Protecting our Cultural and Social Heritage – a new social enterprise

by Damaris Chaves

Preserving and restoring cultural heritage through social enterprises

Recent years we have seen numerous initiatives to protect the value of cultural and social heritage, whether tangible or intangible property, whether artistic, historical, architectural, archaeological, traditional, oral and other categories that may be cited. However the wealth of cultural heritage is large and the resources to protect it are scarce, innovative mechanisms need to be designed to ensure their long term preservation.

Globally, the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization, is responsible for safeguarding natural and cultural sites that are the common heritage of mankind. This is done through the World Heritage Center for natural and cultural heritage. Intangible heritage is protected through the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

At the national level, most countries have offices specialized in the rescue and protection of historical, cultural and social heritage. These organizations face major challenges. Their work is a race against time to prevent the loss of valuable cultural and social assets.  Money is never enough to rescue all that needs to be rescued, and institutions often have to fight against the passivity of a population that has learned to delegate to the government the responsibility for ensuring the conservation of their own heritage.

Fortunately, this situation is changing. Currently there are successful private initiatives to rescue social and cultural heritage in many countries. I refer to two sites that I visited recently on the island of Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean . The first is the “Maison de Zevallos.” After many years being closed, this heritage site was restored and opened to the public by a family who personally attends to visitors. The tour shows the architectural value of the building dating back to the early 1800s, but also rescues the story of a sugar estate whose labor was based on slavery.

The other initiative is the Museum of Costumes and Traditions of Guadeloupe ( Musee de Costumes et Tradicions ). Two retired teachers have translated their passion for history and textiles into a way of life. Accompanied by a well-versed guide and within a short time  frame you can take a tour of the history of  the traditional dresses, where fabrics, designs and accessories combine to give a complete picture of the evolution of the traditional costumes in the Caribbean islands.

These two projects have many common elements: families with a deep respect for their roots and traditions that have made a commitment to recover their identity, and preserve the values ​​and history of the island of Guadeloupe. But mostly, they have been enthusiastic entrepreneurs who did not hesitate to commit their private capital to create responsible companies, that generate the economic resources necessary to continue to protect their cultural, social and historical heritage. Thus these families have shown us that culture and history are basic ingredients to create successful businesses.

It is precisely this kind of responsible company, genuine, innovative and profitable that Planet4People promotes, a transformative business model that positively impacts the economy and society.