Five to Follow: Sustainable Development

Over the past number of years SPI has reached out to become one in a network of other individuals and groups working towards economic development, sustainability and the preservation of cultural heritage. People Not Stones is featuring those who work towards goals similar to ours and who are proponents of the ideas behind our paradigm the world over in the area of Sustainable Development. Whether it’s through their promotion of ideas, the facilitation of partnerships or their direct action, the following five work to promote enduring development and to end global poverty. In the words of One Day’s Wages Founder Eugene Cho (read on to find out more about ODW):

“There are some incredible organizations and individuals doing amazing work…we are certainly not the first and thankfully, we are not the last to care about these issues.”

Kiva

Having just celebrated its eighth anniversary, Kiva is a non-profit organisation. By seeking lenders of small funds, this capital is used to catalyse local development and micro businesses, to alleviate poverty and most importantly to empower those in poorer socio-economic situations to improve their quality of life for themselves. Based in California, it operates in over 70 countries around the world. Click here for an explanation of the life of a Kiva loan.

In their own words:

“We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.”

The Milken Institute

The Milken Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think thank, aims to improve lives by advancing innovative solutions to promote prosperity and combat social issues the world over. Milken runs a research program with the main focus on the three areas of Human Capital, Health Economics and Regional Economics front and center. Milken operates with an extremely impressive array of experts which analyze issues facing policy makers in all fields today, in addition to decision makers who transform these ideas into action to have an impact globally. These experts and decision makers are convened in a number of events, perhaps most impressively at the Milken Annual Global Conference.

In their own words:

“Whether the issue is building a more sustainable energy future or ensuring that entrepreneurs can access the credit they need to grow their companies and create jobs, our objective is to advance solutions that create prosperity in all corners of the globe.”

Click here for a video of SPI Executive Director Larry Coben speaking at The Milken Global Conference in April. (Begins 42.40)

 

Katerva

Katerva is a not-for-profit ‘social venture’ which aims to ‘identify, evaluate and accelerate’ innovation and sustainability on a global scale. Named after the Latin term for crowd, it acts upon knowledge of a global network of experts to find and promote the greatest social innovations on the planet. Acting in many broad areas from ecosystem conservation, to human development, and gender equality to food security and urban design, Katerva has the entire span of global sustainable development covered. Katerva engages most with its community by offering an annual award for the newest ventures in sustainability the world has to offer.

In their own words:

“The world is full of remarkable world-changing innovations. Individuals and organizations are eager to find, invest and help the best of these innovations thrive and scale. Katerva connects the dots.”

 

Intelligent Travel Blog and the Center for Sustainable Destinations – National Geographic

Many of us are aware that increased footfall to high-profile archaeological sites can cause significant damage. National Geographic is known the world over for its investigation into everything related to the world and now its offering online provides not one but two ventures into the world of sustainability and economic development with a focus on travel. Intelligent Travel is a blog that not only aims to highlight some of the most spectacular places to visit on the planet (many of which are sites of archaeological importance) but also promotes a sustainable attitude to travel which enables us to preserve these gems for generations to come.

The Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) via National Geographic is another online initiative which promotes sustainable tourism and the oft forgotten destination stewardship around the world. Aside from their articles on responsible tourism and a web of expertise for both travellers and professionals, CSD runs a number of projects such as an initiative for creating ‘GeoTourism’ Maps and devising GeoTourism strategies for hotels and others alike. Both initiatives float the important message of responsible tourism and highlight that heritage sites are a non-renewable source that need to be interacted with in an appropriate way for their continued existence.

In their own words:

“We believe that to know the world is to change it. We’re on the front lines of travel that illuminates, celebrates, and preserves irreplaceable places.”

 

One Day’s Wages

Last, but without a doubt not least, is the non-profit group One Day’s Wages. ODW’s main goal is to facilitate partnerships in developing regions affected by extreme poverty. The organisation looks for donations of small amounts, typically each giver’s wages for a day of work which is then in turn used to stem sustainable relief in some of the world’s poorest areas. ODW strives to collaborate and partner with other non-profits such as SPI with similar goals and to make use of the collective opportunities therein to end global poverty. ODW only invests in sustainable projects which continue to be affective for future generations reaping the benefits of these donations.

