Activity 2.3: Plan stakeholder and citizen involvement

By Admin Eltis / Updated: 12 Nov 2015


Working with stakeholders is generally considered common practice – but often only certain stakeholders actually have a say in planning. It is crucial to involve all different types of stakeholders throughout the planning process, addressing their specific requirements. This helps to legitimise the plan and enhance its quality. Stakeholder involvement supports the development of a more effective and (cost) efficient plan. A dedicated strategy is needed for the involvement of stakeholders, drawing on different formats and techniques when dealing with authorities, private businesses, civil society organisations, or all of them together. Citizens are a special sub-group of stakeholders. Involving them in planning is a fundamental duty of local authorities to ensure the legitimacy and quality of decision making. Involving citizens in planning is also a requirement stipulated by EU directives and international conventions5.



  • Ensure a well-structured involvement of the relevant stakeholders throughout key stages of the planning process.
  • Create a transparent planning culture that is, as a minimum, based on regular communication and consultation.
  • Encourage and enable citizens to get informed and to join the debate.
  • Design sustainable and supported solutions that will improve the quality of life for every citizen, and create a broad public ownership of the planning process.
  • Strengthen the vitality of civil society and local political culture.
  • Improve the overall quality, effectiveness, (cost) efficiency, transparency, acceptance and legitimacy of sustainable urban mobility planning.



  • Identify suitable milestones and tools for involving stakeholders and citizens.
  • Be aware that stakeholder and citizen involvement is a “must” element of a good Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, but be careful of lobby groups that can block the process.
  • Develop a communication plan that includes an engagement strategy and timeline as well as an overall strategy for PR activities (including media involvement). Include in your strategy at least proactive information of the public (i.e. you approaching the people and not the other way round) and involvement of the key stakeholder groups throughout the process, but strive for a more interactive involvement if possible (see section below “Activities beyond essential requirements”).
  • Don’t just regard people with special needs as beneficiaries but involve them in the planning process.
  • Establish involvement activities as part of standard planning practices.

Details on the tasks - Questions to be addressed by an engagement strategy

There are four main questions about the process that need to be considered when preparing an engagement strategy.

  • Why? Why is the engagement process being undertaken? How will it influence the strategy/scheme?
  • Who? Who should be involved in the decision-making process? How can such people be identified?
  • How? How will engagement be undertaken? What tools and techniques should be used?
  • When? When should different activities take place? When is it not appropriate to engage?


Activities beyond essential requirements

  • Plan to involve stakeholders and citizens more actively with a wider range of participation tools throughout the whole process (e.g. study tours, stakeholder events, an internet forum, citizen panels).
  • Consider working together with key stakeholders in a permanent ‘steering group’, giving them a thorough understanding of the planning process from the outset; this gives them a solid understanding on which to base their advice and help them reach the best decisions possible.
  • Establish a (technical) ‘sounding board’ of important intermediary stakeholders (transport operators, interest representatives, private developers or external specialists/administrations). Regularly conduct formal and/or informal meetings or briefings to inform stakeholders or ask for feedback to set the framework for key decisions.
  • Widen the scope of stakeholder involvement to more groups, including interest and lobby groups (but make sure that critical discussions are well moderated).
  • Ensure maximum transparency and enable more democratic, participatory decision making throughout the planning process (Aarhus convention).
  • For advanced cities: Involve stakeholders actively in steering and managing the Sustainable Urban
  • Mobility Plan. Involve citizens actively in decision making.


Timing and coordination

  • Finish planning the main involvement activities before initiating the planning process.
  • Involve stakeholders and citizens throughout the planning process, but especially in the identification of problems (> Activity 3.1), the development of scenarios (>Activity 3.2), the development of a vision (> Activity 4.1), objectives (> Activity 5.1), targets (> Activity 5.2), measures (Activities 6.1, 6.2, 6.4), the building of a monitoring plan (> Activity 8.1), the creation of ownership (> Activity 9.3), the management and communication of the plan implementation (> Activities 10.2 and 10.3) and the review of achievements as well as the identification of new challenges (> Activities 11.2 and 11.3).



Planning of different involvement strategies finalised.
Communication plan elaborated and approved.


For more information

Guidemaps project (2002 - 2004)

Volume 1 of the GUIDEMAPS handbook includes an introduction to the main issues of engagement (p. 26 ff.). Volume 2 contains detailed fact sheets on key aspects (pp. 28, 32, 58) and on 32 different engagement tools, explaining their respective purpose, use and related practical issues (p. 80 ff.).



Participatory methods tookit - a practitioner's manual (2006)

Published by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Flemish Institute for Science and Technology Assessment (viWTA), this is a hands-on toolkit for starting up and managing participatory projects, including both citizen participation and stakeholder involvement.

