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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


3.3 A few examples of territorial development strategies


The ideas and general guidelines that have just been presented show just how diversified territorial development strategies can be. Areas whose initial situation appears to be quite similar may nevertheless choose different gateways, depending on their overall objectives, the composition of the local partnership, its leadership, etc.

Nevertheless, the initial territorial capital undoubtedly conditions the scope of strategic choices. Strategies that are suitable for areas where the development process is already well under way are more often than not inconceivable in areas where everything has to start from scratch.

This can be illustrated by a few examples of strategies already implemented by LEADER groups, based on five types of territorial situation. The definition of the five types of situation proposed below has been limited to two components of the area’s capital: “activities and business firms” and “governance”.

  • Type 1: areas where business firms are numerous and many work together for production, promotion and information-seeking purposes.

  • Type 2: areas where business firms are also numerous but work in a dispersed manner, with no links with the area and no collaboration mechanisms, even where such firms belong to a single business sector.

  • Type 3: areas where there are only a few dispersed business firms but where a sector, an activity, or a historic or natural element can be restored to serve as the basis for a local regeneration strategy.

  • Type 4: areas where business firms are concentrated in a single part of the area, whereas elsewhere they are either disappearing, have failed to start up again or simply do not exist. The institutional instruments for carrying out differentiated measures, aimed at restoring a balanced access to opportunities, are either poor or not very effective.

  • Type 5: areas that have suffered serious rural depopulation or isolation, where there is a strong tendency towards abandoning farming and/or closing remaining businesses (which for the most part are run by elderly entrepreneurs). The area is becoming deserted and it is considered vital to find new resources or activities to inject new dynamism into the area.

Naturally these different types of strategy and the examples relating to them are meant only to serve as a guide and in no way represent the full range of diverse situations and strategies implemented by LEADER groups. Moreover, further typologies are proposed in the other parts of this series. They focus on other elements and components of an area’s capital and hence provide a different and complementary view to the one presented here.


3.3.1 Examples of strategies for type 1 areas (a great many project promoters; collective collaboration/promotion processes already well under way)

In such areas, which already benefit from a certain level of territorial competitiveness and are already engaged in a consolidation rationale, LEADER groups have adopted strategies of complementarity or fringe activities.

a) Strategies of complementarity

These consist of focusing LEADER measures on a number of elements that are likely to lead to a qualitative advance in the process already under way and to consolidate it. The Community Initiative has therefore encouraged:

  • mainly intangible investment that makes economic development possible (trawling for ideas and new projects, design innovation, creation of quality labels, networking, training, feasibility studies, etc);

  • the implementation of pilot micro-projects that make it possible to test certain changes in traditional sectors.

The effect of such initiatives is to promote training for change, to increase the ability to take risks, to create an environment conducive to investment in non-traditional sectors and to create the links required for any economic strategy to succeed.


In the Redange-Wiltz LEADER area (Luxembourg), an area devoted chiefly to intensive agriculture, the introduction of environmentally-friendly medicinal herb cultivation and processing was accompanied by training for gradual change. This tiny project, which a great number of farmers and local and national institutions, accustomed to a grander scale, refused to take seriously, therefore succeeded in fostering the creation of opportunities in sectors other than intensive agriculture.


In the Pays Cathare region (Languedoc-Roussillon, France), where a process of local development was already well under way on the basis of recreating its identity (revamping its image and reviving an area in serious demographic decline), the LEADER programme introduced the “Pays Cathare” quality label in order to link together the supply of local food products that had hitherto been marketed individually to complement measures taken in the tourism sector.

b) Fringe-activity strategies

The fringe-activity strategy is applied in cases where the LEADER group has little influence compared with the economic powers that dominate the local development process. The group therefore promotes “fringe” activities that can redirect/complement what is already being done or redevelop neglected elements by, for example, including them in an effort to consolidate the development of a given sector.


In the Alto Bellunese area (Venetia, Italy), where the spectacle trade is organised in industrial clusters, the LEADER group has focused its activities on neglected areas and resources. Indeed, after a century of industrial specialisation in the Alto Bellunese area, several sectors of the local economy have been neglected, especially agriculture and logging. The LEADER strategy focused on supporting the development of certain activities which, though they appeared economically marginal, are essential to maintaining an ecological balance and the beauty of the countryside. An important part of LEADER activities therefore included reinstating former farmland and pastureland, as well as forestry management and maintenance. Likewise, when LEADER provides direct support for the industrial district, it focuses on elements other than production, particularly in the cultural field. For instance the “Spectacle Museum”, a tourist and cultural attraction, has received support from the Community Initiative.

