[ Index ]
Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach
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-
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
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
- 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.