More about policy domains

This schema recognises five domains of public policy and activity: cultural, social, civic, economic and environmental. This choice of domains is informed by well-established holistic schemas of wellbeing, including Ife’s integrated community development approach (1995) and James’ Circles of Sustainability (2015), but is specifically aligned with policy domains identified by Community Indicators Victoria (CIV, 2014). CIV’s schema is particularly valuable because it does not merely identify domains of activity but also the desired future within each of those domains: i.e. what state are we looking for as an endpoint?

These ideas about culture being equally significant as a domain of public policy and activity are receiving increasing traction in governments around the world. Following the publication of Jon Hawkes’ monograph, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability in 2001, the international peak body for local government, (United Cities and Local Governments, UCLG) published its Policy Statement on Culture in 2010. This statement confirmed culture as a policy domain for local government’s work alongside economic, social and environmental considerations. It also identifies the links between cultural activity, in the cultural domain and all other types of public policy and practice. This policy has since been endorsed by local governments around the world, including, in 2011, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), as the representative member of UCLG for all Australian local government.

As all activity can be considered as initiating in one or more of the five domains, outcomes of activities can also be considered across those domains. In the cultural domain, cultural activities would be assumed to have cultural outcome/s, but may also impact in other domains, depending on the focus of the activity. An evaluation strategy for any initiative might consider outcomes across one or more of the domains. As mentioned previously, the social and economic outcomes of cultural activity are frequently prioritised, because there has not as yet been accepted measures of cultural outcomes of cultural activity. This schema addresses this issue in offering measures of outcomes of cultural activity across all five domains.

Cultural domain: culturally rich and vibrant communities

Culture is defined by Jon Hawkes as

… the social production and transmission of identities, knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes and understanding; as well as, the way of life, including customs, codes and manners, dress, cuisine, language, arts, technology, religion and rituals; norms and regulations of behaviour, traditions and institutions. Therefore, culture is both the medium and the message – the inherent values, means and the results of social expression (Hawkes, 2001).

The cultural domain, therefore, is the aspect of life (and policy) in which a human being’s values are enacted. In this schema we consider the arts[1] as being an expression of culture: art is the activity that enables expression of cultural meaning. Therefore, arts products or participation are not endpoints, but only the processes, or output, in the development of culture, towards the desired endpoint of a culturally rich and vibrant community.

We define a culturally rich and vibrant community as one in which people have life experiences that spark their creativity and then have opportunities to enact this; experience aesthetic enrichment in their everyday lives; enjoy regular opportunities to gain and share knowledge and new ideas; feel appreciated for the way they express themselves across diversity and difference, and appreciate others likewise; and live with a sense of connection to their heritage and history that is shared with others.

[1] Artforms: We categorise artforms as: Performing arts: (music, dance, comedy, circus, puppetry, etc); Literary arts: (creative writing, poetry, playwriting, etc); Visual arts and crafts (painting, drawing, pottery, sculpture, sewing, etc); Media arts (video, web-based art, film-making, etc.) and Multi-disciplinary arts: artforms that include one or more of the other forms.


CIV (2014).

Ife (1005).

Hawkes, J (2001).

James, P. (2015). Circles of Sustainability

UCLG (2010). Policy Statement on Culture