1. The work that the OECD Rural Working Party has carried out in the last years has converged towards acceptance that sectoral approaches to rural areas have not given the expected results and that there is a need for more effective, place-based policies which can better capture the diverse challenges and potential of rural areas. Developments in a fast changing international scenario continue to throw into stark relief the necessity to re-think rural development policies. Globalisation, changes in the public financing of the agriculture sector and the emergence of important non-farm niche markets put rural regions in direct competition confronting them with threats and opportunities that require new policy instruments and skills at the national and sub-national level. Changes do not affect only markets and economic actors but question the role of institutions, private actors and the civil society in rural development. Moreover, processes of administrative, political and fiscal decentralisation put more emphasis on the capacity of local actors and renewed horizontal and vertical relations.
2. In this context, policy makers increasingly recognise that traditional rural development policies need to be upgraded and, in many cases, phased out and substituted with more appropriate instruments capable to deal with externalities, to valorise local amenities and, in a context of asymmetric information, to make good use of the knowledge shared by different actors. To adapt to such a scenario several countries have begun to design new policies and to introduce innovative forms of vertical and/or horizontal co-ordination.
3. A particularly interesting and innovative experience is represented by Tuscany where an exceptionally wide range of instruments have been introduced in recent year as part of an overall effort towards integrated rural development policy and participatory governance.
4. This paper is divided into four sections. Section 1 introduces the Tuscan model of rural development within the EU context. Session 2 provides an overview of economic and policy trends affecting rural areas in Tuscany and on the main policy instruments adopted by the Region. Session 3 brings the discussion to the Provincial level by firstly illustrating the principal characteristics of Arezzo and Grosseto and then discussing some innovative governance instruments and rural development policies that are being implemented in these Provinces. Section 4 sets out the most defining characters of the Tuscan model of rural development and discusses some critical issues related to this highly advanced and 'mature' development model.