Skip to main content

Cooperative Business and Innovative Rural Development: Synergies between Commercial and Academic Partners

Periodic Report Summary 1 - C-BIRD (Cooperative Business and Innovative Rural Development: Synergies between Commercial and Academic Partners)

1.1. Project Context and Objectives

“Cooperative Business and Innovative Rural Development: Synergies between Commercial and Academic Partners” – C-BIRD ( is a four-year project, supported by the funding of the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013/ under REA Grant Agreement No. 611490 (PIAPP-GA-2013-611490). Our Consortium incorporates two important types of partners:
1) Research institutions with expertise on cooperatives and producer organizations, organizational innovation and social enterprises, in the context of rural development - Trakia University (Bulgaria); EURICSE (Italy); Universitat de Almeria (Spain); University College Cork, National University of Ireland, Cork (Ireland); and
2) Commercial partners from pre-defined economic sectors - Agroconsult - Engineering EOOD (Bulgaria); Asociacion de Organizaciones de Productores de Frutas y Hortalizas de Almeria – COEXPHAL (Spain); Zip Centar za mlade biznis inkubator DOO Pirot (Serbia).

In order to identify not only the most promising regulatory mechanisms and financial preferences to stimulate cooperative initiatives, but also the possible ways to transform cooperative sector into a new, dynamic and competitive-based system, C-BIRD objectives are identified as follows:
1) increase understanding of the research subject (institutions, rural development and business environment) and the main drivers of the rural change, with emphasis on the complex and multivariate nature of the case studies included;
2) explore economic and productive activities that enhance socio-economic-environmental sustainability and support best practices for vibrant rural areas - with special focus placed upon the agricultural sector (but not exclusively), auxiliary and complementary businesses, commercial enterprises, cooperatives, POs, social enterprises and their influence over rural areas economy;
3) identify key characteristics of socio-economic-environmental development in rural areas and related institutional entities and functions, and the main reasons for different patterns of the organizational rate (cooperative movement/producer organisations) across countries included.

1.2. Work Performed and Main Results Achieved

The work within the framework of C-BIRD is organised into five work packages with significant dependencies and expected synergies between them: WP1 “Researcher to commercial partner (R2CP)” and WP2 “Commercial partner to research centers (CP2R)”; WP3 “Transfer of knowledge activities”; WP4 “Final Conference”; and WP5 “Coordination and management”. Our collaborative research and work are systematically organized within the following main components:
• Secondments and study visits - these activities proved to be an excellent opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the rural environment of the country-partners, to meet the main rural actors and to follow in details the relationships established to operationalize the regulatory policy and intervention mechanisms in rural development.
• Literature review, theoretical background and relevant data - to frame the research problem.
• Logic framework and methodology - to address cooperative movement as combination of several factors (economic, social, historical, etc.), to undertake research, to interpret results and their significance.
• Training activities – during the period covered by this report, were organized open lectures and training seminars on topics related to the multifaceted perspectives on rural sustainability and significance of the rural actors – cooperatives, business and SMEs, third sector enterprises.
• Dissemination of research findings – international conferences and scientific forums, seminars and workshops.

The progress is well along in activities and target deliverables as planned in WP1 “Researcher to commercial partner (R2CP)” and WP2 “Commercial partner to research centers (CP2R)”: 1) 39,26 implemented research months, which represent 90,25% of the planned research months for the 1st reporting period (43,5 months) and 44,61% of the total research months (88 months); 2) More than 120 documented study visits; 3) Three reports on the study visits organized (D1.1.; D.2.1.) (; 4) Theoretical report (D1.2.; D.2.2.)

Deliverables, as planned in WP 3 ”Transfer of knowledge activities” were also duly accomplished: 1) C-BIRD website (D.3.1. - and C-BIRD identity was created at the very beginning to provide for the project corporate elements and symbolically to represent our project and the Consortium; 2) Scientific publications (D.3.2.) released as joint publications, conference proceedings, selected papers; other publications are in print and planned for publishing in the 2nd reporting period; 3) C-BIRD workshops, seminars, open lectures, round tables, international conference and training (D.3.3.) were organized to cover a number of topics ranging from historical paths to present (dis)continuities of cooperativism in given regions, varieties in organizational forms and nature of cooperative action, social entrepreneurship, issues of rural development, to debates about internal operations and democratic processes with cooperatives.

With the very beginning of the project all activities related to the WP 5 “Coordination and management” were performed, including: 1) Signing Consortium Agreement to operationalize responsibilities and duties of the partners, quality and deadlines of the tasks to be performed; project management to establish proper understanding of the management structure of the project; 2) Kick-off meeting (D.3.4.) in March, 2014 in Bulgaria (Stara Zagora) to mark beginning of the project; 3) Second partnership meeting (D.3.4.) was carried out in June, 2014 in Spain (Almeria) to ensure that the specific results were delivered in time, as well as to control the quality of the performance, developments and of the output achieved; 4) Mid-term evaluation report (D.5.1.) was submitted in August, 2015 and 5) Mid-term evaluation meeting (D.3.4.) was organized in October, 2015 in Spain (Almeria) to present the overall progress and the findings of the mid-term reporting period (01/01/2014 – 31/10/2015); 6) Partnership meetings (D.3.4.) were organized in October, 2015 in Spain (Almeria) to discuss and prepare for the Mid-term review meeting; focus on the main results from the project implementation and the important issues related to its administrative and scientific part; plan the activities during the second reporting period, based on the feedback and observations of the external evaluator and the results of the Mid-term Review Meeting.

1.3. Expected Final Results and their Potential Impact and Use

C-BIRD represents steady multi-stakeholder partnership that delivers impact and value-added in three performance areas: pooling international resources to provide for greater scope and outreach of the results achieved; network building; and fostering mutual learning and research.
1. Access to internationally based knowledge and complementary expertize.
The project offers an access to practice-oriented knowledge, delivered both by the academic and the non-academic experts. Through inter-disciplinary approach and peer-to-peer learning the project will build the cooperative mindset and will foster a better culture for innovation and creativity among ruralities.
2. Network building and cooperation
C-BIRD is to remove structural divides at national and international levels, to support reciprocal relationships and cross-sectoral and inter-cultural collaboration, so as to bring about focused range of research, training and networking on cooperative opportunities. For the academy improved networking will identify the “missing links” to complement research and educational mission and will enhance multi-disciplinary and multi-professional practices. Practitioners will design a tailor-made advanced research and further pro-active cross-proliferation to advance cooperation as a critical component for innovation and economic growth in rural areas.
3. Fostering mutual learning and convergence in Europe.
C-BIRD develops framework to align economic and social priorities to the regional and the international environment. This is the key step in overcoming the one-off initiatives and will set the ground for cooperative entrepreneurial capability with strong commitment for regional and international development.