Creative Economies

The 6 Steps of Municipal Cultural Planning

In this blog, we continue our exploration of Cultural Planning and the economic benefits that it brings to local government.

There are six steps in doing a Cultural Plan. Your associate at McSweeney can explain these in detail, but the steps are:

  1. First, get your Council and your community together and approve the concept of cultural planning (and ideally a suitable budget).
  2. Set up a Steering Group - an experienced consultant to help guide the process.
  3. Do your research. Gather the data. You may want to also do a Cultural Mapping project.
  4. Engage the community. I can't emphasize enough how vital this is. Reach out to the community, listen to them, get fresh ideas, and make it an opportunity to really explore a new vision with the community.
  5. Do the report and make specific recommendations, including an Action Plan. Don't let the report gather dust on a shelf. Get your local government approval.
  6. And finally, work out an implementation plan and budget, and then DO IT!

Cultural Planning is about shaping, developing and enhancing the economic future of your municipality. It is about identifying and harnessing your cultural assets. It is about place and place-making. It is about strengthening the arts and artisans. It is about how heritage preservation can be an economic driver for you. Then you need to link those to your community's strategic and economic objectives.

That's why a careful strategy and identification of community objectives and needs are an important part of a municipal cultural plan. An experienced consultant can provide the process to do that.


GORD HUME. Author of "Taking Back Our Cities" and other books. or email

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Advance - Get Cultural

Municipalities undertaking a Cultural Planning process are usually considered to be among the municipal leaders in Canada. It is a progressive and contemporary strategy.

Ontario is generally considered to be the most advanced jurisdiction in Canada - and perhaps including the United States - in Municipal Cultural Planning. Part of the reason for this goes to the Municipal Cultural Planning Inc. (a unique conglomerate of private and public interests that supports and promotes cultural planning and research) and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

The Ministry has been very supportive of cultural planning, and understands the economic benefits it can bring to local communities. In a unique program, the Ontario Ministry has been providing grants to towns, cities and counties, as well as First Nations and support groups, to undertake cultural planning projects, ranging from mapping to comprehensive community cultural plans. The program is called the Creative Communities Prosperity Fund (CCPF) and is a tremendous success. It is always over-subscribed. The program generally provides up to 80% of the cost for smaller municipalities, and up to 50% of the cost for larger communities.

This program offers brilliant leadership by a government ministry, and to the best of my knowledge is absolutely unique in North America. It is not surprising, therefore, that Ontario is such a leader in municipal cultural planning. This is a program and a concept that other provinces should be considering to assist their own towns and cities to undertake a municipal cultural plan.


GORD HUME. Author of "The Local Food Revolution" and other books. or email

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The Real Truth about Municipal Cultural Planning

This is the first blog for what will be regular blogs on Cultural Planning, Creative Cities and Economic Development - including Cultural and Culinary Tourism, the Local Food Revolution, and the CRINK Economy (Creative, Innovative, Knowledge-based).

I've been working on projects with Eric and his great team at McSweeney & Associates for a while now, and we share a very similar philosophy - that strong, prosperous communities are at the core of culturally advanced communities that offer a high quality of life. So a Municipal Cultural Plan has to understand and help lead the economic development and prosperity agenda for that municipality.

This is something that some consultants don't seem to get. Cultural Planning isn't about trying to build new arts edifices or promote some exclusive agenda - it is about a holistic approach to the community's needs, recognizing the strength of building and re-building neighbourhooods, advancing an agenda of change and progress, and ensuring that culture - in the broadest definition - becomes one of the four pillars of sustainability for Canadian towns and cities.

The process must also be driven from the ground up, not imposed from the top down. In other words, a broad, open and positive community engagement process must take place, and it must be an honest and responsive process.

The end result will be a solidly-grounded, community-based vision and plan that can aid the municipal council in its strategic, economic and community efforts. It's an exciting opportunity for towns and cities, and we'll explore some of the unique benefits, procedures and things to watch out for in this blog in the months ahead.


