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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 Factsheet 2.2).
  • 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 successive failures.
  • 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 is necessary.
  • 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).

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