The Municipality as an Intermediating Actor in Projects: Empirical Evidence from On-Farm Business Diversification in Eastern Finland

Ella Mustakangas

Abstract


Programme-based rural and regional policies have led to the proliferation of development actors in local policy arenas across Europe. It is argued that a new social class has emerged, the project class, whose position emanates from its expertise in designing and implementing development projects. This paper examines Finnish municipalities acting as mediators in projects concerning a particular branch of rural industries, on-farm business diversification (OFBD). In the paper, the municipality is analysed from two starting points, first by explicating its role as a single actor and then by focusing on individual persons within the municipality. The latter turns the analytical focus on three key groups of municipal officials, namely municipal managers, local industrial promoters and municipal agriculture officials, and on their personal contribution to projects. Based on a case study of two municipalities in Eastern Finland, the analysis reveals that at the organisation level, the most important role of the municipality is that of financier. At the individual level, the study highlights the role of the municipal agriculture officials, whose familiarity with local circumstances and close contacts with farmers make them key intermediating actors in OFBD development projects. The paper suggests that the position of the project class may not only be built on project expertise but also on more local and case-specific knowledge, which is only achieved by working closely with potential project beneficiaries.

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