LEADER LEADER (Liaisons Entre Actions de Développment de l’Economie Rurale, or Links Between Actions for the Development of the Rural Economy) is the Community Initiative for rural development. It was established by the European Commission in 1991. The emphasis of the Initiative was on developing "new solutions" to problems of rural areas lagging behind in their development (Objective 1 regions under the EU Structural Funds) and lacking diversification (Objective 5b). In particular, it sought to identify new directions in policy for the restructuring and development of rural areas. Under LEADER I which ran from 1991 –1994, there were six EC funded LEADER programmes in Scotland. LEADER II, which saw the programme expand to fourteen LEADER groups, ran from 1995-1999. The programme provided part funding for innovative small scale projects within rural areas that would be of economic value to the local area. The primary aim was to encourage development by helping communities and businesses in rural areas to exploit their potential within the overarching LEADER themes of partnership, community animation, innovation and networking. In both LEADER programmes the emphasis has been on approaches that are closely adapted to local needs, and on the participation of local people in developing projects for their area. The philosophy behind LEADER, and what makes it different from other EU programmes are as follows: A focus on innovative rural development activities A strong ‘bottom up’ approach which seeks to engage and empower rural communities and organisations in the rural development process. Devolved administrative structures which allow Local Action Groups to take responsibility for local development, within defined parameters. An emphasis on the transfer of innovation and knowledge such that successful projects should be demonstrative and capable of transfer. The development of networking structures at regional, Member State and EU levels to facilitate this transfer of knowledge. LEADER programmes are managed by Local Action Groups (LAGs). These are the local lead agencies or intermediaries responsible for the implementation of LEADER in the local area. LAGs involve a partnership of public, private and other interests in the rural area, and may typically include individuals from: Local Enterprise Company; Local Authority; Voluntary sector; Area tourist board; Farming organisation; Local business interest/association; Scottish Natural Heritage. LEADER I An evaluation of the Western Isles, Skye and Lochalsh (WISL) LEADER I programme undertaken by the Arkleton Trust in 1994 described the programme as “one of the most successful in Scotland and one which has many lessons for other rural areas in Europe.” These lessons related to the partnerships created, flexibility in funding, the innovative approach, examples of project ideas stemming from the community, the change in thinking achieved and the level of investment stimulated in the area. The WISL LEADER I programme covered area which previously had had a very top down approach through the Integrated Development Programme, and LEADER’s bottom up, grassroots approach to development issues was seen to have been very successful, and innovative. (Arkleton Trust, 1994). It was also considered to be unique in terms of its partnership working, in that it provided a forum for local authorities and the local enterprise companies from two separate administrative areas. Evaluations of LEADER programmes to date, Bryden et al (1994), Baxter et al (1994) and Buciega (1997) place emphasis on the use of community animators in successful LEADER programmes. The Western Isles, Skye and Lochalsh LEADER programme 1991-1994 employed 15 community animators who provided a local contact point for the community and for the agencies, stimulated and facilitated local development initiatives and provided ongoing assistance for local development projects. The use of community animators in this LEADER programme was considered one of its strengths (Bryden et al, 1994) particularly in the Uists where the animators were successful in stimulating community activity - such as the innovative Lochmaddy Community Appraisal. With the advent of LEADER II in the Western Isles, Skye and Lochalsh, the role of the community animators was changed to community resource workers. These resource workers are contributing to the next stage of development, assisting communities who have reached the stage of taking forward specific projects, in helping them to develop the skills to see a project through to completion through setting of objectives and targets, structuring work programmes and monitoring progress. (Scottish Office 1997) The community resource workers in the Western Isles, Skye and Lochalsh have been involved in a number of community appraisals. One of these was in Uig where a community appraisal was undertaken to provide a basis for more community led development. An information leaflet was distributed and a public meeting held, and questionnaires sent out to every household, yielding a 95% response rate. From these responses a report was prepared and distributed to the community, giving the local community’s views on a series of issues. An action plan was prepared from this, giving people a foundation for developing their own projects and proposals. ( Scottish Office 1997) Another example of a project stimulated by a LEADER community animator can be seen in the creation of a ‘transport development officer’ in Angus who works with the Angus Transport Forum, an association of community groups and transport organisations and individuals, to: inform and make the population aware of the problems concerning transport and mobility in rural areas; determine the transport needs in Angus localities; and to build bridges between the relevant public authorities and the transport companies to come up with appropriate solutions. (European Observatory fact sheet) LEADER II The Lowland LEADER II programme (finished end 1999) covered Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Rural Stirling, Upland Tayside and North and West Grampian, and was managed on behalf of the Scottish Office by Scottish Enterprise. The Scottish Office had only limited involvement in the delivery of the programme as funding was channelled directly from the EC to Scottish Enterprise by means of a global grant arrangement. This was also the case for the Highlands and Islands LEADER II programme, managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The