The involvement of members of society in the processes of public governance is the driving force of a democratic society, and in each democratic country, this process is promoted in various ways. One of the ways to increase public involvement in solving local problems is the community-led local development (CLLD) method.
CLLD is a bottom-up integrated territorial development policy (based on the initiative of local actors), where local action groups (LAGs) made up of representatives of public and private local socio-economic interest groups, in which no interest group controls decision-making, involve the community and prepare local development strategies, as well as select local development projects of local entities to be financed for the implementation of these strategies. The LAG mobilises the community to participate in the preparation of the local development strategy (the strategies analyse the local development needs, potential, set goals, actions, etc.), their implementation, as well as monitors and evaluates the results of the implementation of the local development strategy.
CLLD in urban areas is also one of the new methods of implementing the European Union (EU) investment and cohesion policy in the 2014–2020 EU funds investment programming period. The application of the CLLD method is regulated by the regulations of the relevant European Union funds. *
CLLD in urban areas is also an opportunity to receive EU investments. Such investments are territorially oriented and allow to coordinate the initiatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and/or other community organisations operating in the city, business and local government. Activating them aims to improve local employment opportunities, reduce social exclusion and increase the social integration of communities by exploiting the links between local NGOs and/or other community organisations, business and local government. In other words, local NGOs and representatives of local NGOs and/or other community organisations, businesses and local authorities have the opportunity to develop and implement projects using the investments of EU funds. Projects help to solve housing problems, promote entrepreneurship and employment, reduce social exclusion, allow to coordinate the initiatives of NGO, business and local government, as well as create opportunities to supplement government-initiated projects with community-relevant measures.
During the preparation and implementation of local development strategies, the initiative is taken over by the people in the local community who know best the problems and needs of their area of residence and who find it important to meet those needs, solve the problems relevant to the local community and make the most of EU investments.
The participation of the community on equal terms with other partners strengthens the links between people, business, public authorities, and increases mutual trust between stakeholders in various sectors. When implementing community-led local development, the opportunity to address challenges is passed on to the people who experience them, but they are not expected to address those challenges on their own. They receive help in making connections and negotiating with those who have more ability to do so. This is the most characteristic feature of community-led local development and the greatest advantage of this method.
It should be noted that only a few EU countries, including Lithuania, have decided to also apply this advanced CLLD method in the urban areas during the EU investment period 2014–2020. In rural areas, this approach has been used successfully since 2004 and has clearly paid off, as it is a ‘bottom-up’ initiative that responds to the needs of rural communities, business and government, which must be reconciled by consensus.
In the period of 2007–2013, EU integrated development programmes and the projects implementing them had to be coordinated with the community and business. However, urban communities were largely unable to implement their initiatives and complement government-led measures, the interests of business, residents and public authorities were not reconciled, and urban development was most in line with the interests of local government.
During the EU investment period 2014–2020, new perspectives have emerged for the ‘bottom-up’ initiative and communities can decide where and what projects to implement.
The establishment of local action groups is regulated by the Law on Associations of the Republic of Lithuania.
The preparation of local development strategies is regulated by the Rules for Preparation of Local Development Strategies approved by order No 1V-36 issued by the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania on January 22, 2015.
The selection and implementation of local development strategies is regulated by Rules for the Selection and Implementation of Local Development Strategies approved by order No 1V-992 issued by the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania on December 11, 2015.
* In the period of 2014–2020, the CLLD approach is being implemented in accordance with Articles 32–35 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013, laying down general provisions applicable to the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006.