The “Peñalolén is Culture” plan: Cultural Community Citizenship

1. Context

Peñalolén is home to 245,000 people and is located in the Santiago Province. It has a significant level of socioeconomic and cultural diversity and is an urban commune with the one of the largest Indigenous population in Chile.

It is divided into five sectors: the areas with the highest amount of socioeconomic vulnerability, neighbourhoods that are the result of the eradication of settlements and the seizure of land, the mountainous area that is still home to rural lifestyles, and the eastern sector with the highest socioeconomic income and status.

2. Peñalolén and culture

The plan was launched in 2016 to decentralize cultural life, and it was based on the strategic guidelines in the Municipal Culture Plan (2015). In 2016, a cross-cutting approach was developed in conjunction with the following sectors: Education (Training), Neighbourhoods (Cultural Hubs), Tourism (Tañi Chegen Trail) and Projects (Diploma in Socio Cultural Management). The four core pillars are:

  1. Development of cultural artistic creation
  2. Safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage
  3. Strengthening citizen participation
  4. Strengthening managerial and institutional networks

The goal is to democratize access to culture in the commune's five sectors, decentralizing cultural life under the Peñalolén cultural corportation in these areas: neighbourhoods, education, tourism, and heritage.

The plan is built on the guiding principles of Agenda 21 for culture, including the commitment to sustainable cultural development, decentralization, developing cultural capital, generating economic and artistic-cultural development opportunities, guaranteeing cultural rights, and promoting activities that are not only held in specific cultural hubs. The initiative also: guarantees equal access to cultural services for the most vulnerable communities (SDG 10); safeguards Mapuche culture and its ancestral practices by using a local tourism model that interacts with cultural ecosystems and fosters the provision of services and goods related to Indigenous heritage (SDG 8); and offers events, training, and workshops in neighbourhoods with high socioeconomic vulnerability (SDG 4).

3. Project goals and implementation

3.1. Main and specific objectives

The main objective of the project is to democratize access to local culture by decentralizing the events, and thereby enhancing the cultural richness of the neighbourhoods, their identity, and their inhabitants’ participation.

Specific Objectives

  • Decentralize cultural events
  • Implement joint actions and open spaces for dialogue and cultural integration between the Cultural Corporation, other municipal units, artists, managers, organizations, and cultural spaces
  • Redefine public spaces, neighbourhood headquarters, and public schools as cultural centres in the most vulnerable territories
  • Develop skills related to expression, management, administration, production, and cultural analysis through training processes

3.2. Project development

The aim of the project is to refocus and interweave the cultural sphere with other municipal public policies, generating alliances between municipal departments and the relevant areas of the Cultural Corporation.
To do this, the following actions were outlined:

  • A. FORMARTE PROGRAM: A partnership between the Education sector of the Cultural Corporation and the Education Corporation that promotes lifelong learning and comprehensive arts education, guaranteeing the right to education and active participation in the field of culture; A pioneering nationwide program; Incorporates theatre, dance, and choir singing in the curricula for 8 public schools.
  • B. NEIGHBOURHOOD CULTURAL HUBS: Created by the neighbourhood region; Fosters community life around culture and the arts in 18 neighbourhoods, and recognizes 18 neighbourhood venues as small cultural centres for local development based on cultural decentralization; training in arts, traditional skills, and cultural management; shows and workshops that are free to the public; planning and neighbourhood participation, the value of local identity, and the sustainability of cultural projects.
  • C. DIPLOMA IN SOCIOCULTURAL, REGIONAL, AND CULTURAL POLICY MANAGEMENT: Training School under an agreement with the Faculty of Arts at the Academy of Christian Humanism University. The aim is to generate professionalization processes for community cultural management, with five months of training and practice in comprehensive project management. This helps activate collaborative networks and strengthen the sociocultural fabric of Peñalolén.
  • D. THE TAÑI CHEGUEN INDIGENOUS TRAIL: Heritage Tourism Service for ancestral Mapuche culture in Peñalolén. Implements educational programs that value and promote ICH linked to expressions, techniques, and world views of the Mapuche culture such as workshops, shows, gastronomy tastings, and talks held by Indigenous peoples, associations, and supporters.

Four programmes were launched: the Formarte programme, the Neighbourhood Cultural Hubs, the Diploma in sociocultural, regional and cultural policy management, and the Taño Cheguen trail. 

