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Support systems for new activities in rural areas

What is the purpose of this guide?
How to use this guide & Table of Contents


The aim of this guide is to help LEADER local action groups (LAGs) improve their systems for supporting new activities in their areas. It offers a practical overview of the entire range of support services that LEADER groups provide or could provide to project promoters.

The guide looks at the way these individual services have been linked together, in coordination with other agencies, to ensure that projects can overcome, step by step, the hurdles that they face at each stage of their life cycle.

Each of the main services is also the subject of a separate factsheet which summarises some of the common problems and bottlenecks faced by LEADER groups (and other agencies). It then provides some key points and guidelines for setting up or changing the service.

What are "New Activities"?

A new activity should always defined in relation to the local context, local needs and local opportunities. In local terms, a "new" activity is simply something that did not exist or was not normal in the area in question. It need not necessarily be new to other areas.

The "new activities" or "innovative" actions which are most important for LEADER groups are usually those which in some way have strong multiplier effects on the rest of the area or open up new possibilities of sustainable development. These can include:

  • networks of firms or collective projects bringing together local producers interested in setting up networks, organising joint marketing channels, creating quality labels, working together towards research and development of new products, etc.;

  • new public, semi-public or community initiatives which are more cost-effective but continue to involve some degree of subsidy or voluntary contribution (e.g. improvement of services for the population, creation of tourist infrastructures, leisure facilities, etc.)

  • start-ups by cooperatives, community businesses or, more conventionally, small and medium-sized private enterprises in sectors or activities which are underrepresented locally.

The creation of activities will not therefore be limited to the area of small and medium-sized private enterprises alone, even though these do play a very significant role in the rural economy.

Why the support "system"?

There are two vital reasons for applying the term "system" to support new rural activities and the work carried out by LEADER groups in particular:

  • the first is that the LEADER programme is not just about grant management or training provision. It is about how to stimulate integrated local development. This requires development agencies to take an equally integrated approach to the support they provide.
    This guide will help LEADER groups pinpoint the main gaps in their own service provision and help carve out a series of steps to overcome them.

  • the second reason is based on the fact that LEADER groups rarely operate alone in their territories. By analysing the entire support system, organisations, assistance, etc. available for creating and developing new activities, it is possible to highlight where there are strengths and weaknesses and to arrive at a clear division of labour with other LAGs, other agencies and local actors.

One of the most important and powerful benefits of the LEADER programme is precisely this ability to mobilise internal and external alliances which avoid duplication, waste and conflict in order to have a snowball effect on local development.



  • To increase the capacity of LEADER groups to generate economically viable and sustainable new activities in their areas.

  • To help LEADER groups identify the main strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the support they and other agencies provide for new activities.

  • To provide methods for evaluating, on the basis of each project and for each stage of its implementation, what LEADER groups can do well and what they would be better to leave to other (private or public) agencies, whether within or outside of the area, in terms of support for new activities.

  • To develop a set of basic guidelines on the main support services to help LEADER groups check their own performances and make improvements where necessary.

  • To identify the areas in which LEADER groups can cooperate to share skills with each other and improve the effectiveness of the support system.

        This guide was written as the result of a seminar organised by the LEADER European Observatory in Elizondo, Navarre (Spain) on 6, 7 and 8 of February 1997. Some 70 people from 8 countries attended.

        In preparation of the seminar and this publication, case studies were carried out on 5 LEADER groups - Cederna-Garalur (Navarre, Spain), Galloway (Scotland), Ballyhoura (Ireland), Tarn des Montagnes (Midi-Pyrénées, France) and Serrania de Ronda (Andalusia, Spain). The example of one non- LEADER organisation - the Mission agro-alimentaire Pyrénées or MAAP (France) - has also had a very significant influence on the approach and methodology suggested in the report.

        The LEADER I dossier "Support for small and medium-sized rural enterprises" (LEADER Coordination Committee / AEIDL, 1994) was also a point of reference for this guide.

        Finally, the European Business and Innovation Centre network (EBN) has also been extremely helpful in providing information and material both before and during the seminar and while this guide was being written.

        The report itself was written by Paul Soto (Iniciativas Económicas y Ambientales, Spain), with help and comments from Daniel Pujol (Chambre Régionale d'Agriculture de Midi-Pyrénées, France), Seamus O.Reilly (University College Cork, Ireland), Carlo Ricci (Agriteknica, Italy), Yves Champetier and Jean-Luc Janot (LEADER European Observatory).




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