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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


3.2 Creating a collective dynamic around the territorial project


Pooling ideas about developing a project and strategy is one of the keys to success. Members of the local partnership are not the only ones concerned. The debate needs to be opened up to all of the area’s players in order to create a consensus on common objectives, to strengthen social cohesion and involve the various players in the incipient process of territorial development. The different parties involved (in particular the local or regional public authorities responsible for introducing sectoral measures) must also be allowed to participate in the debate in one form or another. This allows links to be found and bonds to be created that enhance the territorial project with complementary measures and projects, within the confines of the possibilities offered by existing sectoral policies.

In practice, however, things are often not that simple. Habits, existing power relationships, or even conflicts call for specific solutions that require step-by-step strategies. Below are a few of the solutions that have been adopted by LEADER groups.


3.2.1 Turning project analysis and preparation into an “animation” and partnership working tool

By involving local populations, asking relevant questions and identifying interactions, it is possible to gradually enhance knowledge about the area. This exercise can also make it possible to exploit the area’s assets without necessarily giving precedence to the strongest players.

However, this is not always easy to achieve. The project still has to correspond to the aspirations of local players. One solution is to link the analysis to the sources of interest of the different groups in the population. In this respect it is important to take into account “areas” that already exist: eg, micro-areas with the same economic or cultural tradition, a network of municipalities sharing the same services, etc. A “variable-geometry” analysis can, more effectively than a “one-off” analysis, allow for a multiplicity of identities and images and make room for the players’ links and need for change - elements which the territorial project will aim to synthesise in a coherent manner.

To achieve this goal, it is important to adopt encouraging language. Local communities that are presented as “victims” will shrink from taking any responsibility and seek justification for their fatalism. Finding new solutions often depends on the way in which problems are presented.

As for relations with public authorities, alternative more formalised types of cooperation (advisory boards, etc) are often desirable in order to compare general analyses with the more sectoral ones, thus leading to mutual enrichment. This first stage is essential in order to effectively integrate the different measures.


3.2.2 Seeking win-win strategies

Conflict is sometimes seen as proof of failure that has to be concealed at all costs. However, sometimes it is in cases where no conflict emerges during the analysis stage that questions need to be asked. In fact all human communities, whatever their configuration, are riddled with conflict. Placing the social players at the heart of a territorial project means implementing win-win strategies, for which it is essential to ascertain how great the various players’ resistance to change is3.


3.2.3 Evaluating capacities for action

If the development strategy is to become something more than a statement of good intent of the type “We plan to do this or that”, it is vital to gain a clear idea of the LEADER group’s capacity to push through the proposed lines of action and its legitimacy to play this role. Experience has revealed three important factors of success:

    1) The representativeness of the local action group - The diversity of interests represented within the LEADER group can ensure quality and compliance with the chosen strategic options.

    2) Real leadership, represented by forces of change capable of ensuring a renewal of strategic thinking - A LEADER group, even one which represents local interests, can come up against a brick wall if it confines itself to simply sharing powers and resources.

    3) Finally, a group-based organisation that is appropriate to the recommended strategy (allocation of resources, presence of qualified technicians and managers, formal delegation of the power to take action).

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