Participatory democracy

Faced with new challenges related to a lack of democracy and empowerment of inhabitants in modern society, a variety of alternative participation methods have been developed and experimented. Applied mainly at the local level, they complement more or less traditional instruments such as elections, referendums, hearings, forums, round tables etc..

Here is a general overview of some of these methods, classified according to their purpose/level of participation. Please note: This classification is not definitive, it applies depending on the realisation of a method in a specific case (more information on a method can be found in the tests mentioned at the end).



 Walks/Discovery tours:


  • provoke a different perception of a place/site
  • to highlight specificities (which until then may have been unnoticed)
  • creating new relationships between the person/community and the respective place (creation of new meanings )

Method :

  • walks/visits to specific places (e.g. neighbourhood in crisis) with
  1. Involvement of experts/people from the local community who could provide information about the place (or part of the place) and encourage discussion;
  2. the use of various documentation materials: images, articles, music, interviews … ;
  3. discussion between the participants (citizens, politicians, administration, representatives of the economy, etc.)

Resource requirements:

  • “guide-animator
  • experts if necessary
  • documentation material Location:
  • any terrain Advantage:
  • possibility of attracting citizens from all groups (including the most disadvantaged)
  • participants do not necessarily have to speak, the method does not require specific skills from the participants


Creation of city maps (Parish maps etc.)


  • to provoke a new perception of a public place/environment; to promote a new relationship of a person/community with a specific place
  • creating new relationships between citizens (getting to know each other, creating a sense of belonging to a local community)
  • sharing information, fears, visions
  • encourage joint activities
  • better identification of problems and sensitisation of the community, local authority and other local actors

Method :


  • The initiative is taken by citizens, the local authority or other local actors. It focuses on a specific topic/area (e.g. nature, history, food, traditions, literature, community activities, confrontation …)
  • The participants are invited to express themselves on the subject by highlighting what they appreciate in their neighbourhood/village/town or what they consider
  • Exchange, information gathering and creation of the plan by the participants (they could choose one or both activities)
  • different ways of creating the plan (slightly more ‘unusual’ examples: sewing, weaving, filming, performing)ð promoting creativity in all its senses (not just intellectual)

Resources :


  • A professional facilitator is not necessarily
  • a room large enough to accommodate all participants
  • a place (several places) where the plan will be clearly visible to all members of the local community
  • variable budget (can already operate with limited financial resources)


  • variable


  • often initiated by the citizens themselves
  • groups of various sizes
  • definition of its own rules and the speed of work by the group
  • various possibilities to adapt the work to the group
  • method that has the potential to attract different groups (even very disadvantaged groups)
  • opportunities to attract/involve new participants during the project
  • particularly recommended for the participation of young people/children and families


Pin Method




  • new perception of a public place
  • creating new relationships between citizens/promoting the creation of a sense of belonging
  • exchange of information, sharing of fears and visions
  • provoke concrete and joint initiatives/activities
  • better identification of problems and sensitisation of the community, local authority and other local actors

Method :


  • initiative by citizens, the local authority or other local actors
  • With the help of different coloured pins, the participants locate on a map of their town/neighbourhood etc. attractive (leisure, services, consultation …) or problematic
  • discussion and reflection on possible solutions/joint activities
  • collection of documentation material (articles, photos, videos …)

This method can also be used as a preparation for the creation of a city map focusing on a specific topic (see method above).


Resources :

  • A professional facilitator is not necessarily
  • a room large enough to accommodate all participants
  • in case of creation of a city map related to the topic: a place (several places) where the map will be clearly visible to all members of the local community
  • variable budget (can already operate with limited financial resources)


  • variable


  • often initiated by the citizens themselves
  • variable group size
  • various possibilities to adapt working methods to the group
  • method that has the potential to attract different groups (even very disadvantaged groups)
  • opportunities to attract/involve new participants during the project







– train a group in their communication, listening and comprehension skills in order to optimise the results of a project (motivation: many conversations fail because of misunderstandings)

Group work :

  • joint definition and testing of a ‘good’ dialogue
  • identifying and applying (practising) key skills (putting yourself in the other person’s situation, looking for key messages, being clear, letting stories/messages ‘live’, controlling emotions …)
  • encourage dialogue with less competent people
  • practice maintaining and ‘repairing’ communication
  • use of videos or other material to demonstrate right/wrong behaviour
  • important: mixed groups (different generations, skills, knowledge)

Resources :


  • time: at least one day
  • professional coach
  • a large enough room to work in pairs
  • technical equipment (projector, video …)
  • budget: expenses for the hall and its equipment, the commitment of the coach, materials and, possibly, food/drinks



  • can be initiated by different groups/organisations
  • depending on the venue/organisation/promotion/image of the organiser, this method could also attract disadvantaged groups (or not!)



