Community planning: Making planning work

  • intro
  • summary
  • contents
  • preface
  • case studies
  • 'The way ahead'

Making Planning Work
A guide to approaches and skills is delighted to feature this important new book, initially prepared for the United Nations World Urban Forum III and the World Planning Congress in Vancouver in June 2006.

book cover

The aim of the book is to:

1. focus international attention on
the urgent need to increase global understanding of sustainable urban development processes and pro-poor planning practices; and

2. outline the range and types of skills needed to implement them.

Feedback and additional material is encouraged.


To buy a copy of Making Planning Work go to:

© Cliff Hague, Patrick Wakely, Julie Crespin, Chris Jasko 2006
First published in 2006, ISBN 1-85339-648-6, ISBN 978-1-85339-648-9

Making Planning Work
A guide to approaches and skills

By Cliff Hague, Patrick Wakely, Julie Crespin and Chris Jasko,
ITDG Publishing, 2006

The scale, rate, and even the nature of urban development has changed dramatically in recent times. The manifestations – rapid urbanization and the urbanization of poverty, increased social diversity, industrial restructuring, more environmentally-friendly suburbs – differ globally, but South and North share the opportunities and problems of one planet. The search for sustainable solutions for settlements crosses international boundaries. Professionals and NGOs in different places and cultures are inventing new forms of urban governance and planning. How do they do it? What practical skills are being used?

Making Planning Work shows why new urban skills are needed so urgently, and what can be done to grow skills and enhance capacities. The authors demonstrate how successful development and governance of human settlements depends upon collaboration and establishing effective partnerships, and how much can be achieved by working together, sharing skills, being creative, and learning on the job. Making Planning Work features extensive case studies from some 20 different countries. The authors conclude by looking at the way ahead, and calling for international commitment to skills development at all levels.

The book is essential reading for planners, architects, engineers, housing providers, lawyers, politicians, environmentalists, community activists, NGOs, and community organizers - all those engaged in the processes of planning and managing towns, cities, and settlements from the very local to national and international levels.

Cliff Hague is a Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute and President of the Commonwealth Association of Planners. He has been Professor of Planning and Spatial Development at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. He now does freelance writing, research and training.

Patrick Wakely is Professor of Urban Development and former Director of the Development Planning Unit, University College London. An architect by training, he has research, consultancy, and teaching experience in housing and urban development in over 20 developing countries.

Julie Crespin holds Master’s degrees in Political Science and Urban Development Planning. She has worked in urban development in London, China, and Africa.

Chris Jasko is a development consultant. He has an MSc in Urban Development Planning from the DPU, UCL, and work experience in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.

The website  draws on the case studies in this book and provides an interactive extension to it

The guide was made possible by a grant from the UK Department for International Development and the Royal Town Planning Institute.

An advisory board provided support and direction throughout the book's preparation.

Its members were:

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Keith Thorpe,
Head of the Urban Policy Support Team in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister;

Kelvin MacDonald,
Director of Policy and Practice at the RTPI;

Department for International Development
Michael Parkes,
United Nations and Commonwealth Department, DFID;

Helen Walker,
Academy for Sustainable Communities.

ITDG Publishing
Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development,
Bourton on Dunsmore,
Rugby, Warwickshire
CV23 9QZ, UK

Table of contents


Section 1
Making the Case

1 Why an urbanizing world needs new approaches to settlement planning
1.1 Cities: The engines of national and regional development
1.2 The urbanization of poverty and its implications
1.3 Environmental imperatives

2Pointers to sustainable settlements
2.1 No sustainable development without sustainable urbanization
2.2 Governance, decentralization and subsidiarity
2.3 Adequate shelter for all
2.4 Economic opportunity and services
2.5 Environmental justice and environmentally sustainable cities
2.6 Diversity and equity
2.7 New times, new skills, new professionals

