Helping social entrepreneurs improve rural life

Challenges facing rural regions include few higher educational opportunities and lack of public transport, healthcare and shops. An EU-funded project combines research and training to help entrepreneurs improve life in such areas so as to encourage young people to stay and persuade those who have left to return.

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 9 February 2018  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Human resources & mobilityCareers & mobility  |  Marie Curie Actions
Research policyHorizon 2020
Success storiesHuman resources & mobility
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Austria  |  Greece  |  Ireland  |  Poland
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Helping social entrepreneurs improve rural life

Image of young girl with map and suitcase at the bus stop

© SasaStock - fotolia.com

Lack of services in rural regions leads well qualified young people to move to cities. In such a situation, social enterprises – which combine a social mission with an entrepreneurial spirit – have a vital role to play in driving change.

However, knowledge gaps exist regarding the effectiveness of such enterprises in fostering innovation and solving problems in the countryside. Moreover, there is little training and support to help them fulfil their potential.

The EU-funded RurInno project brought together research institutes and rural social enterprises from Ireland, Greece, Austria, Germany and Poland to investigate whether and under what conditions such enterprises facilitate change.

Based on field research findings, RurInno launched training for entrepreneurs from the four countries. This allowed them to learn from each other and improve their ability to encourage innovation.

“During training, entrepreneurs shared methods for empowering people in rural communities. It became apparent that involving communities in innovation is crucial for fostering change,” explains Ralph Richter of Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, the project’s coordinating institution.

Sharing sparks inspiration

RurInno benefits entrepreneurs and academics alike.

“Social entrepreneurs learn about new participation methods and get inspiration for new products and services to meet needs in rural regions, for example getting long-term unemployed and disabled people back into work,” Richter says. “Social enterprises understand their solutions as open source. Rather than exploiting them for their own benefit, they strive to inspire imitators to gain the bigger benefit of a new solution for society.”

The training draws on achievements of the enterprises in the consortium. NIDA from Poland established a museum village, which is both a tourist attraction and a means of helping people with few prospects find employment. This has made it a model for other themed villages across the country.

OTELO from Austria tackles the lack of well-qualified people in rural areas by setting up technology labs in villages and small towns. By providing spaces for meeting and honing skills, they attract creative people. OTELO has helped establish 24 such labs in Austria, Germany, Spain and Italy.

For Richter, by bringing remote regions together via this kind of network, social enterprises provide ideas and resources that would otherwise not be available. They also find innovative solutions by adjusting ideas identified in one place to other local needs.

As for academics, RurInno’s combination of research and practice has led those involved to spend long periods with rural social enterprises, sensitising them to rural needs. The training then gives them the chance to use this knowledge to enhance entrepreneurs’ skills. This can cover things such as overcoming time and financial constraints to develop enterprises, or exchanging knowledge with entrepreneurs in similar businesses.

Communication is key

Communication is a key part of the project, which received funding through the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme. A tool called ‘Tell the Benefit’ aims to motivate others to follow suit and draws policymakers’ attention to achievements of rural social enterprises so as to ensure the widest possible impact.

“We expect to get indirect effects through publication of our insights and results in a policy brief and a practice toolkit,” says Richter. “Raising awareness among politicians can improve conditions for rural social entrepreneurship, such as by getting it legal status which recognises its benefits.”

Project details

  • Project acronym: RurInno
  • Participants: Germany (Coordinator), Poland, Austria, Greece, Ireland
  • Project N°: 691181
  • Total costs: € 225 000
  • EU contribution: € 225 000
  • Duration: February 2016 to March 2018

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