Creating a territorial development strategy
in light of the LEADER experience
[ Index ]
Progressing from analysing the territorial capital
to developing a territorial development strategy
3.1 A few basic ideas for developing a
strategy based on the principles of a territorial approach
How is it possible to construct a strategy that can initiate and
reinforce a new process of development using a territorial approach?
A number of key elements have emerged from the LEADER experience, an
overview of which follows.
3.1.1 One common thread: the elements specific to an area
Most LEADER areas rely on identifying and developing the area’s
distinctive features. Only a small number are still able to rely on
standardised products and services (but for how much longer?).
These specific elements can serve as the basis for creating the
unifying themes defined earlier.
3.1.2 An approach centred on the idea of processes and on an
integrated vision of the whole that is well positioned within time
Experience has shown that it is impossible to cut corners. Measures
are gradually enhanced and follow on in a logical order, becoming
increasingly sophisticated. This grasp of phases, of sequences, of
the time needed to fully implement measures, and of their
progressive impact on the area can offer a qualitative advance in
preparing territorial development programmes. By taking the process
into account, changes can also be introduced into certain
established practices to increase their impact.
A systemic vision of the whole is a key element of the territorial
strategy. It aims to understand what interactions need to be created
between scattered elements. Experience of LEADER has shown that,
except in certain very specific circumstances, isolated measures
that do not form part of a systemic approach are rarely conclusive,
especially in areas with a population structure marked by dispersion
and demographic weakness.
A systemic approach makes it possible to progress beyond “simple”
alliances to “leverage” alliances, eg, by grouping different
categories of players around a joint process.
Finally, the possibility of developing or supporting interactions
always depends on LEADER’s impact in the area.
3.1.3 A starting option: choosing between “gateway” and “sower”
LEADER experience has shown that there are many possible points of
departure for propelling a territorial strategy. It may involve a
well-defined form of intervention, such as promoting the area’s
image or developing an alternative energy source, or a combination
of several measures aimed at diversifying an economically-threatened
sector, or an effort to raise awareness, support vocational
training, heritage promotion, etc.
Gateways are chosen from among the key elements identified when
analysing the territorial capital and the interactions between its
components, which are seen as a priority to promote a distinctive
feature, correct an imbalance, exploit an opportunity, counter a
threat, etc. In order to optimise the desired effect, it is possible
then to concentrate financial resources on a series of connected
model measures to achieve a demonstrative effect. It is also
possible to combine innovative measures with others that, though
less innovative, together produce the desired result.
In contrast to this “gateway” strategy we find the so-called “sower”
strategy, which consists of launching measures in several domains in
the hope that one or the other of them will “germinate”. This
strategy is often adopted in areas suffering from a lack of
initiative: working to foster the creation of every type of
initiative can result in developing skills that will later enable
the measures to be oriented in a more specific direction.
In such areas LEADER groups have often been required to take the
place of local players in order to achieve a demonstrative effect.
In the central Alentejo region (Portugal), as a result of several
centuries of domination by large-scale landowners, businesses are
few and so are initiatives. When LEADER I was launched, the Terras
Dentro group itself created a number of businesses that it
considered vital to territorial development: it set up vocational
training, a tourism promotion and marketing agency, a firm
distributing newspapers door to door, etc.
More generally, the LEADER groups themselves took charge (sometimes
in association with institutions) of projects that were likely to
act as a lever: a theme was launched to unify formerly scattered
activities (“Cheese Route”, “Book Village”, etc), investment was
made in key areas, the historical heritage was promoted with a view
to developing tourism, etc.
This is often a key stage during the start-up phase, especially
where the risk is too great for the local population to assume.
However, it is only a first step: through a coordination effort,
local players can then be encouraged to take charge of the
3.1.4 Implementation geared to
the systematic search for multiplier effects
Any process for adding value to the territorial capital is based on
the search for multiplier effects. This can take several forms,
- measures with a leverage effect on other projects, such as
launching a brand name, a marketing firm, creating a tourist
information centre, etc;
- innovative measures that can be reproduced until such a time
as the market is large enough to absorb other initiatives of the
same type (eg, launch of a new product that could become symbolic of
- measures that cannot be reproduced but which involve new
practices or forms of organisation, and can therefore be partially
transferred to other sectors or activities.
In order to bring out and guide multiplier effects, the LEADER group
can adopt several concomitant strategies, such as dissemination
throughout the area, more targeted support for a few more
enterprising individuals, calls for proposals, etc.
3.1.5 Monitoring/assessment to draw lessons from current measures
Measures that have already been implemented provide some important
lessons, both for project promoters and for the LAG itself. The
lessons learned from successes and failures, from the difficulties
encountered and the solutions found, lead to a better understanding
of the territorial capital and enable strategies to be refined.
It is therefore a matter of finding the means to draw such lessons
and making sure that these lessons are useful in the future by
exploiting available tools (study groups, forums, working papers,
etc). Monitoring and assessment also form an integral part of the