Section 2
Practices, processes and skills

3Analytical and cognitive skills
3.1 Understanding the environmental dimensions of sustainable settlements
Case Study 1 Philippines: Use of GPS and participatory 3D models to reclaim land on Mindanao
Case Study 2 USA: How to make low density suburbia more sustainable, attractive and profitable
3.2 Understanding the economic dimensions of sustainable settlements
Case Study 3 Europe: European spatial planning
Case Study 4 USA: Measuring the Informal Economy at the Neighbourhood Level
3.3 Understanding the social dimensions
Case Study 5 India: Counting the invisible: the census of pavement dwellers in Mumbai
3.4 Understanding the cultural dimensions
Case Study 6 UK: Black Environment Network
3.6 Summary
Key messages

4 Communication, negotiation and inclusion
4.1 Participate, communicate, interact
Case Study 7 South Africa: Debating Integrated Development Plans across a local authority
4.2 Negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution
Case Study 8 Bangladesh: Negotiating water connection for the urban poor
Case Study 9 Malawi: Analysing problems and opportunities to determine a path to better housing for the urban poor
4.3 Building inclusion
Case Study 10 UK: Building inclusion through the Planning Aid programme
Case Study 11 Russia: Mainstreaming gender into the local policy
4.4 agenda
4.5 Summary
Key messages

5 Being Strategic
5.1 Strategic action is integrated action
Case Study 12 Sri Lanka:Post-tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation in Galle
Case Study 13 The Netherlands: A strategic response to social exclusion and neighbourhood decline
5.2 Strategy and vision
Case Study 14 Kenya: Participation for neighbourhood plans in Kitale
5.3 Leadership skills and selling the vision
Case Study 15 Bulgaria: Leadership and vision for the scaling-up of Romani school desegregation
5.4 Summary
Key messages

6 Management
6.1 Managing and accounting for budgets
Case Study 16 India: Bridging the finance gap at the local level for effective community-led solutions in urban development
6.2 Building and sustaining partnerships
Case Study 17 Bolivia: Partnering for more efficient and affordable water supply
6.3 Change management
Case Study 18 Brazil: Initiating inclusive processes at city scale58
Case Study 19 Nigeria: Dynamic Planning for an integrated development strategy in the Niger Delta
Case Study 20 Mozambique: Improving municipal governance in Dondo
6.4 Institutionalizing and mainstreaming
Case Study 21 Thailand: Mainstreaming community-led processes for housing and urban poverty alleviation
6.5 Summary
Key messages

7 Monitoring and learning
7.1 Monitoring and evaluation
Case Study 22 Peru: The Cities for Life Forum and mainstreaming monitoring and evaluation
7.2 Learning from and with others
Case Study 23 Europe: The Innovation Circle
Case Study 24 Shack Dwellers International: Learning through community exchange
7.3 Learning in practice
Case Study 25 Ghana: Learning from rapid urban growth and reflection in Kumas
7.4 Being a ‘reflective’ practitioner
Case Study 26: Education and research
Case Study 27: Consultant
Case Study 28: NGO
7.5 Summary
Key messages

Section 3
The Way Ahead

8New places, new planning, new skills?
8.1 Changing places, changing skills, changing planning
8.2 Where next?


This guide was prepared for the United Nations World Urban Forum III and the World Planning Congress in Vancouver in June 2006. The aim of the guide is to focus international attention on the urgent need to increase global understanding of sustainable urban development processes and pro-poor planning practices.

Although the text refers extensively to ‘planners’, it is for all those engaged in the processes of planning and managing towns, cities and settlements: political leaders, professional planners, engineers, architects, lawyers, health and social professionals and technicians, and many others in national, regional and local government, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and private sector consultancies and enterprises, all of whom have a vital contribution to making and maintaining sustainable settlements.

Section 1 explains why a step-change is necessary. There is a need for more people with the knowledge and skills to make a difference but, equally important, new skills and attitudes are required, especially in conditions of rapid urbanization and the urbanization of poverty.

Section 2 demonstrates ways in which professionals and NGOs are creating and delivering innovative responses, often in situations of extremely scarce resources and conflictive competition for access to resources. Not all the examples are ‘best practices’; successful innovators are those who learn from their mistakes. Nor is it suggested that all practices are transferable from one country or city to another. Transfer can only be based on local judgements and understanding of different cultures and values. We ask only that those who read this guide reflect on whether their own skills and practices could be enhanced, and whether the skills discussed here could help to make settlements more sustainable.

