"Il Parco Archeologico della Valle dei Templi: un laboratorio per l’innovazione" is a contribution extracted from “Fondazione Symbola – Unioncamere, Io sono Cultura – Rapporto 2019".
The Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples is the reduction to scale of a complex territorial system: within the great attraction the cultural and tourist supply chain is activated, making it a place to be valued but also to enhance what lives outside.
This is what happens in Agrigento, where in 2017 the new management of additional services to culture was launched, signed by the CoopCulture Temporary Business Group, in synergy and unity of objectives with the Park Authority. A new experimentation ground for CoopCulture which also finds in this experience a way of expressing the transformative capacity of the cultural and creative enterprise towards its audiences, communities in a broader sense and the territories in which it operates.
The Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples is one of the most representative examples of the principle of the European Year of Heritage of "promoting innovative models of participatory governance and management of cultural heritage, involving all stakeholders, including public authorities, the sector cultural heritage, private actors and civil society organizations ”. It is therefore a case that is a candidate to be an international best practice: the sustainable model of the Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples, which involves an autonomous Park Authority, able to carry out cultural programming independently and in the long term, within a broad system of relations with local stakeholders 13. Able to include third parties, public and private, through specific partnership agreements, in the complexity of the uses and possible developments of the property, to expand and multiply the benefits that the park can produce. Among the public actors, there are first and foremost local actors such as the Sicilian Region and the Municipality of Agrigento, but also the University of Bologna, with which the research was started within the Insula III of the Hellenistic-Roman quarter. These are accompanied by private actors such as the FAI, which since 2011 has been involved in restoring the cultivation of the Kolymbethra Garden within the Valley; the Val Paradiso company, which takes care of the vegetative growth of the olive groves of the Valley; the Al Kahrub social cooperative, which in the Park has found a decisive supporter for its beekeeping project; the CVA Canicattì winery, whose Nero d'Avola produced in the vineyards of the temple of Juno belongs to the organic product line of the Park. Last but not least, the managing body that sees working, alongside CoopCulture, an RTI composed of Mondomostre, Skirà, Bluecoop, Ipacem and the Archaeological Cooperative, which in May 2017 inaugurated a new story at the Park, based on a few but clear guiding principles: quality and innovation, accessibility, participation, social inclusion, dialogue, interculturality, territory, with the utmost attention to the economic and organizational sustainability of the management commitment as a whole. These principles have translated into actions and actions into results.
At the Park, 90 new job positions have been activated, held by as many young Sicilians (selected out of 3000 candidates through 600 interviews), 63% women, 60% graduates, masters of 11 foreign languages overall. With a view to improving the reception of visitors, spaces have been redeveloped, sometimes designed from scratch, for this purpose: two new ticket offices with bookshop and welcome points and a third gate opened near the new excavation areas. In order to strengthen the link with the nearby Pietro Griffo Archaeological Museum, an innovative concept store was inaugurated in a single large agora at the Museum, where the new ticket office, welcome point, bookshop and cafeteria functions were set up. To the advantage of continuously improving accessibility, both at the time of entry to the site and within the archaeological area, where the "weak" public (motor disabled, children and elderly) can count on a shuttle service via electric cars, further upgrading for next summer.
On the other hand, the production chain operating on the territory in the broader sectors of culture and tourism has been activated and involved in the redesign of the commercial activities, so that the dining areas and the museum shop become real showcases of the territory. To date, 70% of suppliers come from the land of Sicily and enrich the store with product lines specially designed for the site in 80% of cases (ceramics, artisan costume jewelery, textiles). Both audience development and community engagement strategies deserve particular attention, in a new vision of a museum that welcomes to include and stimulate dialogue starting from heritage. Among the first are: the design of new multimedia tools to support the visit, both in preparation for the experience and within the site; the numerous information and communication channels dedicated to the public, schools and tour operators based on a modern integrated online ticketing system; an articulated plan of promotional activities that reached a database of 2800 recipients of periodic newsletters, obtained the appreciation of over 13 thousand fans and followers on social networks and supported, in 2017 alone, 184 event days that found a very wide public consensus , especially on the occasion of the Albe nella Valle.
Last but not least, an intense awareness-raising action carried out by Italian and foreign tour operators, mostly active in the North American, European and Asian markets, meant that 2017 ended with a very important result in terms of visitors : 860 thousand admissions, or 31.6% more than the previous year, which the following year nearly reached one million units. As for community engagement strategies, projects to strengthen the link between the Park and the different local communities have been completed with a view to intercultural encounter and social inclusion between people and realities of different origins. Among all, the project "The culture of hospitality". The welcome of the culture that has definitively promoted the city of Agrigento to a place of welcome and integration between peoples. 90 minors from Agrigento and as many unaccompanied migrant minors, hosted in the reception centers of the province, were involved in a journey of rediscovery of common origins and cultural heritages which, started in the nearby Griffo Museum, saw its third and last stop at the Temple of Concord, a symbol of peace between men.
Among the most noteworthy data, we point out the ability of the governance model, inclusive and cooperative, implemented by the Park, to affect the economic development of the territories and the welfare of the communities. Each euro of expenditure incurred by visitors had an impact on the territory of € 2.64, and employment of 2.13 new human resources activated in the territory for each resource employed at the Park. It is not difficult to recognize in this the contribution of CoopCulture which, in addition to being the main third party involved in the management, as a cooperative, has been able to count on a strong local roots and has placed quality and dignity of work at the center, mutuality and cooperative relations with the subjects with whom it came into contact, always looking, in addition to the business objectives, also at the development of the context and capitalization for future generations.
This is where the experience of Agrigento can really teach, in having not only recognized the importance of participatory governance but in having concretely identified a business model, the cooperative, and a system of relationships, that of the intersectoral territorial network , able to improve uses and amplify the impacts deriving from the management of a cultural asset. It is therefore an experience at the antipodes of the all-Italian practice of supporting culture by concentrating attention and resources on the protection of assets and their enhancement. If we think about the consistency and diffusion of cultural heritage in our country, it becomes evident that a paradigm shift in political choices, which gives centrality to governance models based on participation and administrative simplification, to measures for the innovation of skills, to cultural and creative cooperative networks capable of also producing social innovation in the territories, it could well keep us in step with the North European or US countries, making our heritage the engine of sustainable growth probably exponential.