The literature discusses how successful results in a participatory planning process can be achieved in localities with qualified social capital; that is, civil organizations and relationships built up within a community. Nevertheless, despite low-profile development figures and an inadequate number of civic associations (social capital), the Provincial Development Planning Process in Sanliurfa (Turkey) was achieved by local stakeholders, who shared their views on the problems and potentials of the province and established a vision for the future. This study aims to examine the factors which lay behind the success of the participatory planning process in Sanliurfa despite the lack of social capital. The leadership undertaken by powerful actors in the public sector can be said to have played the main role. The Provincial Development Planning Process was initiated and coordinated by the highest planning organization in the country, the State Planning Organization. In the case of Sanliurfa, the planning process was coordinated jointly by a strong central-level public administration (South Eastern Anatolia Regional Development Administration) and the Sanliurfa Governorship. This article claims that a participatory planning process can be realized in settlements with immature social capital, as in Sanliurfa, if guided intensely by powerful institutions. However, this does not weaken the significance of social capital, as the participation of stakeholders in the planning process does not guarantee a successful implementation of the plan. The tradition of collective action (mature social capital) plays a crucial role in implementation. Moreover, for 'bottom-up' processes (i.e. voluntary local development projects) social capital comes to the forefront as a significant factor.