The reform of the Structural Funds in 1987 introduced the concept of a “Community Initiative” which allowed the EU Commission to provide specific funding for measures of particular interest to the Community (including the LEADER initiative).
One of the basic characteristics of rural development implementation in rural communities is the emphasis on the local population, which confirms it as a major factor in the overall development of rural areas. It is this specialty of trusting people living in rural areas and their ability to discover what best suits their environment, culture, work traditions and skills that make the LEADER projects unique.
LEADER – “Links between actions for the development of the rural economy”, is a European Community Initiative for mobilizing and implementing rural development in rural communities through local public and private sector partnerships (LAGs).
The LEADER approach relies on the development and implementation of local development strategies (LRSs) that enable the integrated implementation of economic and social cohesion, implemented by local action groups – associations that provide direct support to local development stakeholders and projects of national rural development programs.
- a local development approach based on local characteristics and resources (bottom-up approach),
- an approach that brings together and encourages local stakeholders,
- a response to underdeveloped approaches to local development by the early 1990s, focused on agriculture, driven from above and accompanied by national aid.
In the process of developing these local public-private partnerships (LAGs), it is important to have accurate information on the basis of which quality decisions can be made that will lead to the development and progress of each rural area in accordance with its particularities.
Accordingly, there are seven basic principles:
– Sustainable rural development – development based on the preservation and balanced development of environmental, social and economic capital.
– An approach based on the characteristics of the area – each rural area has its own characteristics, potentials, specificities and distinctiveness – future planning should be built on them.
– Bottom-up approach – the widespread involvement of all available forces in local communities will contribute to quality development through a wealth of ideas and possible solutions.
– Establishing local partnerships – shredded initiatives are often doomed to fail, especially in small communities, because they lack the strength, credibility and confidence of the community; therefore, networking, partnerships and the development of a collaborative culture are crucial. LEADER’s original idea is to create local public-private partnerships in the form of LAGs.
– Innovation – tradition is certainly the cornerstone of sustainable rural development, but innovation is necessary to present traditional values in a new and competitive market.
– Integrated and multi-sectoral approach – sectoral division is a common cause of development problems. Horizontal, cross-sectoral linking as well as vertical, linking local, regional and national institutions is particularly important in achieving sustainable rural development.
– Networking – networking, learning from good practices, transferring and exchanging knowledge and experience are of particular importance in the implementation of LEADER, as it creates a common ground for the development of European rural areas from individual diverse cases and provides mutual assistance and support.
– Collaboration – is a step beyond networking, towards launching and implementing joint projects of two or more LAGs within a country, region and / or European Union.