In their words:

“It was seeing organizations and women, men, and children do amazing and arduous work to uplift themselves out of poverty – if only given respect, dignity, and opportunities. It’s by far more complex but it’s also very simple: We have the capacity to end extreme global poverty.”

 

Summer in Peru: Reflections from Student Volunteers on the San José de Moro Archaeological Program

By Alex Parody, Sarah Martini and Solsiré Cusicanqui

For the past three years, the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) has partnered with the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (PASJM), among others around the world, to help connect and involve communities in their local archaeological projects. These community projects benefit both the archaeologists and the local populations by encouraging interaction and discourse between groups that are often set at odds. 

During the summer months of June, July and August, the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (PASJM) brings students, professors, and researchers from all over the world together to learn about archaeological investigation in Peru. The site employs local workers to aid archaeologists and students with uncovering the prehistoric artifacts, architecture, and tombs.This year over 25 student volunteers from PASJM, including Alex Parody and Sarah Martini, had the opportunity to observe and participate in an SPI-directed program. 

A Peruvian Perspective

My name is Alex Parody and I am an undergraduate studying history and anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C.  I have had no previous experience in archaeology but have always had a deep interest in the past. This trip was my first foray into the field, and I have loved every aspect of it.  Because my mother is Peruvian I had the opportunity to travel to Peru twice before, but this trip has by far been the best. Although I grew up knowing Peruvian cuisine and customs, during the last five weeks I have come to appreciate the sheer kindness and welcoming attitudes of the people of San José de Moro, not to mention their terrific local cooking! They were always open to conversation and loved talking about their town, culture, and listening to what you had to say. Because of this, as well as being able to speak Spanish, I felt very connected to the workers at the site. I know that I am going to miss every single one of them like they were my best friend. They essentially “raised” the archaeologist in me – having taught me how to do everything from basic tasks like brushing and digging to measuring, surveying and identifying features in soils. They even helped me learn how to differentiate one kind of soil from another. I loved seeing every side of this town during the past five weeks, and because of this trip I am more confident than ever that I want to get involved in archaeology.

A New Experience

Hi! My name is Sarah Martini and I am a second year undergraduate concentrating in archaeology at Harvard University. Moro was my first chance to both come to South America and to see what being a field archaeologist entails. Having only traveled in European countries before, Peru was a completely new experience. While things were not always as I expected them to be, over the last five weeks I have fallen in love with the many faces of the Peruvian countryside, the Peruvian cuisine (I love Lomo Saltado!), and the local communities that opened up their homes to us. The people here were certainly more welcoming than many others that I have encountered in previous travels. Although I came to Peru having only taken a semester of Spanish, I found that my speaking skills quickly improved through attempting to maintain conversations with workmen from the town as I enjoyed learning about their home country from them. Over all, my experience at Moro has made me want to become an archaeologist, one involved with local communities, even more than before and has made me want to return to Peru.

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Sarah Martini, Second Year Archaeology Undergraduate at Harvard University 

The Field

The archaeology at San José de Moro provides a hands-on approach for any field school student. Conditions in the field could sometimes be hard under the hot Peruvian sun, since every day was different, it made every moment exciting as you never knew what could happen next.  The great thing about Moro is that it teaches students the basics of archaeology; skills that we could take anywhere is the world. But we would say that best of all were the valuable opportunities to excavate rich tombs – which for most archaeologists are only the stuff of dreams.  In addition, Moro facilitates daily interactions with the locals through the opening of their homes for home-cooked meals.  The women who cooked were very friendly and sometimes had their children bring out food for us.  We got to know the women’s personalities (and cooking!) in this way.  Because the site is right inside the community, it was very common for people to walk by the excavation units, and people always liked to look at what we were doing and often stopped to talk with us. There were plenty of times in the field when the local children came into the pits and helped (with permission of course) excavate features with us. There were endless opportunities for us to interact with the community, and the community loved to interact with us!

