Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RURACTION (Social Enterpreneurship in Structurally Weak Rural Regions: Analysing Innovative Troubleshooters in Action)
Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2021-01-31
Against this background there were still many questions about how the development of socially innovative initiatives and the work of social enterprises can be fostered.
The overall objectives of RurAction were accordingly to address these questions, i.e. to
- (i) empirically analyse critical junctures as well as favourable factors for both the creation of innovative solutions and the work of social entrepreneurship in the countryside,
(ii) close the research gap at the interface between rural development, social entrepreneurship and social innovation research;
- train 10 Early Stage Researchers both in order to enable them to conduct excellent research in this field and to professionally support socially innovative initiatives in the future;
- derive recommendations for action from the research results;
- disseminate the results.
RurAction was successfully completed with regard to all these aspects. Content-related conclusions that can be drawn from the project are presented in the next sections.
Innovation occurs in creative exchange, co-creation, intensive networking, and governance processes. Social enterprises often take on the role of initiating, advising, and accompanying creative exchange. Our research revealed that they function as catalysts, shaping the exchange effectively. However, there is no funding available for such work. Often, it becomes difficult to maintain this support.
Against this background, the main message for political decision-makers is: create budgets for modular funding programmes in line with the phases of an innovation process, for which the actors can apply. Another conclusion is that the innovation expertise of social enterprises must be more systematically utilised and that the specific needs of social enterprises need to be better recognised in order to support their work in a targeted way.
The following exploitation and dissemination measures were central:
- So far, 31 publications, 30 presentations at international conferences, symposia and workshops as well as two RurAction conferences addressed the scientific community in order to critically discuss the results.
- The policy paper addresses decision makers and shows very concretely which support and financing strategies are necessary to promote the creation, implementation and spatial spread of socially innovative solutions to existing problems, but also how social enterprises can be supported, and how a more favourable regional development in structurally weak rural areas can be made possible.
- Five regional policy roundtables and one policy roundtable on the EU level were carried out in order to discuss the results and the recommendations for action of the policy paper with policy-makers. The main results of these discussions are documented in the annex of the final version of the policy paper.
- The handbook for practitioners addresses social enterprises and helps them to reflect their roles and strategies in rural regions.
- The documentary film addresses a broader public and raises awareness of the potentials of social enterprises in rural areas. It shows how SE work and how they develop socially innovative solutions for their regions.
- The portable exhibition also addresses a broader public, in order to inform people about the work in RurAction and also to raise awareness of the potentials of social enterprises in rural areas. It shows how social enterprises work in rural areas and how they develop socially innovative solutions for their regions. The PDF version of the exhibition allows us to show the exhibition as a slide show during the breaks of important events (e.g. in the context of workshops, conferences and other events)
Another innovative aspect is that the RurAction policy paper addresses not only policy-makers on one scale, but on the municipal/regional, the state (for federal systems) and the national level, as well as the level of the EU. RurAction can thus contribute to policies of integrated territorial development. Starting out with requirements on the local/regional level, it shows what national as well as EU funding strategies should look like in order to effectively support social innovations in rural areas.
RurAction can contribute to the current interests of DG AGRI in the field of ‘cooperation, social innovation, innovation systems and networks’ as well as in that of 'integrated territorial development’.