Participatory planning

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Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm that emphasizes involving the entire community in the strategic and management processes of urban planning; or, community-level planning processes, urban or rural. It is often considered as part of community development.[1]


In the UN Habitat document Building Bridges Through Participatory Planning, Fred Fisher, president of the International Development Institute for Organization and Management, identifies Participatory Reflection And Action (PRA) as the leading school of participatory planning. He identifies Paulo Freire and Kurt Lewin as key pioneers, as well as claiming planning fathers Patrick Geddes and Lewis Mumford as participatory planners. Freire’s belief that poor and exploited people can, and should be, enabled to analyze their own reality was a fundamental inspiration for the participatory planning movement. Lewin’s relevance lay in his integration of democratic leadership, group dynamics, experiential learning, action research, and open systems theory, and his efforts to overcome racial and ethnic injustices.

In general, PRA has been supplanted by Participatory Learning and Action (PLA), which emphasizes the links between the participatory process and action. Related work has been done on community-based participatory research (CBPR).[2]


Robert Chambers, whom Fisher considered a leading icon of the movement, defines PRA according to the following principles;

Handing over the stick (or pen or chalk)
Facilitating investigation, analysis, presentation and learning by local people themselves, so they generate and own the outcomes and also learn.
Self-critical awareness
Facilitators continuously and critically examine their own behavior.
Personal responsibility
Taking responsibility for what is done, rather than, for instance, relying on the authority of manuals or on rigid rules.
Involves the wide range of techniques now available, from chatting across the fence to photocopies and e-mail.

PRA and PLA methods and approaches include:

  • Do-it-yourself: local people as experts and teachers, and outsiders as novices
  • Local analysis of secondary sources
  • Mapping and modeling
  • Time lines and trend and change analysis
  • Seasonal calendars
  • Daily time-use analysis
  • Institutional diagramming
  • Matrix scoring and ranking
  • Shared presentations and analysis, and
  • Participatory planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring.


The community-driven development approach advocated by the World Bank is an example of participatory planning.

A number of examples link participatory community plans with local government planning. One widely applied example is South Africa's national policy of community-based planning methodology, and an adapted version, the Harmonised Participatory Planning Guide for Lower Level Local Governments,[3] which is national policy in Uganda. Community-Based Planning has been applied across the whole of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality in South Africa, including the City of Durban, and is being rolled out in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.[when?][nb 1] Community-Based Planning is an example of the practical application of the sustainable living.


Ensuring that all sections of the community are able to participate is a challenge for participatory planning. Some approaches, such as Community-Based Planning, separate the community so that the livelihoods and preferred outcomes of different social groups can be identified.

Many experiences with Participatory Reflection and Action and participatory planning suffer from a lack of follow-up. PRA has often not been part of a system, but an ad hoc process. Community-Based Planning has tried to overcome this by linking planning to the mainstream local government planning system.

Another challenge is caused by a lack of funds to actually implement the plans, which can lead to participation fatigue and frustration among communities. In the social-investment funds supported by the World Bank, participatory planning is often the first step, often leading to planning of infrastructure. In some cases, such as Community-Based Planning in South Africa, amounts of around[quantify] US$3,500 to $6,800 are provided to each ward to implement activities arising from the ward plan. This then stimulates more widespread community action.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For further information on community-based economic development in Uganda, South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe, visit the African Institute for Community-Driven Development's website.


  1. ^ Lefevre, Pierre; Kolsteren, Patrick; De Wael, Marie-Paule; Byekwaso, Francis; Beghin, Ivan (December 2000). "Comprehensive Participatory Planning and Evaluation" (PDF). Antwerp, Belgium: IFAD. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  2. ^ Fisher, Fred (2001). Building Bridges through Participatory Planning. UN-HABITAT. ISBN 92-1-131623-5. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  3. ^ "Harmonized Participatory Planning Guide for Lower Local Governments". Republic of Uganda Ministry of Local Government. August 2003. Retrieved August 30, 2010. 


External links[edit]