Since Hungary’s accession to the European Union (EU) most of the actions in rural areas have complied with the regulations of the funding programmes of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate why the focus of actions has to be changed from funding to learning. The paper is structured as follows. In the introduction, the author explains, in the light of her research experience since 2001, why a change in focus is needed. The main body of the paper shows how the need for this change can be explained from different perspectives. Firstly, structural change in the economy is given as a reason. Secondly, the need for change is explained from the concept of neo-endogenous rural development, i.e. the interplay between local and external forces. Finally the reason for shifting the focus from funding to learning is explained in terms of the endogenous and exogenous factors influencing rural development, based on the framework developed by the EU Framework 7 project ‘RuralJobs’. The paper concludes with some examples of the types of tools that have already been used and actions that should be implemented to achieve this change in focus.