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Support systems for new activities in rural areas

Part 2 - Individual services
Defining strategic orientation



Introduction
How to use this guide & Table of Contents

 

Defining then asserting what one wants to do
and how to do it - the strategy - supposes that
each project promoter envisages possible
objectives, retains some of them, puts them
in order of priority, determines the paths to be
followed to achieve them, identifies the ways and
procedures to be used, works out a timetable, etc.
This is a complex operation, which is decisive
for working out the resulting business plan and
involves far more than simply gathering and
processing the data, requiring considerable
thought on the part of the project promoters
with the help of able operators.

 

Common problems and bottlenecks Recommendations and guidelines
  • Too many resources are spent on short-term allocation and training without a clear strategy for channelling the energy and ideas that emerge towards the projects which have real potential for success.

    The Mission Agro-Alimentaire des Pyrénées (France) recommends a 7-stage process for turning ideas into realities (1):

      1. Ensure that there are qualified advisors present who can pose the right problems at very early stages of project life cycles.
      2. Carry out an audit or x-ray of local production and resources.
      3. Carry out a market study (2).
      4. Imagine and contrast different possible scenarios.
      5. Define and choose the best project in the context.
      6. Carry out small-scale test runs.
      7. Evaluate the test run, make changes and launch the project on a larger (but ideally still modest) scale.

    Carrying out a small-scale test run is particularly important. Too many projects only superficially carry them out, or do not carry them out at all.

    In the case of a totally new or inexperienced project promoter, completion of these tasks can take between 6 months and 2 years, depending on the availability of resources and the complexity of the project.

    Many LAGs and development agencies (such as the Tarn-des-Montagnes LEADER group and the Mission Agro-Alimentaire des Pyrénées, France) emphasise the importance of the amount of "grey matter" to be mobilised at the beginning of the projects.

  • The strategy for the activity to be created is defined (with or without outside experts) "after the event", when it is too late or at least when it is extremely difficult to change direction.
  • Strategy and hard economic knowledge of the market place is confused with theory. Many LAGs have commissioned enormous academic studies which are of little use in practice.
  • There is little or no relationship between what are often extremely general strategic principles in the business plan and operational tactics.

(1) See the LEADER dossier "Developing local agricultural resources: the experience of LEADER I" (LEADER European Observatory / AEIDL, 1995).

(2) For more details on the application of these last two points to the tourism sector, see the "Methodology guide for evaluating a territory's touristic potential" (LEADER European Observatory / AEIDL, 1996)


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European
Commission

Agriculture
Directorate-General