Vaasan yliopiston opinnäytteet

Hallintotieteiden tiedekunta, 2004

Kohtala, Anne-Mari

The Challenge of Horizontal Cooperation: A Study on Two Local Action Groups Implemented under the Leader+ Community Initiative for Rural Development

Ohjaaja/Valvoja (DI):
Ari Salminen
Hallintotieteiden maisteri
Julkisjohtamisen laitos
Hallintotiede : European Civil Servants - kansainvälisen hallinnon ohjelma
The basis of the Community Initiative Leader+ is formed by its new conception on rural development; innovations in rural development actions. This new conception is based on the bottom-up approach, on horizontal partnerships and on the organisation of networks. The financial assistance in the Leader+ program is directed at groups of partners known as local action groups. The groups are, in accordance with the tripartition principle, composed of a balanced and representative selection of partners from the different socio-economic sectors in the territory concerned. The partners come up with the development strategies and are responsible for their implementation. The aim of this study is to discuss the objectives of the Leader+ Community Initiative and, particularly, to locate the impact of local action groups on rural development. For this study, I have selected two local action groups: Suupohjan Kehittämisyhdistys ry and Pohjanmaan Jokilatvat ry. The focus of the empirical part is on the processing of local action groups and I have hence decided to use a qualitative method and to do a case study.

The theoretical framework of this study is based on the notion of horizontal cooperation, which is introduced from the perspective of public administration. Partnership, policy networks and the democracy dimension are the sub-concepts of horizontal cooperation used in this study. The theoretical part of the study concentrates on examining the variety of discussion on policy networks, partnership and the sub-national democracy. The answer to the main question of this study is searched through a semi-structured scheme of questions, which is based on the theoretical framework.

The theoretical section is based on academic literature, while the empirical part is mainly collected through phone interviews with individual respondents, selected on the basis of their participation in one of the local action groups in this study and their position within particular public, private, and voluntary organisations. Other references for this study include Official Journals of the European Communities concerning communication from the Commission to the Member States, laying down the guidelines for community initiative; as well as a variety of books and articles and electronic sources. Other studies on the rural area, as well as printed programmes and reports of local action groups serve to complete the information.

The findings of the study show that local action groups are promising. The strategic outcome of local action groups is a new approach to rural development; financing local, innovative, pilot nature and more risky projects through which new actors can be involved in the development work. Local action groups are not just symbolic but dynamic promoters of change within the region. The tripartition principle in the boards of local action groups is a good way to bring forth the points of view of the different parties in the projects that are to be realized in the region. The tripartition principle guarantees the openness and the equitability in the decision-making, as required in the Leader+ program. It also guarantees the involvement of new people in the local development work. Local action groups should be considered efficient instruments of governance and ways of activating local participation. Local action groups provide new channels for participation and therefore they rather enrich than undermine local government.
partnership, policy network, democracy, European Union Structural Funds, Leader+, rural areas, local action group
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