Cultural Policy and Planning

Lunch boxes from the WA Museum Anthropology collection

Lunch boxes from the WA Museum Anthropology collection

Image copyright WA Museum

Image from the online collection Intertwined, featuring basketry from the Western Australian Museum Anthropology collection.

Cultural planning is the descriptor used when planning for communities and for managing arts and cultural resources in local government areas. It can also be considered in facility planning and design for museums. It is a holistic approach that considers the broader cultural life of a community.

The two stages commonly used in developing a cultural plan are a ‘cultural needs assessment’ which defines the scope of the plan and includes an audit of existing cultural resources and activities; and the ‘strategic planning’ process which outlines short, medium and long term goals and identifies how to initiate and implement the cultural plan.

Stage 1: Cultural needs assessment
  • Defining the scope of the needs assessment and the cultural plan
  • Identifying the key issues to address to develop the plan
  • Identifying and documenting the artistic, cultural and community resources of a region or area AND identify any gaps
  • Develop a community profile: demographics; ethnic and indigenous communities
Stage 2: Strategic Planning
  • Use the information gathered to define a set of issues and opportunities
  • Develop a mission statement ; short set of objectives and strategies to implement the cultural plan

Staff within a museum are often participants in community cultural planning although it is usually a process undertaken by a consultant. Involvement of the community itself is crucial, keeping in mind this is on a voluntary basis.

Some of the possible outcomes of cultural planning may be: key profile documents which enable an organisation to document changes in the community and its cultural resources over time; directions for policy and programming initiatives; identification of potential and actual resources for implementing a cultural plan. 

References and further reading:

Museums Australia Inc (NSW), Museum Methods, A Practical Manual for Managing Small Museums, Section 1.16 Cultural planning – an introduction

Local Government NSW, All Culture is Local: Good Practice in Regional Cultural Mapping and Planning for Local Government