[ Index ]
Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach
Questions and evaluation issues for each specific feature
3.4. The innovative character of actions
One of the most important aims of LEADER II is "to stimulate
innovative measures by those, whether public or private, engaged at
local level in all sectors of rural activity, to make known the
results of these experiments throughout the Community and to assist
rural operators in different Member States who wish to profit from
the lessons learnt elsewhere and to work jointly on some projects"
(Notice to Member States, 1/7/94).
Innovation is therefore closely connected with transfer and
networking. The emphasis, in relation to LEADER I, has shifted from
the experimentation of an innovative approach to rural development,
to the experimentation of actions of an innovative nature.
Innovation and the capacity to serve as a model are part of the
eligibility criteria for actions in LEADER II. The 1/7/94 Notice to
Member States stipulates that by promoting innovation and
demonstration criteria, the Commission does not wish "to restrict
the operational scope of the initiative to a few avant-garde
operations of little potential use elsewhere, but wishes to ensure
that the programmes financed contribute real added value in relation
to other operations financed by the EU or other forms of assistance
under the Community Support Frameworks".
Each local group may have a very high number of different actions
(each measure containing several sub-measures) and it would be
extremely difficult to evaluate all of them. We propose that the
group chooses three to five actions, which it considers the most
innovative, and which comply with the innovation criteria in
relation to the context or carry elements that could be transferred
Several meanings have been attributed to the innovative character
that LEADER actions should have8. For example:
a) actions seeking to add value to local resources (typical of
the specific rural context, including cultural and environmental
aspects, tourism and local identity, raising the capacity of the
local population to take initiatives);
b) actions which have not been considered in other development
policy measures (distinct from measures supported by other EU
programmes or national measures);
c) actions which have offered new responses to the weaknesses and
constraints (classical and new) of rural areas (decline in
agricultural employment and activity, departure of the most educated
people, rise in youth unemployment and job insecurity, growing
isolation as a result of the disappearance of certain business and
private services, deterioration of the environment, etc);
d) actions which fall under the usual definition of innovation,
especially technology and know how: a new product, a new process, a
new form of organisation or a new market; this includes the
application of new information and communication technologies in
These criteria may be used to define and evaluate innovative
actions, and account should be taken of the fact they may be
complementary (adding value to a typical resource may refer to
traditional know-how, for example a technique for producing cheese,
which can be adapted, updated and marketed differently). The
transfer of innovation should form part of the evaluation of this
3.4.2 Motivation and expected results
The motivation for introducing the concept of innovation in LEADER
is different for each of the four criteria indicated.
a) In the case of adding value to local resources, the reasons
for considering this type of measure as innovative are twofold:
- on the one hand, globalisation is viewed as an new external
constraint which could marginalise further local, rural markets with
undifferentiated products (loss of competitiveness);
- on the other hand, the decline of the agricultural sector and
its traditional support measures is creating an internal constraint
Local resources are unique and typical to an area; they are
linked to its environment, its history, its culture etc, and usually
have a high quality content. They can therefore play a strategic
role in rural development on two fronts:
- they are expected to be able to find niche markets enabling
local products (produce, tourism) to be marketed at lucrative prices
whilst remaining competitive with industrial products targeted at
the global market;
- the diversification of the socio-economic fabric in rural
areas offers an alternative to farming.
b) In the case of actions not considered in other development
policy measures, the objective is to keep LEADER as a distinct
approach which operates in those domains not covered by traditional
policies, for example:
- LEADER can be complementary to other European and national
programmes by establishing a "division of labour". For example,
LEADER actions to animate and mobilise resources, whilst their
physical realisation is financed by other (bigger) programmes;
- LEADER concentrates on immaterial investments leaving material
investments to other measures9;
- LEADER supports the sectors which did not receive any previous
support from other rural programmes, such as culture, the natural
environment, rehabilitation of architecture and small heritage
buildings, rural tourism, organising production chains from the
producer to the consumer, organising supply and demand, creating
labels and catalytic themes, etc.
c) In the case of actions considered innovative because they
provide new responses to the new or traditional problems of rural
areas, the aim is to stimulate initiatives at the local level in
order to find alternative solutions which are sustainable over time.
Although they are partly based on financial transfers and grants as
in the past, they are able to take advantage of the new
opportunities and attractiveness of rural areas. Thus they can
identify new ways of providing services and income to low density
d) In the case of actions which are classically linked to
technological innovation, the objective is not so much to produce
"radical" innovations but on the contrary to produce "incremental"
innovations (based on imitation or adaptation)10 which create new
combinations of know how between local traditional knowledge and
widely available technologies (industrial, information and
communication technologies). These create new products, new
processes, new forms of organisation or new markets.
The transfer of these innovations is expected to be facilitated
through networking and/or transnational cooperation (see below)
between rural areas.
3.4.3 Main questions
a) the initial situation
- describe what the local action group has considered as an
innovative action and how this was translated in the selection
procedures used by the LAG;
- select 3 to 5 examples of the most innovative actions and
classify them under one or more of the 4 above-mentioned criteria
for defining innovation. Do these actions reflect the overall
strategy of the LAG.
b) the processes
- How did the search for innovative projects influence the
planning and implementation process? Were there any eligibility
problems for the innovative actions?
- Which methods were followed to identify and implement
innovative actions? What were the key elements (relations with other
groups, experts, universities, etc, either local or not)?
- Could the actions considered as most innovative be realised
with other measures available locally? Were they linked or
complementary in any way with other national or regional programmes?
In what way?
- Were there any regulatory hindrances to innovation or
procedures not adapted to innovation needs?
c) the results and impact
- Did any innovative action linked to adding value to local
resources improve the opportunities of the rural area on external
markets or strengthen the diversification of the local economy? How
was this achieved? (resource mobilisation effect)
- What have been the advantages and disadvantages of any
linkages or complementarities between LEADER and other national or
- Which typical rural problems, defined in the business plan,
did innovative actions provide a new solution for? How was this
achieved? (social, political, economic cohesion effect)
- Did any of the innovative actions result in a new product, a
new process, a new form of organisation or a new market? How was
- Have any innovative actions already been transferred to or
taken/adapted by other groups or public authorities?
(transferability and demonstration effect, model function), How was
- Have there been any spin-offs or multiplier effects (intended
or unintended) which resulted from one or more innovative actions?
d) the lessons
- What lessons should be drawn for future actions to facilitate
the emergence of innovation?