[ Summary ]
Analysing an area’s social competitiveness
2.1 Human resources
By making a statistical analysis it is possible to draw up an
initial “trend chart”, providing indicators on such aspects as
demographic composition, population distribution within the area
and main changes in recent years.
This trend chart can be enhanced by examining social relations, by
listing, for instance, the various forms of collective
organisation (associations, cooperatives, pressure groups, etc.)
and by analysing the relationships between the different social
groups and such organisations. In many rural areas, it is also
interesting to study the types of relationship between generations
and the methods and/or problems with transferring businesses,
knowledge and skills.
Going beyond this essential snapshot of the situation, LEADER
groups have endeavoured to identify the key players in their area
on the occasion of their many meetings, coordination activities
and needs assessments, or even through a systematic search to
pinpoint key players. LEADER’s experience makes it possible to
confirm that, in many cases, the dynamism of an association,
municipal service, project, business and so on relies first and
foremost on the determination of a few individuals. In general the
groups rely on such “lever-players”.
Over a period of three months in 1994, the Tarn des Montagnes
LEADER I group (Midi-Pyrénées, France) systematically organised
intensive local coordination activities in several parts of the
region in order to identify the ideas and initiatives of local
small entrepreneurs and other potential project promoters. The LAG
christened this approach “trawling for projects”.
The dynamic, or innovative, individuals do not necessarily enjoy a
particularly high profile in the community. Any individual can
become a key player if his or her know-how and skills, or in some
cases mediation skills, are valuable to development.
In the Alto Cavado region (northern Portugal), an elderly woman
who had for many years been marginalised became, towards the end
of her life, the driving force behind a cooperative for producing
linen using traditional methods as a result of her special know-
how that was dying out in the region.
Identifying potential local innovators
- Potential innovators are able to combine a local outlook
with a global one and to look to the past as well as to the
People moving back to the countryside after having lived in urban
areas often have a certain ability to gauge the potential value of
local products for urban markets and can suggest adjustments in
order to provide new outlets for local products.
- Their creativity is drawn from a pool of tacit know-how that
enables them to rapidly unravel complex situations.
Keen to organise a mentorship network for farmers in difficulty,
the CILDEA association (Haute-Loire, Auvergne, France) recruited a
former teacher from a rural holiday centre who, through his former
job, was familiar with the local farmers and their sensitivities,
as well as the information networks and local representatives. His
knowledge of this complex social milieu enabled him rapidly and
effectively to organise the recruitment of farmer-mentors for
farmers in difficulty.
- They often have a keen perception of the need to (re)create
social or economic links and to rally other players in support of
In the Bruche valley (Alsace, France), two women created the
bookshop “Bouquins, Bouquine”, at the same time setting up the
association “Livr´envol” to bring teachers, mothers and customers
together to organise shows and activities centred on the theme of
- The expression of their innovative ideas, which have become
more specific and sophisticated over time, receives its impetus
from outside. Little by little these ideas are turned into
projects (creation of one’s own job, organisation of a special
event, access to local decision-making centres, etc.).
At Havelange (Wallonia, Belgium), a group of young people
regularly meets to discuss their plans for the future. The return
of one of these young people to the family farm allowed him to
achieve his ambition of processing the farm’s products and selling
them directly. The business expanded to include neighbouring farms
and the result was the creation of a cooperative, “La Fermière de