The beginning:
In the year 1995 World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) in Copenhagen, the assembled world leaders were called for fostering stable, safe and just societies where everyone would have equal rights and can grow with access to services to contribute to the fullest of their potential.
 The world summit endorsed a coherent people-centered approach to development, key to creating a society for all.
 A ‘Society for all’ is the goal of such a declaration where all individuals with their rights and responsibilities has an active role to play in the functioning of the government and society they live in.
This was the beginning of a new era in planning; inclusive planning; motto of which was to ‘include all in planning process’. The approach opened space for wide participation and engagement with the planning process. The aspect of inclusive planning that is, perhaps, most developed, and where most experience lies is the incorporation of local actors within disaster preparedness, relief, and reconstruction process.
Importance of inclusive planning:
There has been increasing attention to hear the voices of people and various stakeholders in programming at the national and sub-national level the most excluded group like the older people, disabled, indigenous people and other groups like the youths are still not fully represented in the process and therefore the inclusive planning process still remains elusive. This is particularly important because these vulnerable social groups constitute a large segment of the total population. the path to fulfill the promise cannot rest on wishes alone but needs deliberate and meaningful actions to make it possible.
Inclusive planning can also increase time and cost effectiveness of a planning process. This is achieved through transparent decision making process that reduces conflict and facilitation to access local knowledge.
Approach to encourage Inclusive Planning:
To encourage and ensure inclusive planning support is needed in outlining the elements of inclusivity and how that can be linked with standard planning steps and process.
Guidelines to Encourage Inclusive Planning:
·         Embracing Inclusive Planning as the Vision and Strategy of Planning:
Most country level major planning documents like Five Year National Plans, longer term perspective plans and UN documents like UNDAF and UN Country Plans choose one or more major higher level objective as the overarching goal for the plan period. Usually such higher and overarching objectives get reflected in the specific sub-title, described in brief under preamble, objectives and challenges in line with the structure of the reports in different countries.
For example the title of India’s 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) reads as “Towards a Faster and Inclusive Growth”. In the approach paper of the plan (Government of India 2006) inclusive growth is restated prominently in the vision for the plan that notes that the Plan “provides an opportunity to restructure policies to achieve a new vision based on faster, broad based and inclusive growth”. By inclusive growth the plan refers to an all out effort to increase the access of basic social services to the masses (presumably the left outs included) not only as a welfare measure but as a strong justification for robust growth in the long run.
Similarly, on the UN side, the UN Country Team and host government conducts the Common Country Assessment (CCA) which in turn feeds into the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). UNDAF is the principal policy and strategy document for the country concerned which interalia with concerned agency’s CPAP or biennial work plan forms the basis of agency wide and UN Common Annual Work Plan. The UNDAF document has specific template and like the Five Year National Plans it is important that inclusive approach is included in the Results section under National Development Priorities and Goals and Outcome list.
·         Identifying the Social Groups and Weaker Sections:
Social Inclusion refers to the process that enables equal opportunities everyone regardless of background. It is not confined to economic opportunities only and transcends to all aspects of human life to ensure individuals can realize the full potentials of their life. This is particularly important for vulnerable groups and weaker sections in society. Therefore it is important to have identification of the groups and data for youth, disabled, older people and indigenous people and groups in country context (like disadvantaged castes, ethnic minorities etc.) within the country, regions and sub-regions corresponding to planning units (national, State/Provincial, District/Sub-district level).
·         Characteristics of Social Groups and Weaker Sections
Demographic, socio-economic and participation in political process and social/community activities among others are important issues for understanding the group’s status and role, which in turn is critical in ascertaining how to integrate them in mainstream development activities through planning process. Qualitative studies, Situation Analysis, variety of micro level case studies, stakeholder consultation records in addition to Census and other Survey studies can provide comprehensive data and information on these areas and both the government and the UN Country Team should have access to such studies.
·         Analyzing the Current Legal and Regulatory Environment:
Although social exclusion is often repudiated and rights of all citizens are usually proclaimed in no uncertain terms in all constitutions inclusion of all in the political process and every one’s participation in the economic sphere is by no means assured through these constitutional guarantees. Appropriate examination of the legal and regulatory framework is therefore required to ensure there are no structural impediments for the usually excluded groups. For planning purposes, it is important that both the Government and UN System analyze the existing legal and policy instruments to ensure that planning for all can be carried out without legal or regulatory hindrances and appropriate policy support is present to support inclusive planning.
