Conservation of Climate Change Endangered Cultural Furniture Industry Heritage in Damietta, Egypt

Lead Research Organisation: University of Salford
Department Name: Sch of the Built Environment


Climate change poses a major threat to cultural and industrial heritage conservation in Damietta. Not only does sea- level rise endanger significant heritage sites, but also puts at risk the conservation and continuance of cultural values and practices that form irreplaceable layers of history in this community, embodied in the local craft and value chain, as well as the industry's social capital and spatio-temporal networks. Critically, the interrelated tangible and intangible cultural heritage directly affect the city's resilience and economic growth.

This project aims to examine, quantitatively map and promote the cultural and economic resilience of Damietta, which is under threat from climate change and contemporary political decision-making that is insensitive to its socio-cultural heritage. By documenting and highlighting indigenouss knowlege and the tangible cultural heritage of this craft industry and its social networks, a strong case can be made to protect these practices and save the economic livelihood of the city's inhabitants.

The methodology adopts a mixed methods approach, comprising interviews, focus groups and stakeholder workshops, which verify a geospatial GIS network map based on field survey. The research utilises Network Theory, Social Capital Theory and Competitive Advantage Theory as a basis for the evidence to quantity Social Capital and visualise its resilience in relation to space. The project outputs include visual GIS mapping of Social Capital networks as cultural heritage, online interactive platform as a shared arena for furniture industry community awareness towards climate change mitigation, recommendations for inclusive decision-making for municipalities and local authorities, as well as building the case for Damietta's furniture industry network for recognition in UNESCO's ICH programme.

This project tackles several UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that relate to cultural heritage, economic growth/reform and sustainability in terms of climate action: decent work and economic growth; industry and innovation; sustainable cities and communities; and climate action (SDG 8, 9, 11, and 13). This offers an opportunity for data-driven sustainable development in Egypt, which is included in the ODA list on reporting for 2020 aid to mitigate against climate change.


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Heysham N (2021) Exploring social capital within Damietta's furniture industry value chain as a mode of Community Currency in International Journal of Community Currency Research

Description The data collection and engagement activities of the project have resulted in multiple conclusions that provide a multivalent understanding of the nature, patterns and significance of Damietta's furniture industry as an economic and cultural hub locally, regionally and nationally. The conclusions can be summarised as follows:
• The social capital network (trust, networks and norms) in Damietta is strong and highly effective compared to other industrial cities in Egypt and globally. This is a significant cultural asset that provides an economic advantage for Damietta as a hub for furniture-making. Provision of effective support of, and engagement with, this network would accelerate the economic flourishing of the city's industry, both regionally and internationally.
• Sustaining the social capital network in Damietta's furniture industry is essential for preserving the community's livelihoods and work-live patterns, and thus the cultural values of the community.
• The traditional furniture-making production patterns and craftsmanship skills have a unique heritage value that is worthy of conservation and protection.
• There are multiple variations that can be adopted within furniture-making, ranging from art-oriented product design to full commercial mass production. It is important to advocate for the full spectrum of these practices and support the local enterprises in adopting different stances that fit their individual scope, needs and business direction.
• It is imperative to encourage entrepreneurial mentorship and professional art agency to have a prominent role in the Damietta furniture industry. Such support would maximise the outreach of the products in both local and global markets.
• There is a need to develop distinct different and diverse lines of productions to suit different markets. A balance between arts and crafts direction and mass production movements needs to be upkept in the industry, to avoid the possible shift of Damietta's egalitarian industry into an elitist-oriented production.
• Matching design-oriented education to the local makers is essential to the future development of the craft skills and industry production to match the global market needs. This also encompasses educating the general public in Damietta on the importance of the crafts to their identity and daily lives.
• Digital support and provision of digital tools to makers in Damietta is imperative to counteract the community's pressure and fear of "new technologies". Advocating that hand-tools and digital-tools are both "instruments" for Damietta's furniture makers to innovate in their craft would provide a crucial driver for integrating new technologies into the industry.
• Exposure to contemporary designs that are popular in other places (Europe etc.) would be important as means to raise awareness of the furniture makers to external markets and what people are looking for.
• Makers working with young designers (for example through government-sponsored internships with Denmark, UK etc.) would keep the designs fresh, encourage two-way knowledge exchange and would implicitly 'educate' both sides in the needs, skills, etc.
Exploitation Route On-ground Urban Survey - an urban survey was conducted to map the connections and magnitude of the network of furniture industry in Damietta. Aspects such as trust, norms, contribution to the craft and production chain, and awareness of climate change vulnerability were key aspects measured through the survey.