Section 3 briefly looks to the future. Its tone is optimistic, but not utopian. The global challenge of urbanization is daunting, but as Section 2 shows, imagination and skills can make an impact. This guide is a start, and hopefully a catalyst. It does not pretend to be comprehensive. Many readers will have experiences of their own of making planning work. We invite them to share those ideas.

The case studies are grouped under five broad categories relating to the skills they demonstrate. Click on the case study to see the full text.

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
Analytical and Cognitive Skills
  • New information can reveal new potentials.
  • Collaboration and networking to gather and analyze information
    and to share understandings are not just technical matters, they
    are means of empowerment and capacity building.
  • New skills and attitudes are needed to reach new sources of information and understanding. These include skills in identifying stakeholders, understanding the nature of livelihoods, of markets,
    of natural resources, and of different cultures.

Use of GPS and participatory 3D models to reclaim land on Mindanao
This case shows how 21st century technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS) and geographical information systems (GIS) can be used in a participatory manner to improve natural resource planning and resolve conflicts over land. Demonstrates that sophisticated modern information technologies can help planners and other decision makers to better understand the need for a sustainable approach to resource planning.

How to make low density suburbia more sustainable, attractive and profitable
Looks at a form of development and land use planning that is widely thought to work against sustainability – low density North American suburban subdivision. The case study shows how a shared understanding of the natural environment – and the property market – can change routines and create more sustainable outcomes.

Spatial planning and territorial cohesion
Looks at the development of cross-border and transnational planning in Europe and the skills being developed in collecting and analyzing information across and between spatial scales.It shows how skills are being developed in the analysis of territorial potentials and in assessment of the territorial impacts of policies in fields such as transport, agriculture and research and development.

Measuring the informal economy at the neighbourhood level
Shows how, in the context of the United States the processes of getting and using the information, are bringing communities, the private sector and government into closer contact. This builds the potential for partnerships and for long-term benefits to a greater number of urban dwellers.

Counting the invisible: The census of pavement dwellers in Mumbai
Shows how deep-rooted barriers can be overcome and information can become a force for progress. By creating and disseminating information on their community, their lives and the problems they face, pavement dwellers managed to change stakes in their favour, impacting on urban policy and perceptions among city officials.

Including minority ethnic communities’ views and heritage in the built and natural environment
Shows how ethnic minority groups in a town in the United Kingdom were able to find ways to share and celebrate their different experiences and cultures.

Communication, negotiation and inclusion
  • Listen, question, synthesize, summarize and look for solutions.
  • Such skills are easily taken for granted; they should be learned
    and practiced.

Debating Integrated Development Plans across a local authority
This case shows skills of developing consensus among local residents through communication, mutual listening and debate. It demonstrates how, despite the post-apartheid social schisms of South African cities, an institutional capacity to collaborate and coordinate priorities for action can be built up.

Negotiating water connection for the urban poor
Illustrates how a successful negotiation process can lead to urban utility reform in favour of the urban poor. It also demonstrates how, with the right balance of diplomacy and political force, it is possible for an NGO or organized community groups to navigate between the red tape and power struggles imposed by government authorities and other stakeholders and progressively gain confidence through the setting of successful precedents.

Analyzing problems and opportunities to determine a path to better housing for the urban poor
Shows how negotiations verging on mediation through the work of an NGO were able to bridge the gap between the ‘normal’ policies of a local authority and the needs of the urban poor. By negotiating a compromise solution that was then shown to work, new confidences were developed. This then enabled the project to be scaled up and the lessons and benefits spread to other areas of the city.

Building inclusion through the Planning Aid programme
This case shows practical initiatives that promote a better inclusion of under-represented groups in the local planning process. Through the organization of educational workshops, community surveys, grassroots initiatives or training of community leaders, it built people’s capacity to get their needs recognized.

Mainstreaming gender into the local policy agenda
This case shows practical initiatives that promote a better inclusion of under-represented groups in the local planning process. Through the organization of educational workshops, community surveys, grassroots initiatives or training of community leaders, it built people’s capacity to get their needs recognized.