·         Promoting Participatory Methods in Policy Development and Planning:
Examine the practice of participatory methods in national/regional policy making and planning exercises. If there are precedents of employing participatory methods then the chances of inclusive policy making and planning may not be a distant dream, although for various reasons cited earlier it is by no means an automatic process, especially as it concerns less visible vulnerable groups. Recent experience with national Five Year Plans and Sectoral Perspective Plans in many countries as well as preparation of PRSP, CCA has supported various forms of consultative process. This must be encouraged and taken further to make inclusive consultation a reality and to feed the findings in the planning process.
·         Focusing the Social Groups and Weaker Sections within the Planning Resource Envelope:
Usually overriding priorities in the planning process include poverty reduction, eradication of hunger and malnutrition, reduction of mortality for children, women, education for all and such other MDG related and other global commitments. While most vulnerable social groups are poor and suffer from all other related deprivations they are usually not thought of in devising the target and thus receive no allocations either. This needs to be ensured to initiate inclusive planning for all. Targeting programs are useful but not necessarily the only measure to ensure weaker sections receives the attention. The danger however is by just including a few token targeted programs for the vulnerable groups the responsibility of inclusive planning can not be thought to be complete and such approach may actually harm the process more. Therefore by adopting inclusive planning in the strategic objective upfront by mainstreaming their concerns is important which can be strengthened by allowing standalone initiatives for the vulnerable groups.
·         Concerns for the Excluded in Planning assumptions:
Ensure concerns for the vulnerable social groups are duly included in the major planning assumptions at national and sub-national levels. This may refer to intra-regional differences, disparities as well as opportunities; government and other implementing agency’s capacity to plan, monitor and evaluate programmes; availability of resources (both financial and human) to implement programmes for the group; risks of not  undertaking such programmes and inter alia their implementation if undertaken at all levels. This would translate into taking cognizance of vulnerable groups’ distribution in the country, impact of all new programs upon them, risks of not ensuring their mainstreaming including possible impact on MDG progress etc.
·         Align concerns of Social Groups to National Targets:
Align the concerns of the vulnerable social groups to the national goals and targets particularly in line with global commitments and goals, e.g., Copenhagen Declaration, MDGs, ratification of global conventions on disability, non-discrimination, and rights of older people, indigenous people and youths. This is particularly important because while aggregate progress on key indicators may rise this can still mask the intra-regional, intrasocial group disparities which will negate overall national progress.
·         Establishing a Monitoring System that goes beyond aggregates:
Establish a monitoring system with key results and appropriate indicators reflecting the concerns of vulnerable groups as well as ensuring inclusiveness is mainstreamed and clearly specifying time frame and responsible parties to follow-up on the planning output
Participatory planning aims to identify the critical problems, joint priorities, elaboration and adoption of socio‐economic development strategies. The process mainly involves: appraisal, needs identification, restitution, organization, planning, implementation and evaluation.
As stated by Olthelen (1999), participatory planning is the initial step in the definition of a common agenda for development by a local community and an external entity or entities. Over the period, this initial step is expected to evolve for the parties concerned towards a self‐sustaining development planning process at the local level.
The core aims of participatory development planning are to give people a say in the development decisions that may affect them and to ensure that development interventions are appropriate to the needs and preferences of the population that they are intended to benefit.
Who are responsible for participatory approach?
Participatory development planning can be undertaken by government agencies or other development agencies and CSOs at the national, regional, municipal or community level. Most of the methods and tools are inexpensive and simple to use and many have been designed for use with or by community members and do not require literacy.The types of stakeholders participating in this approach can range from rural or urban local communities, community-based organizations and other CSOs in the for local development planning, to larger CSOs, international NGOs, the private sector, and the academia, in the case of national or even regional development planning. The level of stakeholder participation varies greatly depending on how seriously the approach is being taken, and can range from minimal i.e. involvement only in information-gathering or consultation to more active forms such as for e.g. in identifying, prioritizing and designing the development program/activities.
While participatory development planning is generally initiated by the government or development agency involved, there are also opportunities for CSOs to take the lead. For example, there are many instances where NGOs have organized and facilitated participatory action research to help development decision-makers learn about local needs and preferences in order to plan locally-appropriate interventions. Other CSO-led approaches that are outlined in the subsequent sections of this article include: awareness-raising and mobilizing of communities and citizens to encourage them to get involved in development planning processes; building the capacity of local-level stakeholders to participate in these processes; and campaigning for or against particular development interventions. In the best of instances, long-term working relationships develop between, for example local government offices and NGOs or development agencies and the communities in which they work, to enable the planning to benefit from the knowledge and experience of the different stakeholder groups. These linkages may take the form of formal partnerships between the parties involved or informal arrangements based on mutual trust.