These apparently marginal activities are, however, of educational value in that they encourage the inhabitants (especially young people) to look at alternative economic options.


3.3.2 Examples of strategies for type 2 areas (a great many project promoters, but working in a dispersed manner, with no major links with the area and no mechanisms for working together)

a) Integration strategies, critical-mass strategies (product range strategies)

LEADER groups are often faced with a highly fragmented situation (very small businesses in a single sector, for example), with no tradition or culture of collaboration and which have been made vulnerable by the lack of market consultation instruments for example. The area can become competitive, not through economies of scale, but by creating links between existing but scattered elements.

Such strategies focus on collective action and require an intensive “animation” and technical assistance effort. The reticence of small- scale producers to engage in collective action requires the adoption of long-term strategies.


The creation of an association of cheese producers in the Bregenzerwald area (Austria) with the aim of organising the tourist product known as “The Cheese Route” called for two years of meetings and discussions between producers and LEADER group agents. The group often takes as its basis a unifying cross-sectoral theme, which helps to overcome reticence insofar as it does not appear to call into question the individual nature of the activities.


The “EKO-Boerderijen Route” in the Zuid-West Drenthe LEADER area (Drenthe, Netherlands) groups together ten organic producers who benefit from the EKO organic label and have developed a thematic cycling route linking their farms in a bid to attract tourists for the direct sale of agri-foodstuffs. However, most of them continue individually to market their products in extended distribution channels (supermarkets, health-food shops, etc).

b) Diversification and consolidation strategies

These, too, are strategies commonly used by LEADER local action groups. In this case competitiveness is achieved by supporting the introduction of new product lines in a sector/branch that is already dominant (consolidation of the sector/branch through complementarity), by improving the quality of supply (diversification through distinctiveness) or by encouraging pilot experiments in new sectors (introduction of new products and/or services). In addition, the groups carry out consolidation activities by creating an environment conducive to the development of small structures or activities, in particular through services to assist micro-businesses or micro-activities.


“Sonnenalm” is a dairy brand from the Noric region (Kärnten, Austria) that has enabled local livestock farmers to diversify their products and the marketing system. The decline in cattle and dairy production has been halted and the branch has been redeveloped by the on site processing of milk into quality products for markets either in the vicinity or a moderate distance away, where trust is a decisive factor. The abandonment of home milk deliveries by the major dairies therefore opened up a lucrative niche for small farmers.


In the South Limerick/North Cork LEADER area (Ireland), the slogan “A Taste of Ballyhoura” reflects a strategy of diversification through quality, consisting of multiplying the number of restaurants and gastronomic establishments in the region by improving quality through seeking out and promoting local recipes and products. The desired aim is to multiply the number of gastronomic opportunities in the area.


The slogan “Klein maar sterk” (“Small but strong”) relates to an initiative of the Noordwest Friesland LEADER group (Friesland, Netherlands) on behalf of small private businesses, which is the fruit of a change in attitude about the area’s development. Previous policies had been aimed at attracting outside businesses and capital. The main strategic line of LEADER’s intervention was to consolidate local human and economic resources, based on a participatory method of encouraging entrepreneurs to meet and seek ideas on networking businesses, on guidance and on individual financial support.


3.3.3 Examples of strategies for type 3 areas (not very many project promoters, but presence of one sector or activity that can be restored to serve as the basis for a territorial development strategy)

a) Recovery and redevelopment strategies

This is the most common type of LEADER strategy. LAGs are frequently active in areas whose former resources and know-how are disappearing, or have even become obsolete. The basic aim in this case is to ascertain whether the past reveals any assets that could lead to the launch of modern and competitive products. This leads to strategies that give recognition to the past and gradually adapt techniques and knowledge in order to foster the creation of concepts and products that meet today’s requirements.

In the case of the architectural or archaeological heritage, it can take the form of a regeneration strategy based on a focal point: to organise resources in line with a particular dimension of the heritage by gradually structuring other activities around this focal point.

The Haute Vallée de la Loire area (Rhône-Alpes, France) provides an example of focused regeneration and structuring: tourist provision has been built around archaeological digs on the theme of early history and volcanoes.


