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The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

Cultural strategies, compacts and futures: The role of local government in connecting culture with place, health and the environment


This project examines how local authorities in England are aligning culture with place, health and the environment through cultural strategies and compacts. Employing a mixed methods research design and convening a knowledge exchange workshop, this project will provide analysis enabling local authorities and their membership organisation (the Local Government Association) to reflect on and explore how cultural strategies and compacts engage with place, health, environment, and other priority issues.

Cultural strategies and compacts are important elements in how local authorities engage with and support the role of culture as it connects with social, economic, environmental and health and wellbeing outcomes. The Local Government “Cultural strategy in a box” report outlines, how ‘many local councils have sought to maximise the role of culture in their approaches to place, economy and society’ and that cultural strategies have been produced to ‘coordinate their approach and develop a shared vision with residents and cultural partners’ (2020: 4). This theme of coordination is of particular importance in the Cultural Cities Enquiry which sets out the importance of a ‘coalition of support’ and the recommendation for ‘cultural compacts’ (see also BOP, 2020, Review of the Cultural Compacts Initiative). As such, examining cultural strategies and compacts is a priority for understanding and evaluating how local government can effectively position culture in relation to priority issues such as place, health and the environment.

Cultural strategies and compacts are both deeply embedded in the specifics of a local area and address common and widely identified national issues. Whilst issues of place, health and the environment might feature within cultural strategies and compacts, this cannot be assumed and there is not a clear understanding of how local authorities do this differently. This project addresses these gaps through the systematic identification and thematic analysis of cultural strategies and compacts.

Understanding how different local authorities create and use cultural compacts and strategies to address pressing issues and priorities is of sustained significance and importance as cultural strategies are created for the first time by local authorities and renewed by others. By convening a co-hosted knowledge exchange workshop with the Southern Policy Centre, this project aims to ensure a nuanced account of the findings and ensure policy reach and relevance. The resulting policy brief has the potential to enable 300+ local authorities in England to evaluate and revise the role of cultural strategies and compacts.



This project has four objectives aligned to each stage.

OBJECTIVE 1: Secondary data analysis of all local authority websites in England to establish their current position on cultural strategies and cultural compacts.

Impact: This analysis will produce the first comprehensive and systematic overview of cultural strategies and compacts in England. This will enable local authorities to reflect on their current situation in comparison with others and for the Local Government Association to identity and reflect on support for members.

OBJECTIVE 2: Thematic analysis to understand how “place”, “health” and “environment” (and related terms) feature within local government cultural strategies and compacts.

Impact: The thematic analysis will enhance understanding of the ways in which cultural strategies and compacts are engaging with place, health and the environment as pressing issues and strategic policy priorities. This will provide local authorities with longitudinal insights around these issues and enable them to evaluate the changing volume and type of issues.

OBJECTIVE 3: Workshop to generate stakeholder reflections on findings and analysis and co-create priorities for policy brief

Impact: This workshop will, firstly, nuance the findings and generate further insights into how and why place, health and the environment are engaged with in cultural strategies and compacts, and, secondly, produce co-created priorities that will inform the policy brief (output 4) and enhance its validity and resonance.

OBJECTIVE 4: Policy brief presenting recommendations to local government on the role of cultural strategies and compacts

Impact: This policy brief has the potential to shape how the 300+ local authorities in England approach the role of cultural strategies and compacts. The policy brief will provide detailed analysis into how priority issues of place, health and the environment are featured and make recommendations for how local authorities can integrate priority issues within cultural strategies and compacts.


Partner organisation's role

The Southern Policy Centre will be involved in:

(1) co-hosting knowledge exchange workshop (objective/output 3)

(2) contributing and circulating the policy brief (objective/output 4).

As the letter of support outlines, this project complements and develops work Southern Policy Centre is doing with public authorities and their involvement will help in reaching a wide public and private sector audience across the central South, broadening engagement in the research.



This project has five outputs. Outputs 1-4 are aligned to each stage and objective outlined above. Output 5 (article) is a longer-term output intended to reach academic audiences to develop potential future collaborations.

1. Report 1 (summarising the stage 1 findings)

2. Report 2 (summarising the stage 2 findings)

3. Report 3 (summarising the discussions from stage 3 workshop)

4. Policy brief (developed from outputs 1-4)

5. Peer-reviewed journal article (developed from outputs 1-4)


Sustainable Development Goal/Goals

SDG8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth;SDG11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities;SDG9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure;SDG13 - Climate Action;SDG16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institution.


Project Lead

Doctor Daniel Ashton, Associate Professor

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