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Territorial competitiveness

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

[ Index ]


Chapter 3
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 and space

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” strategies

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 initiative.


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, including:

  • 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 the area);

  • 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 strategy.

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