The debate on local development and the preparations for “CLLD” (Community-led Local Development) in the 2014-2020 period moved forward with two workshops that took place in the week of 7 October 2013 in Brussels. The first workshop(cache) was organised by DG REGIO to discuss the draft guidelines on CLLD, which are being prepared jointly by four DGs of the European Commission and are addressed to local actors (following on from EC guidelines addressed to Managing Authorities, published earlier in 2013). The second workshop was organised by LDnet in the framework of Open Days 2013 and was entitled “Citizen participation and community-led local development”.
CLLD represents the distillation of many years of initiatives and experimentation in local development and the “bottom up” approach to development, as successfully consolidated and applied in LEADER. In CLLD, local people take the reins and form a local partnership which designs and implements an integrated development strategy. The strategy is designed to build on the community’s social, environmental and economic strengths or “assets” rather than simply compensating for its problems. For this, the partnership receives long term funding and decides how it is spent. This is what local people will be able to do in the 2014-2020 period with the benefit of a unified regulation for all CSF funds covering local development initiatives. However, there are big challenges in turning the EC proposals into action at national and local levels, as highlighted in the “CLLD Declaration”.
The challenges facing CLLD outside rural/coastal areas
Both workshops had a common starting point: CLLD is already well established in rural and coastal areas with over 2600 partnerships, and all indications are that it will continue in this way in the 2014-2020 period. This is underscored by the strengths and experience of these partnerships and the explicit provisions for CLLD in EAFRD and EMFF, such as ring-fencing of funding and use of LEADER methods. Therefore, the main focus of the DG REGIO workshop was on how to improve the take up of CLLD in urban and social contexts.
The guidance in preparation is comprehensive (1) and largely drafted, although a key section (“Why and how to carry out CLLD for social inclusion”) is still on the drawing board. The section on “Why and how to carry out CLLD in cities” and other sections present a compelling case for using CLLD (and not only in the familiar rural/coastal terrain) and offer answers to practical questions (e.g. What is meant by enhanced support for “running costs and animation of the local development strategy”? under Article 31.c.).
Even so, both presentations and discussion in the DG REGIO workshop recognised the many challenges facing the application of CLLD in urban areas, especially in connection to social inclusion. In some cases it appears that CLLD and the use of all/most of the CSF funds will not be available to local actors due to decisions taken at Partnership Agreement level or more likely at regional level (e.g. in France and Italy the regions will decide and few are expected to go for it). But even where the CLLD option is available, it is broadly felt that the local actors and city leaders do not have an adequate understanding of CLLD and how/whether it fits in with other schemes offered by the EC for the new period, such as ITIs (and in the case of social inclusion, whether it is compatible with the prevalent target group/sector approaches). Moreover, CLLD is associated with “complexity” in the minds of national administrators as well as city leaders, who are thus reluctant to press for it.
“Complexity” and “simplification” are popping up all the time in current debates but when it comes to concrete cases the reality is often far from what these words mean. Anyway, complexity in CLLD has been disproved (or at least overcome) in the rural experience of LEADER (although differences rural/urban differences should be recognised (2)). The draft CLLD guidance also shows different ways of adapting CLLD to different types and sizes of urban areas. Furthermore, the experience of JESSICA shows that even higher degrees of complexity have been tackled in the recent past in the urban context.
A rich local development experience in urban and social contexts
In fact, as the LDnet workshop presentations and discussion amply showed, CLLD-type approaches have been and are still being followed extensively throughout Europe, in urban and social contexts, without being always formalised at EU level.
The case of the City of Limerick (IRL) shows the scope for community-led local development operating within a coherent neighbourhood-based integrated planning framework. The social and employment aspects of regeneration are particularly evident in a series of examples presented at the LDnet workshop (3): the Learning Hub, a local response to educational disadvantage particularly to address the problem of early school leaving; a community-owned organisation, Southill Development Cooperative, supporting economic, social and community development including social enterprise (energy-efficiency initiatives / retrofitting housing) on one of the most disadvantaged estate; Creative Limerick – Connecting to the Grid, an initiative responding to interests / ideas of the creative community in the city by reactivating unoccupied office and retail buildings in the city centre through the allocation of spaces to various groups of creatives.
