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Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm which 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 processes.
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). 
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 relying, for instance, on the authority of manuals or on rigid rules.
- Sharing: which 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.
Some examples of the widespread application of participatory planning include in the community-driven development approach advocated by the World Bank, and in a number of examples of linking participatory community plans with local government planning. One example which is being applied widely is the community-based planning (CBP) methodology which is national policy in South Africa and an adapted version, the Harmonised Participatory Planning Guide for Lower Level Local Governments, which is national policy in Uganda. CBP has been applied across the whole of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality in South Africa (includes the City of Durban) and is being rolled out in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. For further information on experience in Uganda, South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe go to  where there are reports on the experience as well as guidelines that can be downloaded. CBP is also a very good example of the application of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach in practice.
Some challenges with these approaches are to ensure that all sections of the community are able to participate, and some approaches such as CBP disaggregated the community so that the livelihoods and preferred outcomes of different social groups can be identified. Many experiences with PRA and participatory planning have suffered from the lack of follow-up. PRA has often not been part of a system, but an ad-hoc process. CBP has tried to overcome this by linking it to the mainstream local government planning system.
Another challenge is where there are no funds to implement the plans afterward which can lead to participation fatigue by communities, and frustration. 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 CBP in South Africa, amounts of around US$3500 to US$6800 are provided to each ward to implement activities arising from the ward plan developed through CBP. In such cases there are considerable further benefits as this them stimulates more widespread community action. For further information on CBP go to .
 See also
- ^ "COMPREHENSIVE PARTICIPATORY PLANNING AND EVALUATION". IFAD. http://www.ifad.org/pub/bsf/cppe/cppe.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
- ^ Fisher, Fred (2000). "Building Bridges through Participatory Planning". United Nations. http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=533&cid=4474&activeid=4471. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
- The World Bank Participation Sourcebook: Participatory Planning
- Communities and Local Government UK: Participatory Planning for Sustainable Communities: International experience in mediation, negotiation and engagement in making plans
- Decentralisation and Community-Based Planning