Does Cultural Activity Make a Difference to Community Capacity? A key question addressed by the Small Towns: Big Picture project. – 184KB (2003)

Paper presented to the National Congress of Local Government Managers: Many rural communities are confronted with a host of unprecedented challenges, caused by globalisation and economic restructure, community fragmentation as a result of service withdrawal, and increasing distrust in political processes. These pressures have emphasised the need to re-kindle creative energies and build community capacity to effectively respond in determining their own future. Small Towns: Big Picture was a community development process designed to foster creative, energetic and collaborative action by 5 small rural communities in central Victoria – focusing specifically on the development of social, environmental, and economic sustainability indicators. The project bought together artists, researchers and local communities to produce a coherent and shared understanding of the sustainability issues and opportunities. The main question addressed here concerns the role of the arts in building community capacity – more specifically, what difference did the cultural activity make to the engagement of people in the process, and their ability to act to improve their social, cultural and economic well-being?