3: Outcomes

This page discusses Principle 3: Outcome-focussed, and directs planners to develop Objectives to assist achievement of Outcomes.

Good local government planning is focussed on outcomes, that is, the difference the work will make to those we are responsible to serve, rather than the activity undertaken to get there. As social researchers West and Cox 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’ (West & Cox, 2009). Other related professional fields, for example, librarians (Public Library Network of Victoria, 2015) and Metro and Rural Access Workers are focussing their work, and what they measure about it, on outcomes, rather than inputs (resources invested) and outputs (activities undertaken).

In this Framework, we define an objective as a specific intended outcome that a person or system aims to achieve within a timeframe and available resource.  In this case, the outcome is the specific result the council seeks to achieve to help reach its goals. Objectives are often confused with activities. For example, ‘to run a festival’ is not an objective. Running a festival is an activity, through which a council might realise a particular objective. This objective could be the increase in sense of belonging to a shared past (e.g. through a festival celebrating cultural identity) or the creative stimulation of participants (e.g. through interactive theatre workshops held as part of the festival).

Objectives and outcomes are not necessarily the same. While objectives are what planners intend to happen as a result of a program or project, outcomes are what actually occur. Objectives are set to respond to goals, then outcomes are measured to determine whether objectives were met. Outcomes are usually measured at, or shortly after, the project’s completion.

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.

A system for measuring outcomes of cultural activity is being developed and trialled by CDN. This site provides description of cultural outcomes, theory that informed their development and more information about how they can used. This includes methods for evaluating change that are feasible for local government professionals.

Longer term changes are considered in this Framework as impacts, which are generally intended or unintended changes that occur over a longer time scale, usually sometime after a project has been completed.

Action Step 3: Select objectives (to become outcomes once the activity has occurred) from the set of measurable outcomes

a) Begin by looking at each goal you have chosen to focus on. This should be an aspirational statement – something that could never be achieved. Then select an outcome from the schema of measurable outcomes that will enable progress towards this goal.  This will become your objective.

b) Identify the policy domain in which it is sited.

c) Choose a measurable outcome in the appropriate policy domain from this outcome schema.

This schema has been developed to provide a comprehensive framework of outcomes of cultural activity in the context of local government. These outcomes are based on theory and supported by evidence.



Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, AMA FORUM, 70(11): 35–36.

Public Library Network of Victoria (2015). 2014-15 PLVN Library Performance Indicators, Melbourne: Public Library Network of Victoria.

West, S. & Cox, D. (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.