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From strategy to action:
The various methods of project selection
1.4 The stages of the approach
Project selection is not an isolated approach. It is both the conclusion and starting point of other stages from which it cannot be separated (see "The implementation of local development projects: the LEADER I experience", (LEADER European Observatory / AEIDL, 1995). These include in particular:
- the definition of a development strategy;
- the rendering of this strategy into strategic and operational objectives;
- the creation of the "rural innovation programme", which identifies the main lines of intervention, funds allocated, repayment schedules, etc.;
- appraisal of the implementation of the project, which will in particular enable the approach's relevance, effectiveness and efficiency to be verified.
It can very often be seen that these stages do not necessarily follow on from one another in this order nor in a linear fashion. Some groups do not have clearly defined strategies at the start, only very general guidelines have been established. The definition of the selection criteria for the projects is then a key time, which enables the group to set itself priorities which will, in fact, be the expression of the implicit strategy that it sets itself.
The LAGs formalise selection criteria before the call for proposals is announced. Very often, they fine-tune them when they analyse the projects they receive.
The level of precision in the definition of the selection criteria most often depends on the clarity of the strategic and operational objectives chosen and on the preparations made by the LAG. The more specific and clear the criteria are, the less they have to be refined afterwards.
However, refinement of the criteria once the call for proposals has been made can have several advantages:
- creativity is encouraged and candidates should therefore have the opportunity to present their proposals as completely as possible;
- the LAG wants to give itself leeway afterwards, since it does not know beforehand what proposals it is going to receive (the projects proposed may, for example, only focus on one part of the area or only take into account one aspect of a sector's development).
This refinement of the criteria is, however, only possible if it does not lead to the initial criteria being called into question: there would then be a risk of conflict and loss of confidence by candidates for LEADER support. However, many LAGs are managing to maintain a certain flexibility and revise the proposals without as much as losing the transparency which is so essential. This is the particularly the case of LAGs that have a pro-active approach, i.e. for whom coordination is an essential component of the local development strategy.
In the Sierra de Béjar y Sierra de Francia (Castile-Leon, Spain), the LAG uses different types of refinement once it has received the project proposals:
- in the case of the restoration or construction of infrastructures (particularly accommodation for rural tourism), the costs of the project are subject to adjustments since the promoters have a tendency to underestimate the financial sums needed because they are not fully aware of the problems that can be encountered when the project is implemented. This means that once these costs are calculated for a second time, certain projects are excluded as the promoter is unable to meet his share of the real financial investment;
- in the case of completely new projects (this was the case, for example, in the establishment of a small brewery), the LAG directly seeks additional information on the project's viability.
The LAG can also redirect projects depending on strategic priority areas once the promoters have submitted their initial idea.
In the context of invitations to tender for the development of tourism, for example, proposals favoured are those that set up new rural gîtes enabling the heritage to be revived or the cultural activities on offer to be enlarged, etc., in order to fill out the range of tourist attractions.
In this respect, the LAG provides for a period of two months each year for the informal submission of proposals or ideas in pre-determined sectors. Once the proposals have been received, the LAG advises and guides the candidates and pre-selects certain projects. It is only at this stage that the promoters whose projects have been chosen are invited to prepare a formal proposal.
On the basis of the experience of LEADER groups, the following table summarises the arguments which generally lead to the definition of criteria before the call for proposals and those which lead to them being fine-tuned and/or certain others being completed after this call.
DEFINED CRITERIA, REFINED CRITERIA
- measure of transparency
- enables certain types of proposals to be rejected at the start
- enables the supply of projects to be better accounted for
In which cases?
- to encourage certain types of project (in strategic sectors, through certain leaders, etc.)
- when there is a high potential of project leaders compared with the funds available
- when there are local conflicts
- when the area development strategy is not yet sufficiently clear
- when the LAG does not have sufficient knowledge of the potential in terms of innovation of project leaders
Types of criteria
quantitative, qualitative, methodological, restrictive, etc. criteria
- certain qualitative weighting elements (e.g. the project's innovative aspect)
- distribution by geographical area
- distribution by type of leader
- costs (in some cases)