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Social competitiveness

[ Summary ]


Chapter 2:
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 future.
    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 an idea.
    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 books.

  • 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 Méan”.

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