LEADER’s capacity for inspiring rural innovation and building social capital in rural Europe is personified by an Irish cooperation project example. This takes advantage of digital opportunities to network local people around common rural development interests.
The www.innovating.ie project covers six LAG areas along the EU border region with Northern Ireland. It provides an interactive online tool for rural residents to highlight their own priorities, interests, challenges, and ideas that could be advanced through rural development projects. People first advertise their proposals on the website in a Challenge Bank. Then, if enough local people collectively endorse the proposal submitted, a second stage involves capacity building training being arranged to develop a project that could implement the proposal. Training needs identified already include issues around minimising food waste, habitat conservation, and social services. Ireland’s example shows how LEADER support strengthens and sustains social capital in rural Europe.