Evaluation of the LEADER programme by LAGs – A critical reflection


A Local Action Group; source Matteo Metta

August 29 Matteo Metta has succesfully defended his MSc-thesis ‘From Good Will to Good Use: a critical analysis of the LEADER evaluation‘ for the Master International Master in Rural Development. Below a summary of the thesis.

The thesis provides a critical analysis of how LAGs can evaluate the LEADER Programme by focusing on its final utilization. For the first time in the 25 years history of LEADER, LAGs are asked to undertake the evaluation of LEADER programme at the level of Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) strategies. Evaluation experts are of good will but literature does not yet offer appropriate methodologies that take into account the situations and intentions of local stakeholders in the evaluation process. In semi-structured interviews with 13 LAG managers in different LEADER areas these multiple intentions and situational factors that influence the utilization of the LEADER evaluation are explored and compared.

The results show the diversity of alternative evaluation approaches that might be more suitable to LAGs and that this depends on the specific political, organizational, relational, and socio-historical conditions in the LEADER area and the LAG. This diversity challenges evaluation approaches that do not engage local stakeholders in the evaluation process from the start and that do not take in account the complexity influencing the evaluation. Complexity results from the interplay between different domains of a LEADER evaluation:

  1. The LAG as organizational unit;
  2. The community or area;
  3. The CLLD strategy;
  4. The larger LEADER system
  5. Contextual forces influencing the utilization at local level (e.g. market mechanisms of the evaluation industry, political pressure on the LEADER programme from agricultural lobbies, penetration of IT based tools for monitoring and evaluation).

The thesis concludes that to extend good will into good use, LEADER evaluation experts have to go beyond their methodological expertise and become facilitators of the whole evaluation process. This not only enables LAGs to respond systematically to the complexity of the programme through the means of the evaluation, but also facilitates the negotiation between different stakeholders to decide about useful evaluation topics, criteria, values, purposes, and methods for the LAGs.