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This book addresses the role of social capital in promoting rural and local development. The recent financial and economic crises have exposed the European Union (EU) to an increased risk of social exclusion and poverty, which are now at the heart of its economic, employment and social agenda with explicit reference to rural and marginal areas (Europe 2020). The authors' work from the notion that rural development is not imposed from the ‘outside’, but depends also on endogenous factors, namely local cultural and ecological amenities, eco-system services, and economic links with urban areas which expand rural opportunities for innovation, competitiveness, employment and sustainable development.

Social capital is of paramount importance because it helps build networks and trusting relations among local stakeholders in the public and private spheres, and supporting the enhancement of governance of natural resources in rural areas



Social Capital and Local Development in European Rural Areas: A Conceptual Framework


1. Introduction: Motivation, Aim and Contributions

The chapter offers an introduction to the relationship between social capital and local development processes in European rural areas. Focusing on the EU LEADER initiative, the chapter draws attention to how social factors of each territory influence socio-economic variables, thus explaining heterogeneity in socio-economic outcomes. The chapter highlights that despite the pressing social needs arising from the recent economic and financial crises, EU funding and decision-making bodies have not explicitly addressed and assessed the role of social dynamics and specifically of social capital, which still remain a black box.
Elena Pisani, Asimina Christoforou, Laura Secco, Giorgio Franceschetti

2. Social Capital: Intuition, Precept, Concept and Theory

The concept of social capital was taken up by researchers and policy-makers to stress the importance of social relations in local development. There is much debate on how social capital should be defined and measured. Typically, empirical analyses and policy evaluation reports have assessed social capital in relation to individuals’ membership in social organisations and civic engagement. Thus they often overlook factors of inequality and power, which require an analysis of individuals’ network relations and their broader social and political environment. In this chapter we discuss the different conceptions and applications of social capital in relation to local development. Our aim is to complement an approach based on civic participation with a network-based approach by bringing together two traditions, that of Robert Putnam and Pierre Bourdieu.
Asimina Christoforou

3. Social Capital and Local Development in European Rural Areas: Theory and Empirics

Rural development policies are revised to incorporate new networks among actors and new relationships within and between the state, civil society and the market in the context of the so-called neo-endogenous approach. Social capital plays a crucial role by creating shared values and identities, inclusive networks, participatory governance structures and democratic decision-making mechanisms. In this chapter, we critically examine the role of social capital in local development and the neo-endogenous approach. Firstly, we provide a brief overview of theoretical and empirical studies. Then we focus on the role of social capital in EU rural development policies and particularly in the LEADER Approach. As the main object of study in this book, LEADER is considered a “method” set up to activate the participatory dimensions of development processes, emphasised in the neo-endogenous approach.
Asimina Christoforou

4. Social Capital and Rural Development in Europe: A Geographical Perspective

Social capital, local development and neo-endogenous approaches to rural development are described in a space-territory perspective, related to the diversity of European regions and rural areas. The European geography of rural areas and the territorial roots of local development processes reveal the contextual historical, cultural and political-institutional divides, and points of juncture. First, a critical literature review of various approaches and studies regarding social capital in local development is proposed from a human geography perspective. Secondly, a theoretical discussion based on the territorial capital framework focuses on different types and dimensions of social capital. Finally, critical insights based on empirical studies highlight a geography of inequalities observed in different European regions.
Luís Moreno

5. Social Capital, Network Governance and Social Innovation: Towards a New Paradigm?

The existence of a two-way connection between social capital and network governance has been identified in the literature. Social capital has been positively linked to the promotion of rural development for sustaining new forms of governance, while network governance is considered a pre-condition to the creation of social capital. Currently, attention is focusing on their role in fostering social innovation, paving the way for an emerging paradigm in rural development. First, the chapter highlights the conceptual framework linking social capital and network governance. Secondly, it specifically presents elements for assessing the effects of social capital on governance in the case of the LEADER Approach. Finally, it draws out the process whereby social capital and governance might catalyse social innovation at the local level.
Laura Secco, Catie Burlando

A Methodological Approach to the Evaluation of the LEADER Initiative


6. Evaluation of Social Capital in LEADER: What’s In and What’s Out?

The European Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (CMEF) determines the different types of common indicators for the evaluation of the two pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy, inclusive of LEADER. Moreover, the European Evaluation Network on Rural Development, under the responsibility of the EC Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, proposes guidelines for enabling evaluation practices at different European, national, regional as well as local levels. This chapter reveals some of the shortcomings in the conceptualisation and operationalisation of social capital in LEADER and consequently it raises critical questions relating to the current evaluation system proposed for LEADER. This points to the need to propose an innovative evaluation method, which explicitly operationalises social capital and rural governance in LEADER initiatives, by thoughtfully considering the requirements set by the EU regulations.
Elena Pisani, Asimina Christoforou

