The Local Action group

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:

  • Aggregate and combine available human and financial resources from the public sector, the private sector, the civic and voluntary sectors;
  • Associate local players around collective projects and multi-sectoral actions, in order to achieve synergies, joint ownership, and the critical mass needed to improve the area's economic competitiveness;
  • Strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between different rural actors, who often have little experience in working together, by reducing potential conflict and facilitating negotiated solutions through consultation and discussion;
  • Facilitate, through the interaction between different partners, the processes of adaptation and change in the agricultural sector (for example, quality products, food chains), the integration of environmental concerns, the diversification of the rural economy and quality of life.

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:

  • professional organisations and unions (representing farmers, non-farming professionals and micro-enterprises),
  • trade associations, citizens,
  • residents and their local organisations,
  • local political representatives,
  • environmental associations,
  • cultural and community service providers, including the media,
  • women's associations,
  • young people.

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.