The “Voie Régordane, Chemins de la Tolérance” scheme, set up in the Cévennes gardoises area (Languedoc-Roussillon, France) links tourist provision based on discovering the countryside and the culture of resistance along the routes taken by various civilisations throughout history.


The revival of the “Gailtal” traditional cheese in Kärnten (Austria), a response from a group of farmers to the prospect of reduced subsidies, not only opened up new economic opportunities for the dairy industry, but also provided the momentum for dynamic collaboration between farmers.


3.3.4 Examples of strategies for type 4 areas (social or geographical imbalances in the distribution of business firms and the lack of differentiated measures)

a) Rebalancing strategies

Such strategies are required in cases where communities that have become particularly vulnerable or are situated in declining micro- areas also need to benefit from opportunities.

LEADER groups are often forced to make a choice between project promoters. Who should be given support: the most enterprising promoters or those whose circumstances prevent them from setting up or defending a project?


For the Antico Frignano LEADER group (Emilia-Romagna, Italy), the issue of restoring fairer access to opportunities was at the core of the action strategy. A deliberate choice was made to allow the weakest players, who were less accustomed to responding to economic incentives, to develop and present projects, even though this strategy was more time-consuming than standard methods, such as issuing calls for project proposals.


3.3.5 Examples of strategies for type 5 areas (serious rural depopulation or isolation)

a) Kick-start strategies and strategies of wide-reaching “animation”

The general aim of such strategies is to restore the trust of local communities in the value of endogenous resources and in their capacity for action and innovation.

They often combine two types of intervention: “kick start” and “wide-reaching animation”:

  • “Kick start” refers to the support provided to the few innovative or visionary players who come forward to present a totally new product or service that is likely to have a multiplier effect or a demonstrative value.


In the Greiz area (Thuringia, Germany), an east German region that has been hard hit by unemployment, the “ARTigiani” association was created at the initiative of a young joiner, specialised in renovation, who, with LEADER support, restored an abandoned half- timbered house. The building was then turned into an art gallery and cultural centre, which went on to attract artists, students and craftworkers, before leading to the creation of the ARTigiani association, which works to bring arts and crafts together.

  • The term “wide-reaching animation” refers to wide-ranging territorial coordination measures to encourage innovative individual or collective ideas or projects. Such strategies generally culminate in feasibility studies to examine how to turn such ideas into projects.


In Austria, “UNI-Mobil” is a network comprising four Viennese university colleges and 13 municipalities in the Mittel- Südburgenland LEADER area (Burgenland). UNI-Mobil allows the municipalities to employ groups of students for local development projects in line with their needs. This provides them with valuable know-how at a modest price. Moreover, the links forged with university students (who reside on site throughout their assignment) have triggered a real desire for local development among the community. The approach has led to the implementation of projects to renovate villages and promote the natural and cultural heritage, all of which forms part of a strategy for developing rural tourism and hydrotherapy.

b) Strategies for attracting

Internal resources can be organised, even in areas suffering from low population levels and a lack of initiative (especially property and services), and local opportunities can be promoted for attracting outside project promoters.


“RELANCE” is the strategic tool set up by the Espace Cévennes LEADER group (Languedoc-Roussillon, France) to allocate businesses, farms and other activities to business rescuers, which might otherwise disappear for lack of successors. The initiative is based on putting those giving up an activity into contact with the rescuers of local activities and on providing individualised guidance. This search for rescuers now plays an important role in the LAG’s overall “animation” and attraction strategy.


“Territorial marketing” refers to the strategy developed by the Delta 2000 LEADER group (Basso Ferrarese, Emilia-Romagna, Italy) to attract businesses in search of premises and opportunities with a view to revitalising a relatively marginalised area. Entrepreneurs interested in investing in the area were offered a “business start- up pack”, consisting of reductions in municipal taxes and a guide to the opportunities offered in the area in terms of investment support, aid for job creation, etc.


3.3.6 The territorial strategy can combine a number of micro- strategies

Even though it is the initial characteristics of the territorial capital that determine which particular strategy should receive precedence, in many cases LEADER groups choose to combine a number of micro-strategies, depending on the specific components of the capital. Such strategic diversity reflects the local situation more closely and provides distinctive added value to the initial capital. In reality, the territorial strategy is the result of a combination of a number of the strategies described above. Moreover, as shown in the other parts of this series, such strategies also vary according to the chosen unifying themes or may follow on from one another over time as the territorial project matures.

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