability
All decision-makers, collective and individual,
take responsibility for their decisions.
Decisions are reported on, explained and can
be sanctioned.
There are eective remedies against poor
administration and local authority actions
which infringe upon civil rights.
Communities at the heart of
heritage governance
Principles for heritage based urban development
of small and medium-sized heritage towns in
countries in transition
The COMUS project “Community-led Urban
Strategies in Historic Towns” builds upon the
policy priorities of the Council of Europe and
European Union in the context of the Eastern
Partnership Programme (2015-2020),
targeting co-operation activities with
Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova,
Ukraine and Belarus. Based on
community-led processes, COMUS provides
each town with eective support to develop
an integrated, sustainable and participative
approach, by mobilising all relevant
stakeholders and incorporating the
protection, planning and management of
heritage resources as a real component in
urban renewal policies. It promotes
increased understanding of democratic
participation and respect for human rights in
heritage management.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading
human rights organization. It comprises 47 member
states, 28 of which are members of the European
Union. All Council of Europe member states have
signed up to the European Convention of Human
Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights,
democracy and the rule of law. The European Court
of Human Rights oversees the implementation of
the Convention in the member states.
The European Union is a unique economic and political
partnership between 28 democratic European
countries. Its aims are peace, prosperity and freedom
for its 500 million citizens - in a fairer, safer world. To
make this happen, EU countries set up bodies to run the
EU and adopt its legislation. The main ones are the
European Parliament (representing the people of
Europe), the Council of the European Union (represent-
ing national governments) and the European
Commission (representing the common EU interest).
This research doesn't cite any other publications.