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Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach

Chapter 3
Questions and evaluation issues for each specific feature


3.2. The bottom-up approach



The bottom-up approach aims to encourage participatory decision- making at the local level for all those concerned with development policies. The involvement of local players is sought and includes the population at large, economic and social interest groups, and representative public and private institutions.

Capacity building is a strategic component of the bottom-up approach:

  • awareness raising, training, participation and mobilisation of the local population to identify the strengths and weakness of the area (analysis),

  • the participation of different interest groups in the strategic choices of the rural innovation programme,

  • transparent criteria for selecting the actions implemented.

Participation may take place at different stages of the programme (prior to the plan, during implementation, after its conclusions); it can be assured through direct participation or through the medium of representatives of collective interests.

To be effective, the bottom-up approach must be applied to a relatively small area, in which the inhabitants know each other, can meet easily and have the occasion to take part in decision-making. The bottom-up approach is therefore interrelated with the area-based approach.


3.2.2 Motivation and expected results

The bottom-up approach is an alternative to the traditional forms of policy making, which is more often than not top-down. It is a method for identifying desirable policy measures through the consultation of relevant interest groups at the local level.

If it is assumed that rural areas have a different set of resources and have different problems to resolve; measures adapted to each case are required. Centralised decision-making becomes inappropriate or insufficient as it cannot be adapted to take into account the particularities of each area. Local participatory decision-making becomes therefore a strategic tool for acknowledging the different policy needs of rural areas. If this approach enables new ideas to be revealed then it should be applied at the analysis stage when the rural innovation programme is being designed.

A second assumption is that participatory decision-making can ensure, insofar as it functions efficiently, a wide and fair representation of all groups of interest, thus creating an occasion for building up a consensus, dealing with conflicts and fostering interrelationships between sectors and groups.

Adopting the bottom up approach implies empowerment at the local level in relation to the other levels of governance. It can bring about an increased effectiveness and flexibility in rural development, decentralisation and a higher degree of consensus at the local level.


3.2.3 Main questions

a) the initial situation:

  • Explain whether participatory decision-making has been used, how it was implemented, the role of animation activities and who was involved, and the presence or absence of previous experience.

  • If no form of animation or participatory decision-making has been used explain why and how this influenced the plan and its results; in this case, please ignore the questions that follow.

b) the processes

  • Who took part in the democratic consultation process to build the initial consensus for the rural innovation programme and how? Who was excluded and why? (Actions involving animation, awareness raising and mobilisation of the population, formal consultation of representatives of social organisations and economic interests).

  • Who participated in and who was excluded from the decision- making process? How? Why? (Consider the influence of public and private interests, particular sectors and groups, independently of their membership in the local group).

  • Has the bottom-up approach been used consistently throughout the programme? (in the preliminary phase, in the identification of strategies and actions, and in the implementation).

  • How were participation and animation activities organised? (Role of 'animators' (facilitators) and external experts, and technical assistance).

c) the results and impact

  • In what way has the bottom-up approach influenced:

    • the perception of local problems and local needs,
    • the choice of new objectives, strategies and actions,
    • wider representation of local players in policymaking?

  • In what way has the bottom-up approach practically contributed to the development of the area? (Impact)

  • Has the level of decision-making been strengthened in relation to other levels? Has participation encouraged:

  • the development of a consensus for local action,

  • the establishment of negotiating practices,

  • economic and social cooperation,

  • an enhanced capacity to integrate the local population in the new forms of organisation within the area?

  • What additional contribution has the bottom-up approach made in relation to the top-down approach? Has it been extended to programmes other than LEADER? To other areas? (demonstration effect)

d) the lessons

  • What lessons should be retained to consolidate the approach? Are there any negative or undesirable effects? How could the approach be improved? Which models of good practice should be retained?

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