  • experts needed (trainer)
  • participation costs (how to finance?)


Meeting of the generations




  • improving relations/understanding between different groups in a local community (in this case between different generations)
  • promote tolerance, reduce fears
  • promote a sense of belonging and responsibility for a local community
  • encourage solidarity between generations and common activities (e.g. “exchange” of services)

Method :


  • create spaces for dialogue on specific local events/current issues or
  • create spaces for “general” exchange (older people talk about their experiences and biographies, young people about their environment, their ..)

Location: variable (preferably residential spaces) Advantages:

  • can be initiated by different groups of citizens
  • flexible location, rules
  • can be achieved with few financial resources
  • potential to attract all groups of citizens (including the most disadvantaged)




Citizens’ exhibition




  • create a new local public space
  • encourage dialogue between different groups of citizens, different stakeholders
  • promote a different perception of local reality through “visual arguments Method :
  • strongly focused on techniques and visual impacts
  • presentation of citizens’ opinions, visions, ideas using images, drawings, photos, videos … (related to a particular local development topic)


  1. defining a specific topic of the exhibition through qualitative interviews with representatives of all local stakeholders (or a fairly large number of local stakeholders)
  1. interviews on the subject
  2. photos of the interviewees are taken
  3. interviewees are given the opportunity to choose photos about the exhibition; they can also contribute with their own material (photos)
  4. excerpts from the interviews and the photos are put together to demonstrate the opinion and vision of the interviewees/stakeholders
  5. setting up of the exhibition
  6. opening of the exhibition (= an additional opportunity to initiate dialogue and attract a large number of citizens)

Resources :

  • animators, organisers, photographers
  • several months for the preparation
  • locations (not every location is appropriate) and adequate equipment (can be expensive)



  • visual arguments – a potential to attract different groups (even the most disadvantaged) and to create another “look”, but only a part of the reality
  • risk: exclusion of certain groups/persons from the preparation of the exhibition

Community appraisal/community profiling

  • often used in rural areas Objective:
    • identify and solve local problems
    • improve the local situation with all citizens
    • creating a public space/public debate and a sense of belonging to the local community
    • encourage joint activities

Method :

  1. mobilising different groups of citizens around a topic
  2. a steering committee (takes decisions on the concrete method/approach and on the subject)
  3. development of a questionnaire
  4. distribution of questionnaires (to each household) – collection
  5. encode and analyse the results
  6. develop a report, including recommendations and an action plan
  7. prioritise the recommendations
  8. send recommendations to the groups/organisations/institutions in charge of these issues (local authority, company, etc.)
  9. promoting political action (in the town council )
  10. publication of the report (media, local newspaper, )
  • distribution of the report among the inhabitants (free or for a very low price)
  • organise public events to discuss the report (while offering local authorities and other stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the recommendations ) – find consensus on priorities and actions
  • Establish working groups/task forces for specific actions (with specific ‘timetables’ – with concrete deadlines etc.)
  1. identify methods and means of monitoring/tracking actions Resources :
    • time: at least one year
    • expensive equipment: meeting places (a neutral place for public events; a room for steering group meetings), technical, publications, people
    • perhaps use of specific software (“Village Appraisals for Windows”, “Compass” for community profiling)
    • recommended independent moderators/facilitators


  • can be initiated by the citizens themselves
  • to be best applied in areas that are not too large: all inhabitants could be involved
  • a lot of voluntary commitment needed
  • quite expensive

Planungszelle (Bürgergutachten) (Peter Dienel)



  • consultation of citizens on a concrete issue; participation of a representative group of citizens in local planning
  • consensus building
  • strengthening social skills and links between different local groups

Method :

  1. representative selection of approximately 25 citizens from different ‘stakeholders’/with different positions (random sample)
  2. development of solutions for a very concrete planning problem during one week (work in groups); collection of necessary information by listening to/interviewing experts and stakeholders (try to deal with all different opinions); discussion
  • in order to avoid the appearance of “opinion leaders”, the group is regularly divided into sub-groups of 5 people (the composition always changes)
  1. discussion of the research results of different groups in the plenum – in the absence of experts
  2. preparation of an expert report
  • (in order to increase representativeness, several “Planungszellen” can work in parallel)

Resources :

  • meeting places for the group, for different sub-groups, for interviews
  • moderator/facilitator required
  • duration: approximately one week
  • allowances: participants do not work for a week (reimbursement required); replacements for other people’s carers must be organised and funded
  • interpreters for people with language problems


  • A solution to difficult problems is
  • outcome=valuable recommendations based on consensus between different groups
  • possibility of involving people who had never been included in participation processes before (according to reported experiences)
  • improvement of social skills
  • very expensive
  • often initiated by the local authority
  • the initial problem is defined by the “organisers
  • Who decides on the representativeness of citizens?

