Creating a territorial development strategy
in light of the LEADER experience
[ Index ]
Progressing from analysing the territorial capital
to developing a territorial development strategy
3.3 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
a) Integration strategies, critical-mass strategies (product range
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
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
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
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
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
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
- “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
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
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-
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.