Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


RurInno Report Summary

Project ID: 691181
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.3.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RurInno (Social Innovations in Structurally Weak Rural Regions: How Social Entrepreneurs Foster Innovative Solutions to Social Problems)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2018-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Today, many rural regions in Europe face challenges such as a limited provision of public and private services, a lack of qualified job offers, little possibilities for higher education and an on-going loss of residents, among them many young and well skilled people. At the same time a new type of actor appears who aims to counteract societal challenges and to develop novel solution. Social enterprises are promising but often neglected drivers of social innovation in structurally weak rural regions that seek to tackle social problems and to stabilise and improve the living conditions in these regions. If rural social enterprises would tap their full potential they could make a significant contribution to equal working and living conditions, social inclusion and change in rural Europe. However, reports show that social enterprises still lack specialised trainings and education, a supporting infrastructure and recognition. Against this background, RurInno aims at 1) strengthening the skills and the innovative capacity of social entrepreneurs operating in rural regions, 2) improving the knowledge of how social innovations are implemented in rural regions and 3) raising awareness of social entrepreneurship in rural regions in order to foster enabling environments for their activities.

The research shows that rural social enterprises effectively address social challenges. They interconnect remote regions with supra-regional networks and institutions on other spatial scales. In doing so, they mobilize new ideas, extended resources and support for rural communities that would otherwise be hardly available. Innovation in rural regions is often based on the re-contextualisation and adaptation of ideas and knowledge. Finding innovative solutions for social challenges is hardly an endogenous process but takes into account knowledge and solutions existing in other contexts or places. Social enterprises adopt and adjust them according to the needs in the respective rural regions. However, we also observe barriers that restrict rural social enterprises in tapping their full potential. In many member states a legal status is missing that enables social enterprises to combine entrepreneurial activities and producing social benefit. Funding schemes often leave little room for creativity in the provision of services. Thus, social enterprises depending on public funds threaten to loose innovation spirit.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Subsequently, we list the main results of the RurInno project. We also show how they have been disseminated and exploited.

1. Social enterprises are hybrid organisations at the intersection of state, market and civil society. Their ability to systematically cross boundaries is a crucial precondition for developing innovative solutions and foster social change. However, this prominent position bears the risk of incompatibility between the rules applied in each of the fields. It proves to be difficult, for example, to find a legal status that acknowledges the societal benefit and at the same time enables entrepreneurial activities.
- has been disseminated in a presentation at the research-practice dialogue “Brandenburger Regionalgespräche” (May 2017) and in a recommendation report published at this event

2. Rural social enterprises can be regarded as embedded intermediaries. They interconnect rural communities with supra-regional networks and institutions on other spatial scales and mobilize resources such as funding opportunities, political support or detect latest trends. As embedded intermediaries rural social enterprises help to overcome structural disadvantages resulting from the remote location and the weak connectedness of rural communities. Rural social enterprises maintain less hierarchical network contacts which enables an easy and fast access to relevant decision makers.
- has been disseminated in a peer reviewed journal article, published in the Journal of Rural Studies (“Rural Social Enterprises as Embedded Intermediaries”)

3. We have developed a nuanced multilevel model of the social enterprise network arena that allows for systematic investigation of rural social enterprises and is informed by both social capital theory and place-based entrepreneurship literature. We argue that this perspective can offer valuable insights into the still under-researched interplay between rural social entrepreneurs and their institutional environment. A key insight from our analysis refers to the dialectic of horizontal and vertical networking strategies typical of rural social entrepreneurs and their business model.
- has been disseminated in a peer reviewed journal article, published in the Journal of Rural Studies (“Rural social entrepreneurship: The role of social capital within and across institutional levels”)

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The RurInno project has enhanced the state of the art in social enterprise trainings, social enterprise research and in the awareness of the social enterprise approach among policy makers particularly in rural development. In the following, we will detail how RurInno has contributed and gained impact in these three dimensions.

Social enterprise trainings: Social enterprise staff members often lack of specialised trainings and education and have limited time to develop new ideas, products, and services. Against this backdrop, RurInno has developed and implemented a structured training programme for social enterprise practitioners where they worked together with researchers and developed material such as the Practice Toolkit, case descriptions and the Policy Brief. The cross-sectoral trainings contributed to the reflexivity of the practitioners and gave time for idea generation. The latter has also been inspired by field trips to gain best practice experiences from social enterprises in East German and Upper Austria.

Social enterprise research: Before the RurInno project has been launched, we identified gaps in social enterprise and social innovation research regarding social enterprises operating in rural regions. Especially, little has been known about how rural social enterprises develop novel solutions and fight social challenges. With our research findings, the RurInno researchers considerably contribute to enhanced knowledge about rural social entrepreneurship and innovation. This has been and still will be realized mainly by presentations at international conferences and by publications. For example, RurInno researchers contribute two peer reviewed papers to the special issue on “Rural Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship” in the Journal of Rural Studies.

Awareness of the social enterprise approach in policy: The most important success in our efforts to address policy makers and to raise their awareness for the social enterprise approach has been the Policy Round Table that we organized in Brussels in May 2017. To this event the RurInno consortium welcomed ten policy makers, among them representatives of the European Commission (DG AGRI), representatives of the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD), and representatives of the involved regions. The policy makers highly appreciated to learn about the opportunities and limits of social enterprises in practice while the social enterprises used the opportunity to promote and heighten the awareness for their approach.
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top