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Focus Groups

Focus Group 4: Better Local Development Strategies


The Local Development Strategy (LDS) is an essential component of the LEADER approach, plotting a development path that reflects a unique combination of local assets, resources and aspirations. Local Action Groups (LAGs) have the responsibility of designing and implementing a LDS. However, in practice, designing a high quality LDS can prove to be demanding. The 2010 special report of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on the implementation of LEADER highlighted a number of weaknesses in relation to LDSs and emphasised the need for improvement.

These findings were one of the prompts leading to the establishment of a special Focus Group on Better Local Development Strategies, which was officially launched at the 6th LEADER Sub-Committee (LSC) meeting on 17 May 2011.

The following objectives for Focus Group 4 (FG4) were agreed by the LEADER Sub-Committee:

  • to advise the Member States with regards to the current and the next programming period; and
  • to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the LEADER approach.

The two main operational objectives of the Focus Group are:

  • to identify the critical requirements in the design of Local Development Strategies; and
  • to collect tools and good practices used at Local Action Group (LAG) level which ensure the efficient implementation of Local Development Strategies.


  • Petri RINNE, European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD);
  • Sanna SIHVOLA, Finnish Managing Authority; and
  • Ana PIRES DA SILVA, Portuguese National Rural Network (NRN).


Focus Group 4 had 78 participants drawn from all 27 EU Member States and includes representatives of LAGs, Managing Authorities, Paying Agencies, NRN support units and LAG Associations.

Main activities

  • The work of FG4 commenced with a meeting of the co-chairs, representatives of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the Contact Point of the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD CP) in Finland in June 2011. This meeting agreed the work plan for the Focus Group and the key milestones and deliverables. The work of FG4 was divided into two phases:
    • The first phase, focusing on how local strategies are elaborated, designed and assessed by MAs which ran from July to December 2011, was based around separate surveys of MAs and LAGs, as well as more focused discussions held in Lisbon and Brussels.
    • The second phase, which ran from January to June 2012, looked at the implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation of strategies.

Phase 1 – Elaboration and design of LDS:

  • Two questionnaire based surveys were prepared in consultation with the FG4 members on the design of the LDS. One for Managing Authorities (MAs) and another for LAGs;
  • In the beginning of September 2011, the 1st webinar of FG4 took place to confirm the questionnaires content and agree on responsibilities of members;
  • The results of Phase 1 questionnaires were collected by end of September 2011;
  • The questionnaire results were compiled and their initial analysis was carried out by mid-October 2011. The survey analysis was based on information from 151 LAGs from 18 Member States and 24 Managing Authorities drawn from 16 Member States who provided direct responses to the questionnaires. Further collective LAG responses were received from two Member States and these have been incorporated in the analysis. Overall all 27 Member States have now been involved throughout the process involving some 200 LAGs and Managing Authorities from all EU countries;
  • The 1st face-to-face meeting of the FG4 was held in mid-October 2011in Lisbon in order to discuss and further develop the analysis;
  • In November 2011 during an extended 7th LEADER Sub-Committee involving FG4 members the analysis was discussed with a wider audience involving European Commission, MA and NRN representatives;
  • The final report of Phase 1 was completed by the end of December 2011.

Phase 2 – Implementation and monitoring & evaluation of LDS:

  • The 2nd web-conference of the group took place in the beginning of February 2012. The updated work plan was presented to the FG4 members and agreed. This included: the structure and approach for a Phase 2 survey with 2nd questionnaires for LAGs and MAs on implementation and monitoring and evaluation of LDSs, the further identification of relevant practices in the Member States. and the development of a Communication and Dissemination Plan;
  • In the middle of February 2012 the Phase 2 survey was launched. Questionnaires were circulated to the FG4 members. Again separate questionnaires were developed and used for LAGs and MAs;
  • Survey responses were collected from a total of 242 LAGs and 15 MAs up to the beginning of March 2012. The population of LAG and MA respondents represented a cross-section drawn from 22 Member States of the European Union;
  • 28-30 March 2012: The 2nd face-to-face FG4 meeting was held on 29-30 March 2012, Helsinki, Finland. The purposes of the meeting were:
    • to inform participants about the initial findings of Questionnaire 2 and to develop a common understanding about differences in implementation and monitoring & evaluation practices of LAGs and Managing Authorities between the Member States;
    • to validate relevant practices about how to better implement, monitor and evaluate LDSs;
    • to discuss and plan how to engage other LAG participants of the LEADER event (27-28 April 2012) in contributing to the outcomes of the FG4;
    • to discuss and plan how the outcomes of the FG4 are to be communicated and disseminated to other interested LEADER practitioners.
  • In Phase 2, the implementation of the Communication and Dissemination Plan approved by the FG4 members has been started;
  • The collection of additional relevant practices was continued;
  • By organising two workshops, Focus Group4 contributed to and benefited from the outcomes of the LEADER event on 27-28 April 2012 (see link to the event below);
  • Focus Group experts consolidated various meeting and survey outcomes and reported to the 8th LEADER Sub-Committee in May 2012 (see link to the event below);
  • Focus Group contributed to a LSC Workshop on Community Led local Development held on 1st June 2012 (see link to the event below);
  • The final report of the FG4 including all survey and discussion elements was completed by the end of June 2012.
  • Communication and dissemination of the FG4 outcomes to various level stakeholders of the LEADER implementation is stil on-going.

It is intended that the findings of FG4 will inform the formulation of future EU implementation guidance, as well as specific LEADER-related parts of the ENRD website (LEADER Gateway).

Relevant Documents

  1. Phase 1 Report [PDF ]
  2. Conclusions of the Final Phase One Report [PDF ]
  3. Final report of the Focus Group 4 [PDF ]
      Phase 1 surveys:
      Survey 1 for Local Action Groups on the design of the LDS[PDF ]
      Survey 1 for Managing Authorities on the design of the LDS[PDF]
      Phase 2 surveys:
      Survey 2 for Local Action Groups on the implementation of the LDS[PDF ]
      Survey 2 for Managing Authorities on the implementation of the LDS[PDF ]
  4. FG4 - Better Local Development Strategies: Summary leaflet [PDF ]
  5. 6th LEADER subcommittee (17May 2011, Brussels, Belgium)
  6. 7th meeting of the LEADER subcommittee (23 November 2011, Brussels, Belgium)
  7. 8th meeting of the LEADER subcommittee (31 May 2012, Brussels, Belgium)
  8. LEADER Event 2012: Local Development Strategies and Co-operation (Brussels, Belgium - 27-28 April, 2012)
  9. Community-led Local Development (CLLD)
  10. ENRD Workshop on Community-led Local Development (Brussels, Belgium, 1 June 2012)
  11. Open Days 2012: DG AGRI Workshops on Community-Led Local Development (Brussels, Belgium, 10-11 October 2012)