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Social competitiveness

[ Summary ]


Chapter 1:
Social competitiveness in the territorial approach


1.4 Finding room for manoeuvre for social competitiveness


In some areas there is greater room for manoeuvre for social competitiveness than there is in others. In general, it is easier for a LEADER group to take action in places that already have a degree of social cohesion and consultation procedures regarding the way they are governed.

a) Reconciling the time needed to acquire social competitiveness withÖ

    In areas characterised by weak social structures, lack of trust, etc., there is much less room for manoeuvre; LEADER groups have had to slim down their strategy, often by relying on the time factor.

    For example, it is possible to implement short-term measures that have a leverage effect (support for individual project promoters, demonstration initiatives, etc.). As a result of such measures, other more ambitious initiatives can be launched at a later stage, based on a more clearly defined local organisational structure.


      In La Palma (Canaries, Spain), the local action group has based its LEADER I strategy on supporting individual project promoters (especially for renovating derelict houses for rural tourism and support for certain craftspeople), in order to recreate trust in a neglected rural region of the island. Under LEADER II, the LAG went on to support collective organisations that sprang from these early individual projects (such as an association of tourism- related small businessmen, collective points of sale for craftspeople, etc.), making it possible to tap into promising markets (promotion, central reservations office, etc.).

b) Öthe urgent need to acquire social competitiveness

    To what extent is the time needed to build social competitiveness compatible with the urgent need to achieve such competitiveness? In fact, in some cases the lack of social competitiveness is an obstacle to any process of economic development, making it a priority concern.

    This is especially true of areas marred by serious conflict, where there is very little room for manoeuvre and the risk of failure is great. At the outset, the short to medium-term objectives should be fairly unambitious and the strategy relatively cautious.


      For example, at Fermanagh (Northern Ireland, United Kingdom), the LEADER groupís main goal was reconciliation, a task in large part achieved by building up the local partnership itself. This was the culmination of a process of negotiation to ensure that the partnership included and represented all of the diverse social, economic and political forces in a balance acceptable to all. This phase was vital to subsequently envisaging the launch of concerted development actions.

    The same applies to certain little-developed rural areas that have no form of collective organisation. In this instance, the priority is to structure the social fabric, which can be achieved relatively quickly through strategies to ally economic development with training in a collective approach.


      In the Sierra de Ronda region (Andalusia, Spain), the LAG partially based its LEADER I strategy on structuring the local community. An association was created and one hundred people joined. Groups were set up for the various sectors of activity (agriculture, craft-working, trade, etc.), which went on to become trade associations represented on the associationís management team. By making participation in this collective approach one of the project selection criteria, the LEADER group was able to combine economic development with the acquisition of the social competitiveness that was vital in the short term.

    By contrast, in places where social competitiveness has already reached a certain level, it is no longer a short-term obstacle and LEADERís task is more to reinforce such competitiveness over the long term. This applies to most rural areas where there are groups of producers or associations of citizens. In such cases LEADER steps in to create links and to enhance their perception of the area. This sometimes comes under a second phase of LEADER intervention. In the Sierra de Ronda region, for example, once the groups of producers had been consolidated, the local action group encouraged the creation of second-stage organisations: federations of associations or cooperatives, etc.

    Finally, in areas marked by a concentration of power, LEADERís room for manoeuvre will depend on the players who hold the power. This is often the case with LEADER groups where the local authorities and/or public administrations are over-represented and the community is not much involved. In general, such groups often strive to consolidate economic development, without seeking to change the rules of the game in terms of participation. In cases like this, LEADER is very often considered merely as an extra source of funding. The acquisition of social competitiveness is not a concern, since it is not a short-term necessity either. However, such competitiveness cannot be ignored in a long-term economic development perspective.

    The dichotomy between the time required and urgent action is therefore decisive in determining the possible room for manoeuvre and strategies.

c) Conclusion: room for manoeuvre and strategies

    As we can see, the room for manoeuvre has a considerable impact on possible strategies. Understanding this room for manoeuvre requires an in-depth knowledge of the area. We shall therefore attempt to determine what elements of the areaís capital have to be taken into account before considering possible strategies for rural areas to acquire social competitiveness.

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