Who should write Cultural Development Plans?

This Framework for Cultural Development Planning has been created to enable council officers to write their own plans, without needing to outsource the task to consultants. This planning is not something that can be effectively delegated externally- no one is in a better position to determine the local community’s desired future than locally based staff. The resources on this website, as well as CDN’s regular professional development events, are offered to equip councils’ cultural development staff to undertake this process efficiently and effectively themselves, ensuring best use of council resources, including their own time and skills.

Previously the support of consultants has been important because there was no framework or shared practice around which councils could shape their work: each plan was a blank page that needed to be written from scratch. This Framework offers a model for constructing a plan that will support the most inexperienced teams and planners to undertake it themselves.

Benefits of writing the plan internally

The most compelling reason to write cultural development plans internally is the practice expertise of council staff. Council staff’s knowledge of their professional field, their community, the council and its resources should not be underestimated. All of these are valuable assets in helping determine goals, objectives and appropriate activities in the plan. Other benefits of undertaking a plan internally include increased ownership of the finished document, the opportunity to benefit from knowledge and skills of other council officers, a plan that responds to community needs and desires rather than a generic product and the long term benefits in training officers in strategic planning practices. A final impetus is the fact that an analysis of cultural plans of Victorian councils (CDN, 2015) demonstrated no difference in quality of plans produced by council staff than consultants.

Selecting and using consultants

We recommend that if a council makes the choice to employ consultants, the following division of tasks is used:

  • Principles 1, 2 and 3: Determining Values, Considering Goals and Setting Objectives are determined by council staff, informed by the Council Plan.
  • Principles 4, 5 and 6: Getting Informed by Evidence, Establishing a Theory of Change and Being Respondent to Evaluation can be assisted by consultants.

Consultants should be selected for their expertise in evidence-based work, especially experience in arts and local government. Their work should be directly responsive to Values, Goals and Objectives established by council as above. Consultants should be asked to use this Framework and be selected on that basis.

Other contributors: Cultural Development Advisory Group

Many councils establish an Advisory Group of local experts and other residents to support the planning and execution of council’s cultural development activities. We recommend this, as the input of local stakeholders has been demonstrated as beneficial, including resulting in increased buy-in of communities in council’s work, improved outcomes for communities (Phillips, 2004) and greater sustainability.


Dunphy, K. & Yazgin, L. (2015). Analysis of Victorian local government cultural development plans. Melbourne: Cultural Development Network.

Phillips R. (2004). Artful business: using the arts for community economic development. Community Development Journal, 39(2), 113-120.