RurInno acknowledges social enterprises as promising but often neglected drivers of social innovations in structurally weak rural regions. Social enterprises strive to tackle social problems and to stabilise and improve the living conditions in these regions. However, reports show that social entrepreneurs still lack specialised trainings and education, a supporting infrastructure and recognition. Against this background, RurInno aims at strengthening the skills and the innovative capacity of social entrepreneurs operating in rural regions, improving the knowledge of how social innovations are implemented in rural regions and raising awareness of social entrepreneurship in rural regions in order to foster enabling environments for their activities.
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Between October and December practitioners from the social enterprises Ballyhoura Development (Ireland), NIDA Foundation (Poland), Stevia Hellas (Greece) and Otelo (Austria) conduct an innovation secondment at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) in Erkner/Germany. In this context, the RurInno consortium, the Brandenburg Invest Agency (WFBB) and the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) are organizing a workshop on EU funding opportunities for social enterprises and small and medium-sized ventures.
For two years the RurInno research and training project investigated how social enterprises in rural Europe foster social innovation and rural development. The Final Symposium takes place December 7 and 8, 2017, at Adam-Mickiewicz University (Poznan, Poland) and provides a participative forum to share and discuss the acquired knowledge and experiences with academics and practitioners who do research and operate in the field of social entrepreneurship, social innovation and rural development.
The RurInno project is part of research cluster on social innovation from a spatial perspective at the IRS. In six projects the researchers focus on different aspects, regions and scales to gain comprehensive and in-depth insights into the topic. Based on two of these projects –RurInno being one and the core-budget funded lead project “Innovations in Rural Municipalities. Conditions, Actors and Processes of Creative Community Development” being the other – the IRS held a transfer event on June 7, 2017. During the event, embedded in the IRS series “Brandenburg Regional Talk”, researchers engaged in dialogue with practitioners from the federal state of Brandenburg to discuss recent developments, conditions and experiences in connection with new ideas for rural regions on regional and local levels.
There is a need on various governance levels to meet the challenges that structurally weak rural regions face. In addition to local and regional actors, representatives at national and European levels have to address specific problems like the lack of specialized workers, social exclusion, poverty, financial limitations and crumbling infrastructure. The RurInno researchers and practitioners discussed the possible impact of social entrepreneurs in this regard with representatives of regional and rural policy making organisations on the European level on the occasion of the Policy Round Table on “Social Entrepreneurship as Driver of Change in Marginalised Rural Europe” on May 23, 2017, in Brussels.
Social entrepreneurship increasingly drives social innovation addressing social challenges in marginalised rural regions. Because social entrepreneurs are seen as promising new players with a capacity to tackle social problems, policies that effectively support social entre-preneurship counteracting challenges in rural Europe are very much needed. This Policy Round Table is based on the findings of the EU H2020 funded research and training project RurInno that investigates the activities and ecosystems of social enterprises in rural Austria, Greece, Ireland, and Poland. It aims at strengthening the awareness of the social entrepreneurship approach in European, national and regional decision making bodies and stimulating the commitment of European, national and regional decision making bodies in order to establish supporting environments for social enterprises and social innovations in rural regions.
Catherine Smyth (Ballyhoura Development) presented an overview of the RurInno project and the structure of the project at an event hosted by Marie Curie Sklodowska Actions Ireland (MSCA), in Dublin on 10th May. The event was well attended by a wide range of civil society organisations, with the RurInno project presented as an example of a successful consortium and project collaboration under the Research & Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) funding stream.
With the secondments of IFI and IRS researchers in Central Greece, the empirical phase of the RurInno project is drawing to a close. Intensive weeks full of observations, inspiring meetings and interviews lay behind the three researchers
Stevia Hellas, RurInno beneficiary from Central Greece, has been awarded the start-up of the year 2017 in Greece! Stevia Hellas won the first price in the category “Industry – Manufacturing –Processing” among numerous nominated enterprises.
The RurInno project seeks to investigate innovative enterprises in rural regions in Europe that tackle persistent structural weaknesses. But what differentiates an innovative project from a non-innovative social initiative? Although boundaries might be blurry between these attributes, an innovative approach is commonly characterised by combining existing solutions in a creative way or by applying them onto a new field of action. During a communication secondment at Ballyhoura Development CLG. in southern Ireland, IRS communication officer Jan Zwilling got to know a project that is a prototype for what the creative combination of ideas applied to new fields actually means.
Following our interview partners, the indifference and passivity of many people is the biggest challenge for rural development in North-East Poland. As a legacy of the life determining state farms in the communist era until today, many people are rather waiting for help from the administration than to take initiative themselves. Social economy organisations like the NIDA Development Foundation fight against this unloved heritage by fostering self-employment and social entrepreneurship, delivering an English teaching programme, providing scholarships for talented and disadvantaged pupils and creating positive role models.