Web link:


5: Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 provides for public participation with respect to drafting certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice. Council Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC - Statement by the Commission.



Gent, Belgium: Communication plan

The City of Gent had a “communication plan” which was written by the PR manager and approved by the College of Mayors and Aldermen (College van burgemeester en schepenen) at the beginning of each year, thus making clear what the communication strategy for the next coming year would be.

Source: PILOT manual 2007 – full version,


Aberden, UK: Winner of sustainable urban mobility plan award focusses on citizen and stakeholder participation

Aberdeen became the first winner of the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans Award which, in the year 2012, had its thematic focus on citizen and stakeholder participation. Aberdeen deployed all possible tools to connect with stakeholders and citizens. Working with online and paper surveys, publications, web pages, and social media it offered an outstanding package of channels.


Odense, Denmark: Stakeholder and citizen communication

The City Council decided to make Odense’s Traffic and Mobility Plan as visible as possible in the local press and at public events. It was given its own website which published all meeting minutes, political decisions and relevant news and, on three occasions during the plan development, the Council displayed posters in the city informing citizens about it. Odense also produced a textbook on traffic planning directed at local stakeholders such as companies and organisations in the city and other large user groups (cycling associations, retailers, sports clubs and associations representing older people and the people with reduced mobility).


Eindhoven, The Netherlands: Planning stakeholder and citizen involvement

“Maak‘t mee!” or in English “Cooperate!” is an Executive Programme on Citizen Participation set up by the City of Eindhoven to improve interactive governance and strengthen active citizenship. It applies a mix of methods to improve cooperation with citizens and encouraging and empowering them to be actively involved in their city, boroughs and neighbourhoods.


Erfurt, Germany: Citizen involvement in developing local transport plan

The first local transport plan (Verkehrsentwicklungsplan – VEP) of Erfurt was adopted in 1994 just four years after the German reunification. Efforts of the city administration to involve residents in the plan development – a new approach for the residents of the former German Democratic Republic – initially resulted in relatively little interest by citizens. However, Erfurt continued its efforts to involve citizens and stakeholders and did so with increasing success. The example shows that it takes time and a certain level of persistency to get citizens and other stakeholders involved.


Budapest, Hungary: Stakeholder consultations for the heart of budapest programme

The ‘Heart of Budapest’ programme is a complex urban renewal programme which is aiming to revitalise the traffic-laden and deteriorating historic centre of the city. The initial phase of the project included the construction of a 1.7 km long traffic-calmed axis. Media coverage was intense and stakeholders were informed and consulted through various means of involvement – one example being that contributions to the project’s development were facilitated through the ‘Heart of Budapest Association’, an NGO representing the interests of local residents.




Selected involvement tools information giving and gatherings

Information giving and gathering

Printed public information materials

  • A letter
  • Posters, notices and signs
  • Leaflets and brochures
  • Fact sheets
  • Newsletters
  • Technical reports

Telephone and broadcasting

  • Telephone techniques
  • Local radio and television shows


  • Internet techniques
  • Web based forums

Surveying individuals

  • Questionnaires
  • Key person interviews

Interactive engagement

Information events

  • An exhibition
  • An information centre
  • An information session and briefing
  • Public meetings
  • Topical events

Engaging selected stakeholder groups

  • Community visits and study tours
  • Focus groups
  • Workshops
  • Citizen juries
  • Technical working parties

Engaging large groups

  • A stakeholder conference
  • A transport visioning event
  • Weekend events
  • Planning for Real method
  • Open space events

Engaging ‘hard to reach’ groups

Special formats to involve

  • Ethnic minorities
  • Disabled people
  • Young people and the elderly
  • People with low literacy levels
  • Apathetic people

Source: Guidemaps Handbook 2004, Volume 1, p. 64,[1].pdf 

More info: 

Aberdeen, UK: Winner of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan Award focusses on citizen and stakeholder participation

Aberdeen became the first winner of the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobilityinfo-icon Plans Award which, in the year 2012, had its thematic focus on citizeninfo-icon and stakeholderinfo-icon participationinfo-icon.

While this is not compulsory for Scottish authorities, Aberdeen is part of the Local Transport Plan group and currently preparing a full Sustainable Urban Mobility Planinfo-icon to follow-up its local transport strategyinfo-icon of 1993.

Aberdeen shows an outstanding participatory approach on how to involve stakeholders and citizens in this pro-cess. The Communications plan indicates the appropriate stages at which stakeholders could be consulted as well as frequency, methodinfo-icon and format of communication with stakeholders and citizens. The draft Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan has its key elements drawn from the problems and solutions that Aberdeen City and Shire citizens and stakeholders have identified in workshops followed by online questionnaires as well as in street surveys.

