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Our City, Ourselves: A Cultural Landscape Assessment of Kelowna, British Columbia

Key Message

Culture is no longer simply a mirror that reflects who we are, but also a tool that can help us achieve the goals of a community.  Whether considering the input, supply, outcome or the three types of capital, this study illustrates that culture contributes to quality of life, sustainability and economic wellbeing.

The Creative Sector in Kelowna, British Columbia: An Economic Impact Assessment demonstrated that in 2010 the creative sector generated 1,2791 full time equivalent jobs with a total economic output of $143 million (Momer, 2010). Although the product of individuals involved in a number of creative sectors and local organisations, this economic activity was enabled by the $2.2 million invested in culture by the City of Kelowna in 2010.


Momer, Bernard. (2011) Our City, Ourselves: A Cultural Landscape Assessment of Kelowna, British Columbia. Kelowna, British Columbia: City of Kelowna Recreation and Cultural Services.


Our City, Ourselves is a first step in understanding the role of culture in the planning process by providing cultural data to inform this process within the City of Kelowna. This project, the first of its kind for the City of Kelowna and one of only a handful in North America, is about finding out who we are and eventually measuring our progress. By tracking indicators over time, citizens, local businesses, community groups and political leaders will be able to use this information to guide policies affecting our future.

Heritage, cultural facilities, urban amenities, and policies relating to culture were selected to develop indicators measuring the City’s contribution to cultural capital. Time spent on cultural activities, number of performances attended, cultural engagement and monetary amounts spent on cultural goods and training in the arts were considered to develop indicators of one’s own efforts to accumulate cultural capital.

This project has 3 main objectives:

  • To establishaframeworktoguidethedevelopmentofculturalindicators
  • Developspecificindicatorsthatcanbeperiodicallyreviewedandrefined
  • To gatherandanalysebenchmarkindicatordatafromprimaryandsecondary sources.

To fulfill these objectives a citizen survey was conducted during the second week of June 2010 and secondary data was collected from various organisations, stakeholders in the cultural and creative sectors as well as from the City of Kelowna.


People recognise inherently that to develop a sense of belonging and participate in the life of a community, one must grow his or her cultural capital. This is reflected in the answer to the question pertaining to the reasons respondents attended cultural events. The second most popular answer was: to educate oneself.

The accumulation of cultural capital not only benefits each inhabitant, but also contributes to the economy. As Table 6.15 (p. 47) and Table 6.19 (p. 49) demonstrate, the more cultural capital one accumulates, the more one is likely to spend on cultural goods. The term investment is therefore warranted when referring to the share of the municipal budget spent on culture.

Culture also contributes to social capital (see p. 13) by providing a common identity, or safe boundaries within which we can function. To inform the planning process, social capital was measured by assessing the sense of belonging to one’s neighbourhood, the attendance at cultural events, internet use, participation in community groups and the barriers to participation in cultural events that allow the unfolding of social capital.

The importance of social capital to members of the community explains why spending time with family and friends was the number one answer to the survey question pertaining to the reasons for attending cultural events.

The fact that 45.7% of the respondents (which represents 55,000 people if we consider the whole population) attended between 1 and 5 performing arts events can effectively mean that many social connections are reinforced by such events. Being with a group of people from one’s community furthers the connections to the community and increases one’s sense of belonging. This is seemingly trivial, but as members of a group with which we identify ourselves, we are more likely to participate in the life and wellbeing of the community as a whole.

Social capital can therefore have repercussions in other areas such as sustainability and quality of life. The more people get involved and feel part of a group, the greater the momentum to undertake a project or defend a cause. At the root of our identity is the desire to belong; culture allows this to happen. Feeling of belonging was the most popular answer to the question what makes a neighbourhood a good place to live (average score of 3.9 out of 5). Assisting people in need (3.8/5) and cultural activities (3.5/5) were the second and third choices, indicating the value placed on social cohesion and sharing common experiences.

This underlines the importance of cultural events and culture in general to foster social connections and reinforce the networks supported by social capital at the community level. Social capital also allows a better management of professional and personal networks within the community that are increasingly relied upon by planners. In an environment where planners are called upon to work closely with the non-profit and private sectors, social capital bridges the three spheres of public life (public, private, non-profit) as well as social borders (ethnicity, class, gender...). Richer networks provide planners with information, legitimacy and political influence that are vital for accomplishing the goals of planning, as distinct from merely creating plans (de Souza Briggs, 2004:153).

Social and cultural capitals allow the accumulation of economic capital that in turn supports culture. Economic capital and culture are therefore connected via a feedback loop making them inseparable.  (Executive summary)

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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