Principle 1: Based on Values

Good cultural development planning responds to the collective values of the community that should underpin the Council Plan. In this Framework, values are defined as what residents care about for a desired future. These values should provide the basis of planning, so that residents are more likely to experience the life that they would wish to lead as a result of their Council’s work.

The values we are talking about in this sense are distinct from the operational values of the Council that are about how the Council does its business. Operational values might include terms such as transparency, efficiency, responsibility. These form the basis of how Council works, but not what it works for. Council works to help residents realise their values.

Some values are impelled by legislation. For example, the Victorian Local Government Act 1989 impels councils to improve the overall quality of life of people in the local community’. It can be assumed, therefore, that all councils in Victoria share a value around the (good) quality of life of their residents. Other values should be determined by councils as they consult with communities in developing their Community and Council Plans.

The Council Plans of many Australian councils are underpinned by similar values, that correspond with those articulated by Community Indicators Victoria in their five policy domains. Because these domains each have an identified desired goal, it is straightforward to determine the values that underpin them.

Good local government planning, including establishment of values, is considerate of context. The local situation: history, existing practices, assets, resources and challenges are all considered in planning for the future.

Local government, values and culture

Excerpts from Jon Hawkes’ Fourth Pillar of Sustainability contribute insight to this topic.

Hawkes identifies the importance of values in a local government context, and the importance of local government in establishing and enacting values:

Local government is the tier of governance closest to the citizenry, and therefore (at least theoretically) the one most in touch with, and capable of being responsive to, its constituency. It is probably the best governance level at which to develop new methodologies of participatory democracy and cultural action. It is ideally placed to stimulate community debate on the values and aspirations that should inform our future, and to plan its actions in direct response to the visions of the community (2001, p. 16).

He articulates the relationship between values and culture:

A society’s values are the basis upon which all else is built. These values and the ways they are expressed are a society’s culture. The way a society governs itself cannot be fully democratic without there being clear avenues for the expression of community values, and unless these expressions directly affect the directions society takes. These processes are culture at work (2001, p. vii).

Hawkes describes a set of core values or ‘universal’ values for a contemporary society. He comments that this set is not prescriptive, but was consistent in underpinning planning frameworks he examined:

  • participation, engagement and democracy;
  • tolerance, compassion and inclusion;
  • freedom, justice and equality;
  • peace, safety and security;
  • health, wellbeing and vitality;
  • creativity, imagination and innovation;
  • love and respect for the environment.

Any useful set of social values has to encourage both change (why else include creativity, imagination and innovation?) and respect for difference and diversity (tolerance, compassion and inclusion). Whatever overall set we embrace, and the developments to that set that occur over time, is our culture (or at least a culture to which we collectively aspire). To name our shared values, to change them, to embrace or discard them and to apply them is culture at work (2001, p. 7).

Action Step 1: Identify and reflect on values that underpin your Council Plan

The first Action Step is identification of values that are usually implicit, but sometimes stated, in your Council Plan. For examples, see the values that underpin the five policy domains listed here.

Question for Cultural Development Planner: What values about a desired future for your community underpin your Council Plan?

List these values as the first step in your plan.

If values in your Council Plan are not clear: Values may not be clear in a Council Plan, and will often be implicit; not specifically stated. Where this is the case, cultural development planners will need to interpret the Council Plan to articulate the values that will inform their work. On an earlier page about policy domains, we have articulated values from goals such as culturally rich and vibrant communities. The values that underpin the desire for a culturally rich and vibrant community are of cultural richness and vibrancy. Documentation from values-determining exercises such as community consultation will be useful to help identify your Council’s values where they are not clear.

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