It ‘obvious change of paradigm occurred in recent years regarding the evaluation of the potential social and economic terms of cultural heritage: the transition from a conception centered on the retention of a value-centered, testified in a clear from Faro Protocol of 2005 – promoted by the Council of Europe – which puts the equity at the center of community life that guard it, framing it as a fundamental resource for human development, precisely in the debate by introducing the concept of “active protection” of cultural assets, both tangible and intangible.

It is in this context the identification of the cultural heritage of one of the pillars of the social environmental and economic sustainability that fits the study Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe (Culture Programme of the European Union, p.297, Published On behalf of the Consortium by CHCfE the International Cultural Centre, Krakow June 2015), promoted by the European Commission and implemented by a partnership between some of the major networks and European institutions in the sector.

As noted by analysts as the level of Pier Luigi Sacco and Pasquale Persico, the report proposes an ambitious goal as it clear from the first pages: demonstrate the contribution of the cultural heritage as the main vector of the “Europe 2020” – the strategic pillar of the paradigm European-based cognitive capitalism and networks, which outlines a growth model smart, sustainable and inclusive.

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While it is now obvious that the cultural heritage is the central element of identity and memory, much less clear is the recognition of its importance in the production of value processes, a claim supported by the report through a series of good practices and concrete examples, quantity is probably unusual for a technical publication type of this cut, which shows how innovative even in stylistic terms, both graphical and writing.

At the center of the study there is a holistic approach, highly inclusive, which takes into account the four epistemic domains of sustainability: cultural, social, environmental, economic – an approach perpetrated by a minority (6%) of existing studies, which shows that the main contribution to the development of cultural heritage is not so much in the revenues generated by the flows to individual cultural events or the impact on the tourism sector, as in his contribution to the process of social innovation, in its irreplaceable the role of capabilities production in the most diverse areas of life: in relation to creativity and innovation, in the identity of urban space stitching capacity, up to the capacity of being imaginary engine, to the ability to be vector of urban and environmental regeneration – with particular emphasis on landscape category as a cultural asset.

Paradoxical that such evidence is necessary to prove even the myopic decision makers who should be the descendants of those who were, many centuries ago, the founders of the concept of landscape, writes about Salvatore Settis: “The origin of this civic and legal culture is owed to the Italian city that, from the twelfth century, they worked out a powerful concept of citizenship according to which the monuments of each city constituted a principle of civic identity and of emotional identification that corresponded to the very idea of being part of a well-governed community.”

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Another aspect highlighted is the relationship between cultural and creative spheres such as mutual enrichment factor. Ultimately the report highlights the virtuous circle between heritage and economy, especially in those contexts are able to put in value the cultural heritage – the material as well as that intangible – in the key of social innovation. In this sense, the report is full of best practices scattered throughout Europe in 24 states, a humus fact of reality that have been able to achieve significant results through educational and cognitive processes.

Other tangible results of this favorable climate (to paraphrase Richard Florida and his concept of creative communities) obtained with this approach are found in the branding of places, employment impact, the attractiveness of the local systems, the more efficient management of the housing stock, in creating more favorable to good practices, with a view to diffused laboratory of the share capital environments.

The ultimate meaning of the report is therefore to indicate to decision makers instruments and concrete practices to undertake a new operating behavior to recognize the evolutionary potential of the cultural heritage and open scenarios of choices related to this new understanding.

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Among the best practices which the report attaches greater importance there, a little ‘astonishingly, to Mechelen, a medium-sized city located in Flanders, including Louven and Antwerp, unknown to most people, but in a phase of great dynamism, and the last decade has seen, at least in cosider of Belgian society,changing its reputation radically from one of the many devices reality to one of the desirable places in which to live. The research question that the authors of the report are asking is, therefore, precisely if, behind this semantic re-positioning of this new identity, there is a renewed appreciation of their cultural heritage, which is definitely out of the ordinary, with 30 % of buildings subject to some kind of protection by virtue of their artistic and historical value: this testifying, as well as a part of the community sensitivities on these issues, even a beauty context out of the ordinary, though in a balance between vitality and protection – the proof is the multiethnic composition and sufficiently inter-population – balance thick sometimes tortuous, especially in small contexts, easily subject to type museify and gentrify drifts.

The overall objective of the focus has been to measure the effects of the cultural heritage in this context, in order to suggest future avenues of research and provide the city with strategic directions in this regard, in particular as regards the impact in the field of ‘ economy, society, culture and environment. The approach chosen was qualitative, through a method that examined a very varied series of indicators: surveys, in-depth interviews, observation through secondary data sources, all methods that have provided evidence of a link between socio-economic impact and heritage.

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The study has shown how effectively Mechelen is a city that is characterized by a strong interrelationship between urban, cultural heritage and population. The urban environment value can be recognized in a variety of ways: as a contribution to quality of life, as evidence to provide a sense of cultural identity and economic growth.

More generally, the case study was an attempt to provide a socio-economic impact assessment of the heritage: for sure we can say that there is a correlation according to which the assets can expert some effect on the economic, cultural sphere, social and environmental, without underestimating the difficulty of measuring accurately the extent of that relationship, probably still more research is needed in order to gain a more complete and detailed understanding of this link.

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