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1. Training module on participatory planning and management

Participatory planning

Participatory planning is a process by which a community undertakes to reach a given socio-economic goal by consciously diagnosing its problems and charting a course of action to resolve those problems. Experts are needed, but only as facilitators. Moreover, no one likes to participate in something which is not of his/her own creation. Plans prepared by outside experts, irrespective of their technical soundness, cannot inspire the people to participate in their implementation.

However, the training on participatory local planning and management of the three million newly elected local government Panchayati Raj officials, one-third of them women, is a major challenge. The handbook module on this topic is intended to be utilized by NIRD and State-level government and non-government agencies to build awareness of both government officials and grassroots representatives, elected to district, mandal and local village-level councils, including the village head, called the Sarpanch, who is often a woman.

Awareness building on principles of participatory planning

  1. Development should be seen more as a change from the bottom up than from top down.

  2. The development process should be managed as a natural organic process rather than according to plans, goals, objectives, targets and schedules, implying that goals and targets may change and, therefore, their timing should be tentative and flexible to make room for adaptation to local conditions.

  3. Development programmes should aim to strengthen local organizations and not state and central government bureaucracies. New programmes should be chosen according to their ability to increase local development management capacity. Start with a few schemes to solve some immediate local problems to build local confidence and experience.

  4. The development process is supported by local institutions with village panchayats, primary cooperatives, religious, youth, community-based users’ and self-help groups playing a lead role. It is more important to make sure that the development process is rooted in a strong local institution than ensuring that local institutions have a grasp of all the finer technical points. It is comparatively easy to arrange technical services from outside than to bring about social involvement and willing popular participation in the development process. Strong local institutions are necessary as support posts quite independently of whatever technical skills and other background they may have.

  5. It follows from the above that the development process must be based primarily on confidence and learning rather than on experts and training. It is more important for the people who will take decisions at the local level to have full confidence of the people they represent, than to be trained experts. This also implies that technical staff of departments should work in tandem with local institutions rather than sit on judgement on the plans prepared by these institutions.

Simple is practical

The participatory planning process has implications for the working methods of a conventional local development planner. Current decentralized planning techniques often keep people out of the planning process, which severely limits their ability to deliver the intended results at local level and reinforces the centralizing tendencies in decision-making. The basic issue of whether people or planning techniques should be changed first, has not yet been answered.

As a facilitator of local change, the development planner will have to shed much of the planning jargon and simplify his planning techniques so that these are widely understood. In view of the training needs of the three million newly elected local decision-makers and the limited local expertise, there is an urgent need for training material on the introduction of simple local planning methodologies and techniques that can be used at the village level, with minimal need for external assistance.

How to initiate participatory planning

(i) Identify local needs, particularly of rural poor families

(ii) Collect basic data

(iii) Formation of working groups

(iv) Formulation of the objectives

(v) Deciding the strategy

(vi) Ensuring feasibility

(vii) Preparing the work plan

Project work plan format

Name of the activity

Name(s) of the persons responsible

Time Schedule

Resources required (money, material, manpower)

Checking for acceptance, availability

When to start

When to complete

(viii) Preparing the budget

Budget format




Sources of funds

1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Local contribution











Participatory Planning Operational Steps

Steps in implementation of local development projects

1. Appointing a project coordinator

2. Setting up a project implementation and monitoring committee

This is made up of the project coordinator, representatives of the local community and a representative of the funding agency. Its role is to supervise implementation on a day-to-day basis and to work as a crisis management group.

3. Staff training

This is needed to reorient project planning staff for the jobs to be performed.

4. Transparency

5. Anticipating obstacles

The project coordinator should be aware of likely difficulties, be able to anticipate obstacles and take preventive action. Advance action is needed to ensure timely availability of workers, especially technical people. Plans should be ready to deal with any contingency.

6. Timely release of funds


This is important for timely and proper project implementation. Monitoring provides feedback so that necessary adjustments can be made in the work plan and budget. Therefore, monitoring schedules are often based on the project work plan. It is essentially a tool that helps both project-implementing and funding agencies.

1. Monitoring parameters

These are already specified in the work plan. Monitoring reports must be reviewed by the project implementation committee, focusing on information about delays - the extent and implications, needed corrective action and the person or agency responsible for it. This not only points out the source of the fault but also protects project management from blame for the delay.

An honest assessment of the implications of delay, under or over-utilization of funds, leads to timely corrective action. It also helps in building a reasonable case for additional funds in case the delay is caused by the late release of funds and results in escalation of project costs.

Periodic monitoring format

Name of activity

Due on

Actual on

On time

Implications of delay

Action required

By whom

2. Integrity

Contributed by B. P. Maithani, Professor and Head (CIBT), National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, India.

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