Planning for Real


Planning for Real events are famous for involving eye-catching three-dimensional models - though these are only a part of the whole process.


Planning for Real is an engagement process centred on a 3-D model of a local area. Participants use the model to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the place, and make suggestions of how they would like to see their community develop.

To begin the process the scale model is constructed by people living within the local community – this is often a task that a local school may take on. This creates a sense of ownership over the process and means the model can benefit from local knowledge.

Once the model is created events are held where people are invited to use their knowledge of living in the area to make suggestions by placing cards directly onto the model. There are both ready-made cards with common suggestions (around 300 differently themed cards are included within the Planning for real pack) and blank cards are also provided for participants to fill in themselves. Sometimes specific events are run for specific groups, such as young people, or the model may be taken to different locations e.g. community festivals, day centres or shopping centres.

Once all of the events have taken place the suggestions are prioritised (usually by a smaller group of interested residents and other stakeholders) on a scale of Now, Soon, or Later. This forms the basis for an Action Plan. Delivering the Action Plan is easier if the community and decision makers are both involved throughout.

Used For

Planning for Real is especially useful for community planning, neighbourhood regeneration. It is a method that supports communities to identify issues in their neighbourhoods and work together, and in partnership with decision makers, to think about how to change or improve their neighbourhood.

Planning for Real is also often used to build local community capacity and promote social cohesion. There is evidence that people who have been involved in these projects go on to play a more active role in community life.


  • Local residents are the focus of a Planning for Real process.
  • There is no upper limit to the number of participants that can be involved, as they do not have to attend at the same time or place. People can also choose their level of involvement.
  • Other stakeholders who have an interest in the future of the area can also be involved.
  • Most Planning for Real projects will involve a Working Group of local residents and decision makers who lead on the prioritising and action planning aspects of the process.



  • Depends largely on the number of events and the venues required.
  • A trained facilitator is also necessary.
  • The eye-catching three-dimensional models are usually created by schools or local groups and aren't necessarily expensive.

Approximate time expense

Medium - High.

  • Besides the events mobilising the interest of local participants will take time.
  • If large numbers of participants are involved then it will take considerable time to record, code and analyse all of the suggestions made.
  • Following up on the Action Plan may take a few months to several years depending on what decisions come out of the process.
  • Making the models may take a few months if local groups or schools are used.


  • An eye-catching and fun process that is enjoyed by people who would not normally get involved
  • The models lessen the need for verbal or literacy skills, making it a useful method to use when some participants don't speak English as a first language
  • It is a non-confrontational way of expressing needs
  • Decisions reflect local priorities
  • Mobilises local support and generates enthusiasm


  • Usually focussed on a local level, can be hard to scale up
  • Requires the involvement of important decision-makers


Local Planning/Community Development: It is a method developed in the 1970s to include community members who were deterred by traditional planning consultation. Since then it has been used in many locations internationally.


Planning for Real is a registered trade mark and may not be used without permission and training.

More information:

Many examples of Planning for Real in action can be found here.


Photo by Kozuch [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons