Résumé : More democratic planning processes are acknowledged to facilitate several positive outcomes including acceptance, support, better solutions and ownership, which are even more critical in developing countries where resource limitation is debilitating. But the paradox lies in needing to institute more democratic planning processes inside less democratic systems. In seeking explanations as to why collaboration in planning is lacking in urban Ethiopia, the research adopts a different analytical perspective that conceptualizes the state not only as a direct participant through its different agencies but also as the main architect of social structure. As the state in less democratic systems is stronger in shaping society, the contextualization of sense-making in the wider environment of the South requires focusing on the influence of government systems to discover associations and patterns that determine the structure of planning processes. Adopting flexible and pragmatic methodological procedures, methods and techniques that balance what is possible with epistemological interest, the research introduces a different lens to planning that links trust, collective action and cooperation with confidence in government by taking into consideration the embeddedness of actors within the framework of existing realities. Through the case of Amdework, the thesis presents implications on planning by the different attributes of the state and state-society relations. It shows how and to what extent partial and undemocratic government systems create power asymmetry, impede the development and the integrity of organized civil society, affect social capital such as trust, cooperative norms and the motivation to participate in collective action. These in turn penetrate planning processes by destroying the basic level of trust, balanced power of participants and democratic culture, and the we-intention for joint action. And through five more cases that focus on conceptions and cooperation at the micro-level (in the autonomous community of Awra Amba, the foreign NGO spearheaded joint action of the BuraNest initiative, and different projects in or related with Addis Ababa), it provides empirical evidence that planning, whether government entities are direct participants or not, also heed to pressures exerted by the overall of intuitional/political environment where the state rules rather than governs.