Being Strategic
  • Skills are needed to ensure that strategic actions embody insights from communities and stakeholders who are essential to the implementation of those actions.
  • Horizontal and vertical integration will sustain a vision and make it realistic; lack of support, conflicting priorities and inconsistencies between policies over time and/or space will undermine strategies.
  • Leadership matters and leadership skills are important in developing and sharing a vision.

Post-tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation in Galle
This case shows how integrated and strategic action in a UN-Habitat project in Sri Lanka was able to maximize the underlying benefits of rehabilitation and reconstruction after the 2004 tsunami. Strategic planning is often associated with top-down planning, the case presented here shows that being strategic can also work bottom-up.

A strategic response to social exclusion and neighbourhood decline
Illustrates the need for integrated action and community involvement in the regeneration of a run-down township, showing that is not easy to get the various sectoral experts to understand each other’s position and expectations when generic skills are lacking.

Participation for neighbourhood plans in Kitale
Shows the importance of diagnostic tools in addressing deficiencies in order to express a public vision for a place. Lessons can be learned from situations where the need for strategic action is recognized.

Leadership and vision for the scaling-up of Romani school desegregation
Shows the importance, for strategic purposes, of strengthening alliances between leaders and combining their capacity to understand, analyze and mobilize particularly in the face of long-established prejudices.

  • Management skills matter. Planning needs to be efficient and effective.
  • Management is not just a top-down process that is only the responsibility of senior officials or administrators.
  • Management skills drive a sustainable and pro-poor planning agenda.
  • Management skills are essential for successful implementation of plans and policies.

Bridging the finance gap at the local level for effective community-led solutions in urban development
This case study illustrates how financial management and budgeting skills are part of the capacity needed to develop creative and sustainable solutions in urban development. Such schemes enable the poor to address their needs and strengthen their position in relation to the other actors involved in urban development.

Partnering for more efficient and affordable water supply
Shows how the importance of stakeholders' willingness and commitment to work together towards shared objectives is crucial in a partnership and that communication and transparency between the partners promote the sustainability of a partnership.

Initiating inclusive processes at city scale
Highlights the importance of continuous cooperation and inclusion throughout the implementation process, directly involving communities and their organizations in the management of the initiatives that affect them, thereby benefiting from their skills and resources in an effective way.

Dynamic Planning for an integrated development strategy in the Niger Delta
Argues that integrated planning as 'management of change' requires several anticipatory or 'scenario constructing' skills and techniques, key among them being the ability to see the environment as a multi-dimensional set of interactions.

Improving municipal governance in Dondo
Shows that for decentralization to succeed there is often a need for new institutional structures at the community level to promote dialogue between government and civil society.

Mainstreaming community-led processes for housing and urban poverty alleviation: The development of CODI and the Baan Mankong programme
An example of how different actors, communities, NGOs, local and national government authorities from different sectors have learnt new skills and worked out new processes on how to work together for city-wide development and urban poverty reduction.

'The way ahead'

This short section reflects on some of the ideas in the preceding chapters. It raises several questions. What are the implications of getting to grips with the sorts of skill sets outlined in Section 2? Can they and should they be institutionalized by urban planners and managers? What does it mean for the planning profession and planning education systems?

New places, new planning, new skills?

The problems of urban growth and the urbanization of poverty that are outlined in Section 1 are are becoming familiar internationally. The response, however, is often one of resignation and inertia in the face of their seemingly insurmountable scale. The benefits and opportunities of urbanization, also described in Section 1, receive less attention and can easily be overlooked, even by people who themselves benefit from urban lifestyles and livelihoods.

Many examples given in Section 2 show how problems of urban development can be turned into opportunities. They provide an insight into approaches and practices for the planning and management of towns and cities that build upon the potentials and resources (most of them human) that are provided by the process of urbanization itself. They also describe the sorts of skills that can make a difference when combined with the efforts and energies of people and institutions. Many of the skills have been learnt through practice and were not part of traditional professional training.

There was never an intention to present the case studies in Section 2 as ‘best practices’, and many of them show what can go wrong as well as what works. Nevertheless, taken together they make an optimistic narrative. They also show that, while conditions vary widely between the rich countries of the global North and the poorer countries of the South, many of the generic skills required for more sustainable settlements are very similar.

