Since the early 1990s, the EU has pioneered LEADER, a bottom-up, partnership based approach to rural development. LEADER retains a distinctive niche to support multi-sectoral community-based development. LEADER articulates upwards to EU territorial development policy whilst at the same time enabling individuals, communities and businesses to come together to design and implement local development strategies.
The LEADER approach is about proactive ‘animation’ (‘animating a territory’) and developing links between actions for the development of the rural economy. In this way the LEADER approach builds social and economic capital. LEADER is also about the added value that flows from the bottom-up and partnership approach with better identification of local needs and local solutions, more engagement on the part of local stakeholders and greater scope for innovation.
LEADER is characterised by seven features (below) to help ‘actors’ consider the long term potential of their local area.