Good local government planning is directed towards goals, the desired long-term futures determined by the council and articulated in the Council Plan. A goal is defined here as: the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; in this case, an intention for the desired future of residents of an LGA.
These goals should be determined as a result of community consultation and policy requirements, legislative or other. All other policies and plans of the council should respond to that document, including the Cultural Development Plan. Because the Council undertakes community consultation to determine values of the community and then sets goals to address those, cultural development planners do not need to undertake extensive consultation themselves to identify values or goals. Where consultation might need to occur is in understanding existing cultural resources and capacity in the municipality, as discussed in Action Step 2c below.
Goals should assist communities to live according to their values. They are often aspirational and therefore are likely never to be reached. For example, the goal of ‘a culturally vibrant community’ will be ongoing beyond the current planning period; a LGA can always strive to be more culturally vibrant, and cannot claim to have reached a point of absolute cultural vibrancy. Otherwise there would be nothing left to do!.
However, objectives can be achieved, and need to be set to enable specific, measurable progress towards goals. Setting of objectives will be discussed in Principle 3.
Action Step 2a: Identify goals established by Council in the Council Plan.
Identify the Council’s goals from the Council Plan: what are the aspirations for the people of the LGA described in the Plan? Identifying goals can be straightforward when they are clearly articulated, but in some plans, it might be difficult to find them.
If the goals in your Council Plan are not clear:
Where goals that articulate a desired future are not clear in a Council Plan, cultural development planners will need to interpret the Plan to find goals to inform their work. Look for aspirational statements- what is the desired future the Council sees for its residents?. Documentation from values-determining exercises such as community consultation might also be useful in identifying goals.
If the goal are not stated as such, but as activities, such as ‘build a new Community Centre to support cohesive communities’, then the goal that could be extracted is for a ‘cohesive community’.
If the current Plan does not clearly articulate the Council’s vision for the future of its community, then there is a clear pathway for improvement of future plans. This might be an area you wish to take up with those writing your Council Plans.
Action Step 2b: Identify the policy domains in which those goals sit
Determine the policy domain/s in which the goal/s are sited by considering which of these five domains the goal/s best fits into. This step is vitally important to enable you to articulate the difference your work will make, and to assess that change using appropriate measures. Use the domain descriptions and outcome measures listed here to help sort your councils’ goals into the appropriate domain. The best goals are those that are clearly aligned with one or other policy domain.
If it is not clear which policy domains the goals in your Council Plan are sited:
Sometimes it is difficult to identify domains to which the goals belong, when Council Plans are not clear, or where more than one policy domain is covered in one goal.
If it is not clear which policy domain the goal belongs to, you might need to break it down and choose sections of a stated goal. For example, if your council articulates a goal like this: ‘a prosperous and creative community’, the goal covers two policy domains, economic (prosperous) and cultural (creative). These will need to be dealt with separately in the Cultural Development Plan, as they require different types of activity and different evaluation measures.
If your Council Plan includes goals that cover more than one policy domain, this might be another area of improvement of future plans. This might also be an issue you take up with those writing future Council Plans.
Action Step 2c: Select which goal/s to address
Then, considering this information, make decisions about which of Council’s goals you could reasonably address in the Cultural Development Plan. The goals you select will direct all other components of your Plan.
If the Council Plan includes goals in the cultural domain, these are the most obvious to consider. We recommend that you select at least one goal in the cultural domain, and then other goals or domains as appropriate for your situation. Cultural activity can potentially address goals in all of the domains.
If there are a number of goals you could potentially address, then you need to make decisions about which goals your work would be most strategic (the most significant type of change) and catalytic (the largest amount of change) in addressing, given your situation.
If the Council Plan does not include any goals in the cultural domain:
If your Council has not yet identified Culture as a domain of its activity, or included cultural outcomes in its Plan, then you will need to consider which other goals that the cultural activity you are planning can potentially address. This might be another area of improvement of future plans that you take up with those writing future Council Plans. You might use the findings of your evaluations to support your position- if your activities are contributing to change in the cultural domain, then it will be clearer to Council that this is important and that they are already achieving it with their current investment.
Consider the evidence and situational analysis
Make decisions about which goals to address by considering the available evidence and undertaking a situational analysis. Considering the evidence at this stage is relatively straightforward. You need to determine if there is any evidence that cultural activities likely to be undertaken by your department could contribute to this goal. For example, if the Council’s stated goal is for a ‘creative community that welcomes a diversity of residents’, we can break this down into goals in the cultural and social domains. The cultural goal is for a ‘creative community’, and the social goal is for a ‘community that welcomes a diversity of residents’. There is significant evidence that cultural activities of the type currently or potentially led by our Department can stimulate creativity. For example, a study by Drake (2003) found important links between place and creativity, with clustering of creative enterprises in particular places promoting creativity. This evidence could provide support for the benefits of co-located artists’ studio spaces, or other programs that bring artists together in efforts to promote creativity in our community.
We are also aware of much evidence that cultural activities currently or potentially led by our Department could contribute to a community that is more welcoming of diversity. For example, a study by Ho (2013) found that engaging in a process of creative expression together through music enabled young people to have more profound insight, deeper empathy, more meaningful dialogue, and stronger community bonds with each other. These shared creative experiences facilitated insight and empathy, which enabled changing perceptions of themselves and others. We could use this evidence as support for investment in creative music projects that bring together people across difference and potentially increase our community members’ appreciation of diversity.
Your situational analysis tells you where you are now in relation to this goal, and the options you might consider to address it. This might include the history of the work undertaken by your department, your current activities, the challenges you face and your resources. Resources might include:
- human (current and potential staff, including volunteers)
- financial (how much money is available, currently or potentially)
- tangible (or hard) infra-structure – buildings, other sites, collections, etc.
- intangible (or soft) infrastructure – these include expertise of your staff or others in your Council or the community, such as arts organisations, universities, etc.; relationships (partnerships, networks or other relationships) that you could make use of).
It is at this point you might consider a mapping exercise to determine the resources available in within your council and your community for cultural activity. This might include a consultation phase where resources available are also considered. For example, you might consider what other groups or networks or infrastructure might be brought in to assist you address potential goals. If your mapping exercise uncovers strong impetus from groups or networks in the community that might collaborate with you on the task of increasing welcoming of diversity, this might help you decide that this goal is the right one to tackle. These resources might also be held within council.
Your situational analysis might help you become aware of initiatives in the Community Development Department towards the same goal. While those staff members have good networks with diverse communities in the municipality, they may not have the skill in shaping and leading activities that engage those people in Council’s activities. Together the two departments might be able to combine forces and create Collective Impact (a structured and disciplined approach to bringing cross-sector organisations together to focus on a common agenda that results in long-lasting change).
Action Step 2d: Decide on how many goals to address
Of all the possibilities open to you, you will need to decide on how many of these goals you could reasonably address, considering the timeframe and available resources. Given that each goal needs to have specific objectives allocated to it and each of these needs to have evidence to inform its selection and an appropriate evaluation process, you are best to be circumspect in your ambitions. It is better to undertake a smaller number of initiatives directly related to the Council Plan, for which you have a clearly articulated objective, supported by evidence and a proper evaluation plan that measures the difference it makes, than a lot of activities for which you do not know what difference they make. Your situational analysis will give you ideas about the appropriate scope and options for action.
Ho, P. (2013). Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series Out of the Box: Positive Development & Social Change Through the Arts, 2013-11. Boston: Berkman Centre.