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A Mural Competition

This year, SPI contributed to community-field school interactions through a mural design competition at the local elementary school.  In collaboration with the children we created some fantastic artwork.  The children were very welcoming and loved to draw!  It was fun to compare favorite games, movies and music.  It was also interesting to see the depth of knowledge and pride the children had in their cultural heritage as descendants of the Moche.  They seemed to love having us there, and we hope that in the end we helped to encourage them to follow their dreams.  Working with them made us both want to get more involved with community projects – in Peru and elsewhere – and also offered us the clearest view of the types of influences the children of San José de Moro come into contact with as they grow up.  From movies to music to games, they are not much different from the children back home!  It is interesting to see, however, how important their local history is to them.  On the 28th of July, Peru’s Independence Day, some children put on a small show celebrating their country’s rich history, and others orated poems expressing love for their town of San José de Moro – from its vivid history and culture to its modern people and cuisine, there was nothing they couldn’t love more about their home!

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SPI Projects on the Northern Coast

Moro has another SPI-initiated project, where local ceramicist Julio Ibarrola produces replicas of Moche and Lambayeque pottery that have been found at the site itself.  He is currently apprenticing a few local teenagers and in this way hopes to continue the tradition of ceramic reproduction, as well as create a sustainable economy for the town. His replicas are found not only in Moro but also in the gift shops of museums all around Peru and through an online vendor, he gives his industry the potential to be a great source of income for those who become involved.

Before reaching Moro, we visited another SPI site which was the Chotuna and Chornancap Archaeological Complex. While this site has been recently made famous for its priestess burial found last year, the SPI has brought local women back in touch with their cultural roots through a weaving program.  It allows the community to connect with the archaeological site, provides potential revenue through sales at the gift shop, and provides the opportunity to learn about traditional methods of cloth production. During the last week of the field school, we had the opportunity to work with Moro´s weavers, who have also become involved with the help of SPI. The women were happy to answer any questions we had about the weaving process when they came to the field school at Moro.  They even allowed students to try their hand at setting up a back-strap loom. All of the students tried, but the women were much faster than any of us! Even so, they were very patient in explaining the process numerous times to the different students.

It is an unfortunate truth that throughout history many archaeologists have not involved themselves with local communities, maintaining a distance between their familiar group of colleagues and the residents who live among the site.  Even when they have made an effort to improve the economy of the community, such as building a museum, many projects have focused on increasing tourism without encouraging local involvement in the site. This tourism fails to help communities when gift shops lack locally-made artisan goods – it is important to include local artisan crafts (such as Julio’s ceramics or the weavers’ textiles) because without them, the money spent at the museum by tourists does not always stay with the community. This idea would not get far if interactions between archaeologists and locals are hampered by an invisible wall created by many differences ranging from socioeconomic to cultural, as well as by the absence of some great impetus for interaction.  Part of SPI’s mission is to provide that impetus.  Its efforts to increase local involvement in archaeological projects, by allowing locals to learn about their cultural heritage and how it can be preserved, are the first steps in bridging the gap between archaeologists and the local communities in which they work.

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Discovery of Moche Princess Tomb at San José de Moro

We have been following the significant coverage in the past few days of the recent discovery of a tomb belonging to a Moche Princess at San Jose de Moro, Peru.

Copper funerary mask SJDM

The discovery at the ongoing excavation was publicised on National Geographic and El Comercio this week and features and interview with excavators at the site describing the exciting finds including a copper mask (pictured above) surrounding the skeletal remains of the priestess.

San José de Moro is one of the earliest SPI sites to be preserved as a result of a grant to develop the local economy and this locus of cultural heritage. The ancient site was one of the most important cemeteries and ceremonial centers of the Mochica culture.

Photo of the Week: Bandurria Celebrates!

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Bandurria Celebrates!

As April 18th is International Day of Monuments and Sites we just had to post our Photo of the Week a day early!