Geo-spatial Analysis - the survey data of the social capital network was geographically mapped using GIS software, as well as IPCC sea level rise scenarios. This allowed for identifying the vulnerability and resilience of the city's industry network to climate change.

Stakeholder Engagement Workshop - a workshop involving different stakeholders in Damietta (decisionmakers, companies, SMEs, individual workers, NGOs in the industry) was held to communicate the project outputs from the survey and analyse the stakeholders' views on the challenges and opportunities for a sustainable future of the industry in Damietta.

Building Partnerships for UNESCO enlisting - conversations with UNESCO Egypt office, Damietta Governorate and the Egyptian Furniture Export Council have been fruitful and supportive in pushing forward the formulation of a case for support to enlist Damietta in the UNESCO's WHL.

Online Global Market Survey - to test the relevance of the traditional vs digitised production trends in Damietta, an online survey examining the international customers' engagement with different types of products from Damietta was conducted to aid the analysis of strategies for the future trends for the industry.

SWOT Analysis for sustainable strategies - all the previous methods and outputs have been utilised to formulate a comprehensive analysis towards strong strategies that capitalise on the strengths and opportunities in Damietta's industry. These strategies would provide resolutions towards sustainable economic growth of the industry in Damietta with considerations of the challenges of climate change, technological pressures, and limitations to design education.