This is not a prescription for their direct and uncritical adoption in other situations. Local conditions, resources and cultures must be filters on transfers – adaptations will always be necessary and are entirely legitimate. However, it is suggested that globalization in its many guises is posing some very similar challenges in different places. Cities are spreading and putting pressure on the environment, the gap between rich and poor is widening, governments are weaker and need to work with other partners, international networking opens new possibilities, and above all, the barriers of social exclusion need to be broken down. The experiences outlined in the preceding chapters show that urban planning and management need to change, have changed and are changing.

Changing places, changing skills, changing planning

Despite these general observations, the quantitative and qualitative changes that are happening in settlements and regions have not yet been fully comprehended, even by many planners who, perhaps more than any other single profession, should be engrossed in urban analysis. It is these changes that are driving the people who contributed to our case studies, and many more like them, to try to find new ways of working, new relationships between governments and civil society, and new skills.

Many of the skills now needed are fundamental to a planning process: collecting and analyzing information, managing competing demands, creating visions for the future, monitoring and evaluation are all examples. Indeed there will be some who argue that Section 2 is not about new skills at all, but a reassertion of traditional planning skills, albeit sometimes in new settings and with new emphases. However, the novelty really lies in the extent to which active engagement and networking with very diverse groups and individuals, and proactive consensus building amid conditions where conflict is often deep rooted, are seen as fundamental to achieving more equitable and sustainable development and to everything planners do.

Thus urban planning cannot be separated from the management of urban development or the administration of urban services. It is ironic, however, that urban planning as a profession is still often demarcated by a concern only with the location and distribution of land uses and the control of its development, and is seen as almost exclusively based in the public sector. The double irony is that this marginalization of planning means that an integrated and practical approach to human settlements has also been marginalized. There are signs that this is beginning to change. The planning and management of urban development embraces a great deal more than land use. Those engaged in urban development have roles to play in the political process of decision making, the managerial functions of implementing development policies, programmes and projects, and intervening in the day-to-day administration of infrastructure and service delivery.

The extent to which different actors have separate roles principally depends on the human resources that are available. In a wealthy Northern city a relatively high degree of professional and technical specialization may be expected, but in many towns and cities of the South one or two public sector professionals, who may or may not be planners, often have to take responsibility for a wide range of issues. These not only span the processes of planning, management and administration, but also entail operating at a variety of different levels: for instance with policy makers and politicians; donors and aid agents; technical and professional consultants; civil society and faith-based organizations; community leaders and local political groups; private enterprises and associations; and their peers in other departments of the administration – health, education, works and so on.

Thus, in addition to developing the sorts of skills outlined in the chapters in Section 2, urban planners and managers, particularly those in countries with a scarcity of professionals and technicians, have to have at least a basic understanding of many different disciplines: civil engineering and the extension and maintenance of infrastructure; urban design and the use of public land; environmental health and conservation; land management and property markets; urban sociology and community development; urban economics and public revenue management; municipal law and development control standards and legislation.

This is not to say that urban planners and managers replace the need for all other professionals. Rather it shows that, especially in situations of rapid urbanization and few skilled staff, professionalism has to become more generic. The old professionalism was about excluding outsiders and erecting boundary fences around knowledge and skills. This is the very antithesis to conditions now known to foster creative thought and innovation. Professionals need to share their knowledge and skills with each other and with non-professionals with whom and for whom they work. The more barriers they cross the more likely it is that the outcomes will contribute towards sustainable settlements.

Where next?

Most planners and planning researchers and academics are in rich countries that are far removed in almost every way from the less developed countries where 93 per cent of the increase in the world’s urban population is expected to take place over the next 15 years. There is not only a gross spatial maldistribution of professional planners, there is an urgent need for a transformation in capacity for the governance, planning and management of settlements globally.

This implies quantitative change – many more people with the right knowledge and skills – and qualitative change, which means identifying and developing key skills. Local knowledge and understanding will always be vital to the good governance of human settlements, and the nature of governance will be shaped by different traditions and cultures. However, it should be possible to modernize planning through globalizing the knowledge and skills networks and in particular through finding ways to develop capacity quickly in those places where the pool of skills in urban planning has not kept pace with the rate of urbanization.

