Údarás na Gaeltachta’s Community Development Unit is involved in a new study to empower rural social entrepreneurs. This is being done as part of a feasibility study funded by the European Union ‘Business Models Empowering Rural Social Entrepreneurship – voicing the rural norm’.
Researchers will study ways in which social entrepreneurship can be encouraged and developed in rural areas. Particular emphasis will be placed on young people and opportunities for women to participate as social entrepreneurs and the story of Gaeltacht social entrepreneurs will be central to this study.
Where public sector interventions and private companies fail, local communities often place their hopes in initiatives from local social entrepreneurs. Now the differences and similarities in social entrepreneurship in Sweden, Norway, Scotland and Ireland will be studied.
A social entrepreneur wants to do good and be driven not to maximise profit but to contribute to development in their local community. “We want to investigate what support and what conditions are required for social enterprises in rural areas to be able to develop and prosper,” says Yvonne von Friedrichs, professor of business administration and project manager at Mid Sweden University – the lead partner on this study.
The researchers will conduct surveys in Europe’s northern regions in the four participating countries and then interview successful social entrepreneurs who can share their experiences. The work also includes building knowledge about how the public sector and business organisations work to facilitate the establishment of social enterprises.
The feasibility study will be completed by the summer and the goal is for the work to lead to a major EU project on social entrepreneurship. The work will be carried out by researchers at Mid Sweden University in collaboration with Companion and the municipalities of Östersund and Härnösand in Sweden, CBT Competence in Norway, Social Enterprise Academy Scotland and Údarás na Gaeltachta in Ireland.
“We want to learn from each other and are convinced that it is possible to find new solutions to old challenges. By involving social entrepreneurs, civil society, business advisers and academics in the different countries, we will get a broad knowledge base to be able to identify ‘best practice’ in how to support this industry”, says Seán Ó Coisdealbha, Western Regional Manager at Údarás na Gaeltachta.
By sharing and examining best practices, similarities and differences, the proposal aims to look at new approaches to fill these gaps with a view to providing better support for social entrepreneurship in rural areas.