GORD HUME.   Author of "Cultural Planning for Creative Communities" and other books.    or email

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Emphasizing the Cultural Economy - A Valid Economic Strategy?

It has been several years now that culture has been promoted as a strategy for economic development - but where is the proof? Does cultural development result in actual job creation? Is it a valid economic development strategy?

These are the questions the Ontario Ministry of Culture commissioned McSweeney & Associates to answer in a soon to be released report, using Prince Edward County as a case study. The report provides the most decisive and comprehensive proof to date that cultural development does result in real economic growth.

In Prince Edward County (PEC) cultural development is an embedded pillar of the economic development strategy. The cultural plan identified the need to manage growth in order to protect the underlying quality of place, the need to extend places where culture happens, and the importance of building cultural tourism.

The case study offers the following facts:
  • Between 2001 and 2008:
  • The unemployment rate in PEC decreased while it increased in Ontario
  • The employment rate increased in PEC while it declined in Ontario
  • The rate of job creation (9.4%) in PEC was higher than in Ontario (6%)
  • The annual value of issued commercial building permits climbed from $0.8 M to $7.0 M in five years
  • 36% of the jobs created in PEC in a five year period were in culture, compared to only 4.6% in Ontario, and 11% nationally
  • The 230 PEC jobs created between 2001 and 2006 in culture represents an increase of 96% in cultural employment, compared to an increase in cultural employment in Ontario of only 4%
  • Tourism and cultural are intrinsically linked in PEC: person visits to PEC increased 93% in 6 years, while Ontario visits declined 4.6% in the same period
  • PEC Tourism employment grew 13.5% in a five year period while declining 11.7% in Ontario over the same period.
Combined with the other evidence in the case study of the impact of cultural development, it is now conclusive: the development of the local cultural sector (including building quality of life and place, tourism attractions and creative industries) can be a highly effective economic development strategy. It is also evident thatmunicipal cultural planning and economic development efforts have accelerated the transformation of the Prince Edward County economy into a more creative rural economy.

Thus, municipal cultural planning can definitely be considered a critical process in strengthening and leveraging local community assets in order to enhance and develop new opportunities for local economic development, while also being a critical component of an integrated, holistic and sustainable approach to community planning and economic development.

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Creative Rural Economy - From Theory to Practice

I was fortunate to steal away from my desk on Tuesday of this week to attend a one-day Creative Rural Economy Conference in Kingston. The day provided me with better insights into what some of the leading local and international Creative Economy experts and practitioners are thinking, but there were two specific points throughout my day that really caught my attention.

The highlight of my day was the afternoon plenary session delivered by Peter Kenyon. Running on about 5 hours of sleep, due to his day and a half long journey from Perth Australia, and given one of the most difficult timeslots in the day - immediately after lunch - Peter was able to capture everyone's attention with both his energy and his story-telling style of delivering his message. His views on Creative Economies and his use of real life examples - Margaret River in Western Australia - were very insightful and allowed the audience to follow the progression of a community that truly evolved due to its local GEOGRAPHY as well as creative and cultural influences. Lucky for me, I sat beside Peter for lunch and am looking forward to continuing our discussion on Asset Based Community Development this Friday in North Gower at another workshop he is presenting on behalf of the Rural Ontario Institute. If anyone gets a chance to hear Peter speak, take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy the experience.

The other point of the day that grabbed my attention was the presentation by Craig Desjardins, Executive Director, Prince Edward/Lennox & Addington CFDC. Craig was speaking on "Challenges and Solutions for Creative Sector Businesses" and I thought the way he outlined the barriers (and solutions) to rural creative sector businesses was right on the mark. The main barriers that Craig outlined were as follows:

  • Infrastructure Issues (ie. Broadband)
  • Lack of Human Capital
  • Innovation Issues
  • Investment Capital Issues
  • Intangible Issues (ie. Vibrant Networks, Culture of Collaboration, etc.).

I truly enjoyed the day, and came away with some new insights and perspectives on the rural Creative Economy.

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