Uncovering Cultural DNA of Place, and Activating for Local Development.

The intensive advanced training course ‘Uncovering Cultural DNA of Place, and Activating for Local Development' took place this summer, offering a unique opportunity to enhance knowledge and to gain skills on cultural mapping techniques and culture-based development strategies. The immersive course included daily tours, learning seminars, and hands-on workshops where participants actively engaged in creating a solution for a place-related real-life local development issue. Read the full story shared by Tandem Turkey participant Lydia Drolia.

The moment the call for the CREATOUR/CES Summer School, ‘Uncovering Cultural DNA of Place, and Activating for Local Development’ was launched in Greece I received many calls from former Tandemians convincing me to take part in it. It took me only 5 minutes to decide and start filling the application.

Since I am sharing this story with you, it means that I was one of the lucky successful applicants and that’s how our journey begins.

Twenty-three inspiring people met together in Penela, a small city located in the Coimbra District to work together, learn from each other, following a step by step procedure to get to know the cultural resources of the place and activating it for local development. The main goal of the summer school was to “enhance knowledge and gain skills on cultural mapping techniques and cultural-based development strategies”. To do so, we followed a certain methodology including field trips, hands-on workshops and learning seminars.

What made this experience unique and very fruitful for me was the complementarity of the programme. Every day started with a tour, even though we spent only 5 days there, we had the chance to experience the spirit of Penela, by talking to people, collecting useful information from the place, listening to different opinions and personal stories.

After each field trip, we were asked to comment on what we have seen, touched and felt. It was our moment when we could freely share our observations on what really worked for us as visitors and what did not work in the city. Without even understanding it, we went on step further to the cultural mapping without any guidance, following the maieutic method of learning. The lecturers and the organizing team made that procedure look like a simple brainstorming moment but it was more than that, it was the first and maybe the most crucial part of a strategic plan to diagnose the needs of the place.

That’s how our days went by, our true experience of the place and our observations were the keys to fulfil the tasks we were assigned by our supervisors in order to deeply understand how mapping tools work in reality. Following this vivid learning method, we could easily keep up with the learning seminars. Our wonderful lecturers found the way to keep us stimulated and aware all the time even after having had a heavy lunch and walked under the hot sun.

We worked in teams and each one was assigned different tasks. Our final exercise/task was to present our proposals for improving the overall image of Penela to the stakeholders of the municipality, focusing on its cultural potential and strengths. According to their sayings, the results of our intense work were more than useful and unexpected. To sum up, that was our mission, to leave something behind, to do something about Penela and its people. We made the very first step, at first as visitors and then as professionals to point out what were the strengths and weaknesses of the place and ignite dialogue among the audience. For me this is called success, to raise awareness even within a small group of people, make them wonder, agree and disagree.

Last but not least, I am glad I met such inspiring and supportive people. I would love to thank each one of them making this summer school such a lovely memory. Special thanks to the organizing team for such a well-balanced programme and to Tandem for giving me the opportunity to take part in such inspiring initiatives.