CDN’S Planning Framework

Our planning framework assists you to create a Cultural Development Plan.

A cultural development plan developed using our framework plans for rich, vibrant cultures in your communities, using an evidence based, outcome focused approach.

A Planning Framework Based on 6 principles

Our Planning Framework recommends a planning process that is integrated with the rest of your Council’s planning activity. It is underpinned by six key principles:

  1. Based on values

    The plan responds to the collective values of the community that underpin the strategy of the Council Plan

  2. Directed towards goals

    The plan is directed towards goals, the desired long-term futures determined by the council and articulated in the Council Plan. Objectives (intended outcomes) are set to enable specific measurable achievement towards the goals.

  3. Focussed on outcomes

    The plan is focussed on outcomes, that is, the difference our work will make to those we are responsible to serve, rather than the activity undertaken to get there. Measurable outcomes help us determine whether objectives were met.

  4. Informed by evidence

    The plan involves decisions informed by evidence. This includes practice knowledge, published research or data that provides information about the local context, the issue being addressed and possible ways to address it

  5. Underpinned by a theory of change 

    The plan uses a theory of change to assist and explain choices of activities. Theory of change is the reason why we do what we do. It can be represented by this short summary:

  6. Respondent to evaluation

    The plan includes evaluation consistently as part of the normal work process. Evaluation findings are used to inform future decision-making.

The framework 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 council, the evidence base, community needs and available resources.

A consistent approach

Our planning framework  enables a consistent approach and terminology for cultural development professionals across all councils in Australia. It is intended to contribute to more effective practice in cultural development planning, and in so doing, to assist council staff to achieve better outcomes for their communities.


Our framework is written in the context of key international and national policy agendas relevant to local government, particularly the United Cities and Local Government Committee for Culture’s Policy Statement on Culture. It is informed by contemporary approaches to planning and governance, and draws from ideas about evidence based-planning that many councils already use.

Policy domains for local government planning

This Framework recognises five public policy domains of local governments’ work: Cultural, Social, Economic, Governance and Environmental. All council goals and related activity can be considered within these domains, and together they enable the desired endpoint of flourishing and fulfilled individuals.

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Local and state/territory government legislation and policies

Find out more about local government legislation and state and territory cultural development policies and plans.

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Where does your plan fit into your council?

Cultural Development Plan connect with the Community Plan, the Council Plan, the Annual Business Plan, Project Plans and individual Work Plans.

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How long should plans be?

We suggest that plans developed using this Framework need not be overly long or complex. A small team should be able to shape up a Plan over a few meetings with some research and preparation undertaken between times. Some Plans for small departments might only be a few pages long. We recommend that the maximum effort goes into the thinking and research, and minimum effort be given to design and illustration of the Plan. The Plan is a tool for the direction for staff, not an endpoint in itself.

When should plans be written & who should write them?

We recommend that Cultural Development Plans are created and executed in synch with the regular planning cycle for the LGA, for the most effective work and greatest chance of integration with the activities of other areas of council. This will ensure that activities of Cultural Development departments are better valued, understood and prioritised equally with other areas of activity. We also recommend that celebrations be made at the end cycle of the Plan, when objectives have been achieved, rather than the beginning when the Plan is launched, as is often the case.

We recommend that council staff write their own plans, and use consultants, where necessary, only for specialist skills and advice.

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How the Framework is being developed

The Framework was first conceptualised in response to needs identified in a survey of Victorian councils’ 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.

Ready to Start Writing your Plan?

Our step by step guide will guide you through the process.

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