Europe embraces the Planning for Real approach to citizen participation

During the last two years the Planning for Real team (part of the Accord Group) has been working on a European funded Leonardo (Transfer of Innovation) project.

The Planning for Real methodology is renowned in the UK as an effective community planning process which gives local people the opportunity to have their say on what happens in their neighbourhoods. Based on a 3D model community members work alongside local agencies to identify priorities and develop an action plan for change. Although this participative way of working has a track record of over 25 years in the UK, it is not the norm across Europe where traditionally communities have been less involved in local decision making.

The Planning for Real Leonardo project has seen partners from Poland, Turkey, Italy and France work alongside the UK based Planning for Real team. Partners have been trained in using the methodology and have gone on to run real life ‘test’ projects in their own countries. The UK Planning for Real team (led by Margaret Wilkinson) ran a two day lead facilitator training course for partners (in Birmingham, June 2014). Then, Planning for Real mentors (Margaret Wilkinson, Rachel Perks and Gill Hutchinson) visited partners in their own countries and supported them to deliver training for local facilitators. With continued mentoring support, each partner embarked on a real life project, working with local people and trialling the Planning for Real methodology.

Building on the learning and experiences of partners through these projects, the Planning for Real team has produced a new European Planning for Real Practitioners Pack. Partners will continue to use this resource and look to secure the legacy of the project, themselves supporting and encouraging other communities to use the Planning for Real methodology to engage communities in their countries.

Leonardo project partners from the UK, France, Italy, Poland and Turkey

Leonardo project partners from France, UK, Turkey, Poland and Italy

In September 2014 Margaret Wilkinson (Head of the PFR Unit) along with colleagues Rachel Perks and Sian Every visited Pau in south west France, home of the project lead partner – Pistes Solidaires, for the final management meeting and conference. Margaret presented to an audience of local stakeholders (including the mayor of Billère, the town where the French partners ran their PFR project, local municipality representatives, journalists and project partners) and received a very enthusiastic response.

Our partners from France, Poland, Turkey and Italy shared their project experiences and were overwhelmingly positive about the Planning for Real methodology and the support they received from the Unit.

The project has been a great success both in terms of the quality of the practical outcomes (the new European PFR Practitioners Manual and all of the PFR resources now translated into four additional languages) and the number of people who have been trained and engaged in the project in each country.

Leonardo project final conference in France

End of conference presentation in Pau, France

The targets for the numbers of people to be engaged have been exceeded:

  • Ten lead facilitators have been trained (against a target of 8)
  • Over 80 local facilitators have been trained (against a target of 40)
  • Over 1000 residents have been engaged through the real life projects (against a target of 800).

The wider impact of the project is even more impressive, with examples of communities becoming mobilised and taking collective community action as well as key regional and national stakeholders, for example the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, committing to the methodology as a future ‘best practice’ approach to community engagement.

  • In Italy, partners chose to focus for their real life project on a public square in Rome that had gone into disrepair and was renowned for criminal activity. They successfully bought together a group of local residents who have transformed the area and now have even bigger plans.
  • Partners in Turkey have received a massive amount of support from their local Mayor who turned up to most of the community consultation events and the whole process had a huge amount of TV coverage.
  • In Poland there has been a proposal to create a course around the Planning for Real methodology for inclusion in an academic course at Masters Level in the Faculty of Architecture at Wroclaw University of Technology. In addition, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development are running a competition among their municipalities to award funding to just a limited number to enable them to involve their communities in developing revitalisation projects and one of the methods they are promoting for achieving this engagement is Planning for Real.
  • In France partners had good success at engaging with more local residents than they had expected. The community events generated a huge amount of information about the local area and communication between the community and the Municipality will continue.


This article was posted in News.