In the era of sustainable development thinking, development planning has articulated number of corroborate techniques and approaches such as Community-Driven Development (CDD), Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Group Discussion (GD) Focused Group Discussion (FGD), Stakeholders Analysis, Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation, Beneficiary Assessment, Public Private Partnership (PPP) Analysis etc.

Consulting people in development planning is a proven instrument for more sustainable output and multiplies the rate of successful realization of development by people because it is more likely to produce a set of outcomes actually desired by the community. In the present world of development, community participation in development planning process in terms of consulting people is an important area of discourse among development practitioners, non-governmental organizations and bilateral and multilateral funding agencies.

The consultation process in development planning should always rivet on community level comprising its beneficiaries and various stakeholders. The consultation approach must focus on ‘where’ the universe, ‘for whom’ the beneficiaries, and ‘who’ the executing agency and planners at project level. In some countries, laws and policies still severely limit the right of common man to organize themselves to pursue their self-help interests or, in other cases, allow them to do so only "under the guidance" of government or party officials. In case of community consultation in development planning, for real and fruitful output, the only and only common people should be consulted.

Focusing on ‘where’ and ‘for whom’ does not mean sideline or snubbing the role and involvement of executing or implementing agencies. Training and capacity assessment of the existing agencies is common for all development projects because the process of development is dynamic and creates new local concepts. The need is to identify the various stages of development planning for imbedding public consultation and ensuring its consideration for final output of the process.

Project Conceptualization

Thinking of development should always carry the felt needs of the beneficiaries. It should not be imposing rather than realizing the development. There is no place of cross cutting approach like welfare in the area of development planning. Feedback in terms of demands, needs, and the absorbing capacities of the local people/ beneficiaries should be the focus of consultation in this stage. At this level of planning, creating an impression like awaking and educating the beneficiaries grooms proactive attitude within them and in return provides an edge to draw and understand the profile of the local people. For example, in order to make the development of tourism industry friendly to local people and maximize their benefits like employment generation leading to improved standards of living, need is to consult the local business community including entrepreneurs and employees directly or indirectly related to tourism industry, tourists, government departments and promoters who are the major stakeholders. In order to record their socio-economic life, their needs, demands and absorbing capacity etc. at the initial stage of project planning itself.

Project Planning or Designing

The consultation should be intensive and extensive at this stage of development planning. All components of planning activity need to be simplified to the understanding of local people for availing the best output of the consultations. The felt needs of the beneficiaries should be reflected in the planned output holistically. For instance, in an infrastructure development project like road and rail, the local people should be consulted in deciding the alignment and proposing bypasses, flyovers, underpasses, service roads, bus byes, truck parking, toll plaza, way side amenities, shifting public and community property resources etc. Experimenting with a foreign component to the development and planning for a community without mass awareness may bring an imposing feeling towards the process of development resulting into manifold hindrances and ultimately diminishing the rate of its success.

Pre Project Execution

Consulting people at this stage is also equally important because it helps them finally realize their involvement in the process of development. In this stage consultation regarding the finalized action plan and design ensuring incorporation of local needs and demands on the basis of previous consultation at project planning stage shall help in taking them into confidence because realization of a common goal smoothens the execution process.

Finally, the saying – development for people, people not for development – still holds and holds even firmly!