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Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach

Chapter 2
Identifying LEADER's specific features

 



2.1. Definition of the specific features and their linkage with the programme and the factors of development

 

The specific features of LEADER are those unique aspects which have characterised the initiative since its launch in 1991, and have contributed to its innovative character and its success in very different types of rural areas. The Notice to Member States concerning LEADER II refers to most of them.

We have selected 7:

    1. The area-based approach
    2. The bottom-up approach
    3. The local groups (horizontal partnerships)
    4. The innovative character of actions
    5. The linkage between actions, ie, the integrated and multi- sectoral approach
    6. Networking, including transnational cooperation
    7. Methods of management and financing

These 7 specific features should be considered as the core aspects of the Initiative. They were chosen by the working group as being key to the success of LEADER, and can be used by all stakeholders.

Each core feature will be defined and its role, as part of the evaluation exercise, explained in the next chapter. Figure 1 aims to clarify how the specific features influence the traditional, basic components of a project or programme evaluation.

Most LEADER groups and national and regional authorities may have already identified an evaluation method which links the stated objectives of the rural innovation programme with the actions being implemented, the progress towards expected results and the impact measured with appropriate indicators (financial, physical, performance and impact).

The LEADER initiative does not operate in a vacuum but is tightly linked with local factors of development which change from one area to the next. We have singled out three such factors: the rural context, the key local players and the institutional environment.

These factors are considered strategic in the LEADER initiative. The specific features link the rural innovation programme to these local development factors and therein modify the traditional approach to rural development.

In Figure 1, each specific feature is shown in relation to the objectives, actions, results and impact of a programme on the one hand, and in relation to the local development factors on the other.

The diagram clearly shows that the specific features simultaneously influence the planning process and the local context:

  • the area-based approach introduces a process based on the resources and particular needs of each area;

  • the bottom-up approach enables key local players to be involved in a participatory way and takes account of the specific features of each area. This generates a new perception of the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, which will influence throughout the programme the definition of objectives, the realisation of actions, the expected results and the impact.

  • the local group, which is organised in a horizontal partnership, brings together key local players as well as the local institutions;

  • the innovative character of actions, the linkage between them and the multi-sectoral approach all have an influence on the actions implemented as well as their expected results and impact;

  • networking and transnational cooperation influence the relationships between the local level and the outside world (circulation of information and knowledge and joint projects). These mainly occur between local action groups from the same country or at European level, and may be forged directly or through the established national or European networks. They also help strengthen linkages with regional and national authorities as well as the European Commission. Transnational cooperation is a more formalised and structured agreement than networking.

  • the financing arrangement ("Global Grant" or "Operational Programme", single tranche or multi-annual) influences the flexibility of the programme throughout its implementation and, in many cases, the nature of the projects that can be financed (inappropriate payment methods can for instance discourage the most fragile and sometimes the most innovative project leaders).

Figure 1 shows that each specific feature taken individually will influence one aspect of the local context or programme in particular. For example, innovation mainly concerns the actions and their results; the area-based approach influences the initial definition of the area and consequently all subsequent processes.

The specific features may also be examined together. This would allow their added value to be assessed as an additional impact which would not have existed had a more conventional approach been used.


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