This year marked the 20th anniversary of Leader local action groups in Finland. LAGs have established themselves and found a role among local actors. The 54 LAGs are well known in their local areas and their international cooperation is amongst the most active in Europe.
In Finland, Leader groups do not want to stagnate, but look towards the future as the structures of society change around them. Almost 200 people participated in the Leader2030 future work, on an electronic platform as well as in two workshops focusing on the future.
Among the other issues, the purpose of future work conducted during the summer and autumn of 2016 was to outline the role of Leader groups as local actors and regional developers, and which needs of society the Leader method would meet.
As a result of this work, the vision and mission of Leader work in Finland were crystallised.
Vision: As a bold innovator across borders, we will enhance the vitality of local communities.
Mission: We will bring together the resources and ideas of people and communities in order to enhance local well-being. We will provide a platform for converting preliminary ideas into operational strengths. We will implement a joint strategy sustainably, based on a long-term approach.
According to a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Leader groups regard our vision and mission as a positive development and a good match for their actions in the future.
Everyone lives in villages and other cornerstores
Our work for the future identified five cornerstones of Leader activities. Building on these cornerstones will enable us to aspire towards a jointly agreed vision. The cornerstones are: Leader as a platform, experimental culture, a forerunner, citizen-orientation and “Everyone lives in villages”.
During the process, there was a great deal of debate on whether Leader groups are a source of funds or development. In our changing world, funding should not rely on a single source, but should be diverse in nature. Various developer organisations have come and gone in Finland; you should not lay all your eggs in one basket. The ultimate conclusion was that Leader can neither be a mere funding source or just a developer. Leader activities must provide a platform which leverages the strengths of each area and local people, and brings people and opportunities together.
Leader activities are based on the needs and challenges of local people. Leader is accustomed to involving citizens and wants to continue succeeding in this respect. People also want Leader groups to lead the way as bold forerunners, mastering new operational models and advocating an experimental culture.
It is only natural that the world around us also affects the future of Leader. One point of view is that everyone lives in villages. There are villages in rural and urban areas, while the virtual world is facilitating a wholly new kind of locality and new kinds of villages.
Leader can help in the development of anything considered local.