Citizens’ Jury


  • objectives, method, means similar to the “Planungszelle
  • creation of a jury of about 20 citizens (selected according to the principle of representativeness) who will listen to different experts/stakeholders on a concrete topic
  • conclusions presented in the form of a report (also contains any disagreements)

Participatory Appraisal



  • learning and interacting
  • setting priorities

Method :

  1. a group of citizens decides to work on a topic (often with the help of a moderator/animator/social worker)
  2. assessment of the situation from their point of view, discussion
  3. collection of information/data on the subject by various means, often by interviews/surveys at various locations (public or non-public, each opinion remains anonymous)
  4. involvement of other groups in the process

– citizens/residents can be addressed directly

  1. identifying problems and proposing solutions
  2. development of a report
  • use mainly visual methods to a) involve people with communication/literacy problems; b) simplify very complex topics; c) stimulate interest, discussion and willingness to participate

Resources :

  • facilitator needed
  • duration: depends on the problem and the willingness of the participants
  • budget: depends on the duration and the methods used Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • very flexible method
  • applicable to different groups
  • often initiated by the citizens themselves
  • can take place in different places (at home, in a shopping centre, in a brasserie …) – independently of formal ‘meetings
  • each person involved decides to what extent they participate
  • visual techniques/methods can attract or better engage diverse groups, but could also demonstrate only part of the problem

Participatory Theatre



  • discovering the experiences/positions/views/fears of others
  • reduce frustrations
  • discover/experiment with solutions
  • achieving a shared vision

Method (may take place first as a workshop, later in public spaces) :


Image Theatre


– form “pictures”, “tableaux” (e.g. with another participant) to demonstrate various situations of personal reality

after :

  • form tables to express the desired future
  • form tables showing the steps by which the desired situation can be achieved
  • animation of the boards (example: other participants try to enter the board and experience the situation)

Forum Theatre


  1. Actors” first give a 10-15 minute performance showing a person trying to achieve a goal and
  2. Afterwards, the performance is repeated: the “audience” is invited to give their opinion on the person’s behaviour (could they have acted differently?) or to participate directly in the performance in order to replace the actor and test their idea (did it succeed?)

Resources :

  • animator with theatre experience and social skills to work with local people
  • a place for ‘rehearsals’ and performance (in summer parks and other spaces can also be used)
  • depends on the size, location and needs of the participants Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • not too formal: potential to attract, for example, people who are not usually part of other participation processes and who have problems with verbal communication
  • stimulating atmosphere
  • potential to address and animate participants in public spaces
  • experimenting with ideas/simulations

Team Syntegrity



  • synergy + integration (“syntégration”)
  • working on complex issues on the basis of sharing as much information as possible
  • develop creative solutions
  • strengthen relationships between residents Method :
  1. selection of approximately 30 people (based on representativeness criteria)
  2. draw up an agenda with the 12 most important aspects (of a complex subject):
  • brainstorming (collecting a number of findings)
  • create 25 different topics from these findings
  • Topic Auction: description of each topic by the person who proposed it – selection of the 12 aspects
  1. creation of working groups
  2. each topic is discussed in sub-groups of 5 people (if the total number of participants is 30):
  • each participant is a) a member of two working groups, b) a critic of two others, and c) an observer in two groups (the roles of critic and observer allow the ideas of others to be listened to and ‘brought’ into the working groups)
  • three discussion moments in each working group: after each module, a summary is developed and fixed on a board – critics and observers give feedback with visual instruments (already in the second discussion module, the topics of the different working groups “influence each other”, as members and critics contribute to the discussion with ideas from the other working groups)
  1. In plenary: sharing the final conclusions of each working group and developing an action agenda
  • action and collaboration groups could be formed at this time Resources :
  • several facilitators/moderators needed
  • several meeting places for the whole group and the working groups
  • duration: 4 to 5 days
  • technical equipment as required
  • persons in charge of documentation, if desired



  • initiated mainly by local authorities, trade unions, universities, media, voluntary groups (according to experiences)
  • ability to link topics/link different aspects of a topic
  • Attention: Who decides on representativeness and how?
  • “Long” duration (compared to other techniques)

Walt Disney Method (from Robert Dilts, referring to a Disney working method) Objective:

  • solving problems in a creative way
  • to make goals and visions concrete and achievable Method :

= A creative cycle, in which participants take on three different roles in succession:


  1. The Dreamer (the one who has visions, who brings ideas) : What are my wishes/vision?

What is possible (best case scenario)


  1. The director :

How can I do it?

