Enhancing local development through trans-regional cooperation: Lessons from long-term practice of the LEADER concept


Resumen: Durante mucho tiempo se consideró que el desarrollo local combinaba múltiples esfuerzos para fortalecer las zonas desfavorecidas o remotas, con riesgo de periferización o incluso de marginación. A partir de los años ochenta, la concienciación sobre el potencial endógeno y los servicios rurales permitió centrarse más en la capacidad de acción y cambio local específico de cada territorio. Este cambio en la política regional promovió el apoyo a los territorios rurales, centrándose especialmente en zonas de geografía específica, como montañas, islas y otros lugares “desfavorecidos”. Calificado como “desarrollo regional endógeno”, este planteamiento queda plasmado en el principal programa de desarrollo local de la UE, el programa LEADER, disponible desde 1991. Aunque se centró en establecer incentivos para el desarrollo en contextos rurales, el rendimiento de las regiones rurales, sin embargo, se estancó desde entonces. Este documento concibe el proceso de desarrollo local y la influencia de la cooperación transregional como los motores decisivos e interrelacionados de todo el proceso. Los efectos limitados podrían estar relacionados con la dependencia del camino, el bloqueo institucional y el escaso reconocimiento y énfasis en el papel crucial de la innovación social, lo que ahoga la necesaria adaptación de las políticas. Sin embargo, la orientación hacia la combinación de la experiencia y la contribución de los sistemas de conocimiento externos, con la singularidad y los activos locales, son aspectos que podrían contribuir de manera decisiva a los incentivos y cambios sociales tan deseados.


Palabras clave: Desarrollo rural, LEADER, innovación social, cooperación transnacional, desarrollo local dirigido por la comunidad.


Abstract: For long, local development was seen as combining multiple efforts for strengthening areas that were either disadvantaged or remote, at-risk of peripheralization or even of marginalization. Since the 1980s an emerging awareness of endogenous potential and rural amenities enabled a stronger focus on the area-specific capability for local action and change. This shift in regional policy instigated support for remote places, focusing particularly on areas of specific geographies, like mountains, islands and other places of “disadvantage”. Referred to as “endogenous regional development” that approach is epitomized by the main local development scheme of the EU, the LEADER programme which was available since 1991. While it focused on setting development incentives in rural contexts, the performance of rural regions, nevertheless, stagnated since then. This paper conceives the local development process and the influence by trans-regional cooperation as the decisive, inter-related drivers. Limited effects might be linked to path dependency, institutional lock-in and little recognition and emphasis on the crucial role of social innovation, stifling required policy adaptation. Yet, particularly the orientation on combining the experience and contribution of external knowledge systems with uniqueness and local assets might contribute decisively to the long-desired incentives and social changes.


Key words: Rural development, LEADER, social innovation, trans-national cooperation, community-led local development.

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