7. Evaluation of Social Capital in LEADER: From Theory to Practice

Social capital in specific local contexts presents both positive and negative sides, determining divergent effects in rural development strategies. This calls for an evaluation method which can highlight how social capital contributes to rural revival or isolation of European territories. This chapter sets out the framework of the method used in our study for quantifying and qualifying the endowment of social capital in Local Actions Groups (LAGs) of the EU LEADER initiative. In particular, the chapter describes the scope of analysis, distinguishes the types of relations sustained and promoted by LAGs, and finally it details the different forms, dimensions and sub-dimensions of social capital and rural governance. It thus contributes to delineating an operative framework for the evaluation of social capital which can be adopted more broadly in rural development.
Elena Pisani

8. Social Capital and the LEADER Approach: A Statistical Method for the Evaluation of Local Action Groups

This chapter describes the methodology and statistical foundations adopted for quantifying and qualifying the endowment of social capital in Local Actions Groups of the EU LEADER initiative. Specifically, the chapter presents the proposed evaluation method, including the criteria and techniques used to create, normalise and aggregate indicators into indexes of structural and cognitive-normative social capital and rural governance. Consequently, it specifies the data collection system, the selection of case study areas and the sampling design adopted in the survey carried out across the selected case study areas.
Riccardo Da Re, Maria Castiglioni, Catie Burlando

9. Indicators Proposed for the Evaluation of Social Capital in Local Action Groups

This chapter provides a detailed description of the different indicators developed as part of the method for quantifying and qualifying the endowment of social capital in Local Actions Groups of the EU LEADER initiative. These indicators refer to dimensions of: (1) structural social capital (context, network actors, horizontal structure of the network, transparency and accountability, reputational power); (2) normative and cognitive social capital (trust and reciprocity among actors, trust in institutions, quality of the network, quality of participation, shared values, conflict); and (3) related aspects of governance (decision-making processes, efficiency and effectiveness, organisational culture and capacity, vertical structure).
Elena Pisani, Giorgio Franceschetti, Riccardo Da Re, Maria Castiglioni

LEADER and Social Capital: Comparative Analysis and Discussion


10. Practicing Social Capital in Local Development: How the Method Applies to Real-World Cases

The proposed method for the evaluation of the endowment of social capital in LEADER has been developed following different sequential steps. In this chapter, we show that this stepwise process can be applied to European Local Action Groups (LAGs), it can be used for comparing values across indicators for both monitoring and evaluation, and the results obtained can unveil the intervention logic of “social capital” at different steps of aggregation. As promised in the introductory chapters of the book, we show the steps taken for opening the “black box” and identify how this method fits within the 2014–2020 programming period and specifically contributes highlighting the value added of LEADER.
Elena Pisani, Asimina Christoforou, Catie Burlando, Riccardo Da Re, Giorgio Franceschetti

11. Evaluation of Structural and Normative-Cognitive Social Capital and Related Governance Aspects at Different Levels of Aggregation Across Regions and LAGs

The chapter presents the quantitative results of the research conducted in Italy on the endowment of social capital in specific European organisations, the so-called Local Actions Groups (LAGs) of the EU LEADER initiative. By drawing on indicators proposed in the research, the chapter shows how social capital can be measured at different levels of aggregation and how it can be used to provide a tool for initially identifying strengths and weaknesses of individual LAGs and then for comparing LAGs within and among regions. The chapter concludes with recommendations for adopting qualitative and regional analyses to explain the results of the quantitative assessment.
Catie Burlando, Elena Pisani, Asimina Christoforou, Riccardo Da Re

12. Regional Comparisons: A Discussion on Social Capital and Local Development

The chapter discusses comparative results across regions regarding the application of the method for quantifying and qualifying the endowment of social capital and rural governance in Local Action Groups of the EU LEADER initiative. Results show that the Putnamian tradition alone does not suffice to capture some distinctive features of local social capital. It should be complemented by the Bourdieusian tradition which stresses the role of social networks in conjunction with the broader social and political context and thus sheds light on the multi-dimensional and contextual aspects of social capital and rural governance.
Asimina Christoforou, Elena Pisani, Catie Burlando

LEADER and Social Capital: Regional Case Studies


13. LEADER and Social Capital in Veneto: The Case Studies of Prealpi e Dolomiti and Bassa Padovana Local Action Groups

Social capital and rural governance are central elements in the evaluation of development projects based on the neo-endogenous approach to local development. The aim of this chapter is to measure both quantitatively and qualitatively the endowment of social capital in the Prealpi Dolomiti and Bassa Padovana LAGs in Veneto. The analysis shows that a consolidated partnership history, focused on the capacity of the LAG in bridging between stakeholders and the local governance system, and combined with the effective and efficient delivery of high-quality projects, concurred to increase the levels of social capital in the two LAGs.
Riccardo Da Re, Giorgio Franceschetti, Elena Pisani

