Different approaches in participatory planning stem from argumentation that stresses a certain model of democracy. While each model promotes participatory conditions, they do not always become reality. The needs of today's communities and the complex political system require a different approach for participatory planning to operate in a democratic way. This paper argues that five conditions are salient and illustrates the empirical consequences of this position by using the experiences of participatory movement in Kocaeli, Turkey, where the history of democratization goes back to 30 years, and furthermore enters a new phase with the recent participatory planning intervention conducted with an Action Research (AR) strategy. Research shows that the past participatory planning attempts and civil movements in Kocaeli fostered two conditions including active citizen participation and enabling mechanisms for this. Given this ground, the recent participatory planning intervention conducted through AR led to change towards a democratic society by applying the other three conditions of democracy: taking a position in the process of formulating livable agreement, enhancing effective participation of stakeholders of diverse interests, and translating thoughts into action. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.