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Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach

Chapter 1
Some reminders about LEADER and its evaluation


1.1. Guidelines for evaluating LEADER: two different requirements


LEADER is a Community Initiative which aims at introducing and experimenting with a new approach to rural development. LEADER II has focused on the innovative nature of actions, their demonstration effect and transnational cooperation between LEADER beneficiaries (local action groups or LEADER II other collective bodies).

In the Notice to Member States (94/C 180/12), the European Commission, as promoter of the Initiative, outlined the general objectives, guidelines and requirements for assessing LEADER II, strengthening the importance of evaluation in relation to the previous Initiative.

The information to be provided by the LEADER beneficiaries and the regional or national authorities must comprise: "Information for assessment purposes, permitting an initial analysis, specification of the changes expected, the extent of the innovation and the model function of the project. This information will serve as a reference point for assessment to analyse over the duration of each project the emergence of the innovation in question, its impact, its spontaneous spread and the conditions for any transfer." "The periodic assessment must also show the value added by the different categories of the programme in relation to other measures in the same area (including transnational cooperation projects)."

In order to achieve this objective, the LEADER II evaluators should "use specific parameters adapted to the programme's characteristics" (par. 19 of the Notice).

Furthermore, in the official document on the procedures for monitoring and assessing Structural Funds expenditure (STAR Doc. VI/3479/94REV3), two requirements are established for the evaluation:

    1) the general guidelines and established procedures for the evaluation of other programmes are applicable to LEADER;

    2) "as regards impact evaluation, it will be necessary to take account of LEADER's objectives as well as certain unique aspects: its locally-based approach, the innovative measures, an evaluation of the nature and composition of the beneficiary group."

This quick review of official references on the evaluation of LEADER provides a first indication of what is expected: in fact, two different evaluation methods should be used.

  • On the one hand the procedures identical to those of other EU programmes have to be followed. These are based on physical and financial indicators for evaluating progress, results and impact.

  • On the other hand, to assess its different approach to rural development, LEADER's unique and distinctive aspects should also be evaluated.

Although the Initiative represents a very modest share of the Structural Funds, the evaluation work that actually needs to be done is in fact more complex than for other Community interventions. If the methodology for the first type of evaluation is fairly well established, a methodology for evaluating the unique aspects of LEADER has not yet been put forward. This Observatory document aims to contribute to and enrich the reflections of the Initiative's wide range of partners.

In this final stage of LEADER II, many local groups also wish to put in place an internal evaluation mechanism that enables them to draw lessons from the activities carried out and to prepare for the future. The systematic presentation of LEADER's specific features in this document may be of use to them.

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