[ Summary ]
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
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
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
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
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
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.