Integrated rural development in England : unrealised or unrealistic?
In recent years, integrated rural development (IRD) has become accepted as a panacea to rectify shortcomings in the sectoral, largely uncoordinated, rural development system currently operating in England. IRD may be defined as a multi-sectoral approach to rural development. Individual and disparate policies are brought together and coordinated in order to form a comprehensive rural development strategy which takes account of, and where necessary, reconciles the social, economic and environmental needs of rural areas. This thesis examines, from an organisational perspective, the feasibility of pursuing integrated rural development. The primary task was to create a coherent conceptual model framework of IRD. The objectives were two fold: first, to identify the common parameters of IRD; the basic principles and strategies engendered in this development approach; second, to develop from these a critical platform from which to determine the relevance of the IRD concept to England's rural development system, with all its administrative complexity. Much of the enquiry has centred upon the study of inter-organisational behaviour, looking particularly at 'integrated' rural development initiatives in progress. The aim has been to identify the key factors which govern the relationships between organisations, especially those which appear to facilitate or hinder inter-organisational coordination. This institutional approach to the study of rural development has much to offer, both in terms of improving our understanding of the dynamics of England’s present administrative system and in the assessment of the potential for integrated rural development in the future. On this basis it is evident that IRD is in reality, far less convincing than the ideas which underpin it. Indeed, when taking into account contemporary organisational processes it becomes apparent that integrated rural development is not a viable development approach.