The LEADER concept has established itself as a successful regional development model and proved its worth since Austria's accession to the EU in 1995. With the 2014 - 2020 period, local development on the basis of bottom-up decisions takes on even greater significance and is enshrined in the "Common Strategic Framework" Regulation. Under the term "community-led local development" (CLLD), all European structural and investment funds get to implement their policies in the framework of regional action groups as well.
Increasing regional added value
The focus is on increasing regional added value, further developing the natural and cultural capital, and issues of infrastructural services of general interest. Owing to the far-reaching involvement of the local population, the strengths and weakness of the own region can be locally analysed. Concrete measures can concern all sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, tourism, but also examples concerning energy production.
Preserving natural and cultural heritage
Another strategic field of action within the framework of LEADER contributes to preserving the natural and cultural heritage in the regions, and to further developing it in a sustainable way.
Strenghtening the public good
For the first time the topic of strengthening the structures and functions important for the public good was included in LEADER in concrete terms as a field of action. This is an important aspect for the quality of life in rural regions and ranges from the further development of services, such as childcare, short-distance supply, to regional learning and participation culture.
Harnessing opportunities to enhance quality of life
In selecting the LEADER regions for the 2014 - 2020 period, particular consideration was given to the strategic component. In the development of the strategy as many partners from the region as possible should be involved. The individual strengths and weakness could be identified on a local level and first-hand together with the local population.
By virtue of this bottom-up process, the opportunities for enhancing quality of life can be optimally used.
Preparing for the future successfully
In the new LEADER period, the regions have been granted a substantial degree of autonomy in terms of implementing local development approaches. With the help of high-quality development strategies and appropriate financial means, they can specifically prepare for future challenges.
The 77 recognized Local Action Groups have been working on the targeted implementation of their local development strategy since June 2015.
The Leader method consists of seven elements:
- The area-based approach: Area-related local development strategies intended for precisely outlined rural areas. Regional peculiarities provide the basis for long-term development activities.
- The partnership approach: Local public-private partnerships (also known as "local action groups") serve as platform and drivers of development.
- The bottom-up approach: Bottom-up means that the strategies and projects are developed in the regions and are not superimposed by external planning agencies and organisations.
- The multi-sectoral approach: The cross-sectoral conception and implementation of the strategy based on collaboration between stakeholders and projects from different areas of local economy.
- The innovative approach: Trying new things – leaving the beaten path. With creativity, imagination and the willingness to take risks, plans are to take up, develop and implement new ideas and projects for the region.
- Cooperation: Development and implementation of national and transnational cooperation projects.
- Networking: National and European networking and experience sharing.