In Málaga (ES) an integrated plan for the recovery of the historic city centre (Iniciativa Urbana) has achieved a balanced regeneration approach between local residents’ interests and economic and other activities. It also developed and made use of several noteworthy schemes for fostering citizen engagement: “Assemblies” of the Iniciativa Urbana; “Citizenship School”; “Time Bank”, a non-monetary exchange for time, work, skills and services among residents of the area; and a programme of “volunteer carers” for dependent people.(4)
The City Region of Liverpool in England has seen successful local development succeed against a background of long-term decline. The structural funds provided extensive support in the 1994-1999 and 2000-2006 periods with ERDF and ESF working together in 38 worst-off communities. Local residents, local firms, NGOs as well as local and central government worked together in partnership. However, the programmes of the 2007-2013 period became more centralised and risk-averse, although there have been new and noteworthy local initiatives, such as a Local Impact Fund (financial instrument for social economy). The preparations for the 2014-2020 period are switching back to a partnership approach, headed by the new business-led LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) although lacking the old emphasis on social inclusion.(5)
This rich local development experience has much to offer, including local partnership approaches, strong citizen engagement and the use of multiple funds. Nevertheless, the growth in citizen engagement is often combined with city-wide rather than localised action plans (such as in the case of Torino Smart City – (6)) and large scale schemes. In this sense, the prospect of ITIs is tempting for city leaders (who may overlook the fact that there is scope to combine them with CLLD.
Old partnerships: the dinosaurs?
Although new partnerships, especially in urban areas, will have much to learn and do to succeed, the discussion at both workshops highlighted that old partnerships – some of them in existence for twenty years – run a serious risk of complacency.
Partnership working needs to be revitalised and local people should be truly engaged. Moreover, local development strategies should be re-thought. Climate change and environmental concerns should be fully taken into account, including the opportunities for developing green tourism. The squeeze on public and private funding needs to compensated through an expansion of the social economy, voluntary work, crowdfunding and a closer relationship with local banks. High youth unemployment calls for a more intensive effort and new ideas in local employment development.
These are big challenges and old partnerships that fail to address them successfully will risk becoming the dinosaurs of CLLD, with their past successes overshadowed by future failures.
CLLD has been successfully applied in rural/coastal as well in urban contexts, although in the latter case this has not always been formalised from an EU point of view. It has been instrumental in creating local jobs, achieving social inclusion and all sorts of other benefits that raise the quality of life in local communities. It should thus be seen as an approach to development that is of high relevance to tackling locally crisis-related and other externally induced problems and at the same time contributing to macro-objectives: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as envisaged by the Europe 2020 strategy.
However, CLLD cannot be merely treated as a “delivery mechanism” of top-down policies. To succeed, it needs creativity and this is often frustrated by the bureaucracy of mainstream programme management. It also needs to be connected to complementary policies at national and sectoral levels, but such connectivity is many cases lacking or is of little or negative value especially in countries pursuing high-austerity policies.
With the start of the 2014-2020 period approaching and several challenges remaining there may well be disappointments in the short term with the take up of CLLD. However, a better understanding of its benefits and gradually a greater take up in urban/social context could be achieved in the course of the 2014-2020 period. Much will depend on local actors appreciating the potential for CLLD and learning its “mechanics”, and ultimately on generating sufficient bottom-up demand for CLLD in different Member States of the EU. This is something that the EC guidance and generally the preparatory support for CLLD, as well as complementary activities from LDnet and other European associations and networks, should facilitate.
(1) See attached presentation by Jean-Pierre Vercruysse
(2) See attached presentation by Urszula Budzich-Tabor
(3) See attached presentation by Eileen Humphreys
(4) See attached presentation by Fernando Barreiro
(5) See attached presentation by Andy Churchill
(6) See attached presentation by Enzo Lavolta