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[ Index ]

Assessing the added value of the LEADER approach

Chapter 3
Questions and evaluation issues for each specific feature


3.6. Networking and Transnational Cooperation


3.6.1 Definition

Networking and transnational cooperation provide the framework for the circulation of information and exchange of experiences among those involved in rural development actions. Hence, they contribute to the transfer and dissemination of experiences. The participants are not only the LAGs but include the public authorities and their decentralised services, local collective bodies, social and economic partners and associations. National and regional authorities are also involved in networking but not directly by transnational cooperation (except from a funding perspective, see below). LEADER II has set up many ways of networking and exchanging:

  • The LEADER Observatory facilitates exchange of experience at European level, gathers and disseminates information on innovative models and practices and provides technical assistance designed to help different rural areas set up transnational cooperation projects;

  • National coordination units have also been set up in eleven of the EU countries. They have an organisational and information function for national LEADER groups, and provide technical assistance and support for the implementation of LEADER.

  • Transnational cooperation is a more formalised agreement than networking and takes place between LAGs from several Member States. Three types of projects are included: the transfer of knowledge, the search for complementarities and the joint-production of goods and services, and exchanges.

Furthermore, national associations of groups and/or regional networks have been set up in a large number of Member States, at the initiative of the local groups, in order to strengthen inter-group cooperation.


3.6.2 Motivation and expected results

Networking has been established as a requirement for all direct LEADER beneficiaries. They have a series of obligations, in particular to provide information on the actions carried out.

By facilitating the exchange and circulation of information about rural development policies and the dissemination and transfer of innovation, networking aims to:

  • reduce isolation and increase the information and references used by LAGs, thereby improving their decision-making capacity and the effectiveness of rural development actions;

  • compile a database of information and analyses on innovative actions and practices in order to promote the transfer of know-how and best practices between rural areas.

In the case of transnational cooperation the motivation is more ambitious. This may be to achieve a "critical mass" of products or services (for example through joint production or marketing agreements) and to bring partners together in order to achieve a stronger bargaining power on the markets or in sectors.


3.6.3 Main questions

a) the initial situation

  • describe the type of external contacts and exchanges established and their purpose (exchange of information; methods; approaches to specific actions/projects, persons, products, services; involvement in regional, national or European associations). Which persons and organisations were involved in the exchanges (other LAGs, associations of LAGs, experts and practitioners, elected persons, university and research centres, specialised technological agencies, others)? Which type of network was used (European, national, regional, informal, other)?

  • Describe the transnational cooperation project set up by the LAG? What were its objectives and who was involved (the LAG itself, other local players, individual or collective businesses)? When were they defined (as the action plan was drawn up or on the basis of new needs identified as it got underway)?

b) the processes

  • How was the need to network or get involved in transnational cooperation identified? At what stage in the implementation of the programme. Who took the initiative?

  • How were contacts initiated and developed? Which channels were used? (visits, seminar participation, publications, telephone, e-mail, experts, intermediary institutions or agencies, etc)? What strategy was followed to choose the contact? (similarity of needs, proximity, complementarity, etc)? How did the contacts evolve during the programme?

  • Was technical assistance (networking, partner search, transnational cooperation) useful and relevant to the group needs? At what level was it the most efficient (regional, national or European)? Which complementarities were established between networks?

  • Were the model actions acquired through networking easy to transfer and adapt to local circumstances or did they require adaptation? Did this hinder the transfer of practices or model actions?

  • How did the transnational cooperation projects overcome the difficulties specific to this type of project (definition of joint objectives, communication between partners, cultural and language differences)? Did the slowness of developing these project negatively affect local mobilisation?

c) the results and impact

  • Was networking influential for identifying innovative actions and methods, for expanding local references and know-how, and for local capacity building?

  • Did it help to create a system of external contacts which reduced the isolation of the area and created new opportunities for durable exchanges? How was this achieved?

  • Did transnational cooperation contribute to reaching a critical mass (of references, products, services to be marketed) otherwise insufficient at local level? Did this enable local projects to be carried out which would not have been possible otherwise? Why?

d) the lessons

  • Which lessons should be drawn to improve networking and facilitate transnational cooperation in the future?

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