Community Engagement Workshops

By Dinesh Lodha & Vishnu Prasad, IFMR Finance Foundation

At the core of using a design thinking based approach to urban infrastructure planning in Ranganatha Nagara 2 was the idea that the exercise can be centered on the needs and aspirations of the citizens. As mentioned in the previous post, the build-up stage of our planning exercise, which involved a presentation in the local language to each household and a painting competition which encouraged households to visually depict the city that they would like to live in, allowed us to engage all 75 households and work closely with them in delineating the objectives and intended outcomes of the planning workshops. As a part of the build-up exercise, we distributed “vision-sheets” to each household that consisted of three key questions:

  • What are the things you want to preserve in your area?
  • What are the things you want to change in your area?
  • What are the things you want to create in your area?

Answers to these questions, which were mapped to each household, provided the starting point for the engagement workshops that followed. To make the discussions both engaging and manageable we conducted a set of 3 workshops.

One of the most critical components of the workshop was the local team that was going to execute this. We had engaged the same local team of students that we had trained for both the surveys and the outreach exercises. Preparing them for the workshops involved running them extensively through the process and detailing the different facets of skills that might help them in having better conversations with the citizens. This endeavor proved to be a lot more challenging than we had initially envisaged, something we will cover upon in our next post.

Workshop Architecture

Each workshop was planned for a 120 minute duration overall and was split into 4 phases. The intent was to initially set the context and have the filled-up vision sheets of each household be the starting point of the entire workshop.


Introduction Phase:

From amongst the local team of students we had designated a particular individual to play the role of a Lead Facilitator who was tasked with making the initial introduction in the local language, summarizing the process so far and laying out the agenda for the workshop. The Lead Instructor also encouraged the citizens to freely express their opinions and why such participation will play a pivotal role in designing the future of their community going forward. The rest of the team of 4-5 individuals (called Group Facilitators) was designated to specifically handle individual groups that were formed.

Activity 1:

As the citizens arrived for the workshops they were each given their respective vision sheets and were organized into small groups of 5-6 people. The intent of the first activity was to get each citizen in the small group to talk about what was there in their respective vision sheet with other members of the group. Once the group had heard each member out, the designated Group Facilitator prompted the group to deliberate on some key issues that they believed were critical for their area’s future.



At the end of the discussion each group member would list their top 3 issues. The Group Facilitator would write these issues on a chart paper visible to the entire group. The issues were then put to vote whereby each member was requested to vote on the top 2 issues from the lists of their peers.


Once the points were collated, the top 3 issues from each individual group was ranked and one representative from the group presented to all the workshop participants about what their group believed are the most critical issues. After each group had made its presentation, an overall list of issues/aspirations across groups was compiled and put to a final vote to arrive at the top 5-6 issues/aspirations that the entire workshop participants believed are critical to their area’s future.

Activity 2

Once the top issues were identified the participants were merged into larger groups to discuss the identified issues in greater depth and how best these issues could be addressed. The idea behind this activity was to capture any local information or knowledge that could be best leveraged in subsequent planning and was thought of as an ideal way to rely on citizens themselves to come up with solutions for issues they had collectively identified. Our hypothesis was that when solutions germinate from the citizens themselves, it would encourage greater ownership of the solutions when implemented.

The Lead Facilitator and Group Facilitators were told to play the role of passive observers and let the entire activity run at the hands of the groups themselves. They only stepped in to encourage the silent voices within the group to speak up or to nudge people to provide more clarity on what they were saying. All this while few designated Group Facilitators were taking active notes on the conversations that the groups were having.




In the closing session we felt it was critical to summarize the discussions that had happened and emphasize that the identified top 5-6 issues had emerged through consensus and deliberation. The aim here was to make them take ownership of these issues and reiterate the point that the subsequent solutions would be centered on these very issues.

In the closing phase we also handed out prizes to some of the best entries for the painting competition that we had arranged as part of the outreach. In addition we had the participants fill up a survey questionnaire to get a sense of their understanding of the proceedings and flag any issues that we may have missed.

One of the entries as part of the painting competition

Questionnaires being filled-up towards the end of the workshop

Results from the Workshop

The workshops were conducted on Sundays and had a total of 48 participants across the three workshops. The top issues that emerged from the three workshops are in the below table. These issues eventually acted as the base upon which we built the subsequent modeling of the area that we will cover in our concluding post of the series.


Some of the other issues/aspirations that came up in the 3 workshops were:

• Park
• Library
• Better Garbage Facilities
• Provision for a Ration shop
• Better Security
• Hostel Facilities
• More Employment opportunities
• 24-hour Electricity

As mentioned earlier that towards the end of the session we also conducted a survey to gauge the understanding and satisfaction of the citizens about the whole workshop proceedings. Results of which are in the table below. The post-workshop questionnaire for all the three workshops showed participants being satisfied about the process and the issues identified. However some of them indicated not being understood by others and quite a few of them mentioned not knowing the objective of the meeting.


From amongst the workshop participants we identified a few individuals who volunteered to be our touch points for the subsequent modeling workshop that we had planned. In our next and concluding post of the series we will talk about the modeling workshop in greater depth and share our concluding remarks on the overall process.