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Participation in the bigger picture

By Emily Pritchard


The Policy Team recently had the pleasure of visiting Lanuza, Surigao del Sur to work with the municipality. The focus of the visit was Lanuza’s plans to access the Performance Challenge Fund for an adaptation project and to look at the potential of accessing other national funds aimed at municipal development for a renewable energy proposal.

As an intern, I was engaged, asking questions, assisting where I could, and learning from observing. The experience was a terrific insight into planning processes and it got me thinking about the relationship between climate change adaptation and sustainable development in planning.

Our main event for the visit was a consultative meeting between community leaders from both municipal and barangay levels to discuss potential options for a proposals. Naturally, the participants brought up development projects they need in the municipality that were, to varying extents, adaptive actions against climate change impacts. And the same could be said in reverse; many suggestions were adaptive in nature and were to different extents also forms of development. It was a timely reminder to me of the complexity faced in adapting to climate change in a sustainable development context.


Not the typical walk to the office

The intentional and unintentional drawing together of Climate Change Adaption (CCA) and Sustainable Development (SD) concepts is nothing new. They are both naturally part and parcel of one another, e.g. sustainable development fundamentally needs to consider climate change for it to be sustainable, and climate change adaptation needs to consider its sustainability for it to be quality adaptation in the first place.

Simultaneously, it is also clear that a continuous, and largely conscious, effort is needed to harmoniously and thoughtfully combine SD and CCA. This meeting was an example – it took concerted effort to find a middle ground, which compromised neither goal. I believe this intentional coalescence is fundamental to the best practice of either concept.

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Kairos discussing the PSF at the planning meeting

Participatory planning is often a suggested method for significant parts of both SD and CCA planning, which are often tackled in tandem anyway. Participatory planning is typically considered to be part of community development; it aims to involve the whole community in the planning process [1]. It stems from the thinking that the less empowered members of the community can and should be enabled to analyse their reality [1].  This facilitates communities to participate in the planning processes and actions which impact them.

In Lanuza they had opted for a participatory process. This was one of the aspects of this experience I was looking forward to. I had some idea of what it might look like, and then found the reality of it to be different.  There are a number of ways this could be explained. However, the one that I think best explains it is that by its nature participatory planning looks quite different in each context. So this was always going to be different to what I’d expected. So what initially looked to me like it wasn’t working as it should, actually was working. It was just in a form that was new to me. It was a nice reminder to adapt to things as they unfold, rather than resisting the discrepancy between my assumptions and the reality. I imagine this is a lesson that will always be relevant in this sector.

More than ever, I’m keen to engage with more planning and development processes which utilise a participatory approach. Participation has an incredibly important role to play in getting SD and CCA right. Most particularly in ensuring the sustainability of our climate adaptation actions, and likewise the climate adaptability of our sustainable development efforts.


[1] – UN Habitat (2001) “Building Bridges Through Participatory Planning”, via:

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