What We Do

The goal of Cultural Development Network (CDN) is a vibrant and rich Australian culture.

CDN addresses this goal by increasing the capability of governments to stimulate and facilitate the artistic visions of their communities, leading towards the cultural outcomes where there is creativity stimulated, aesthetic enrichment experienced, insight gained, diversity of cultural expression appreciated and a sense of belonging to a shared cultural heritage strengthened.

CDN acknowledges that all public policies are situated in given broad domains of public policy: cultural, economic, environmental, governance and social. Outcomes from policies in these domains contribute to the public good. CDN’s work is sited within the cultural domain and at the same time, acknowledges that cultural development activities impact on, and are impacted by, all policy domains.

CDN carries out significant research and development into what matters to communities, their elected representatives, artists and arts managers. Understanding better planning principles, how to evaluate and provide meaningful measurement of outcomes, particularly the understanding of connection of cultural outcomes to economic, social, environmental and civic outcomes of engagement in cultural development activities.

CDN plays a sector development role with arts managers, cultural planners and producers. An increase in the capacity of the cultural sector can also impact in local economies through more productive, better focused and responsive capability across the cultural development sector of arts, libraries and heritage.

The organisation has grown its national role through initiatives that worked with multiple governments and more recently by its establishment of the National Local Government Cultural Forum (2013-2018). The group comprised representatives from federal government arts agencies, every capital city, and local government peak bodies from each state and territory across Australia, who collaborated to develop culture’s role in local government policy and practice.

The research carried out by CDN and its practice experience has led it to develop a method and system for supporting artists, producers and cultural managers to plan, evaluate and increase our understanding of the impact and contribution cultural activities make to our lives. The Takso Outcomes Planning Platform


Through this website, our projects, published research, participation in public programs and our monthly e-bulletins, we provide opportunities for people interested in the cultural vitality of local communities to exchange information and ideas. CDN has strong international relationships through an existing MOU with the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).

Discourse and Debate

Since our establishment in 2000, we have initiated or contributed to than 200 public events. These have been designed to stimulate productive dialogue between sectors as diverse as refugee and youth services, academia, school and community education, disability, housing, environmental sustainability, juvenile justice, local government culture development, and community services. We have also run seven major conferences: Making Culture Count in 2012, Culture: A New Way of Thinking for Local Government in 2011, Regenerating Community in 2009, Expanding Cultures in 2007, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability in 2004, Beyond Cultural Policy Symposium in 2003, and The Art of Dissent in 2002.

Projects and Partnerships

We initiate and run a range of projects that focus on cultural development in communities, with partners including local and state government, arts organisations and universities. Through this work, we aim to expand the knowledge and experience of participants, especially artists,  communities and local government staff, and provide information to shape development of public policy. All our major projects include elements of evaluation or research to ensure that the knowledge gained from the project is documented and disseminated.


We advocate for the inclusion of cultural vitality to a ‘quadruple bottom line’ of outcomes for economic, social and environmental sustainability. Our foundation for this endeavour is Jon Hawkes’ monograph, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability (pdf summary), that we commissioned in 2001. The ideas expressed in this publication inform our approach to the role of culture in public policy, as they influence communities, planners and policy makers in Australia and overseas. The international peak body for local government, UCLG adopted a policy statement acknowledging “culture as the fourth pillar of development” and in 2019 signed an MOU with CDN which acknowledged our planning and evaluation frameworks.