This week’s photo shows the community of Bandurria celebrateing as work is now full steam ahead! Following our People Not Stones 2013 crowd funding campaign, we are well on our way to the construction of a communal artisan training and production centre  a local store and an “artisans’ quarter” in the form of a number of house-workshops, one for each family in the community. These workshops will be located adjacent to the archaeological site where four pyramids almost 5,500 years old are located.

Photo of the Week: Crowdfunding Successfully Completed and Work Begins at Chotuna!

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Support and Success

Our crowd funding campaign, People Not Stones 2013 has been an overwhelming success and raised a total of $49,203 surpassing our goal! We had over 100 generous contributors to our campaign to help us alleviate poverty and preserve the cultural heritage sites of Bandurria, Peru and Chotuna-Chornancap, Peru.

The SPI Team would like to extend a huge Thank You to everyone involved throughout the campaign for your contributions, sharing, tweeting and support. As a result of all of your generous contributions, work at both of these amazing cultural heritage sites is now underway. For all who contributed, your perks will be winging their way to you soon.

People Not Stones

Throughout our campaign we have tried to highlight SPI’s ‘People Not Stones’ mission by emphasizing those personally affected by SPI’s work in poverty-stricken communities to date. One such example, Julio Ibarrola, a campesino turned entrepreneur with SPI’s help in San Jose de Moro, Peru. We know that Julio’s success story will be replicated numerous times in Bandurria and Chotuna.

Press Coverage

The success of our campaign would also not have been possible without the recent press coverage our campaign has been getting. Read about SPI’s work and People Not Stones 2013 on Newsweek, in an article by Reuter’s financial columnist Felix Salmon and at the Huffington Post.  We were also honoured to be chosen among thousands of other Indiegogo campaigns and featured on the Team Indiegogo Blog.

From all of us at SPI, thank you again for your support throughout this campaign. We will be updating you soon with news from these two new project sites – watch this space!

2 Sites, 42 Hours and $5,532 to go!

Our People Not Stones 2013 crowd funding campaign is now less than 48 hours from its conclusion!

Over the past week we’ve witnessed huge support for our cause to alleviate poverty in the communities of Bandurria, Peru and Chotuna-Chornancap, Peru as we broke the $40,000 mark! Throughout the past few days alone our campaign has been chosen among thousands of others to be featured on Team Indiegogo’s blog. The last week of our campaign also saw an article in the Huffington Post featuring the story of Julio Ibarrola, an entrepreneur from the town of SPI’s past project site San Jose de Moro, who has transformed his life from struggling campesino to flourishing artisan. Our goal with People Not Stones 2013 is to repeat this amazing result in Bandurria and Chotuna and empower a new community of entrepreneurs like Julio.

With less than 48 hours and less than $5,550 to reach our goal, please help us with the final push by contributing, sharing and spreading the word about People Not Stones 2013. Join us on our campaign page at midnight tomorrow, Tuesday 26th March to see how we have done and where we go from here!

People Not Stones 2013 – Campaign Update

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We’re at Day 10 of our People Not Stones 2013 campaign. So far we have raised an impressive $16,500, that is 33% of our overall goal! We have made it this far with the help of 49 generous contributors who have donated towards our campaign.

We’re extremely grateful to all who have viewed our page, donated to our campaign and helped us spread the word about People Not Stones 2013.

We will continue to update you on our campaign’s progress throughout it’s duration so watch this space!

Context Travel Honors SPI and Shares its Mission of Sustainability

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Guest Blog Post by Context Travel's Paul Bennett

These past holidays, Context Travel honored SPI with its annual charitable gift. Context Travel is a travel company dedicated to sustainable solutions that preserve our shared global heritage for future generations. Our thanks goes out to Context for that honor and please read on to hear about another dynamic, growing organization interested in saving sites and transforming lives.

Sustaining Cities the Context Way

by Paul Bennett

In the mid 1990s I wrote an article for National Geographic Adventure about “ecotourism.” At that time, the concept of sustainability and sustainable travel—a broader, more inclusive idea that included consideration of cultural preservation and local communities—was nascent. The focus was on nature and fragile ecosystems. My piece zeroed in on an ecolodge deep in the Amazon jungle that was doing some interesting things with the local indigenous tribe. But, it was an ecolodge nonetheless. Everyone assumed that sustainable travel was about nature.

