Community Planning: Methods
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Planning weekends are an elaborate but highly effective way of generating momentum for change and getting all parties involved in producing a plan of action for a site, neighbourhood or city.

Planning weekends comprise an intensive and carefully structured programme of activities spanning a weekend. They usually last for 4 full days - Friday to Monday - but may be longer or shorter. The main workshop sessions are open to the general public.

The weekends are facilitated by a multidisciplinary team. This may be comprised of outsiders or locals or a combination of the two.

The end result is a set of proposals for action which is presented to the community on the last evening and produced in exhibition and print form.
top: Duke Street, Liverpool, UK, 1997, Nick Wates.
bottom: Ore Valley, Hastings, UK, 1997, Nick Wates.

Team members are briefed by community leaders and officials at the start of a planning weekend.

Public presentation

Public presentation

Team members present their proposals for the area to a public meeting after four intensive days of workshops, brainstorming and team working.

  • Planning weekends - often called community planning weekends - work best when there is at least 6 months preparation time and a commitment by all parties to follow up afterwards.

  • The most effective long-term results are likely to be when events are organised locally with back-up and support from people who have done it before.

  • Employing a local resident as event co-ordinator can help ensure local support and follow-up.

  • Get journalists involved, ideally as Team members.
  • Average costs: US$30,000 excluding organisers' time and assuming team members come free. Professionally organised events can cost over $100,000. Locally organised events can be done for under $15,000.
Planning weekend timetable
Sample for a 4-day event. Customise.

    14.00 - 18.000Setting up
    Room layout. Equipment delivery. Sign making.
    18.00 - 20.00 Organisers' final meeting 20.00 - 22.00Team arrivals

    10.00 - 10.30 Event launch/introduction
    Welcome by hosts

    10.30 - 12.30 Reconnaissance
    Tour of area by bus, train, plane or foot with visits to interest groups.
    12.30 - 13.30 Buffet lunch 14.00 - 17.00 Briefings
    Short presentations by key interested parties outlining opportunities and constraints.
    18.00 - 19.00 Team review meeting 19.00 - 20.00 Dinner and social

    09.00 - 10.00Team briefing & preparation 10.00 - 11.30 Briefing workshops 1
    Open to all. Several parallel groups, ending with a plenary report back.
    11.30 - 13.00 Briefing workshops 2 13.00 - 14.00 Lunch & walkabouts 14.00 - 15.30 Design workshops 1
    Open to all. Ending with plenary report back. In parallel groups of 10-15.
    15.30 - 17.00 Design workshops 2 17.00 - 19.00 Breather
    Minute writing, exercise
    19.00 - 23.00 Team brainstorm dinner

    11.00 - 12.00 Team editorial meeting
    Presentation structure.
    Production strategy
    12.00 onwards Report, exhibition and presentation production
    Writing, editing, drawing, PowerPoint show. Review sessions as necessary. Team only. Sleep and eat as and when possible.

    All dayReport, exhibition and presentation production
    Late as possible Report to printers All day Clearing up
    Tidying and packing up.
    19.00 - 21.00Public presentation
    PowerPoint. Discussion. Formal thanks. Distribution of report.
    21.00 - 23.00 Farewell social event

    Ideal numbers: 100 - 250. Team: 10 - 30
    Larger numbers can be catered for if enough space and workshop facilitators.

    "In many ways, the process has transformed the way that Americans shape community development policies and take those actions that most directly affect their community's growth or change."
American Institute of Architects R/UDAT Handbook, 1992.

Last updated on: 04 July 2008