Once these four programs were brought together under a Master Plan for Culture, the three work stages were outlined: coordination and management, program implementation, and evaluation and sustainability.

Beneficiary population

  • A. FORMARTE: 8,000 students, including youth, from 8 public schools with the highest rates of socioeconomic vulnerability in the commune.
  • B. NEIGHBOURHOOD CULTURAL HUBS: 1,200 residents have been certified in workshops, and more than 9,000 people have been spectators at annual arts activities.
  • C. DIPLOMA IN SOCIOCULTURAL, REGIONAL, AND CULTURAL POLICY MANAGEMENT: 45 leaders, managers, artists, and local scholarship holders at a university specialization course.
  • D. THE TAÑI CHEGUEN INDIGENOUS TRAIL: 6 participating Indigenous organizations. Today it reaches about 300 people annually.


Some of the project’s obstacles to more comprehensive interventions include lack of time, a lack of specific strategic planning skills, and a lack of professionals in the areas of psychology, sociology, and social work. In addition, the delay in the delivery of resources, or even a lack thereof, may hinder the implementing of Formarte in 100% of public schools and the Cultural Hubs Program in the 30 critical neighbourhoods throughout the commune.

4. Impact

4.1. Direct impact

The plan has been recognized regionally and nationally as a good practice in public cultural management. The project team has been invited to present the methodology of the Formarte Program at various international seminars on arts education. Furthermore, they have received 30 annual internships from local governments across the country to learn about the experience and how to replicate it.

Impact on local government

There has been a sustainable increase in social investment, with economic, material, and human resources that help create spaces for cultural artistic development. Cultural policy is interwoven with the other municipal departments and public policies.

Impact on the cultural sector

Cultural actors have maintained an open channel of communication, while also being involved in the processes of planning and designing events. They have received university education, training, and meetings to evaluate and develop the plan. Thanks to the increasing level of ongoing, committed participation from artists and managers, the events of 2020 by local stakeholders were developed in a way that would establish an annual lineup alongside the new 2020-2030 cultural policies.

Impact on local government

With more than 20,000 participants, the project has expanded the city’s presence in the territories – previously closed off due to municipal institutionalism – by building trust and promoting other regularly held activities in new spaces. The project has sparked social transformation, creating different dialogues that turn Peñalolén into an inclusive, democratic, and equitable commune.

The Plan has been recognized regionally and nationally as a good practice in public cultural management. The management receives 30 internships annually from local governments across the country to learn abo7ut the experience and how to replicate it.

4.2. Evaluation

An evaluation plan has been in place since 2018. It consists of measuring factors for planning, satisfaction results, and group evaluations of teams with partners and facilitators. The survey evaluates the quality of training, logistics, and the fulfilment of objectives, among others. The project is also evaluated on the level of participation, quality of the participants’ work, and the results achieved.

4.3. Key factors

  1. Regional decentralization.
  2. Culture as a pillar of human development: The cultural policy nurtures other local public policies relating to human security, entrepreneurship, education, community and family, as well as strategic planning.
  3. Participatory/Identity: The focus on rights includes those involved at every point throughout the process, including design, implementation, and evaluation.
  4. Impact/Recognition: The community has recognized and supported the plan.
  5. Networks and Partnerships: In four years 16 cultural, education, and business institutions have signed an agreement with the program.

4.4. Continuity

Official recognition of the value of the plan shows the municipal government’s commitment to continuously administer and continue the four Programs from 2016. The initiative has a professional team that is exclusively dedicated to the goals of the program, with commensurate experience in cultural management and support for the areas of communication and production. Partnerships with other municipal departments and their policies, as well as new agreements with other local governments (promotion) and institutions must be deepened.

New intervention strategies are added each year to expand outreach, improve the submissions, and carry out follow-up.

The plan is financed by a municipal grant that increases every year. In addition, the extension (arts events planning) is financed by the Ministry of Culture Funds and National Regional Development Fund (30%).

5. Further information

Peñalolén was a candidate for the fourth UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award (November 2019 – May 2020). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2020, and requested that the UCLG Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices implemented under Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Gladys Sandoval Campos, Director, Peñalolén Cultural Corporation, Metropolitan Region, Chile.

Contact: alcaldesa (at)

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