There is a vast array of tools available for participatory development planning. The following list illustrates some of the more commonly used ones: 
  • Information-sharing tools:
News and updates on a participatory planning process can be transmitted via traditional media such as newspaper, radio, and television or electronic media such as websites and emails or via meetings and presentations with the communities in a given geographical area..
  • Consultation tools:
Stakeholders who are either interested in or likely to be affected by the development decisions can be consulted through discussion forums such as round tables, public hearings, town meetings, community debates, focus groups, or electronic conferencing, surveys, opinion polls etc.
  • Collaborative planning tools:
These include: structural mechanisms such as stakeholder representation on decision-making bodies, establishment of local-level planning committees, participatory budgeting, or finance schemes to fund community-managed development; technology-based tools such as participatory GIS (Geographic Information System) or 3-D modeling; and process methods like participatory action research and community planning based on Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) such as community mapping, priority ranking and wealth ranking.
Purpose of participatory planning:
The purpose of participatory planning is to create a platform for learning rather than plunging directly into problem solving. The process is expected to enhance
(1) Identification of the felt needs of the people
(2) Bringing forth consensus
(3) The empowerment of local disadvantaged groups
(4) Integration of local knowledge systems into project design
(5) Two‐way learning process between the project and local people
(6) Political commitment and support
(7) Accountability in local governance
Participatory planning practices in Kerala:
Kerala’s unique decentralization process
The people’s planning campaign was launched to empower the local elected bodies with departmental officials, experts, volunteers and the people rallying around them. 
The planning process should produce two sets of results:
1. In the short term, the tools of participatory planning should generate a two‐way learning process, which will shape project interventions to local needs, opportunities and constraints.
2. In the long term, this learning process should lead to local empowerment and effective support at the institutional level.
These are considered preconditions for strengthening both institutional capacity for decentralized planning and local planning capacity.
The common tools available include:
Rapid Rural Appraisal methods (RRA):
RRA can be defined as a qualitative survey methodology using a multi‐discipline team to formulate problems for research and development. It involves external experts teaming up with local community in a process of knowledge sharing.
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA):
Participatory rural appraisal evolved from rapid rural appraisal‐a set of informal techniques used by development practitioners in rural areas to collect and analyze data. PRA is a label given to a growing family of participatory approaches and methods that emphasize local knowledge and enable local people to make their own appraisal, analysis, and plans. This tool is efficient in terms of both time and money. PRA work intends to gather enough information to make the necessary recommendations and decisions.
Even though these tools have been standardized and defined, they have to be tailored to the local requirements. Importance has to be given to what extent these methods contribute to a process of self‐analysis, at both local and institutional levels and whether they facilitate local planning and proper designing of project interventions.
Steps in participatory planning in Local Governance
1. Conduct gram sabhas to identify the needs of the people
o Mobilization of people
o Adopting small group approach
o Preparation of a model agenda for gram sabhas
o Adopt a Semi‐structured questionnaire approach derived from the PRA techniques for discussions
2. Assessment of the local resources and problems and accordingly formulate development reports
o Generate a comprehensive database for every locality for local level planning
o Identification of significant ecological variations in the village through RRA and PRA
o Preparation of development reports that includes the information about the local economic, social, geographical and human resources information
3. Preparation of project proposals through specific task forces
o Preparation of a common project format that clearly defines the objectives, beneficiaries, activities, organizations involved, financial analysis, assessment and monitoring arrangements
4. Formulation of local plans by elected bodies
o Choice of the projects and programmes to be included in the annual plans
o Design the structure of plan document and the procedures for its adoption by the decision makers
o Adoption of resolution by the elected representatives of the local bodies that enunciates the inter‐sectoral and the intra‐sectoral priorities
5. Formulation of plans at the higher levels
o Higher levels have to coordinate, integrate, and fill in gaps of the local plans
o Integration of local level plans with the block or district level plans
6. Appraisal and approval of plans by an expert committee
Participation is an essential requirement in improving the quality of rural service delivery. But where quality is understood to imply judgments about technical feasibility, financial viability, assessments of risk and managerial complexity, in addition to social preferences, the focus on direct, intensive community-level participation in the planning process is clearly limiting. Competent decisions and accountable performance is required from a range of actors, some of whom have been systematically sidelined and often alienated by conventional approaches to participatory planning.
The use of participatory approaches in Local Governance is now well established especially in Kerala. The decentralization programme in Kerala is based on the principles of participatory planning. Participatory planning is applicable to all the projects where community involvement in planning, design and implementation is essential. This is especially true in rural development where participatory approaches form the entry point for understanding local society  and their construction of local reality, with the view of tailoring interventions which have greatest possibility of acceptance.