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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In a seminar held at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) Dr. Richard Lang, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Innovation Management (IFI) at Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU), introduced a multi-level model for social entrepreneurship in rural regions and their institutional environment. Lang developed the model together with Prof. Matthias Fink (IFI) referring to concepts rooted in regional and rural development, social entrepreneurship, innovation, social capital and network research. Empirical evidence comes from research in four marginalized rural regions in Europe in the context of the EU-funded project “RurInno”, in which the IRS and IFI are leading research partners. The seminar was part of the visiting fellowship Richard Lang has spent at the IRS between 16th and 20th of April.
Despite the fact that social enterprises are commonly associated with the ability to identify and establish innovative solutions in rural regions, there are significant research gaps concerning what exactly is innovative about their practice and which special characteristic of their entrepreneurial activities enables them to find these innovative solutions. Based on research conducted in the EU-funded project "RurInno", Dr. Ralph Richter addressed these gabs in a paper recently published in the "Journal of Rural Studies"
The symposium “Intermediaries in the countryside: Social Enterprises as Drivers of Social Innovation in Rural Europe” was held on 7th and 8th December 2017 at the Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan in Poland. The attendees from across Europe experienced an event that brought together perspectives from research and practice. While the first day of the symposium was dedicated to social enterprise practitioners and their perspectives on rural development and the trainings provided in the corresponding RurInno project, the second day focused on the state of research regarding social enterprises and innovation in rural Europe. The symposium was led by the overall question of how rural social enterprises foster social innovation and contribute to rural change. Starting point of the discussion were the outcomes and findings of the EU funded research and training project RurInno.
The European Union has launched numerous funding programmes to support small and medium-sized businesses including social enterprises. There are, however, big challenges for the entrepreneurs to benefit from these funding opportunities due to obligations to pre-finance parts of the expenses, due to a lack of compatibility of funding structures and entrepreneurial goals and procedures and due to knowledge deficits on funding opportunities. On November 30, 2017, a workshop jointly organized by the IRS-led EU project „RurInno“, „Brandenburg Invest“ (the business development agency of the Federal State of Brandenburg) and Enterprise Europe Network Berlin Brandenburg addressed these challenges .
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