Demonstrating LEADER’s added value better
LEADER has evolved and matured into a well-established methodology capable of generating many benefits. LAGs can continue to build on LEADER achievements by implementing Local Development Strategies in ways which better demonstrate added value.
LEADER holds more than 30 years of valuable experience in community-led local development. Throughout these decades LEADER has evolved and matured into a well-established methodology capable of generating many benefits. LAGs can continue to build on LEADER achievements by implementing Local Development Strategies in ways which better demonstrate added value.
An examination of LEADER by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) in 2022 identified areas where LAGs can demonstrate better and more consistently implemented added value within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). EU Member States and the European Commission acknowledge ECA findings and are undertaking commitments to help LAGs further optimise their full potential.
Information about these follow-on actions reflecting the ECA audit were recently discussed by LEADER experts and stakeholders in Brussels during the 1st meeting of the EU CAP Network’s LEADER and territorial development Subgroup (LTDSG) with support from the European Commission. This listed some of the auditors’ key findings, including their perception that: selection of LAGs had not always been based on quality; some project application processes could be considered complicated and slow; evidence was not strong to show that women and young people were involved in LAG decision-making; data was limited on improvement of social capital and local governance (intangible benefits); multi-funding could be complicated; and many projects could possibly have been delivered (cheaper) via non-LEADER or statutory tasks of local government.
A ’to-do’ list of the follow-on actions for better demonstrating LAG achievements in this context remains relevant throughout rural Europe, as well as countries applying the methodology elsewhere. High on this list is the importance of measuring and demonstrating LEADER’s potential. Monitoring indicators and evaluation systems covering regulatory requirements for projects and LAGs are also carefully designed to provide consistent data on the methodology’s unique or particular outcomes. LAGs can also monitor and evaluate more local data than purely what is asked for at EU level.
Strengthening the evidence base about LEADER achievements in building social capital is an area where more transparency and insights can be gained by improved reporting for monitoring and evaluation (at LAG level). LEADER is also especially good at leaving no one behind by investing in human capital both locally and across regions through community action, networking and cooperation. LAGs also bring the EU’s support closer to citizens in remote regions.
DG AGRI noted their conviction, during the LTDSG, that funding to LAGs is investment in social capital. LEADER’s prioritisation of networking (at international, national, regional and local levels) represents an opportunity for reinforcing resilience by funding communities’ green, digital and social aspirations. Simplification and focus on LAGs' core tasks can bring more resources for animation.
A new evaluation study has been commissioned to help further clarify the costs and benefits of LEADER. This will be complemented by an EU CAP Network Thematic Working Group (looking at added value results), which is expected to conclude before the end of 2023. Its findings will be timely and be available to help LAGs and the wider delivery system highlight LEADER’s added value from the early stages of their 2023-2027 funding activities.