What should I do or say?

With what? (people, knowledge, skills, materials, instruments) How do I feel about doing all this?

What already exists?


The director ‘experiments’ with the dreamer’s ideas before they are reviewed by the critic (to avoid ideas being excluded before their potential is discovered)


  1. The critic (the one who asks questions, who monitors quality)

The group goes to the three locations in turn. The participants listen to the dreamer, the director or the critic and discuss with them/ask questions.

It is important to have a short break between each “situation” to allow participants to adjust to the next one. Each situation/role should be considered as important as the other.


The process is repeated until the critic has no more relevant questions (and considers the result to be original, unique, functional, adequate and aesthetically pleasing).

The fact that all actors are at some point in each of the three roles ensures that each participant takes the other seriously.


Creating three different spaces is very useful (this can be done by decorating three different small rooms, by different chairs or by different posters or Flip Charts.


There are several possibilities to vary the course. Resources :

  • facilitator needed, where the group has no experience in this method
  • variable budget (not necessarily very expensive – depends on equipment/decoration )

Location: variable Advantages/Disadvantages:

  • variable process/may be adapted to participants’ needs
  • potential to attract different groups (depending on the character of the subject also disadvantaged groups)
  • potential to encourage the active contribution of each participant (fun factor, play)
  • can be applied in groups of different sizes or by a single person



Lawyer’s planning (Anwaltsplanung) (mainly applied in America, Germany)



– involvement of the most disadvantaged groups in planning processes Method :

Disadvantaged people are invited to participate in planning processes with the support of ‘citizen advocates’. These ‘advocates’ visit these people to give them explanations/information on a specific topic. Afterwards, the citizens develop their proposals which enter the planning process (with or without the support of the advocate).


Resources :


  • the “lawyers”.
  • the weather Advantages/Disadvantages:

– involvement of the most disadvantaged groups (support)ð lawyers go to their homes (= these people do not have to attend very formal meetings in ‘unfamiliar’ places which they might perceive as ‘unpleasant’)


Arbeitsbuchmethode (Workbook method) (applied mainly in Scandinavia)



  • activation/involvement of all groups of inhabitants in the local development process
  • strengthening links between residents/promoting a sense of belonging to a local community …

Method :


  1. a working group (as heterogeneous as possible) draws up a catalogue with relevant issues for the district = workbook 1
  2. multipliers (people who are well known in the neighbourhood or in a group of residents) distribute these catalogues to the residents (and collect them afterwards)
  • Immigrants should be visited by multipliers of the same origin (especially in case of language problems).
  1. publication of responses in Workbook 2
  2. creation of working groups with interested residents: concretising proposals and identifying priorities
  3. interviews with experts and all relevant groups/stakeholders
  4. publication of the results, including practical proposals (as a basis for policy decisions) in Working Paper 3
  • end of the process if less than one third of the population addressed participate

Resources :


  • moderators if necessary
  • appropriate multipliers (very important!!)

Location: highly variable Advantages/Disadvantages:

  • disadvantaged groups are directly addressed – they have the possibility to participate in their familiar environment (without going to unknown places



  • less appropriate for larger territories
  • How to find the appropriate multipliers?

Action Planning



  • develop local regeneration strategies/development strategies/solutions to specific problems with all groups in the local community and experts from different sectors

Method :


  • very often organised by a local partnership
  • moderated by 10 to 15 experts from different sectors (urban planning, urban design, architecture, economic development, ecology …) – be they local residents or “outsiders

Different events/steps:

  1. Stakeholder briefings of local planners, landowners, residents, politicians
  2. Physical discovery of the terrain (walks, by bus, even by plane)
  3. Workshops on specific topics (open to all)
  4. Design workshops (open to all)
  5. Brainstorming
  6. Analysis and Synthesis
  7. Report and presentation of recommendations (open to all)
  8. Publication of the report, including proposals, plans, tables, drawings, organisational charts …

Additional events can be organised for specific stakeholders. Resources :

  • local steering committee
  • moderators/facilitators
  • venues for different events
  • technical equipment …
  • administration office
  • (considerable) financial resources – depending on size and needs
  • time: from one day to several weeks …

Locations: should be within the territory concerned by the planning process




  • exchange between experts, politicians, stakeholders and citizens
  • according to the experiences a very appropriate method for involving young people
  • the possibility of engaging a number of local actors and the opportunity to set up joint activities/projects
  • not all steps open to all citizens
  • expensive
  • size of the budget (= dependence on the sponsor/organiser?)
  • risk of exclusion of certain groups?

