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[ Contents ]

From strategy to action:
project selection

Introduction

 

The implementation of a programme such as LEADER involves work which at first appears to be contradictory: on the one hand, a maximum number of projects have to be created and nurtured; on the other hand, a selection of these has to be made in order to finally only provide funding for some of them, i.e. those which appear to be the most interesting for the development of the entire area.

The call for projects [1] and their subsequent selection in fact constitutes two complementary approaches, which both enable the local actors to be mobilised at the service of development.

These approaches take on different forms and importance depending on the specific context of each LEADER area: in an area with very few potential project leaders or where there exists a certain mistrust of everything from the public sector, for example, the aim will primarily be to create rather than to select the projects as such; it will concern more specifically helping the project leaders succeed in having their project selected. On the other hand, in an area where there are many potential project leaders, the selection stage itself will be more important, but the involvement of local actors in the process, whether their project is selected or not, will be a way of creating a consensus around a development strategy at local level.

A priori, project selection can often appear to be the "administrative", or even the "nit-picking" measure of the intervention of local action groups (LAGs). In practice, it proves to be a genuine coordination and dialogue tool for all the local actors. Project selection is also the concrete expression of strategic guidelines defined by the LAG. In this respect, analysing the actions of LEADER groups reveals a considerable capacity for drawing up specific methodologies for project selection, adapted to the particular context and to the specific strategic aims of each area.

However, this capacity would not have been possible without great flexibility in the ways of applying the programme. This flexibility is undoubtedly a driving force behind creativeness and innovation in terms of coordination methods for local development.

The enforcement of more specific guidelines relating to the implementation of LEADER II has nevertheless brought about new constraints. In some cases, these constraints have limited the possibilities for local groups to try out new solutions, sometimes leading to a certain "homogenisation" of the selection criteria; on the other hand, in many countries they have been able to facilitate the work of the LAGs by defining much more accurately their context of intervention than under LEADER I.

More generally speaking, this theme of project selection raises a fundamental question on the degree of autonomy these local action groups would like in order to maximise the effectiveness of their action and, henceforth, on the relations between the LAGs and the authorities at various levels (regional, national, European) concerned with the implementation of the LEADER initiative. The methods of institutional organisation specific to each Member State lead to situations which naturally differ from country to country, but European exchanges on this theme are certainly worth increasing in order to contribute to the distribution of responsibilities and procedures which are more suited to accompanying local development projects. One of the aims of this file is to contribute to this debate.

But project selection brings us to another important debate, this time at the level of the local groups themselves: concrete expression of the development strategy that the group would like must indeed ensure that the selection procedures chosen enable it to achieve the objectives that it has set itself. For example, if one of the objectives is social cohesion, have the most underprivileged communities benefited from the programme or has it been limited to favouring the economic effectiveness of the actions financed? Although one of the objectives was a better spatial distribution of activities, have the actions implemented included the parts of the area which are less well off?

Given the diversity of contexts and experiences, this document does not claim to give an account of all the methods used by LEADER groups to mobilise and select projects. This file should instead be looked upon as a "window" open to the diversity of the approaches, enabling them to be sized up, evaluated and for the challenges they present to be weighed up.

It is structured in five chapters:

  • the first defines the essential elements of the project selection approach;

  • the second shows, on the basis of specific examples, how project selection is more the concrete expression of the development strategy chosen by each area;

  • the third chapter draws several general lessons from project selection as a development coordination tool;

  • the fourth analyses the importance of the evolution of reference contexts for project selection, both at the level of the authorities and the LAGs themselves;

  • the fifth examines the conditions necessary for optimising the effects of the selection approach at local level.

 


[1] In this document, the terms "call for proposals",
"call for projects" and "invitation to tender" are
used indiscriminately. In the same way, the
designations "project leader", "promoter" and
"beneficiary" are synonymous.


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