14. LEADER and Social Capital in Umbria: The Case Studies of Valle Umbra e Sibillini and Ternano Local Action Groups

The chapter contributes to the debate concerning the role of social capital in economic and local development, starting from the hypothesis that availability of economic and social resources – including networks – influence economic choices. The methodology is based on the use of indicators and indexes, derived in part from Social Network Analysis and elaborated from structured interviews with members and beneficiaries of two Local Action Groups (LAGs) in Umbria: Valle Umbra e Sibillini and Ternano. The research shows that both the LAGs were recognised as playing an important role in the local development of their territories, and through their activities, became a reference point for small and medium enterprises, as well as local institutions. At the same time, both LAGs could improve the collaboration network through better communication and empowerment of the actors involved.
Biancamaria Torquati, Giulia Giacchè

15. LEADER and Social Capital in Apulia: The Case Studies of Gargano and Meridaunia Local Action Groups

This chapter is devoted to the application of the method for the analysis of structural and normative and cognitive social capital and rural governance in two specific communities, namely the Gargano and Meridaunia Local Action Groups (LAGs) in Apulia. The method used to measure social capital, and also the results achieved can benefit both LAGs, as well as provide decision-making bodies with a tool to identify best practices. The results highlight the idiosyncratic nature of social capital at the community level, which is very closely related to the specific characteristics of the local organisational system. Specific gaps in planning and implementation of local development strategies are identified as a starting point for improving future actions.
Antonio Lopolito, Roberta Sisto

16. LEADER and Social Capital in Basilicata: The Case Studies of COSVEL and Basento Camastra Local Action Groups

The aim of the chapter is to evaluate how social capital concurs to the development of two different areas of Basilicata. Based on structured interviews with members and beneficiaries of the COSVEL and Basento Camastra Local Action Groups, and Social Network Analysis, the methodology draws on indicators and indexes to highlight both the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of social capital. The results obtained highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the network of social relationships in both LAGs. The chapter also proposes policy recommendations to strengthen levels of trust and collaboration among the members of the two organisations.
Alba Distaso

17. LEADER and Social Capital in Sardinia: The Case Study of the Sulcis Iglesiente Capoterra E Campidano Di Cagliari Local Action Group

The scientific literature highlights the positive relationship between specific features of the LEADER approach and increases in social capital at the territorial level. This chapter proposes the results of the assessment carried out in the Sulcis Iglesiente Capoterra e Campidano di Cagliari LAG, in the Sardinia Region. Specifically, the results show how, on the one hand, the Regional Managing Authority played a central role in sustaining widespread participation of different stakeholder groups. On the other hand, strong delays accumulated by the Paying Agency, combined with the presence of powerful clusters within the network, weakened local actors’ expectations towards the LAG.
Raffaella Di Napoli, Fabio Muscas

Conclusions and Policy Recommendations


18. Innovative Elements of the Proposed Evaluation Method and Indications for Improving Monitoring and Evaluation Activities in Rural Development Policy

This chapter presents the innovative elements proposed in the method for quantifying and qualifying the endowment of social capital in Local Action Groups of the EU LEADER initiative. In sum, the innovative elements of the evaluation correspond to a deep scrutiny of the economic implications of social capital in rural areas; the identification of different dimensions and sub-dimensions of social capital and rural governance; the use of Social Network Analysis for the elaboration of data regarding information sharing, reputational power, and trust among actors; the proposal of a large set of indicators selected after a careful phase of testing in the field; the validation of a methodology in the field; and a first attempt at measuring governance in relation to social capital. The chapter concludes with recommendations on the implementation of the method for improving monitoring and evaluation activities in rural development policy.
Elena Pisani, Asimina Christoforou, Laura Secco, Catie Burlando

19. What Future for LEADER as a Catalyst of Social Innovation?

The LEADER Approach was initially designed to promote innovation in European rural areas by sustaining a bottom-up approach to local development. Nowadays the LEADER Approach includes elements that are generally considered to support social innovation. Classical features of the LEADER Approach – for example, area-based development strategies and cooperation and networking – are considered catalysts of social innovation as well. By drawing on key elements which support social innovation, the chapter discusses the future role of the LEADER Approach and Local Action Groups, and debates the challenges and potentials of the new rural development policy within emerging social, environmental and economic needs.
Laura Secco, Elena Pisani, Catie Burlando, Asimina Christoforou


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