Setting up a local partnership, known as a ‘local action group' (LAG), is an original and important feature of the LEADER approach. The LAG has the task of identifying and implementing a local development strategy, making decisions about the allocation of its financial resources and managing them. LAGs are likely to be effective in stimulating sustainable development because they:
A LAG should associate public and private partners, and be well-balanced and representative of the existing local interest groups, drawn from the different socioeconomic sectors in the area. At the decision-making level, the private partners and associations must make up at least 50 % of the local partnership.
LAGs may be set up ad hoc to access LEADER support, or may be based on previously existing partnerships. Endowed with a team of practitioners and decision-making powers, the LAG represents a model of organisation that can influence the delivery of policies in a positive way. Experience shows that several types of LAG have been developed from these common characteristics, as a result of different forms of regional and national political and institutional organisation, and also with differing degrees of autonomy regarding project approval and financial management. The role and responsibilities of LAGs have also evolved over time in some Member States, as familiarity with the LEADER approach has grown.
LAGs decide the direction and content of the local rural development strategy, and make decisions on the different projects to be financed. Actual payments are often made by a paying authority dealing with public funding rather than the LAG itself, on the basis of project selection made by the LAG.
The rural actors that are most active in local initiatives are:
Often overlooked once the group is established, the ongoing development of the Local Action Group itself is crucial to the success of LEADER. The composition of the group, which should include representatives of all sectors of the region in which it operates, with a good geographic spread, rotation of board and sub committee members and of course gender balance is only sustained through ongoing Capacity Building work.