Since 1991 the EU-policy for rural development uses amongst others the Leader-program to promote innovation and cooperation in regions with structural disadvantages. This study evaluates the social impact of Leader-projects using the example of the Wipptal region (Italy). A questionnaire was developped based on the social capital theory. 84 inhabitants took part in the written survey. For 5% of them, Leader helped to establish new contacts; 45% had no idea about the program. Qualitative interviews with local Leader-experts also show, that only members of the local action group, that already have a lot of social connections, benefit measurably from the Leader-program. Compared to the other interviewees, they created 5 times more social contacts through their engagement in the Leader-Program. The program could be improved by a more participative program design and a better networking between the many protagonists in the region could disperse the use of the program in a better way.