main focus of LEADER II was Measure B – the Rural Innovation Programme, which accounted for the majority of the programme expenditure. This Measure had six submeasures: Technical support for rural development Training and recruitment assistance Rural tourism Small firms, craft enterprises, and local services Local exploitation and marketing of agricultural, forestry and fisheries projects Preservation and improvement of the environment and living conditions. An evaluation of the Lowland LEADER II programme by Scottish Enterprise indicated that the LEADER programme had performed very well in comparison with some of the Objective 5b Programmes in Scotland. Scottish Enterprise pointed out that the Lowland Scotland LEADER programme had a relatively stronger influence on small and medium sized enterprise and tourism development than many other LEADER programmes elsewhere in Europe. The evaluation outlined the programmes achievements as follows: Headline indicator 1995-99 target Achievement to % of target achieved March 1999 Number of projects 960 837 87 and schemes assisted Number of new jobs 1360 905 66 created Number of new 190 186 98 businesses created Number of 1500 1463 98 individuals supported through training Number of cultural 94 115 122 and community events assisted LEADER and job creation In may ways LEADER is hard to evaluate in terms of job creation as numbers of jobs created is not one of the driving forces behind the programme. Rather the emphasis is on long term capacity building, and creating an environment in which local economic development may flourish for longer than merely the duration of a particular project. The evaluation of the WISL LEADER I programme illustrates this point in that it was felt that one of the main outcomes of the programme was that the groundwork had been successfully laid to allow for future development and community initiatives. “People have been encouraged to think for themselves about their needs and those of their communities. Any similar development programme implemented in the near future would be successful in reaping the benefits of this first phase of LEADER.” (Arkleton Trust, 1994) Although the LEADER programme was not devised specifically to deal with employment problems, the nature and the success of the programme has produced many ideas and methods that have had a significant impact on employment creation in rural areas. Elena Saraceno (1999) writing in the LEADER II magazine points out that the LEADER initiative “promotes a new approach to rural development based precisely on the assumption that available resources are indeed quite different from one rural area to the next. This implies that the demand and supply of labour become increasingly more area-specific and differentiated.” Saraceno also underlines the success of LEADER in creating specific projects and tools which have proved very efficient in responding to local employment problems as well as other development issues. It is the indirect way in which LEADER groups have dealt with job creation that is one of its strengths. It may be that the LEADER approach has direct implications for employment policy in the country as a whole, in that job creation in rural areas is better solved as a policy objective when it is set as an indirect rather than a direct aim (Saraceno). Training and animation Training is an important element of the LEADER programme, and is an example of building capacity and laying the groundwork for future development. Both LEADER I and II had training as a priority for their budget spending. A review of the 48 projects related to training under Highland LEADER II (EKOS, 1997) showed that a number of projects were established aimed at the tourism sector, including the Seasonal Hospitality Employment Training aimed at senior school pupils; a number were aimed at the school sector and some were targeted at nursery provision or feasibility studies relating to nursery provision. Another approach to capacity building, and so indirectly to job creation lies in the use of animators in various LEADER programmes. The role of the animator is to provide a direct link between community groups and individuals with agencies and the Local Action Group. On the whole animators are local people who know the locality well. For example in the Moray Badenoch and Strathspey LEADER II programme, the role of the animators (known as community development agents) includes the following tasks: To identify the main needs and aspirations of people living in the area To provide guidance to community groups keen to develop specific projects To provide advice on potential funding sources for projects, including application processes, in conjunction with statutory and voluntary agencies. To produce a database of community groups and organisations. Evaluations of LEADER programmes have identified the use of animators as one of the great strengths of the programme in building up confidence in localities, and providing an important source of both information and support to communities becoming increasingly involved in development issues. Examples of LEADER projects – which have led indirectly to job creation: Dumfries and Galloway During LEADER I, Groundbase (the partnership responsible for implementing the LEADER programme in Dumfries and Galloway) ran a series of Business Ideas Generation Workshops. 24 young people attended 4 business courses known as “Jump Start” aimed at helping them consider the option of self employment. 18 of these young people are now running their own businesses. Another course on “Farm Futures” provided a training course for 15 young farmers covering a number of topics to help farmers look at the changing face of the agricultural industry and helping them make decisions to ensure their businesses are likely to survive and prosper. A further course “Homebase” aimed at women to encourage them to turn their ideas into small businesses working from home. 18 people attended 2 “Homebase” courses, of which 4 are now actively involved in a cooperative and 6 are self employed. Angus In rural Angus (LEADER II Upland Tayside) a lack of affordable childcare was identified as having knock on effects on economic activity and family circumstances. Over a two year period a community childminding project aimed to enhance the training offered to childminders, providing them with new skills and the opportunity to gain formal childcare qualifications. In the first year of the project 14 selected childminders attended a total of 30 hours training spread over a 6 week period. These certified courses were delivered at local outreach centres and a further 7 childminders attended in the second year. Children attending the scheme were those for whom places were unavailable within the Child and Family Centre or whose parents were unable to meet their needs. Children whose families were experiencing stress created by poverty, rural isolation, poor health, housing or personal difficulties also used the scheme. 