Online Platform - the project aims to provide a digital space for sharing the project outputs and providing a space to maintain and grow the social capital network in Damietta using a digital solution as part of the integration of new technologies into the traditional industry patterns.
Sectors Creative Economy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description - Developing a case for the UNESCO WHL that would enable protection of the craft furniture industry in Damietta. - Possible change of the current directions of the craft industry to utilise and develop new typologies encompassing combination for digitalisation and craft-based skills. - Influencing an educational pathway for furniture industry that emphasises contemporary design in the region. Contact has been made with local universities with agreement to develop a furniture design degree (Horus University in Egypt). - Raising awareness of climate change adversaries among workers, agents, industry and local government. This has led to rethinking of spatial planning and network patterns. - Highlighting the importance of mentoring and agency on leveling up the craft industry and develop economically viable models to conserve the industry in Damietta.
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Support ongoing portfolio for Damietta's nomination for UNESCO Learning City Award
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
Impact The data and analysis on the magnitude and significance of the furniture industry network and craft has provided a baseline for the ongoing efforts for the UNESCO award, and building the case for UNESCO enlisting. This award with support from the project data would also provide a strong status of the industry and craft in Damietta, which would lead to further involvement and arising interest in the conservation and development of the heritage aspects of the city and industry.
Description The Manchester ESRC Festival of Social Science 2021
Amount £450 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2021 
End 11/2021
Title CRAFT Data Collection Repository 
Description This is a repository that comprises a collection of geospatial analysis of the survey data for Damietta's furniture industry social capital network, as well as images that describe the context and industry in Damietta, Egypt. For the GIS maps, the pins represent individual enterprises in the city and region. The different survey questions informed the layers of understanding of the network as related to the craft, values, and social capital dimensions (trust, networks, norms). The images folders represent a profile of the furniture industry patterns, practices and community culture in Damietta, Egypt. These include images of traditional and digitised craft practices, as well as the city and urban distribution of enterprises related to the furniture industry. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This database provides a measurable GIS identification of the social capital network of the furniture industry in Damietta. This has influenced decision-making and informed building a case for the conservation and development of the furniture industry and heritage crafts in Damietta. 
Description Center For Environment & Development For The Arab Region & Europe (CEDARE) - Egypt 
Organisation Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe
Country Egypt 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The team at Salford worked with CEDARE towards investigating the social capital networks and heritage craft practices in Damietta's furniture industry in Egypt. Salford University has provided the conceptual basis of the research methodology and data collection tools. Salford team has also provided the methodological design for the data collection tools (such as on-ground survey design and plan, and stakeholder workshop). Salford team has also provided the analysis, synthesis and reporting of outcomes following the data collection.
Collaborator Contribution CEDARE team has provided support in building partnerships in Egypt (stakeholders and decisionmakers), as well as facilitated the details of executing the data collections tools and methods in Damietta. CEDARE has managed the execution of the on-ground survey with enterprises in Damietta, as well as organised the logistics of executing the stakeholder workshop held in Damietta afterwards. CEDARE has also organised team meetings and visits in Cairo with key decisionmakers in the furniture industry in Damietta. CEDARE has also supported the team through designing a digital platform in coordination with Salford team to engage the local community in Damietta.
Impact Urban and geospatial survey Digital Platform Stakeholder engagement workshop Building partnerships with decisionmakers in Damietta's furniture industry sector in Egypt Building partnerships with UNESCO Egypt
Start Year 2020
Description UK Crafts Council 
Organisation Crafts Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Project team has organised knowledge exchange meetings and visits in collaboration with the Crafts Council.
Collaborator Contribution Crafts Council has been involved in a conversatio on knowledge exchange and mobilisation of the UK example in approaching crafts and supporting makers in the UK. A counsultant from the council is also reviewing the policy and engagement project report as part of the knowledge exchange process.
Impact Conversations on knowledge exchange between UK and Egypt in terms of the approach to strategic development of craft-based industry in Damietta. A consultant from Crafts Council is also reviewing the policy and engagement project report as part of the knowledge exchange and mobilisation of approaches between UK and Egypt.
Start Year 2022
Description Conversations and Collaboration with UNESCO Egypt 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact As part of building a case for UNESCO enlisting of Damietta's Furniture Industry Networks as part pf the World Heritage List, the project team started conversations with UNESCO Egypt team. Within these conversations, there was knowledge exchange on the value of the traditional craft and network in Damietta, as well as the current efforts and portfolio done by UNESCO Egypt to bring forward Damietta's significant assets as a sociocultural industrial cluster. This was in the form of meetings attended by the project team, partners and UNESCO Egypt team.
The Project PI also gave two webinars to the UNESCO Egypt, focusing on data-driven analysis of the significance of Damietta's furniture industry networks for climate change. These have aided raising awareness of the urgency of the case for conservation and development of the industry on a wider scale (for both national and international audiences).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022
Description Digital Platform for Furniture Industry Enterprises 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The project team launched a digital platform based on the network mapping activity on the project. The platform includes a crowdsourced networking tool that would encourage engagement between enterprises and workers in the furniture industry in Damietta. The platform also provides further information and means for the users to connect to useful links and trainings/news related to the furniture industry in Damietta and Egypt. This platform aims to be a long-term networking tool for the industry, both regionally and nationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022
Description Inclusion of CRAFT project in Culture In Crisis Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project has been listed as part of the Culture in Crisis Network. This network comprises research projects that investigate cultural assets and patterns in cities that are threatened by various factors (environmental risk, socio-economic or other).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022
Description Knowledge Exchange Visits - UK & Egypt 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Two knowledge exchange trips between Manchester and Damietta have been executed. These included attendees from the project team, project partners and EFEC Consultant. Activities included visits and meetings with key organisations focused on crafts and furniture in UK and Egypt, such as the UK Crafts Council, Chamber of Woodworking and Furniture Industry in Egypt and Pinocchio Design house in Egypt. The trips also included visits to national furniture exhibitions such as Collect and Le Marche in UK and Egypt respectively.
Key findings from the activities comprised the need for an inclusive strategy in Damietta that targets craft-oriented and mass-production digitised furniture-making, and caters for the full spectrum of business and production models that lie in between these two directions. There were also discussions on the significance of agency and marketing for furniture makers, as well as the role of education and comprehensive production infrastructure provision for the industry in Damietta.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Media coverage of Stakeholder Workshop in Damietta 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Major Egyptian media channels covered the workshop that took place in Damietta in 2021. These including 5 articles about the workshop activities and impact (online). These are:
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Workshop with Stakeholders and Decisionmakers in the Furniture Industry in Damietta 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The workshop was attended by 40 participants, including workshop owners, factory owners, furniture industry workers and decisionmakers from key industry-related organisations in Damietta. The discussions focused on the craft, social capital networks within the industry, and vulnerability to sea level rise. Feedback through the discussions and at the end of the workshop indicated major interest from participants in the significance of UNESCO enlisting to their businesses and development. There was also focus within the discussions on the tensions between the traditional furniture-making craft and the new digitised approach to mass-production of furniture in Damietta. Concerns and potentials were discussed on how the current assets of the city can be utilised to ensure the conservation of the craft within a highly digitised market.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021