Acting, creating, experiencing (ACE)


– refers to principle 21 of Agenda 21 Objective:

  • discover, demonstrate and support the contribution of young people to the Agenda 21 process
  • enables diverse experiences through a holistic approach to local, national and international development
  • creating positive relationships Method :
  • often organised by the young people themselves
  • identification of relevant topics for young people
  • key elements: Time, Space, Action
  • often use of different creative activities (artistic, scientific …)
  • raising awareness for the concept of sustainable development in all its aspects
  • preparation of action plans

– Support by assistants, teachers, local artists, politicians and other adults as moderators/catalysts


Resources :


  • local people as moderators (where necessary)
  • meeting places
  • equipment as required … location/budget: depends on activities/size Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • youth involvement
  • promotion of creativity
  • few constraints

Consensus conference (developed in Denmark, similar to the “Planungszelle” method)



  • develop a consensus on a specific issue between representatives of different local groups

Method :


  1. publication of advertisements in local newspapers/addressing residents in writing (letters)
  2. selection of a group of about 15 inhabitants from among the interested people (according to criteria of representativeness/mixity – not only in relation to the social group, but also including different attitudes towards the specific topic)
  3. meeting of the group over two weekends to familiarise themselves with the problem, select experts and prepare interviews with them
  4. public listening to the experts for two or three days (followed by the media, if possible)
  5. meeting of the group to prepare a report, including recommendations
  6. Objective: to find a consensus (sometimes a minority vote is possible/accepted)
  7. presentation of the recommendations during a press conference

Resources :

  • moderator/facilitator
  • meeting places
  • time: 3 to 4 days + weekends
  • finance the ‘leave’ of the jury members (= the participants) Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • confrontation between citizens and experts
  • public moments

Local dialogue (often combined with other participation methods)


– exists in varying forms Objective:

  • involvement of different groups in local development processes
  • more intensive consultation/collaboration Method :
  • very often starts with a citizens’ assembly, the objectives of which are general brainstorming/mapping, identification of work topics and the creation of working groups
  • working group meetings within a fixed period of time: development of proposals with the support of a qualified moderator
  • in parallel: interviews with groups that are not represented in the working groups or that were not present at the citizens’ assembly
  • presentation of the results and discussion during a second citizens’ assembly

Resource requirements :


  • qualified and, if possible, external facilitators/moderators
  • meeting places
  • budget according to the needs and size of the activities
  • duration: several weeks, months …



  • broad political support needed
  • risk of excluding groups/not addressing all groups
  • important: How are the working groups created (who decides on their composition)?

Outlook workshop/Community planning


  • combination of several methods Objective:

– developing innovative solutions to urban planning/socio-economic problems


Method :


  1. Preparation by a steering committee composed of initiators, citizens, political representatives …; composition of a file with important information; interviews with potential multipliers; promotion of the workshop …
  2. Workshop (usually over an extended weekend): with the support of moderators, participants discuss in working groups different aspects of a problem – try to develop innovative and creative solutions (with different participation/facilitation techniques)

The workshop is open to all. Interviews/surveys can be conducted beforehand to collect opinions and ideas from the target groups/all groups concerned with the issue.


  1. Viewing the results
  2. Analysis of the results and creation of a catalogue of objectives by an interdisciplinary working group
  3. Presentation of the catalogue to workshop participants and the public
  4. Publication of detailed documentation Important element: Continuous public information Resources :
  • moderators
  • multipliers (staff or volunteers) for interviews …
  • meeting places
  • technical equipment (as required)
  • resources needed to promote the workshop/publication/documentation
  • budget: large


  • broad involvement of the public (through the media, associations, multipliers)
  • Who decides on the composition of the steering group/interdisciplinary working group?
  • one-off event (what happens next – is it guaranteed?)
  • extensive preparation
  • expensive

Charrette Method



  • “to ‘outline’ proposals/recommendations for an urban planning process
  • create a platform that brings together all relevant groups

Method :


