A bottom-up method of supporting rural development, the LEADER community-led local development (CLLD) initiative has been part of European Union and Ireland’s rural development policy since the 1990s. Policy actors have become concerned with assessing how LEADER CLLD generates added value with focus currently placed on assessment of social capital, local governance and enhanced results (DG AGRI, 2017). Questions also exist around the appropriateness and scope of current assessment frameworks (DG AGRI, 2018). This exploratory paper looks at how LEADER CLLD supports one specific area of potential added value, the mobilisation of vernacular expertise and broader democratisation of knowledge in rural development. Considered part of neo-endogenous rural development models, the concept of vernacular expertise utilises local expertise in rural development, but is also crucially shaped by external expertise (Lowe et al. 2019). Vernacular expertise also crosses over into newer European policy focus areas, particularly ‘smart’ approaches to rural development. This paper aims to act as a starting point in assessing the extent and nature of vernacular expertise in LEADER CLLD supported rural development projects. To do this, thematic analysis and categorisation of approved LEADER project descriptions will be carried out. Thematic analysis will be based on over two years of quantitative data, representing approximately 1,600 projects approved from 2016 to 2018. Case studies of completed projects will also be explored to illustrate the dynamics of vernacular expertise in the LEADER CLLD context.