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From strategy to action:
Optimising the effects at local level
The selection process yields two types of results:
- the realisation of selected projects - This involves evaluating each project in terms of cost-profits, direct and indirect impact and multiplier effects, etc. The projects can have a restabilisation effect on existing inequalities or alternatively strengthen imbalances (social or area);
- the area dynamics that the procedures for calls for projects and project selection have created, for example:
the generation of ideas - The launch of a call procedure can lead to a considerable number of projects being prepared. Projects which are not selected can be the starting point for a mobilisation of future initiatives. Through training sessions and technical assistance, the LAG will be able to accompany those concerned throughout their approach;
- increased interest for the approaches and forms of collective organisation - The launch of a call for projects for actions aiming to revive a local heritage which has been abandoned, for example, can create a new collective interest at area level and a new joint reference. It can create mobilisation, be thought-provoking and give rise to creativeness, highlight certain forgotten or implicit ideas and values, etc. But it can also provoke or exacerbate conflicts, give way to frustrations or strengthen social exclusion, etc.
It is therefore necessary to make the call for proposals and project selection become levers of development, readjustment, mobilisation and cohesion. In this respect, LEADER practices can teach many lessons.
5.1. Optimising the effects in terms of selected projects
These effects can be examined on the basis of each project taken individually or, on the contrary, on the basis of all the actions carried out in a given area.
a) The effects of projects taken individually
Each project, once accomplished, has both direct and indirect effects on the area:
- the direct effects correspond to the actual results of the project, in terms of additional productions, added value, the creation of new resources (physical, human, technical, etc.), new activities, new jobs, etc.;
- the indirect effects correspond to the demonstrative and multiplier effects of the project and, more generally speaking, of the project's impact on the development of the area as a whole.
The partnership approach plays an essential role in optimising projects because, faced with the problem's complexity, each partner brings a different and complementary point of view. The synergies between the points of view and the diversity of the arguments make it impossible to forget certain pitfalls or possible negative effects. All forms of contributions by potential beneficiaries to the definition of selection criteria are made in the same way. Finally, communication plays a key role, particularly in terms of developing the demonstrative or educational effects.
b) The effects of the projects together: cohesion by readjustment
The social and/or area inequalities and imbalances are the concern of many LAGs. The rural areas often suffer from imbalances which can call into question their internal cohesion and development dynamic. Many LAGs are looking to confront these imbalances, which can take different forms:
- social imbalances - some population categories are underprivileged, even marginalised and excluded from the development process for reasons of age, sex or qualifications, etc.;
- geographical imbalances - certain parts of the area of intervention are turning into a desert, whereas others benefit from a concentration of human, economic or environmental resources etc.;
- imbalances in the allocation and utilisation of natural resources - some activities are heavily consumer-orientated, even destructive, of natural resources which have become rare and essential for other activities important to the area (water, earth and forests, etc.);
- imbalances in sector development - certain key sectors for the area are underdeveloped (e.g. services for the community).
Consequently, how can the call for proposals and project selection be best used to correct these imbalances? This question is all the more delicate since the concept of project selection already includes the idea of competition, of "winners" and "losers"...
A "traditional" type selection ("priority to the best") risks tending to accentuate the differences and increase the imbalances, particularly social ones. In order to confront these problems, it is possible for example:
- to introduce specific criteria - some LAGs introduce criteria for membership of social groups, either as classification criteria or as exclusion criteria;
- In Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy), the Montagna LEADER LAG has created "initiation grants" for young entrepreneurs. This is a pilot project with 3 grants (of ECU 45 000, 35 000 and 25 000) which can be given to a young person or group of young people who, after having received training, wish to set up a new business in the area, by strengthening one of the strategic lines of development chosen by the LAG. The grants are non-refundable and aim to facilitate the realisation of the corporate plan, provide access to advisory and research services to improve the initial idea, etc. The grant is in fact a sort of contribution to the start-up capital of the new company.
- to introduce an explicit criterion to help correct the imbalances - in its weighting system, the Guadiato LAG (Spain) therefore awards one point for the project's contribution to the correction of area imbalances (see Chapter 1).
These means or forms of targeting enable the projects to be better directed towards the population groups, areas or types of use of local resources that it is hoped can be strengthened to correct the imbalances.