  1. One-day “pre-charrette”: meeting of all stakeholders interested in the planning process to develop an agenda for the charrette; explanation of the problem/objectives by “the client” = the person who has asked to organise a charrette process (e.g. a project owner)
  2. Collaboration between the charrette project leader or a steering committee and the ‘client’ to identify process rules/orientations/strategies for all parties
  3. Charrette for 4-6 days (all participants meet in different ways): solutions to the problem are discussed, sketched and refined step by step
  4. Elaboration of a final presentation consisting of drawings, recommendations and rules for a domain (based on the broadest possible consensus)
  • invitation of various citizens’ groups
  • support by experts and architects
  • should occur at a fairly early stage in the planning process
  • success condition: transparency of the process Resources :
    • moderators/architects/experts
    • time: duration of approximately one week
    • meeting places
    • budget according to needs Advantages/Disadvantages:
    • fairly flexible process
  • process open to all?
  • How to ensure active participation of all during a week (leave issue )
  • presupposes the willingness of the local administration and investors to involve citizens
  • probably inappropriate for the involvement of all groups (especially disadvantaged groups), as some of the necessary skills



Community Organizing


  • collective term for different approaches to organising citizens; developed in America


  • aims for long-term, continuous change
  • development of a strong organisation as a supporting structure Method:
  1. creation of a Sponsoring Committee (with key representatives from about 50 local organisations/bodies)
  2. resource-seeking (important: independence from state resources)
  3. subject identification process based on thousands of individual interviews with citizens/residents
  4. analysis of the needs of the citizens/inhabitants = basis for all subsequent initiatives
  5. initiative/action planning Resources:
  • large enough budget needed
  • staff/volunteers to conduct interviews
  • location: variable
  • time: long term Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • citizens/residents of all local groups are addressed directly
  • interviews with citizens/residents in their households or other familiar places
  • Much depends on the initiatives/attitudes, the collaboration of the founders/sponsors as well as the involvement of citizens in concrete

Neighbourhood management/Gemeinwesenarbeit



  • to bring together all the important players in a neighbourhood – to strengthen links
  • collect and concentrate local resources
  • mobilising the potential of self-help Method:
  1. Analysis of the current situation (through activating surveys and other methods similar to planning for real or the workbook method) – identify problems/gaps
  2. Development of concrete projects/actions
  3. Realization


  • active participation of as many citizens/inhabitants of a neighbourhood as possible
  • address all social groups (ideally one project for each target group)
  • starting point: problems that concern the inhabitants personally
  • generate and demonstrate concrete results on a regular basis (to maintain engagement/activity/willingness to participate)



  • time: long-term duration (to ensure positive results)
  • financial resources (ideally a fund administered by all the important actors in the neighbourhood – for example by a neighbourhood conference/assembly)
  • locations: variable Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • potential to involve all citizens
  • requires a certain budget

Open Space (Harrison Owen) Objective:

  • generate innovative ideas
  • softening rigid/immobile structures Method :
  • no agenda before!
  1. start of the meeting: participants write down their priority topics they would like to talk about
  2. creation of working groups (a participant can participate in several groups

– he/she can change the group even during his/her meeting)ð participants who have proposed working groups are responsible for their implementation (with the help of moderators)

  1. preparation of protocols with the results of all working groups
  2. distribution of different protocols to all participants
  3. final session: discussion and agreement on priorities/measures/actions Resources :
  • moderators
  • time: variable
  • locations: several meeting places needed
  • equipment/budget according to needs Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • animation/mobilisation without too many constraints
  • does not necessarily require specific skills (on the part of participants)
  • particularly suitable for groups/structures that work together for a longer period of time
  • useful at the beginning of a planning process
  • can be applied to groups of different sizes
  • cannot resolve conflicts of interest

Workshop for the future (Zukunftswerkstatt) developed by Robert Jungk Objective:

  • develop ideas in a group (no more than 25 people)
  • work on the possibilities of realising these ideas

Method :


  1. Critique phase: identify problems/gaps in a specific area; weight these problems according to their importance
  2. Ideas and fantasy phase: imagining/dreaming of alternatives
  3. Implementation phase: finding ways/opportunities to implement the ideas (In this phase, participants are encouraged to form action groups/coalitions/”idea sponsors”. )

The method is particularly appropriate for groups working together for a longer period.


  • use of creative and visualization techniques
  • strongly focused on the actions to be taken
  1. conclude concrete agreements

Important: repeat the method with the same group at some point in order to maintain the commitment of the participants (especially regarding the actions)


Resources :


  • Time/location: variable, depending on needs
  • moderator (who knows how to apply creativity techniques )



  • very flexible, inexpensive method
  • focus on actions (perspective of a “real” achievement)




Planning for Real (Tony Gibson/British neighbourhood initiatives) Objective:

  • promote the identification of inhabitants with a territory
  • involving citizens/inhabitants in planning processes Method :

1a) creation of a model of the neighbourhood which is then displayed in different public places (public transport, pubs, schools, leisure centres, other meeting places) to stimulate discussion


