About this Framework

Framework for Cultural Development Planning

This resource offers a planning framework that will enable a consistent approach and terminology for cultural development professionals across all organisation in Australia. It is intended to contribute to more effective practice in cultural development planning, and in so doing, to assist artists, producers and managers to achieve better outcomes for their audiences and communities.

The Framework is written in the context of key international and national policy agendas relevant to governments, particularly United Cities and Local Government (the peak body for local government in the world) Committee for Culture’s Policy Statement on Culture, and other planning frameworks relevant to Australia. It is informed by contemporary approaches to planning and governance, and draws from ideas about evidence based planning that arts and cultural organisations already use.

The Framework recommends a planning process that is integrated with other plans in a government or to the governance document of the organisation. It is underpinned by six key principles: based on values, directed towards goals, focussed on outcomes, informed by evidence, underpinned by a theory of change and respondent to evaluation.

It does not direct or specify activities that individual councils should be involved in, but only the process of deciding what these activities should be, based on goals of the organisation, the evidence base, community needs and available resources. It suggests who should write plans and when they should be written.

How the Framework is being developed

The Framework was first conceptualised in response to needs identified in a survey of Victorian local government cultural development plans, undertaken by CDN in 2013 (Dunphy, Metzke & Tavelli, 2013). This revealed that councils across Victoria were increasingly developing cultural plans, but there was a lack of an agreed framework and informing principles between them. The need for more connection between cultural plans and other strategic council documents, particularly council plans, was identified. The research also demonstrated the need for: more systematic use of data and evidence; a greater focus on outcomes, rather than inputs and activities; more cohesive theories of change; and stronger evaluation practices.

In 2015, CDN carried out another study assessing 50% of published cultural plans of Victorian councils against the principles of this Framework, to understand how consistently these ideas were already being incorporated in planning processes (Dunphy & Yazgin, 2015). Findings indicated that no existing plan conformed to all principles, and the majority applied no more than two of the principles. Aspects of plans least compatible with the Framework were setting of objectives, where activities were often confused with objectives, and theory of change, with few plans showing a logical relationship between choice of activities and outcomes being sought to address objectives. Thus, this study indicated that these principles were not yet commonly applied in cultural development planning, and indicated where areas of challenge lay, so that future professional development and resources on planning could be targeted appropriately.

The first version of the Framework was presented to 75 staff from 50 Victorian councils in a series of forums across the state in 2014 and 2015. It was re-shaped during that process and since, in response to officers’ feedback and CDN’s experience in sharing the ideas across Australia.

The ongoing development of the Framework is also being undertaken in collaboration with all governments and the arts sector nationally. It is being trialled in a range of councils in Victoria and NSW and updated and improved in response to use.


For more information:

Culture as a domain of local government policy in Australia

Culture as a domain of local government policy internationally


Please cite this framework as: Dunphy, K. & Smithies, J (2018) Framework for Cultural Development Planning. Melbourne: Cultural Development Network.


Dunphy, K., Metzke, L. & Tavelli, L. (2013). Cultural planning practices in local government in Victoria. Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Researchers’ Forum.

Dunphy, K. & Smithies, J. (2015). Findings of 2014 survey of Victorian councils’ cultural development activity. Melbourne: Cultural Development Network.

Dunphy, K. & Yazgin, L. (2015). Analysis of Victorian Local Government Cultural Development Plans. Melbourne: Cultural Development Network.

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