Support systems for new activities in rural areas
Part 2 - Individual services
Front-line information and advice
How to use this guide & Table of Contents
The perception that LAG staff have of their
role in terms of information and advice is
crucial: members of staff can either behave
like administrators or, on the other hand,
welcome project promoters, be real "development
agents" and from the outset play an active role as
project supporters, which is decisive for the
effectiveness of the entire support system.
Common problems and bottlenecks
Recommendations and guidelines
- The local community is unaware of where and how to get support.
- The media should be used extensively to back up LEADER actions, but also to
publicise all the other systems existing in the area. Media coverage should
coincide with the main calls for tenders (if the LAG uses this method to
encourage projects) and other support activities.
- Potential entrepreneurs are not given the priority they deserve. This can
have effects on the rest of the support system. For example:
- the office is remote and unfriendly;
- there is too much form filling and bureaucracy;
- staff do not manage to gain the community's trust.
Result: many promoters of quality projects discontinue their efforts.
- The strategic importance behind welcoming potential project promoters is a
key issue for staff awareness.
- In-house training is important. Wherever possible, support workers should
be "out with the potential projects" rather than waiting passively for the
candidates to come forward with grant applications (see
- On the other hand, eagerness to help may generate expectations about
projects which are non-starters and waste an enormous amount of time and
resources downstream. Staff can lose credibility after two or three
- Front-line office staff responsible for welcoming potential project
promoters need to be absolutely clear about what LEADER can do and what it
cannot do (eligibility, profitability criteria, etc.). If the project is
not eligible, for example, staff should refer the case to other competent
agencies, and ensure that the project is going to be followed up.
- "Generalist" advisers are more concerned with throughput and fast,
quantifiable results than the long-term effects on the local economy.
- There are no clear guidelines about when to call in outside specialist
support. As a result, generalist in-house workers try to cover an
excessively wide range of subjects in insufficient depth.
- Simple checklists enable the generalist advisers to make an initial
appraisal of the long-term potential of the proposed project: type of
activity, economic and social impact, etc.
- The same procedure can be used to evaluate which type of out-house support
- Advice workers and agencies duplicate and compete with one another. There
is no coordination and it is difficult to find the right office or person.
- It is important to try to reach agreements with other agencies so that each
concentrates on its core services while obtaining as wide a geographical
and social coverage as possible (1).
(1) The Galloway LEADER group (Scotland) has managed to create five different
one-stop entry points to its support system, at relatively low cost to its
core budget, by agreements that it has concluded with two local associations
(these inform the public about LEADER in return for a small grant) and the
Galloway and Dumfries Enterprise Board (its two Business Shops provide
information on LEADER in return for the LAG providing information on other
Enterprise Board services).