The City Council understands that its role in this exercise is to present the views of the population to the Local Members and then coordinate a viable and realistic strategy. The jury of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan Award states that “Aberdeen clearly demonstrates that it deploys all possible tools to connect with stakeholders and citizens. Working with online and paper surveys, publications, web pages, etc. it offers an outstanding package of channels. Especially its successful use of social media demonstrates the Council’s ambition for innovation and connecting to citizens. Good response rates from citizens prove the appropriate application of the chosen tools.”

In addition to the workshops and surveys, Aberdeen issued press releases, radio interviews, posters at libraries and community centres encouraging individuals to respond to surveys, as well as a dedicated webpage ( and information on Aberdeen’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and the new Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan specific Twitter and Facebook accounts.


Odense, Denmark: Stakeholder and citizen communication

In 2006, the City Council of Odense decided to develop a traffic plan that would lead to the closure of the two biggest through roads of the city and link the centre with the harbour North of town. Previous attempts to close these streets had failed due to concerns about the displacement of huge amounts of through traffic. This time, politicians and civil servants were determined to succeed, but to do so they needed to get all stakeholders on board. In 2007, work began on a comprehensive Traffic and Mobilityinfo-icon Plan. It started out as a classic traffic plan but ended up covering not only roads and cars but people and the quality of lifeinfo-icon in the city.

The City Council identified the citizens living in the area affected by the road closures as the main stakeholders. However, the council also wanted to involve companies and organisations in the city and other large user groups (cycling associations, retailers, sports clubs and associations representing older people and the handicapped). Taking into account that the local stakeholders were not transport experts, the city produced a textbook on traffic planning entitled “The Toolbox”.

Realising that not every stakeholderinfo-icon wanted to closely monitor the plan’s development, the city strengthened its communication efforts. In order to avoid opposition later in the process, it was important to keep everyone well informed, even those who did not want to participate in discussions.

The City Council tried to make the traffic plan as visible as possible in the local press and at public events. The Traffic and Mobility Plan was given its own website (, which made public all meeting minutes, political decisions and relevant news. On three occasions during the development of the Traffic and Mobility Plan, the council displayed posters in the city informing citizens about it.

As a result of this process, the Traffic and Mobility Plan was finally approved unanimously by the City Council. Odense has been involved in a large number of road construction projects which have caused confusion and opposition among citizens living close to the construction sites and have even raised some political doubts about the project. This experience shows that a good level of information and stakeholder engagementinfo-icon should be maintained not only for the planning phase, but throughout the whole process (> Activity 10.2).

Source: CIVITAS VANGUARD (2011). Involving Stakeholders: Toolkit on Organising Successful Stakeholder Consultations, CiViTAS Handbooks,

Erfurt, Germany: Citizen involvement in developing local transport plan

For the development of its first local transport plan (Verkehrsentwicklungsplan – VEP), the City of Erfurt, Germany made attempts to involve residents in the development of the plan. Citizens showed little interest in the planning process – but raised objections to some measures when they came to be implemented. This was largely due to the fact that the concept of consultationinfo-icon was new to them. In the former German Democratic Republic, the public were told about, rather than involved in, decisions. Consequently, Erfurt’s planners and citizens had little experience of community participationinfo-icon. It was a new toolinfo-icon for planners and local residents were not used to be involved, so there was a learning process on both sides. The grass-roots campaigns that had sprung up after the end of the GDR had died down within three years of reunification. Problems such as unemployment and housing occupied people’s time and energy instead. Some community organisations, such as associations of disabled people, did however make useful contributions.

In order to achieve an open planning process and involve different viewpoints, two working groups were set up. One comprised members of relevant municipal departments, such as the town planning unit and the environmental office, and was chaired by the department of transportation. The other consisted of members of the political parties represented in the town council. Outside bodies such as the local public transport operator were also involved in the decision-making process. Councillors adopted the first VEP in spring 1994. At that time, the city council decided to expand the plan to include the districts added to the city in recent boundary changes.

The second VEP was drawn up between 1995 and 1997, with input from officials from the new districts. It was adopted by the city council in January 1998. For this second plan, the participation process was carried out in steps. After a general discussion, on-site discussions with stakeholders and citizens took place in several town districts. This meant that planners obtained more practical and site-specific input from local politicians, experts and citizens living in the area.

