The importance of outcomes

This Framework encourages cultural development planners to focus on outcomes, rather than focussing on activities, which are the means to the ends.  While objectives are set at the beginning of an initiative to assist achievement of outcomes, the final outcomes of an initiative may not necessarily match original objectives. In the process of undertaking an activity, objectives may change: the original objectives may prove unreachable or inappropriate. Objectives may not be reached, despite best intentions. Outcomes that were originally desired may prove to be undesirable for any number of reasons.

The following definitions are offered to distinguish these different concepts:

  • objective: the specific result the council seeks to achieve
  • inputs are the resources used to produce outputs
  • outputs are the things you do during a program or project – for instance spend money and create works. This does not usually provide data for meaningful evaluation
  • outcomes are the consequences directly attributable, at least in part, to the program or project and are usually measured at, or shortly after, completion;
  • impacts are generally seen as intended or unintended changes in organisations, communities or systems at a broader level and often over a longer timescale, usually sometime after a project has been completed. Consequently, councils more than ever require data to inform their planning and policy indicators to help evaluate, measure and legitimise the impact of their work (Blomkamp 2011; Poirier 2005; Johnston & Memon 2008).

As social researchers West and Cox (2009) comment:

The tool used to deliver improvement – whether services, programs, capital projects, advocacy, grant funding etc. – is far less relevant than the outcome, or real difference, experienced by the community.

Conceptualising outcomes of our work

In conceptualising the outcomes we seek as a result of our plans, we need to take the following steps:

  1. Consider success: what would success look like?

  2. How would we know we have addressed the council goal?


  • Blomkamp, E. (2011)
  • Johnston & Memon, (2008).
  • Poirier, (2005)
  • West & Cox (2009). A local government reporting framework for the 21st century: a response to the local government performance monitoring framework issues paper. Melbourne: Community Indicators Victoria. Accessed 5 October 2010 from

Measurable outcomes of cultural development activity within the six domains

The schema offered below covers the types of change (outcomes) that might be expected from cultural development activity supported or initiated by local government. These are categorised into the six policy domains (five discussed earlier plus personal wellbeing). These outcomes are informed by data from diverse sources: theory, particularly ideas about the value and benefits of the arts and arts participation, and outcome studies.

1. Cultural domain: culturally rich and vibrant communities

a.    sense of connection to past (history, heritage, identity)
b.    respect for diversity and difference
c.    aesthetic pleasure experienced
d.    knowledge generated and shared, innovation (new ideas)
e.    expression of communal meanings (sense of connection to something greater than oneself)
f.     creative stimulation engendered
g.    opportunity for creative or symbolic expression

2. Personal wellbeing: flourishing and fulfilled individuals

a.    experiences of pleasure and fun
b.    emotional wellbeing, including opportunity for emotional expression and sense of emotional safety
c.    physical wellbeing, including sense of physical safety
d.    psychological wellbeing
e.    confidence in capabilities
f.     identity affirmation
g.    self-awareness
h.    life satisfaction

3. Economic domain: dynamic and resilient local communities

a.    employment-enhancing skill development
b.    individual economic impact
c.    direct employment
d.    indirect employment
e.    visitor direct expenditure
f.     visitor indirect expenditure
g.    local business stimulation
h.    value for money

4. Ecological domain: sustainable built and natural environments

a.    positive sense of place
b.    contribution to neighbourhood character, including regeneration
c.    positive connection to the natural world
d.    awareness of ecological issues
e.    carbon emissions generated
f.     use of resources
g.    priority on local resources

5. Social domain: healthy safe and inclusive communities

a.    equality of opportunity for all people in the community, social inclusion
b.    recognition from valued others
c.    social capital, bonding (positive connection to like others)
d.    social capital, bridging (positive connection to unlike others, i.e. inter-generational, inter-cultural)
e.    satisfying relationships, including friendships developed

6. Civic domain: democratic and engaged communities

a.    sense of community belonging
b.    active citizenship (positive engagement with wider communities outside personal social networks)
c.    membership of local organisations and decision-making bodies
d.    opportunity have a say on important issues
e.    sense of engagement in political processes
f.     sense of a positive future
g.    collaboration between groups in the community