European subsidy program LEADER evaluates with stories

How do you evaluate a nine-year subsidy program with a broad variety of participants and projects? How do you collect the lessons from the past as input for the next program period? LEADER in the northern part of the province of North-Holland opted for participatory narrative research using Sprockler.
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Jun 16, 2022


Ontwikkelingsbedrijf Noord-Holland Noord


Can you facilitate an interactive evaluation session for the LEADER program in the Kop?


  • Converting a draft questionnaire into a Sprockler inquiry, in close consultation with the LEADER coordinator. This was sent out to 30 directly involved parties.
  • Response collected in the Sprockler database and then published in an interactive online report. This was used as the basis for the evaluation dialogue on 3 March.


  • Shared image of the working method and effects of the LEADER program in the Kop
  • Clear recommendations for the next program period
  • Reinforced network of players active in the field of rural development in Noord-Holland Noord

LEADER is the European subsidy program that supports initiatives for a livable and economically vital countryside. In the so-called ‘Kop van Noord-Holland’, the program is funded by the province and the municipalities of Texel, Den Helder, Schagen and Hollands Kroon, a.o..


The current LEADER program will expire at the end of 2022. Twenty projects have been subsidized in the Kop during this project period, from nature centers and tourist hotspots to a farm shop and apprenticeship company. But what role did LEADER play and what were the effects of the projects? High time to evaluate.


Participatory narrative research

For this evaluation, the LEADER coordinator chose the Sprockler methodology: a combination of qualitative and quantitative research based on stories. In an online inquiry, project leaders, members of the Local Action Group (LAG) and other stakeholders reflected on their experiences with the program and their wishes for the future. With the starting question: Can you share a story about the most important change that LEADER or a LEADER project has brought about in the region?”


Subsequently, respondents themselves gave meaning and interpretation to their story. They also answered questions about the overall program, about their ‘prouds and sorries’, and about their dreams and ideas for the future. The results were published in an interactive report, containing both the stories and the data in insightful graphs.


Giving meaning together

After collecting stories and data, we facilitated a live session in Fort Westoever in Den Helder – one of the participating projects. A group of 19 respondents together interpreted the results of the inquiry. Based on this, they formulated recommendations for the next LEADER round.


The evaluation dialogue consisted of three steps:

  1. What have we seen?
    In small groups, participants discussed what became visible in the totality of stories and answers, without going directly to conclusions or recommendations. Each subgroup looked at one part of the report and then reported back in plenary.
  2. How do you feel about this?
    After lunch participants reflected on the results in a plenary dialogue round. “What have you seen and/or heard that specifically stuck with you, and how do you feel about this?”
  3. What does all this mean for the future of LEADER in the Kop?
    In the third and last round, subgroups formulated what this means for LEADER in de Kop. “What should we focus on in the future?” This resulted in a concrete list of tops, tips and innovations for the next round.


The meeting concluded with a round of insights.  

“Today it has become apparent that sharing stories is very important in these kinds of situations.” – Participant

“Looking back together is very nice to be able to then look at the future together.” – Participant



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