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Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach

Chapter 3
Questions and evaluation issues for each specific feature


3.3. The local group


3.3.1 Definition

Under LEADER II, the "local action group" (LAG) is a combination of public and private partners who devise a common strategy and innovative actions for the development of a rural area. These partners should represent leading figures in the economic and social life of the area, and the various sectors and associations concerned with the environment, culture and social integration.

The "other collective bodies" are more thematic in their orientation but they must also have an integrated strategy, around their theme of intervention, for the rural development of an area.

These local groups may have been set up ad-hoc or may have existed already. They generally decide the direction and content of the rural innovation programme; they make decisions on the different actions to be financed; in certain cases, they directly implement these decisions; in others, the actual payments are made by an organisation charged with managing subsidies from public funds.

The LAG, which is neither a public nor private sector body, is one of the most original and strategic specific features introduced by the LEADER Initiative. Endowed with decision-making power and a relatively important budget, the LAG usually represents a new form of organisation which can significantly influence the institutional and political balance of the area.


3.3.2 Motivation and expected results

The main reason for delegating the management of LEADER to the local groups is based on the expectation that they would be more effective in stimulating local initiative than existing administrations and agencies. In many cases, a long history of sectoral and top-down policies has led to a lack of organisation and dynamism in rural areas.

A local action group is expected to:

  • draw together the "living strengths" of an area around a joint project;
  • have decision-making autonomy and a capacity to take a fresh look at local resources;
  • link the different measures;
  • be flexible in their management;
  • be capable of seizing the opportunities offered by the local mix of resources;
  • be more susceptible to innovative ideas;
  • be able to integrate and deal with separate sectoral approaches.

A second type of motivation is that the constitution of groups, especially where the local level of the public administration is not very well structured, should reinforce decentralisation to subregional level and increase the degree of subsidiarity. A wide representation of all local interest groups within the LAG is requisite in order to ensure a holistic and multi-sectoral perspective on the one hand and the diversification of the rural economy on the other.


3.3.3 Main questions and issues:

a) the initial situation:

  • Did the local group exist before LEADER?
    If yes,
    • What was its mission?
    • Was it related to rural development?
    • Has it been adapted or modified?

    If no,
    • Which procedure was followed for constituting the LAG? (choice of partners, sectors or groups included or excluded);
    • Have there been any big changes to the membership?
    • Did the LAG employ its own staff and/or share its personnel with other agencies or administrations?
    • What legal status did the LAG choose?

b) the processes

  • Was there a real degree of autonomy in the decision-making capacity of the LAG? Did it acquire legitimacy and recognition through its operations? How?

  • Did the LAG have adequate representation of all local interests? (any predominant interest: public, private, political, sectoral, individual?)

  • Did the constitution of a local action group influence the recognition of needs and problems? Did this lead to the choice of different strategies and actions in relation to previous practice?

  • Was the method of decision-making used appropriate? Was the staff sufficient, qualified and motivated?

c) the results and impact

  • In which way did the constitution and operation of the LAG:

    • influence other existing public institutions? (facilitation of inter-sectoral exchanges between agencies, political cohesion effect),

    • influence local players? (new organisations and relationships, strengthening of negotiating capacity in conflicting situations, redefinition of common interests and identity, cooperative and social cohesion effect)

    • stimulate new activities? (resource mobilisation effect)

    • did the constitution of the LAG have an empowerment effect at the local level?

    • has the LAG experience generated an imitation or a transfer of this model to other agencies or other programmes? (demonstration effect, model function)

  • Have any negative effects been identified?

d) the lessons

  • were periodic self-evaluations on the effectiveness of the LAG carried out? By the management board?

  • what lessons may be drawn for consolidating the local action group in terms of effective management, the organisation of consensus and the mobilisation of resources (what has worked well and what should be avoided)? Should new partners join?

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