1b) in parallel: distribution of questionnaires; citizens/inhabitants are invited to tick off their different abilities and interests (help with moving house, work in the garden, childcare …) as a request or offerð possibility to encourage “service exchanges” or the alliance of people who would like to set up a project/initiative


  1. meeting around the model: participants mark with different colours the area in which they would like to have changes (one colour for one area); afterwards they identify priorities (taking into account feasibility in terms of time ) and responsibilities/skillsð creation of an action plan
  1. creation of working groups to carry out the actions (in small steps with simple activities to encourage participants to continue)

Important :

  • demonstrate success
  • choose a limited territory in order to promote identification with the project

Resources :

  • moderators/multipliers
  • material/equipment
  • meeting places Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • encourage residents to become active themselves and take responsibility for the local community
  • potential to involve and mobilise all local groups
  • promoting innovation and creativity
  • requires the will/mobilisation of the inhabitants

Future Search Conference



– creating a shared vision/encouraging action in an organisation/community Method :

  1. invitation of stakeholders concerned by a topic (ideal: 64 participants to form 8 tables for 8 stakeholders) – example: young people, shopkeepers,
  2. Reflecting on the past: each participant notes key events for themselves, the community and the world
  3. Exploring the present: creation of a large mind map with current developments that concern the local community; groups (stakeholders) identify important trends and their proposals for action related to these trends; discussion in the groups about positive and negative developments in the community (ideas can be written down on a paper tablecloth on the table)
  1. Creating visions in mixed groups (including identifying barriers and limitations); presenting the vision to other groups
  2. Identify a common vision (including identification of projects and identification of insurmountable differences): first in small groups, then in plenary
  3. Develop action plans: in groups that meet for a specific action (declaration of commitment by these groups)


  • moderators, but not experts (each participant is the “expert of his or her own life”)!
  • principle of self-management in small groups
  • each idea will be noted/made visible Resources :
  • facilitators/moderators
  • duration: at least 2 1/ 2 days (with a well structured agenda!)
  • venue: room with the possibility of making all proposals visible Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • highly structured method to develop a common vision, to develop projects/actions and to commit participants to future actions
  • vision generated by discussion between participants (without experts=without the risk of imposing positions/opinions)
  • good method for working with larger groups
  • fairly expensive event
  • risk of sponsor dependency
  • good preparation needed (steering committee?) – involvement of all local groups?
  • time: for the preparation, the event
  • very often invitation of concrete stakeholders (risk of exclusion of other groups that might also be concerned)

Real Time Strategic Change



  • developing shared visions/actions/strategies for change
  • promoting a culture of diversity

Variable method, based on the following principles:


  • Real Time :
  • Encourage participants to think and act as if they were already in the future
  • Preferred Future :
  • Base visions of the future on the best aspects of the past and present
  • Creating community (“We are all ‘strong’ individuals in a strong community”):
  • Which community do we want?
  • Understanding
  • Make decisions based on information (information on different points of view )
  • Reality as a key driver
  • Focusing the problems = generating opportunities for change
  • Empowerment/Inclusion
  • Empowering residents/employees through their inclusion in decision-making as well as through the delegation of responsibilities/competences (while clearly indicating the responsibilities of all actors in general)


  • good method for working with larger groups (works with several hundred participants)
  • very flexible method

Enspirited Envisioning




– creating and sharing visions Method :

  1. Clarify the concrete subject of a vision (without censorship or interpretation)
  2. Create individual visions of the future with indicators (signs, behaviours,

…), positive and negative consequences, values …

  • These visions are then
  1. Create a common vision (with long-term objectives, indicators, consequences …)
  2. Identifying strategies (developing ‘stories’ about the period between the present and a time in the future)
  3. Identify opportunities for action (including responsibilities, resources)
  4. If possible: presentation of the common vision, including actions and responsibilities/resources to the public (possibility of creating partnerships




  • Deep imagination (listening to the voice within oneself)
  • Listening in a deep/intensive way
  • Question deeply (identify the questions one would have about one’s own vision)

Resources :

  • facilitator/moderator
  • location: quiet place
  • variable budget depending on needs (generally low cost)
  • duration: at least one day Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • fairly flexible and lively method
  • potential to attract different groups

Choices Method



  • bring together a large number of inhabitants/citizens to create a common vision
  • encourage participants to take action to make this vision a reality Method :
  1. different meetings in/with the local community; mobilisation of citizens (e.g. via a discussion guide published in a local newspaper)ð aim: to gather ideas
  2. Identification of objectives: all ideas are presented and analysed in meetings/workshops; formulation of concrete objectives by groups interested in a specific topic/objective; development of a vision statement/slogans (bringing together different objectives)
  3. Voting: voting on the most important visions/objectives to the participants and publication of these objectives/visions
  4. Creation of action groups to achieve the objectives Resources :
  • time
  • Expensive: large budget needed
  • Moderators/facilitators/multipliersð volunteers desirable
  • Discussion guide (instead of a large number of moderators at the beginning)
  • desirable media support
  • meeting places: variable (but: a meeting place big enough to gather a whole neighbourhood/village …)