We’ve come a long way since then. I’ve moved on out of journalism (for the most part) to run my own travel company that considers sustainability a critical part of our mission. We don’t do nature.

Context is an urban walking tour company. We have bases in five cities (Philadelphia, London, Paris, Rome, and Istanbul) and run walks in 16 more, including Barcelona, Beijing, Boston and a bunch in between (not all beginning with B). When we first started out ten years ago we considered ourselves a rogue: Instead of employing guides, we’d work with scholars. Instead of leading huge groups, we’d limit ours to six. Instead of doing tours at all, we’d do something we called “walking seminars,” an in-depth alternative.

We still consider ourselves outsiders to the travel industry, which is partly why we’ve gravitated towards a sustainable approach. Everyone in our organization—from our nine full-time staff to the 300+ docent-scholars who lead our walks—care deeply about the cities where we live and work; and none of us want to be involved in anything that compromises their cultural integrity or human fabric.

But tourism is a compromise. There’s no way around it. Every year millions of tourists traipse through the fragile archaeological monuments of Rome or Istanbul, putting far more pressure on the physical infrastructure than local administrations can handle. But, there’s more to the story than the constant struggle to preserve and conserve the great monuments and artworks of Paris, Berlin, or Naples. As the tourism industry grows—and this year the industry outpaced global GDP—surpassing the automotive to become one of the largest industries on the planet, huge crowds also impact the local culture of these great places.

Take Venice, for example. On a given day in Piazza San Marco, when up to 5 or 6 enormous cruise ships can match the city’s entire population (60k), it can be hard to even see the paving on the ground, much less to connect with the piazza’s great history and cultural importance. The Piazza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; yet one learns more about tourism dynamics here than about Venice and its role in world history.

Against this backdrop, we decided to take action and started a sustainable travel initiative in 2007. Part of this program was a simple “greening up” of our business. We went through a popular sustainable travel accrediting scheme, and improved our carbon footprint, offsetting, and recycling. More significantly, we looked closely at our message to our clients, 10,000 of whom take walks each year. We invested in docent training on ways to engage these travelers around conservation and preservation, by making the lasting preservation of a site—or the struggle to preserve it—part of our teaching narrative. And we armed our docents with a set of sustainable recommendations for locally owned restaurants and shops.

We also started the Context Foundation for Sustainable Travel, a 501-c3 charitable organization, which invests in projects. We focus on two main areas: projects that mitigate the negative effects of tourism in our cities and projects to boost the positive impact of travel on society at large.

Over the past five years, we have invested in or run a wide range of projects related to the first set. These have included special visits to sites like the Stanton Street Shul on the Lower East Side of Manhattan or to the Chapel des petits augustin in Paris to raise money for their restoration. Our longest program—and the one that I’m personally most proud of—is an apprenticeship program that places young artisans in the workshops of older, establish artisans in Florence. The aim of this program is to help sustain those established workshops—some of which have been in business for hundreds of years—in the face of a changing economic landscape, fueled by tourism, in which it’s increasingly hard for artisans to find apprentices. Partial funding for this comes from an artisans walking tour that we run in Florence.

The Context Foundation’s biggest program, now entering its sixth year, is the Transforming Youth Through Travel scholarship that we cooked up with St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento, California. Each year, as part of this project, we send 1 or 2 high-achieving inner-city students to Europe for a 10-day cultural boot camp. We send them on walking seminar after walking seminar, engaging them with Ph.D.-level scholars for one of the most in-depth learning experiences out there and a life-changing adventure. The best evidence is the kids themselves, who produce pretty amazing projects about the trip, and then share these projects with their community back home. For most of these kids this is the first time we’ve left California, never mind the U.S.

In the end, our impact is small. We’re a tiny organization, and the Foundation runs on a shoestring. Yet, however incremental our work may be, it fits strongly with a love of the world’s cultural capitals and a recognition that if we stand by and do nothing they will literally drown in bus tours and tourist menus.