24 families were assisted in the first year alone and the project has created a pool of skilled and trained community childminders. A further bonus has been relatively secure employment for childminders in remote rural locations. Lochaber Lochaber LEADER II and Argyll and the Islands LEADER II both supported the Kilchoan winter ferry service after the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry route was reduced to a summer only service in the mid 1980s. LEADER support went to the Kilchoan Ferry Action Group which organised a winter passenger service with 18 scheduled runs a week carrying school pupils, playgroup children, working people, shoppers, and visitors between N. Mull and Ardnamurchan. In addition to the employment created for Ardnamurchan Charters who operate the service with a crew of two, other benefits to Kilchoan have been: Three pupils attend Tobermoray High School and return home at night to their families Four children attend playgroup in Tobermoray once or twice a week Two households have maintained work schedules in Tobermoray Local shopping and socialising are possible throughout the winter School supply teachers have come via Mull A parcel/freight service has begun, as has use of the ferry by Hydro-Electric Income projections were exceeded by 15%; 29 additional runs were added due to demand. LEADER and community involvement A study of LEADER programmes in Scotland and Spain by Buciega and Bryden (1999) analyses the LEADER framework in terms of community involvement. It was suggested that the Business Plan had not been fully utilised as a tool for community empowerment. In drawing up plans for the development of the area in both LEADER I and II, the two LEADER case study programmes - Caithness and Sutherland and Argyll and the Islands - did not involve the community. Rather the plan was put together by the LAG , and therefore ‘ownership’ and ‘involvement’ in the plan only rested with the LAG. Caithness and Sutherland LEADER II programme in its current proposals for a community planning project, recognise the problems encountered by the lack of wide ranging community consultation in its previous bids, resulting in difficulties in raising awareness of the programme amongst the community. Buciega considers that the business plans of the two Scottish LEADER programmes ‘give the impression of being very closed documents where there was not much scope for communities to get involved once the programme was initiated.’ There is inevitably an inherent contradiction between the bottom up process being articulated by government institutions and the EU, and the institutions and agencies themselves. Buciegia points out that LEADER embodies both the top down and bottom up processes in that it encourages local communities to develop their own solutions to rural development, while government bodies retain significant control on the implementation of the programme. Local communities and the agencies may be pursing different and even conflicting agendas. It is interesting to look at the extent to which the development generated by LEADER can be seen to be community driven whilst the steering wheel is firmly in the hands of the LAG? The Business Plan is written by the LAG, or the LEADER coordinator without community consultation or involvement, and the LAG itself rarely emerges autonomously in an area, but is more usually formed by invitation from the LEC or LEADER coordinator. Baxter et al (1994) considered that while the Lochaber LEADER I programme had brought positive benefits to the community, there was a ‘distinct lack of cohesion in the collective vision of local development potential.’ He underlined the need for a jointly agreed, cross sectoral, inter-agency development strategy for the region; an approach that had been rather more successful in the Western Isles, Skye and Lochalsh LEADER programme which had engendered new partnerships in development initiatives However, the area based approach of LEADER operations means that there is more personalised contact between the development agency and the community than there might be in other development programmes. This is a result of the relatively small scale and community orientation of many of the projects that are put before the LEADER group. The success of the LEADER philosophy to rural development can be seen in the fact that some of the key characteristics have started to permeate national rural development policy. These include: Empowerment: supporting the desire of local people to influence local development Stimulating innovation: innovation in product and process is often a key driver in economic development. Capacity building: public sector intervention in developing the capacity of local organisations and individuals to manage change is often a much more sustainable (and cost effective) means of promoting development. Networking: the transfer of innovative ideas, projects and processes helps to ensure their more rapid adoption. ( Scottish Enterprise) References AEIDL website. Arkleton Trust (1994) WISL LEADER Evaluation. Arkleton Trust. Baxter, S.H. (1994) Experiences in Participation: A Review of Current Practice in Rural Development Programmes. Robert Gordon University Buciega, A and Bryden, J. (1998) Is the EU LEADER Programme Empowering Rural Communities? Four Case Studies in Scotland and Spain. Draft paper, Arkleton Centre for Rural Development Research, Aberdeen University. EKOS Limited (1997) LEADER II Programme Interim Evaluation. Report for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Inverness. Gourlay, D., Copus, A. and Tzamarias, N (1998) Review of Past Rural Development Initiatives. Report for Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, Invergordon. LEADER II magazine- Spring 1999. Scottish Enterprise: The Lowland Scotland LEADER II Programme: The new Community Initiative for Rural Development: Lessons and Proposals from LEADER II in Lowland Scotland.
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