Capacity building, however, is not only a question of developing skills, important though they are. If the development of appropriately equipped professionals is to be made more effective by training and encouraging them to operate in different ways and in conjunction with different partners, they need responsive and supportive organizational environments in which to exercise their new understanding and skills. However, many local government departments, in which many planners work, are structured in ways and with traditions that do to not allow new initiatives or encourage inter-agency collaboration or cooperation with civil society and community groups. Thus, simultaneous changes in the organizational structures, particularly of local government, are needed in order to allow new approaches to planning and management to flourish. But the ability of government departments and agencies to change is often constrained by higher level national institutions, legislation and regulations. Thus, institutional change, that entails national-level political and legislative intervention, is also simultaneously required.

In addition to the three components of capacity building – institutional development, organizational development and human resource development – the ability to increase the relevance and effectiveness of urban planning and management is constrained where professional education has not been modernized, opportunities for continuing professional development are limited or non-existent, and traditions of professionalism are defensive and exclusionary. Formal education and professionalism have a vital role to play in delivering the kind of approaches and skills that this guide has identified but they are only part of the picture. Sub-professional training, training the trainers, accreditation of experiential learning (the know-how picked up in civil society organizations, for example) and continuing professional development are of paramount importance.

Much could be achieved if the international community, governments, professional associations and higher education institutions worked together to actively promote more inclusive and participatory approaches, such as those outlined in Section 2, and to ensure that access to appropriate skills was easily available in places where they are urgently needed. The mandate for this was given by the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Agenda, endorsed by 171 member states at the United Nations City Summit a decade ago.

At the same time, there is a range of more immediate and pragmatic actions that need to be taken at different levels. Important among these are:

  • Making better and more effective use of the internet to spread and build knowledge and to forge new networks and exchanges of experience between professionals and all others engaged in integrated and participatory approaches to sustainable urban planning and management and poverty reduction. It is often pointed out that in many situations not even professionals, or the institutions and agencies in which they work, have access to the internet or the technical and language skills to benefit from it. However, this situation is changing extremely rapidly and it should certainly not be used as an excuse for inertia. Nevertheless, imagination is still needed to develop ways to publicize appropriate websites and to make them easier to understand, use and interact with.

  • Greater investment in the development and delivery of affordable and accessible distance learning opportunities for appropriate planning-related education and skill training. Where possible, such programmes should also carry credits towards the award of recognized qualifications, not only to provide incentives, but also to legitimize their beneficiaries professionally in order to help advance them on their local career ladder and to add weight to the content of the alternative education and training that they provide.

  • More coherent approaches and proliferation of training on-the-job, for-the-job and by- the-job that help build structures that encourage and support the ‘reflective practi tioner’, and create ladders of opportunity for those outside professions, but who are actively engaged in trying to manage urban change in sustainable ways. Such training support is increasingly becoming part of international planning consultancy contracts and NGO activities in countries of the South, but it needs reinforcing and extending to a wider range of support agencies. As with distance learning, it needs to receive greater formal recognition and legitimization.

  • Increased networking and combined pressure and support by the international profes sional bodies and associations to raise the political profile of urban issues and the urgent need for a significant change in the level of political commitment and investment in all three components of capacity building. Many international profes
    sional associations, partners in the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, are already committed to this end, but their ranks can grow and their efforts can be redoubled.

  • Encouraging greater media awareness and popular publicity to the success stories and related messages concerning the impact of more participatory approaches to the development of settlements, such as those in Section 2 of this guide. The power of public pressure on policy and procedural reform, in whatever political system, cannot be underestimated. However, people need positive and progressive examples in order to develop visions and make demands of their leaders, but virtually all of the current press coverage and commentary on urban growth and change is negative, alarmist and doom-laden. Good news needs to be made newsworthy.
As with all the messages in this guide, these exhortations are not new. The have been made before and they are all already being implemented in many places by many people. However, if the Millennium Development Goals are to be met, in urban and rural areas alike there will have to be a quantum shift to more sustainable approaches to the planning and management of settlements in the coming half-decade. This will not be easy but it can be done.

This special feature sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
seeing is believing
Last updated on:03 April 2009