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23.2 Reflections and new directions in a multilevel approach to local (rural) development (Focus LEADER/ agricultural policy)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023
10:15 - 11:45


Lynn-Livia Fynn
Thünen Institute of Rural Studies

LEADER policy design: Effects of top-down regulations on bottom-up rural development


One of the principles of LEADER is its area-based approach which involves providing the resources and a platform for local rural actors to enhance the development of their communities. Nevertheless, LEADER being a policy instrument, certain regulations are put in place on the EU and national level to ensure an orderly administration of public funds. As such, LEADER follows a multi-level governance approach, where managing authorities, especially, play an important role in steering the implementation of this instrument, thus affecting its outcomes.
During the EU funding period 2014-2022, we examined the effects of different steering mechanisms on LEADER implementation in four German federal states. Policy levers examined include criteria for the acceptance of local development strategies (LDS) and specifications regarding thematic priorities for LDS, composition of Local Action Groups and the involvement of local communities.
For example: Results show that specifications on thematic priorities for LDS can indeed lead to more corresponding projects. This at least seems to be the case for special topics like “climate protection”. Thus, top-down regulations can help to foster a contribution of bottom-up rural policy instruments to relevant topics, such as sustainability.
After comparing the outcomes of different policy levers in the four study areas, we conclude that both “hard” and “soft” regulations can positively affect LEADER implementation. As is the case with any policy design, it is important to take into consideration certain factors such as regional needs and past experience regarding the funding instrument.
Prof. Dr. Irma Potocnik Slavic
University of Ljubljana

Prepared to upgrade the existing LEADER/CLLD´s weak position in national rural development policy?


In Slovenia, LEADER/CLLD approach and program have been implemented since 2007, and several re-thinking endeavours have to be stimulated on local (municipal), regional and national level for the upcoming period. The fact that LEADER/CLLD program delivery is a mixed bottom-up and top-down approach asks for more active and effective cooperation and coordination among indicated levels. The formation of 33 (2007–2013) and 37 (2014–2020) local action groups (some novel to be established in 2023 ̶ 2027) has created new development structures and new knowledge centres at sub-regional level. In the period 2014 ̶ 2020, Slovenia has developed at least two innovative solutions through the implementation of LEADER/CLLD. The first and highly visible one is the cross-sectoral coordination of the programme (CLLD Coordination Committee), which is a tricky issue in all EU Member States due to the complex rules of the individual European Funds involved in CLLD program. Another innovative solution is the professionally committed and networked intermediary role of the Slovenian Rural Development Network (NGO association) in the programming and implementation of the LEADER/CLLD program. The existing monitoring and evaluation system records mainly quantitative aspects of the implementation of the LEADER/CLLD program. Annual monitoring and evaluation of the programme's results, effects and impacts would provide a more up-to-date, in-depth and comprehensive assessment on the degree to which objectives set in the local development strategies are being achieved. This would bring more tangible arguments for recognition and better positioning of LEADER/CLLD program in the design of national rural development policy.
Dr. Joséphine Lécuyer

Do the LEADER funding rules generate spatial inequalities? The case of a peripheral region in north-east Germany.


The Land of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is a rural federal state of Germany located in the north east of the country. The Land has experienced strong difficulties since the German reunification: demographic shrinkage and aging population, economic crisis and high unemployment, and a high level of extreme right vote have led it to be considered as a peripheralized area. In this context, the LEADER program could improve the situation. The Land is covered by 14 LEADER regions for the period 2014-2022, three of which were the subject of a field investigation lasting several months in 2018 and 2019. This communication questions the consequences of LEADER funding rules (at the Land level but also at LEADER region level) on the type of projects funded, highlighting issues of spatial justice. First, we show how the funding arrangements of LEADER regions generate inequalities and competition within the Land studied. Then, at the LEADER region level, we analyse how financial constraints are at the heart of the decisions of LAGs in the most structurally weakened regions, and what responses are made by LAG members to adapt to them. Finally, we discuss how these different constraints lead local stakeholders to implement strategies to circumvent or even instrumentalise the funding rules of the LEADER programme. Our methodological framework is based on a mix of qualitative methods including 30 semi-directive interviews with institutional and non-institutional stakeholders at the Land and local scale, observation of 14 rural development reunions, as well as analysis of local press and online material.
Tomáš Zavadil
Ph. D. student
Charles University

Family farming three decades after the fall of communist regime: example of Czechia


Before the fall of the communist regime in 1989 in Czechia almost all agricultural land was cultivated by collective or state farms. After the fall of the regime private family farming was re-established. More than thirty years after the beginning of the post-socialist transition is Czech agriculture still dominated by large cooperatives or trade companies, but private farms cultivate approximately one-fifth of Czech agricultural land. This share is the second lowest in the European Union. Despite that family, farms have an important role in Czech agriculture and rural society. Most of the family farms continued on the interrupted tradition of family farming before the collectivization by the communist regime, nevertheless, some of the family farms began their agricultural activity without any previous tradition of farming. The role of family farms is demonstrated using data from surveys and research interviews between farmers from family and non-family farms in Czechia. Results of the survey and interviews showed that farmers from family and non-family farms face some different and some similar obstacles and also their attitude towards farming is in some ways similar and some ways different. While non-family farms are mostly oriented on the production of raw products, the finalization of products and their sales directly to consumers is more widespread among family farms.

Session host

Lynn-Livia Fynn
Thünen Institute of Rural Studies

Kim Pollermann
Thuenen Institute of Rural Studies



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl