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Territorial competitiveness

Creating a territorial development strategy
in light of the LEADER experience
[Part 1]

[ Index ]


Chapter 2
Territorial capital and territorial project


2.3 From analysing the area’s capital to developing a strategy


If it is impossible to dissociate the analysis of an area’s capital from the construction of a territorial project, how can such a link be established in practice, and how does it lead to the development of a strategy? Below are three possible approaches:

  • the first is to make a comparative analysis of the past and the present; this will enable a number of key innovation requirements for the area to be identified;

  • the second is to identify one or more “unifying themes” that are able both to meet innovation requirements and to afford longer- term prospects for the future;

  • the third is to take an overall territorial approach, which is essential to identify existing imbalances and synergies that must be taken into account when defining these core structural principles.

a) Comparative analysis of the past and present

Analysing an area’s past development can help throw light on its existing or potential distinctive features. In some cases, this analysis goes back 20 to 50 years. Indeed, rural society throughout Europe has undergone far-reaching change over recent decades. In other cases, the analysis is confined to a short period, for example the interval during which a local development policy was initiated. Such an analysis could make it possible to pinpoint the changes that have occurred and to evaluate the room for manoeuvre that exists. As the following table shows, it may also reveal, on the one hand, what has been lost, has deteriorated, or has evolved negatively and, on the other hand, the positive gains and developments that have characterised the different components of the area’s capital.

It is relatively easy to assess what losses and gains have been made in the area’s capital, as long as it is only a question of considering tangible elements (the area’s physical resources, population, production units, etc). When it comes to intangible components (the area’s identity, know-how or image), where a certain amount of subjectivity is inevitable, the task is more complex and sometimes calls for a comparison of differing points of view to arrive at a more detailed and objective analysis.

Different sources of information can be used to make this assessment, and in this respect observations made in the field are of key importance. If the evaluation is limited solely to analysing statistics and data that come easily to hand, it will not in fact be possible to go beyond the commonplace. In this respect, a set of questions (like the one proposed for each “key point” in the “Methodology guide for the analysis of local innovation needs” mentioned earlier) can contribute to this analysis, especially where the questions are for groups of local players. Below is an example of an area with a high rate of depopulation, which is dominated by single-crop farming and has problems in maintaining water resources [1].


Examples of how the territorial capital and innovation needs have evolved in areas with high levels of outmigration, which are dominated by single crop farming and where the management of water resources is difficult
Components of the area’s capital Examples of losses Examples of gains Examples of innovation requirements
1- Physical resources Pollution of watercourses and wasted water resources.
Pollution from solid waste.
Deterioration and poor use of the architectural heritage (very dilapidated physical appearance of villages).
Availability of public funding for environmental measures.
Renovation of a series of historic buildings for tourism purposes, with a very positive aesthetic impact.
  • for water resources (development and purification of watercourses);
  • for enhancing the external appearance of villages.
2- Culture/ Identity Decline in the relationship of solidarity between generations.
Failure to develop traditional cultural events.
Consolidation of collective links relating to the main product, determined by the area’s identities and interests. Promotion of tourist products that incorporate traditional cultural expressions.
Support for collective activities related to the main product.
3- Human resources Demographic deficit.
Emigration of the most highly skilled young people and lack of opportunities for those who remain.
Encouragement for young people to set up businesses. Youth training to halt depopulation; involvement of young people in maintaining the environment and other activities which open up new prospects.
4- Institutions and governance Failure to support new generation of collective players.
Failure to support new generation of political representatives and disputes between them.
Proliferation and fragmentation of measures for the area with no institutional consultation.
Loss of mechanisms for settling disputes.
Creation of marketing and promotion consortia.
Creation of a consultation and integrated planning structure in the area itself.
Emergence of sectoral associations for women and young people.
Creation of a collective awareness about maintaining the countryside.
Strengthening of the integrated planning initiative among the different players.
Support for the creation of new leadership positions for women and young people.
5- Know-how and skills Decline in knowledge of traditional craft techniques and failure to recover former know-how in modern products. Gradual integration of new technologies in all production processes.
Establishment of links with research and development.
Development of products and services with a local content.
Incorporation of the design in product packaging.
Search for opportunities to develop traditional craft techniques with the support of modern technologies.
Putting craftsmen into contact with artists in order to update product design.
6- Activities/ Business firms Lack of successors to take over from elderly farmers. Creation of services for the community and for businesses.
More competitive services for marketing and access to markets.
Search for tools to support new generation of entrepreneurs and local businesses.
7- Access to markets and relations with the outside world Reduction in traditional personal consumption.
Increasing problems of access to markets for the main product due to increased competition.
Improved access to new markets (tourism, Internet, etc).
Greater integration into marketing and information networks.
Active search for distinctiveness by improving quality.
Creation of new local markets for quality products, by developing direct links between producers and consumers.
Stepping up of direct marketing in towns by means of collective marketing mechanisms and increasing participation in European sales networks.
8- Image and perception Deterioration in the image of the architectural heritage.
Lack of awareness of the value of redeveloping villages.
Increase in and enhancement of services (catering, accommodation, etc).
Fairs attracting large numbers of visitors. Diversification and consolidation of the area’s image.
Boosting the appeal of local fairs.
Boosting the appeal of the area’s tourist and leisure services.