Source: GUIDEMAPSHandbook, PSHandbook_web[1].pdf

Eindhoven, The Netherlands: Planning stakeholder and citizen involvement

The City of Eindhoven established an Executive Programme on Citizeninfo-icon Participationinfo-icon called “Maak‘t mee!” (Freely translated: “Cooperate!”), drafted and approved by the City Council in 2008 for a two-year period (2008-2010). Its main strategic objectives were improving interactive governanceinfo-icon and strengthening active citizenship through improving cooperation with citizens and encouraging and empowering citizens to be actively involved in their city. Citizens were approached via various ways and means, sometimes only informing, sometimes giving citizens actual decision-making rights. The executive programme defined every step and determined which methodinfo-icon needed to be used at what time.

The city also trained its employees at regular intervals, organising an internal course on how to deal with participation and citizen communication, supported by an internal website with good practices, tips and tricks and a helpdesk.

The programme made extensive use of existing city-wide or area-based networks. Every borough also had its own supporting point, run by volunteers (supported by a manual) and targeting all citizens.

There was a constant flow of information from and to citizens via e-participation. Through the Digital Panel, more than 3000 citizens were able to give their opinions on various topics, ranging from very concrete policyinfo-icon options to city-wide master plans. The city also constantly evaluated its digital communication strategyinfo-icon and activities with the help of citizens’ opinions. In addition, the city actively distributed a Guidebook on Citizen Participation which provided information on all participation possibilities and events.

Citizens were activated via projects such as ‘The Street Decides’ and ‘Healthy in the Neighbourhood’, in which citizens were encouraged to take responsibility for their own living area. Via the project ‘Code of Conduct’, the city investigated ways to increase the feeling of responsibility and involvement amongst citizens (e.g. in apartment buildings, on neighbourhood squares, or in stairways).

Last but not least, the city worked with neighbourhood contracts, formalising various agreements between citizens, stakeholders and the administration, setting concrete objectives and time schedules.


Eindhoven did extensive research on citizen participation together with universities and other post-secondary institutions (digital survey, focus groups and interviews). Research results directly influenced the establishment of the executive programme on citizen participation.




% of citizens who feel they are taken seriously by the municipality




% of citizens who feel responsible for their borough or neighbourhood




% of citizens who feel well informed about the borough or neighbourhood




% of citizens who are actively involved in the development of their borough or neighbourhood




% of citizens who feel it is important to have influence on matters that are relevant for the borough or neighbourhood





Source: Jan Christiaens, Mobiel 21 based on: Maak’t mee!, Jaarverslag Uitvoeringsprogramma Burgerparticpatie 2009, Gemeente Eindhoven, 2009.

Budapest, Hungary: Stakeholder consultations for the Heart of Budapest Programme

In the development process of the Heart of Budapest programme (details see activity 2.2) different types of stakeholderinfo-icon consultations were organised at the various stages – most importantly during the planning and construction phase, but to a smaller extent also during the evaluationinfo-icon phase.

In the preparation phase, primarily professionals were consulted: urban planners and NGOs. Their feedback was extensively considered and incorporated into the plan. The development of this plan also received rather large media coverage, due to its great importance for the overall development of the city.

During the planning and implementation phase, local residents were involved extensively. They were informed through the media, promotional materials as well as an information centre. To collect feedback, a series of public hearings was organised. At an advanced stage of preparation, information tents were set up in the public spaces where construction work was soon to be started. There was certainly a large variety of feedback, of which some was incorporated into the actual implementation plans. Public feedback was continuously taken on through the website of the Programme (i.e. a simple e-mail form, which does not require any registration). On another level, those who actively want to contribute to the project’s development can sign up for membership in the ‘Heart of Budapest Association’, which is an NGO representing the interests of local residents.

Besides local citizens and NGOs a third stakeholder group, local businesses were also involved in the planning phase. In contrary to the expectations, this stakeholder group was much more difficult to partner with than local citizens, NGOs or the media. They were so concerned about the loss of customers that they rejected the initial plans to co-finance the measures. What’s more, they even sued the local municipality to attempt to derail the planned measures.

As it often happens after the implementation of such mobilityinfo-icon measures, after the successful completion of Phase I of the Heart of Budapest programme the concerns of opposing stakeholders were found unjustified. In fact, the new traffic-calmed axis in the centre of town has definitely revitalised urban life in its vicinity. In this situation – as the benefits were self-explanatory – no further stakeholder consultations were held after the completion of Phase I. Instead, the Municipality has decided to start preparing for stakeholder consultations for the next phases of the Heart of Budapest programme, learning from the encountered difficulties during Phase I.

Eltis case study with more information on the Heart of Budapest programme:

Source: Gábor Heves, Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern EuropeErfurt, Germany: Citizeninfo-icon involvement in developing local transport plan