  • potential to involve all local groups
  • links interest/discussion with action (potential to mobilise inhabitants/citizens for action)
  • process that requires a large budget (financial, time, human resources)

Community indicators



  • simplify, measure and demonstrate issues of importance to a community
  • raise awareness on important issues
  • promote consensus on important issues/trends and actions Method :
  1. Preparation: reflection on the target groups as well as on an information dissemination strategy …
  2. The community/target groups reflect on important issues (use of questionnaires, interviews, workshops …)
  3. Selection of indicators for each topic
  4. Gathering information (through official statistics, the community itself

…)/Identifying resources within the community/Reflecting on objectives

  1. Communication process: transforming information into understandable indicators (use of media, exhibitions, publications, posters, material for schools, etc.)
  2. Encouraging/developing reflection and, above all, action
  3. Reporting progress

Resources :


  • moderators/multipliers/volunteers/local experts needed
  • financial budget
  • locations: variable (different meeting places needed)
  • places to publish information
  • time: this is a process! (lasting several months/years) Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • potential to involve all local groups
  • links discussion with action
  • expensive
  • people and methods needed to mobilise all groups




  • identify the positive aspects of the past in order to create/shape the future

Method :

  • based on Appreciative Inquiry
  1. Identify and understand the positive aspects of the past (through interviews with stakeholders/people concerned with a certain topic )
  2. Imagining – creating visions for the future (based on the past): ‘provocative proposals’ to question the present situation and identify what is possible
  • generate visions/goals and concrete methods/steps to achieve them
  1. Co-creation”: development of project partnerships between interested organisations/individuals

Resources :


  • moderator (where appropriate/necessary)
  • variable budget (depending on the needs/size of the activities)
  • meeting places Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • potential to involve different groups and address them in their environment
  • linking discussion with action
  • promotion of local partnership

Participatory strategic planning

(developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs – ICA; one of the methods of the “Technology of Participation”)



  • developing visions and actions
  • encouraging action

Method :

  • 15-50 participants (they should also be the ones who make the visions/plan)
  • combination of individual work, work in small groups and plenary work

4 to ½ day workshops:

  1. The practical vision
  • What visions for the future (in 3-5 years)?
  1. Obstacles
  • What could prevent the realisation of the visions?
  1. Strategic directions
  • How to overcome obstacles in an innovative way?
  1. The implementation plan (based on the principle that the actions will start “next Monday”)
  • plan concrete actions (including resources, responsibilities, deadlines, )
  • participants engage in concrete actions Conditions:
  • SMART principle: actions must be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-bound

Resources :


  • moderators
  • location: large enough place with the possibility to display/visibility all ideas/proposals
  • budget: depending on size/needs Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • linking discussion/sharing of visions with concrete actions
  • focus on those who will/are able to carry out actions (may be an advantage but also a risk of exclusion of some groups?)



Another method, which is increasingly used for all generations, is games. Board games, role-playing games, plan games, simulation games, quizzes and others are used to raise awareness, communicate, promote exchange, reduce tensions, plan, negotiate and also to carry out their own actions. In recent years, the number of games developed to promote the participation of inhabitants (children, young people, adults) in urban planning and local community development has increased.







The role of the Internet in everyday life is increasing. For this reason, more and more local authorities, organisations and other actors are also using this communication tool to involve residents in the discussion of different local initiatives and measures. This can be seen especially in the fields of urban planning and transport. Several of the methods mentioned above were transformed into “virtual methods” which encouraged inhabitants to give and exchange their opinions and ideas. However, in a majority of cases this virtual participation did not yet lead to a real involvement in decision-making. Also, given the limited access of some groups to the Internet, e-participation/e- government can only be a complementary instrument of participation.


Resources :


Documentation of the conference “Mitspieltagung” (new methods of participation/encouraging participation through games)/interviews with participants, Leipzig, 20/21 February 2006


World Democracy and e-Government Forum – World E-Gov Forum


eParticipation Initiative


New Economics Foundation :

“Participation works! 21 techniques of community participation for the 21st century” (1998/99) s21.doc


Swiss Austrian German Simulation and Gaming Association


The Worldbank Participation Sourcebook:


Wegweiser Buergergesellschaft : WIKIPEDIA