Networking is one of the main features of the LEADER approach; furthermore, it is a very complex one in terms of objectives, tools, implementation methods, actors involved and ways of meeting the needs of members.
Networking includes the exchange of achievements, experiences and know-how between LEADER groups, rural areas, administrations and organisations involved in rural development within the EU, whether or not they are direct LEADER beneficiaries.It is also aboutmeans of transferring good practice, of disseminating innovation and of building on the lessons learned from local rural development.
There are different types of networks:
- These are funded by the European Commission, which defines their role. The EU supports networking structures at both European and national level which bring together LEADER groups, administrations, and all other interested partners active in rural development.
- Since 2007, the types of institutional network include also the European network for rural development (run by the Commission) and a national rural network, to be set up in each Member State.
- Networking activities have primarily been focused on LEADER only, but from 2007 onwards they will address a much broader range of rural development issues. They will have expert support and undertake practical activities such as preparing publications on different aspects of rural development, organising seminars, analysing rural development actions to identify good practice, identifying development trends in rural areas, running websites and helping LEADER groups search for potential partners and launch cooperation projects. The European network also acts as a meeting point for national networks and administrations in each Member State in order to share experience at European level. Participation in networking activities is mandatory for all LELADER groups receiving EU financial support, but other groups are welcome to feed in their knowledge and experience into the network.
National, regional and local networks
- Networks or associations of LEADER groups have also been set up or have emerged more informally at local, regional or national level in some Member States and at European level the European LEADER Association for Rural Development.
- Networking forges links between people, projects and rural areas and so can help overcome the isolation faced by some rural regions. It can help stimulate cooperation projects by putting LEADER groups in touch with each other.