Leader activities are carried out by 54 local action groups (LAGs) operating in different parts of Finland. The groups are open to all interested parties. The Leader network is very extensive: Finnish LAGs have more than 12,000 members. In the EU, there are over 2,000 LAGs.
The Leader approach means activities, advisory services and funding to the benefit of specific regions. Leader activities involve local development efforts based on the needs and ideas of local residents. The aim is to strengthen and develop local communities and companies and increase the vitality of the area. The activities help to attract different communities and people of different backgrounds and ages to take part in local development efforts. Young people are a particular priority in Leader activities.
Each LAG has prepared a development strategy based on local needs. The strategies seek growth by developing industries, creating an increased sense of community and building up social capital. In practice, LAGs implement their strategies by providing funding to local enterprises and different development projects. In 2007–2013, Leader funding helped create more than 2,000 new jobs. Setting up support was provided to more than 800 new enterprises. In total, more than 8,000 projects were carried out.
The name Leader is originally an abbreviation of the French expression “Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale”, meaning “links between rural economy development actions”.