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Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach

Chapter 2
Identifying LEADER's specific features


2.2. The information needs of the different levels (from the local to the European). Are they different in respect of the specific features?


Figure 1 identifies the 7 specific features and their linkages with the components of a programme and the local development factors. This could represent the stakeholder's information needs in an evaluation.

Some specific features should be approached from different perspectives (regional, national or European). Funding and networking (including transnational cooperation assistance and finance) in particular are largely the responsibility of the regional, national and European levels.

The diagram in Figure 2 shows how the specific features implemented at the regional, national or European level act:

  • the funding and delivery method of the LEADER programmes (multi-annual funding, operational programmes or global grants, etc) carry a number of particular features:

    • co-financing, bringing together local private and public contributions with external financial support (European Union, regional and/or national authorities);
    • a budget is allocated to each group on the basis of the rural innovation programme approved by the regional or national authorities;
    • some flexibility enables the budget to be adapted to changes which may arise during implementation.

  • regional or national networking enables direct relations between groups to be forged as well as structured links through the established networks (at national level, generally with the support of the national network coordinating unit). Networking will also facilitate direct relations between local groups and the regional/national level and affect the type of information and services offered by the public administration or by other national/regional players.

  • networking activities may involve direct relations between groups or by means of the European rural development network - supported by the Commission in the form of the LEADER European Observatory and providing a broader and richer framework of references for exchanging experience;

  • transnational cooperation refers to specific joint projects between several LEADER groups at the European level. It influences the groups' actions because it provides a framework for the transfer of experience and for achieving a critical mass formerly unavailable in rural areas.

The evaluation focus from the national/regional or European perspective is likely to be slightly different from the local level. At these levels it is necessary to evaluate:

  • the effectiveness and efficiency [6] of the specific features for which these levels are responsible (financing, networking, transnational cooperation) in relation to other policies where these aspects are not present;

  • the functioning of the "rules of the game" (guidelines and procedures) established at these levels;

  • the reasons explaining the differences observed between the performance, the results and the impact of the groups at local level;

  • the suitability of LEADER as a model and its transferability to other regional, national or European policies. The evaluation will take account of the added value brought by the package of specific features and each individual feature.

To meet these needs, the information about the performance of individual programmes must be given in such a way that it allows for the aggregation of data from the local level upwards (a bottom-up procedure), a comparison between groups and the recognition of models of best practice.

Table 1 summarises the specific features that each stakeholder should evaluate and suggests a focus for the evaluation. Several methods which may be used to evaluate the specific features are also proposed. However, it is clear that work needs to be done at the methodological level to organise the circulation of information between different levels as well as to have efficient analytical tools.

[6] Effectiveness: the fact that the objectives have been reached.
Efficiency: the fact that the objectives have been
obtained at a reasonable cost.

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