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Since its launch in 1991 by the European Commission as a Community Initiative, the LEADER local development approach has provided rural communities in the EU with a method for involving local partners in shaping the future development of their area. The LEADER approach has attracted a high level of interest within the EU and beyond in both rural and urban areas.

The early generations of LEADER received funding from EU structural funds as a separate Rural Community Initiative. LEADER reached a “maturity” phase in 2004-2006 and has, since 2007, been implemented under Rural Development Programmes and co-funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

The success of LEADER in rural areas led other EU Funds to open up the possibility of applying this approach in other areas. In the 2007-2013 period it was successfully transferred to the European Fisheries Fund (from 2014 the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)). In 2014 it also became available in the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). However, the application of this approach is mandatory only in the EAFRD.

For this wider application, the term “Community-Led Local Development” (CLLD) is used. LEADER, with its clear reference to rural areas, will continue to be used for CLLD under the EAFRD. Since 2014 it is possible for a single Local Development Strategy (LDS) to be supported by several EU Funds (known as multi-funded CLLD). This will enable LAGs (rural, fisheries, and urban) to fully explore the potential of the CLLD approach to comprehensively integrate local needs and solutions. It will also allow LEADER-type support to be better coordinated with local development support from other EU funds and thus reinforce the links between rural, urban, and fisheries areas.

This guide to CLLD was issued at the start of the 2014-2020 programming period in order to give those directly involved in local action groups some practical tools and suggestions for implementing CLLD in a range of contexts. This guide should also be relevant to provide arguments for cities and social organisations that CLLD is an effective tool for meeting some of their challenges and to illustrate how ESF and ERDF can be used.