Local development is a deliberative process. Participatory mechanisms occur through the mediation of territorial collective actors and the democratic dimension is guaranteed through processes of inclusion and relational networks. The paradigm of local development, as introduced in Italy by the experience of economic decentralized programmes ("programmazione negoziata") in the mid-’90’s, has revealed all its weaknesses and strengths. The present paper starts from the question whether a new paradigm has emerged over the last years and confirms the central role of collective decisional systems in territorial development processes. It stresses the need, however, to improve the efficiency of those systems in terms of economic and social terms, through public policies hinged on five dimensions: contextualisation, resources and capabilities, timing and timeliness of policies, multilevel actors’ networks, change-oriented policies.
Keywords: Local development, participatory democracy, collective actors, local networks, development policies