Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
Consolidating the fight against social exclusion
by including it in an area-based approach?
4.3 Potential and limits of the LEADER method
What can be done about the unsolved problems with the territorial
approach to social inclusion? What solutions have come from the
LEADER programme itself, deliberately designed to promote the
territorial approach, and can LEADER provide more answers? Finally,
what exclusion problems do the LEADER groups face? These are the
questions that we will now attempt to answer.
The coordination provided by the LEADER groups has turned out to be
a powerful instrument to identify and take advantage of
marginalised resources and skills. But it has also been a way to
understand the characteristics of exclusion in rural areas and laid
bridges between people, resources and institutions.
LEADER has helped find solutions for:
- the composition and evolution of the Local Action Group
- the project selection criteria and methods;
- the consultation with government agencies about the local use
of public funds - including unemployment benefits.
a) The composition and evolution
of the partnership of the Local Action Group
How can the forms of local partnership set up by LEADER serve as a
model for the partnership approach to social inclusion?
The composition of the LEADER partnerships depends on whether the
social or political forces, which are the expression of the
economic interests in the area, consider it in their interest to
work together to elaborate a common project. This structure,
fundamental in any LEADER intervention, brought about a form of
consultation between representatives of local interests and between
public and private sectors, particularly there where the mixed
nature of the partnership was preserved.
However, the experience of LEADER I and LEADER II shows that over
time these structures tend to become rigid, refusing to expand,
particularly to include representatives of weaker social groups.
But there are exceptions which show that the road remains open. In
Ireland, the Cavan-Monaghan group asked the community groups that
its coordination strategy had created (associations of voluntary
workers, organisations of mutual assistance, of social and cultural
action, etc.) to join the LEADER partnership. Other LEADER groups
chose to encourage participation in local activities in other
forums of community debate where the excluded or their
representatives were included.
Therefore greater thought has to be given to the matter so that the
LEADER partnerships take better account of the need for social
cohesion, which is the purpose of the actions being organised. The
main problem is determining how the excluded can be given a voice
within local partnerships. Just deciding that disadvantaged social
groups must be able to express themselves is not enough.
The LEADER partnerships could therefore encourage lessons in
participation, democratic debate and the building of a community
voice by creating the necessary conditions for the establishment of
representations where the most disadvantaged social categories are
included. If forums are not created where the weakest segments of
the population can talk about their difficulties, the measures
adopted and the actions taken may very well not translate into any
The “local partnership approach” is therefore the method needed to
break down the ghettos, because it opens the debate to all the
social categories and to all the local interests while encouraging
awareness of one another .
b) Project selection
and financial assistance criteria
The LEADER groups developed a series of techniques to encourage the
elaboration of projects and to select them according to the main
strategies defined in the local action plan . When the composition
of the partnership lent itself to this, they developed methods to
guarantee a certain balanced access to opportunities for the
different segments of population in the area.
One difficulty nonetheless remains: the people, businesses or
associations in the mainstream of society are obviously more likely
to come up with dynamic projects, not to mention the fact that
certain local action plans do not have interventions explicitly
aimed at encouraging social cohesion.
Debate and discussion must therefore look in two directions:
1) What forms of mediation are needed so that the weakest
segments of the population or the people in the area worst off also
have ways to elaborate dynamic projects? What kind of coordination
and identification work has to be supported by the local relays to
ensure the success of projects by people or groups in difficulty?
2) How should the development strategy be designed so that it
has an impact in terms of social acceptance and therefore results
in a balanced improvement in the quality of life?
Some answers already are to:
- help the people and communities develop local services so
that new activities of solidarity are created and places are
created where people can meet and there can be an expression of
- encourage the various businesses and structures “to
mutualise” the jobs, in other words to collectively manage the
human resources to deal with the impossibility of hiring full-time
salaried employees for certain jobs - eg. a manager can work for
several companies at the same time;
- develop forms of assistance for local credit and for
investments where there is shared liability (guarantee funds, loans
on trust, ethical investments, etc.);
- encourage non-monetary trade and networks of solidarity
(alternative economy poles, time bank, etc.);
- help schools take initiatives to introduce learning about
their area in the curriculum.
c) Consultation with government agencies about the local use of
This review of the lessons of the area-based strategy devised by
LEADER would not be complete without mentioning the consultation
with the public institutions present in the area.
Three methods are important and they are to:
- favour, in the context of a local development and social
cohesion strategy, the intervention of these government agencies in
the projects selected. The theme may be retraining the long-term
unemployed, setting up mobile services or introducing accompanying
services to stabilise the local population;
- encourage the signing of agreements between local
associations and government agencies with a view to personalising
the services for the categories in difficulty;
- involve the government agencies in debates on the local use
of public funds so that the institutional answers can be compared
with the resources and answers of the local actors.
 For more about this, see: Amouroux op.cit.
 See “Selecting projects”, Dossier of the
LEADER European Observatory, Brussels, 1998.