To discuss the impact of LEADER on improving ‘smart places’, the findings of the evaluation of Rural Development Programmes in Germany are presented. A survey of Local Action Group (LAG) members shows positive results about the quality of cooperation and communication within the LAG. Although there are obstacles for innovation, LEADER shows what is already possible in very different fields such as youth projects for qualifications, concepts for sustainable use of energy or innovative ways to organise social infrastructure. Relevant obstacles are bureaucratic settings. To use the opportunities, it is advisable not to set narrow limits for the size of the regions; the regions should decide on this themselves. Also, for the selection of projects no narrow administrative restrictions should apply to the kinds of projects that are eligible. To benefit from the original strengths of the LEADER approach, greater freedom for locally managed actions would be required.