An area’s innovation requirements cannot be determined solely by comparing the present with the past. They can also be ascertained by analysing existing imbalances, weaknesses that require specific intervention, etc.

b) Identifying one or more unifying themes

How is it possible to define the diverse innovation requirements that are identified in an area? How can they be organised as part of an overall territorial project? To achieve this, the identification of one (or more) core structural principles or “unifying themes” can play a decisive role.

The quality of a unifying theme for an area depends both on the ability of this theme to act as a lever in encouraging the emergence of initiatives and innovations that correspond to the diverse requirements that have been identified, and on the extent to which it matches the highest aspirations of local players. It is this dual ability - of relevance to needs and local player involvement - that it is vital to foster.

Identifying one or more suitable unifying themes calls for an effort of imagination and a comparison with what is happening in the field. This is where one discovers the necessary alliance between a voluntarist projection into the future (which often involves a degree of wishful thinking) and the concrete constraints of reality referred to earlier. More often than not, these two opposing approaches are proposed by different people or even institutions, hence the importance of a wide-ranging collective debate, which takes time, often years.

Over the years many LEADER areas have identified unifying themes that have taken shape and been gradually refined as they were put into practice.


In the Antico Frignano region (Emilia-Romagna, Italy), the LEADER group focused its actions on four unifying themes: chestnuts, arts and crafts, Benedictine monasteries and the old Emilian Roman road. These four unifying themes act as focal points of interest that make it feasible to create new activities.

c) Conducting the reflections as part of an integrated approach

Some difficulties are likely to emerge in defining a territorial project and developing a strategy if the debate on innovation requirements and unifying themes fails to be carried out in an integrated way. In a way, the integrated approach is the “ingredient” that gives coherence to the whole and makes it possible to decide what is a priority and what is not, and to prioritise objectives and actions.

This integrated approach makes it possible to identify existing imbalances, which again can involve more specific innovation requirements. There might be spatial imbalances, such as the existence of a more disadvantaged section of the area which requires more specific measures, or there might be social, cultural or other imbalances. It is vital to take such imbalances into account in order to secure the harmonious development of the area in the long term and to boost its potential, thereby increasing a territorial project’s room for manoeuvre and chances of success.

The integrated approach makes it possible to identify possible synergies and to find innovative solutions to make projects viable and create a multiplier effect. This approach also makes it possible to consider the inter-relationship between the different planned actions, whilst at the same time finding solutions for implementing them over time.

In conclusion, the integrated approach serves as a common thread running through the entire process. It provides a system-wide view that takes into account the interactions between the various components.

The following chapter puts forward a number of ideas on how to create a territorial development strategy based on the integrated approach, in light of the LEADER experience.


[1] To make an assessment, local
players can draw up a similar table
along the same lines:

The eight components of the area
What have the principal “losses” been over recent years?
What have the principal “gains” been over recent years?
What are the principal innovation needs?

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