Improving Implementation of LEADER at Programme level
8. Learning from the past: Looking ahead
Organisational memory, institutional capacity, continuity are all terms that come into greater focus at the point of transition between one programme and the next, this is particularly so in the case of LEADER. When it comes to looking at improving the implementation of LEADER in future it is clear from the other modules in the Toolkit, wider evaluation evidence, the ECA special report, the LEADER Focus Groups and the LEADER Subcommittee that there is much still to be learned which can inform the future. The LEADER Event 2013, Building Bridges for the Future drew together an enormous amount of experience, many of the lessons from this practical experience inform other modules within this Toolkit. Together this comprises experience from across four generations of LEADER, from LAGs, beneficiaries, Managing Authorities, paying Agencies, national and EU Networks and a wide range of experts.
One of the strongest messages from across these various sources is that there is an urgent and important need to improve the processes through which LEADER is evaluated, the lessons identified, outcomes validated, added value crystallised and development consolidated and sustained. If, as we have seen, LEADER is as much about how things are done as what is done then clearly the benefits of the method need to be better understood, demonstrated and communicated. This learning about how LEADER delivers can be extracted in two main ways, internally through the identification of best practice and key lessons by practitioners, those involved in doing, and externally through evaluation and analysis. Both approaches are required and should be implemented to strengthen the links between what is delivered and the effects of the method and thus improve both elements. Self-evaluation may also have a role to play not least as an important discipline in LAGs reviewing their own performance.
LEADER evaluation merits a toolkit of its own, the European Evaluation Network for Rural Development produced a working paper on ‘Capturing the impact of LEADER and measures to improve the quality of life’ in 2010 but this could only cover part of the spectrum. For the 2014 – 2020 period RDPs must contain an evaluation plan which in turn will set out arrangements for LEADER, a stronger role for NRNs in supporting LEADER evaluation is also envisaged. Learning the lessons therefore assumes a greater priority and clearly is part of an ongoing process of innovation and improvement and within this building on the existing local capacity, knowledge and experience must play an important role.