Many people walking on a street; Many people walking on a street;

Participatory Urban Planning, Istanbul

A city for everyone: weaving residents into Istanbul city-making process

Citizen participation in urban planning is key for creating modern and inclusive cities. Helping to reinvent our local environment, participatory urban planning can help cities get behind regeneration initiatives, cultivate community engagement and stimulate inclusion.   

In Istanbul, the largest city in Türkiye, we have been designing a roadmap for improved participation, aiming to reach a growing and more diverse number of residents. Acting as the Delivery Partner for the Global Future Cities Programme Türkiye, Arup is developing a sound model that works for collective decision making in urban planning by including typically under-represented groups. The Programme is run by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, where UN-Habitat is the Strategic Partner. 

Arup worked with Istanbul’s Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) over a twelve-month period to outline the existing participation mechanisms and identify gaps, needs and resources to successfully implant a participatory approach at the heart of decision making for urban planning. Our multidisciplinary team supported the city to assess capacity and develop an implementation plan and a framework to promote internal coordination and sound stakeholder engagement. 

Project Summary

16 million residents


12-month project turnaround

A trusted partner for participatory urban planning​

Arup created a structured process to help the municipality increase the level of participation, engage with under-represented groups and create a more innovative approach to urban planning.

As trusted advisors, we brought together 67 different stakeholders - including departments and companies of IMM, NGOs, private companies, district municipalities, professional chambers, local resident and special interest groups to co-create a Participatory Urban Planning Model that works in real-life. Bringing together the different stakeholders to create solutions, our team advised on how to maximise knowledge and create synergies while optimising resources for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Arup set up an IMM Working Group consisting of officials from the related units of the Municipality and organised meetings to create a space for co-creation where ideas and opinions can be shared and discussed. The use of working groups to share experiences prompted a wider discussion on social inclusion; establishing a culture of reciprocal learning, helping to accelerate coordinated action, and ultimately delivering institutional and behavioural change. This has culminated in the creation of a new unit within the Directorate of City Planning to support citizen participation in the long term.

Two women writing on post it notes that are put on a transparent board Two women writing on post it notes that are put on a transparent board
The project wants to co-create a Participatory Urban Planning Model that works in real-life.

Arup’s team of local and international consultants and academics also created a framework for participatory urban planning and a range of bespoke guidelines, while providing tailored contextualisation for the city of Istanbul. 

The programme was coordinated by project management professionals which liaised with IMM, including a working group with 12 representatives from different departments. The capacity building activity was further supported by external knowledge partners. UN Habitat has been supporting the UK FCDO on the delivery of Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

A tram on the street A tram on the street

Stakeholders – broadening horizons​

With Arup’s guidance, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has been able to effectively foster cross-department collaboration as well as bringing other external stakeholders into the process, creating more possibilities for future participatory planning actions. 

Our Participatory Planning Framework proposal and report on Methods for Open Government offer a systematic approach that will support, inform and influence the current participation processes within the municipality. 

During COVID, this approach enabled the first-ever online workshop series in April and July 2020 with public, private and civic society stakeholders all actively contributing and discussing.

Our methodology and framework, including detailed guidelines, have also improved the overall understanding of performance-based planning with Logframe, GESI performance, KPIs and SDG project assessment tools all fundamental to expand the body of knowledge about innovative participatory methods and global best practice.

Capacity development and tailored training

Arup’s work has supported the Metropolitan Municipality to develop its capabilities, transforming urban planning into a data-informed, more inclusive process. 

With Arup’s input, IMM was able to map their current capacity and chart the possibilities for growth by building their in-house staff capability on multi-stakeholder engagement through training courses. The content will open new doors for using, testing, applying and developing sound participation tools and contextualising the already ongoing participatory activities for sustainable development in urban planning. 

Working with Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, we have created a framework that enhances citizen participation in city-making initiatives and allows government, local residents and other stakeholders to come together and create urban planning solutions that work in real life. ” Maral Mitilyan Maral Mitilyan Director

Urban observatory – data & knowledge management​

The engagement framework has also helped promote a more solid approach to data collection, data flows and overall data governance among the different directorates within the municipality, strengthening how data can be used to inform the participatory planning process. The municipality’s newly created Urban Hub will improve the use of data going forward

Learn more about how we plan, design and shape sustainable cities here.