Established in 1999, Västra Götaland Region is a politically governed organization which represents a separate political level between state and municipality and is the first region in Sweden. The Region, located in Western Sweden, has around 1.7 million inhabitants, distributed among 49 municipalities. This county, with capital in Göteborg and surface area of 25 247km², with the most diverse landscapes (urban and rural areas, green spaces, marinas and ocean sides, mountains), is historically characterized with agriculture, forestry, and exports industry.
Its political activities are led and coordinated by a Regional Executive Boards, consisting of 15 members, through several committees, focusing on healthcare, regional development, environmental issues and cultural affairs.
Although the main task of VGR is to grant good medical care and health conditions for its inhabitants, the organization also drives renewal issues in the area of cultural policy. Actually, the Västra Götaland Region works actively to strengthen free cultural life, associations and organizations and is furthermore the Swedish region that spends the most money on culture in the entire country.
Västarvet is a provider organization and a part of the Västra Götaland Region (VGR). It’s the largest regional nature and cultural heritage administration in Sweden, responsible for a lot of activities out in the region and several museums and visit centers.
The objective of Västarvet is to be a regional resource focused on preservation of built cultural heritage and historical items, crafts, archaeology, natural and cultural environment, exhibitions and teaching and provide support for projects and development. The basic idea is to make history visible and enrich the living environment for people’s future and sustainable social development and the key concept is regional responsibility, overview and knowledge, networking and collaboration.
Västarvet employs approximately 160 people working mainly to support the 49 municipalities of Västra Götaland in developing projects and processes concerning regional development with nature and cultural heritages as a driving force.
It runs several initiatives to strengthen cross-sectoral cooperation between regional actors, the municipality, private landowners and local stakeholders to promote local plans for developing 5-10 cultural places in Västra Götaland. A common aspect of those places is that the built cultural heritage could be the starting point for the regional inclusive, sustainable and innovation-driven development. One important project is “Fields of Creative Powers” where the spill-over effects of culture and cultural heritage is analyzed. Västarvet also has an ongoing cooperation with The Tourist Board of Västra Götaland concerning outdoor and cultural tourism.
The Halland Model was organized to make priorities of specific meanings and needs. These were of cultural and local identity, cultural history, employment, training needs and the overall importance of sustainable development. These specific meanings were discussed and negotiated during the feasibility studies, where key words for the success of conservation projects, as well as for cross-sector and multi-problem-oriented approaches, were formulated as “flexibility among stakeholders, trust for the partners, and transparent methods”.
How to cooperate in comprehensive projects was a new kind of experience for the representatives of the cultural heritage. The knowledge about the comprehensive structure in which the Halland Model was operating and the role of the historic environment in this context had led to the understanding of the importance of cultural heritage to regional sustainable development.
This scheme was based on approximately one hundred building adaptive reuse conservation projects, in which almost one-third of the construction workers in the region were trained in traditional building techniques. This meant a close collaboration between several public sectors, private enterprises, NGO’s and researchers. The cross-sectoral and trans-disciplinary network acted with a multi-problem-oriented approach, which implied that conservation of the built heritage played the role of a catalyst for job creation, training and education in areas of concern, increasing a region’s attractiveness, strengthening democracy, regional growth and sustainable development. In this context the concept conservation was promoted for probably the first time in Sweden in connection with strategic development.
In the Halland Model, each of the various cooperating public sectors had their own planning instruments with differing political perspectives and priorities. The planning instruments of these various sectors were joined together in a “trading zone”, or “feasibility studies” as it was called, in a process where it was of great importance that the conservationists were able to make themselves understood. A large number of actors entered the conservation arena, representing various types of power structures (e.g., County Administrative Board, County Labour Market Board, various local authorities, etc.), commerce and trades (e.g., Constructors’ Federation, and the Building Workers’ Union), and knowledge-oriented mechanisms (museums and universities), as well as citizens and their NGO organisations (e. g. historical associations).
In the Halland Model almost 100 historic buildings at risk was preserved and conserved/restored, to be reused, with traditional buildings techniques and traditional material. One third of the buildings were after completed restoration used by culture and creative industries.