This overview article for a special issue of RRA Notes focusing on participatory tools and methods in urban areas introduces the papers included in the collection and highlights some of the key issues. It discusses the 'problem' of applying participatory approaches in urban communities, and compares participatory approaches in urban and rural areas. It finds that, despite clear economic, social and environmental differences between low-income rural and urban communities, they have many aspects in common. Rural and urban are inextricably linked, as the livelihoods of many low-income people depend on resources in both spheres. This reality is often obscured by the compartmentalisation of the development profession into 'rural' and 'urban' disciplines.
This article will useful for planners and community development workers interested in using PRA methods in urban contexts.