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Support systems for new activities in rural areas

Part 1 - The support system
How does the nature of the partnership
affect the support system?

How to use this guide & Table of Contents


The composition, objectives and strategic
priorities, the way the LAG and its technical
team are organised, will all have a major
influence on the kind of support system
that is provided.


Two types of approach

From the outset, the LEADER group must define the mission that it has set itself:

  • should it give itself the simple task of managing subsidies? In this case, the technical team will be an administrative team responsible for processing files;

  • should it give itself the broader task of trying to stimulate the development of the area? In this case, the LAG may choose to directly manage all the services involved in the support system itself or play a role of coordinating its own services with those of other agencies


Three types of partnership

In the case of the LEADER partnership, the main influences do not only depend on the formal representation or control of the key decision-making bodies, but also on informal factors such as who initiated the partnership and who are the most dynamic or vocal members.

Broadly speaking, there are three main types of partnership (see the dossier "Organising local partnerships", LEADER European Observatory / AEIDL, 1997):

    1. Many LEADER groups have very close links with the public sector (regional and local authorities and the various services that are dependent on them). This status gives them access to considerable resources. Some LAGs even form part of a development support system set up by regional authorities.

    2. Many other LAGs have strong roots in community organisations. In general, their activities tends to favour animation, training and capacity raising directed at disadvantaged groups or areas.

    3. Few LEADER groups have originated from or are controlled by the private sector (although nearly all of the groups have some form of private sector representation). They are often more concerned with solving the needs of existing businesses than encouraging start-ups.


Two types of organisation

The range of organisational forms and sizes of LEADER groups is very large. Nevertheless, there are two extremes:

  • on the one hand are the free standing organisations in which LEADER may be one of a number of programmes (this is the case of the Serranía de Ronda group in Spain which has 7 core staff and can draw on 8 workers in satellite organisations);

  • on the other hand, some large public institutions simply set up specialist departments and/or subcontract part of the programme to other agencies (e.g. 1 full-time employee and 1 half-time employee in the Foundation that coordinated the LEADER programme in N.W. Friesland in the Netherlands). In general, the LAGs have fairly small organisations: in Spain (which has 25% of LEADER groups), the average number of staff directly attributable to LEADER is 4.

The basic team normally includes a manager, a secretary-receptionist, an employee in charge of accounts and project files and one other person. Salaries vary enormously from the amounts needed to pay the living costs of committed local activists to the amounts needed to retain expensive private consultants. In general, however, they appear to be gravitating towards the levels paid in the public sector for people with equivalent levels of responsibility.

Staff generally come from a training, research, community or public sector background. There are relatively few people with private sector experience. In this context, it is obviously important for LEADER groups to be realistic about the support they can provide.

This is in stark contrast to other types of support structures: for example, Business and Innovation Centres normally have a core staff of around 9 people (a manager with at least five years' business experience, 5 specialist advisors and 3 administrative staff). Salaries are meant to match the rates paid by the private sector. 20-25% of the total budget is spent on contracting in specialist advice. These Centres normally manage an enterprise hotel of around 5000 m2. They may manage or have special access to risk capital. However, they do not manage a global grant or have access to their own funds for grant giving.

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