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The rivers + people planning process 

A participatory, inclusive, and collaborative process that is responsive to its context is used to co-develop Rivers and People Plans. 


This process is supported by a good understanding of past and present developments affecting the river, the relevant actors involved, and their influence on the process.  It is also supported by an understanding of the river catchment at different spatial scales, including the benefits and threats of the interaction between people and the river, as well as the opportunities it presents for planning. Therefore, the Rivers and People planning process has various stages and activities that include;

  • Field visits 

  • Community mobilisation

  • Situational Analysis

  • Participatory Data Collection 

  • Co-development process of the plan


Field Visits

Field visits are conducted to get familiarised with the context in which the Rivers + People plan is intended to be co-developed and to determine the plan's spatial extent.  

Before going to the field, it can be beneficial to identify one or more organisations that have projects in the settlement/ area of interest. Such organisations can provide an entry point into the local community and help to develop a good understanding of local dynamics that might influence community engagements and the overall planning process. 

During field visits, key spatial structuring elements and landmarks, as well as other ongoing developments are recorded. The river, its tributaries, and the types of land use activities surrounding the river are taken note of. Further, the river's visible benefits and challenges to the community are captured. A variety of places are visited to understand differences in the scale of potential water and river-related challenges from one to another location. 

After the visit, the information recorded is reviewed, where possible captured spatially in maps, analysed and summarised in a short report on which basis the extent of the planning area is defined. 

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Situational analysis

A situational analysis is carried out before entering into the co-development process of the Rivers + People plan to establish a basis of understanding of the environment and conditions in which the plan is intended to be delivered. 

For the situational analysis, largely existing secondary data is studied and complemented with primary data where data gaps are identified to exist.  The situational analysis typically involves the development of preliminary high-level as well as detailed profiles of sections of the river and be carried out at different spatial scales.  Various issues are investigated which include the environment, impacts of climate change, existing and non-existing water management infrastructures, water systems, as well as risks and hazards among other others.

Where data gaps exist, strategies to fill such are developed which can include participatory data collection methods like community mapping but also more conventional methods like spatial analysis of satellite imagery etc. 

The results of the situational analysis are brought back to the community for validation and form the starting point for objective setting, visioning, and further problem analysis during the co-development process of the actual Rivers + People plan. 

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Participatory data collection

To strengthen the basis on which the Rivers + People plan is developed and to encourage residents to be advocates for the transformation of their neighbourhoods, they are tasked to collect data by mapping issues, challenges, and opportunities related to the river within their neighbourhood. 

Before, endeavoring into the mapping, members of the community are selected based on their availability as well as their representation of different sectors of society. The selected members undergo a community mapping training. This entails familiarising them with the use of maps and taking georeferenced points as well as what to pay attention to, e.g. sources of pollution, areas prone to flooding, dumping sites, etc. 

The data mapped by the community is compiled and summarised in a final map by a technical mapping team and then presented back to the community for validation. The outcomes of the community mapping complement and contribute to the situational analysis. 

Community mapping is one participatory data collection method among many others. It is encouraged as part of the Rivers + People planning process to explore a variety of such to capture the living realities of different groups of the society especially women and girls as well as people living with disability.

R+P planning

Co-development of the Rivers and People Plan

Co-developing the Rivers and People Plan with community stakeholder groups, as well as city authority and non-government stakeholder groups is important to align stakeholder interests, mobilise political support for plan approval, strengthen collaboration and ownership, as well as link the Rivers and People Plan to other city-level actions on rivers. 


It contributes to the sustainability of planning and design actions and solutions developed in the plan.


Participatory development of the plan typically includes:

  • vision setting with the community;

  • problem analysis;

  • goals and objectives setting;

  • and co-development of actions and solutions to the identified issues, needs, and challenges.

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Community visioning

Community visioning creates a space for diverse groups of people in the community to come together and collectively develop a shared aspiration of how they would want their place or neighbourhood to look like in the future.  In imagining their future together, communities reflect on what they like about their place, what they would want to change or improve, and how they imagine their place will be in the future. 

Community visioning as a participatory and collaborative activity coalesces and amplifies the voice of the community giving them a say on what their priorities are and the kind of transformation they want to be part. Bringing people from all walks of life in the community to develop a vision together strengthens social cohesion and a sense of belonging, creates a space for building trust and shared values among community members, as well as builds pride and a community identity aligned to their shared values. 

Community visioning may result in a vision statement or statements that concisely capture the aspirations of the community for their place or neighbourhood. This vision statement (s) act as a compass for the community, planners, and other stakeholders to focus on what is really important, and forms the basis for actions and solutions in the Rivers and People Plan.

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Problem analysis

Deepening the understanding of participants in the planning process on identified issues, challenges, and needs, particularly among community stakeholder groups is crucial before the development of the plan. 


This may involve using tools like a problem tree and others to do a detailed analysis of identified issues, challenges, and needs together with community. It is important to understand linkages between problems that can be classified as causes and effects.


These detailed analyses develop an understanding of underlying issues and challenges to be addressed through identifying appropriate interventions.  

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Goals and objective setting visioning

Being clear of what key milestones need to be reached to achieve the shared vision of the Rivers and People Plan improves the likelihood of actualising the vision. 


Setting shared goals and objectives in a participatory and collaborative way is one way of identifying the key milestones to be reached in the planning process. 


The goals and objectives are set together with community stakeholder groups, and other stakeholders. 


This provides an opportunity to further clarify on priority issues and challenges for the Rivers and People Plan process, and to start identifying potential solutions to them. 


Goals and objectives developed are informed by the outcome of the problem analysis.

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