When the support of society and authorities is perceived to no longer be sufficient, many local communities place their hope 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, not necessarily to make money but to contribute to development in her or his 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 in Sweden. In Norway, Karl Johan Johansen in KBT is project manager. He thinks our experience with peer support may be an important approach in this project.
Voicing the rural norm
Through the EU-funded feasibility study “Business Models Empowering Rural Social Entrepreneurship - voicing the rural norm” within the Northern Periphery and Arctic Program, which was recently launched, researchers will study how social entrepreneurship can be stimulated and developed in rural areas. A special focus will be on young people and women's opportunities to get involved and lead local development.
- When community functions are centralized and disappear from more peripheral parts of a municipality, local initiatives can contribute to building structures that make young people stay in the countryside, or that women, who are often the ones who move first, choose to move back, says Yvonne by Friedrichs.
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 organizations work to facilitate the establishment of social enterprises.
Goal: a major EU project on social entrepreneurship
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 being launched. The work is carried out by researchers at Mid Sweden University in collaboration with Coompanion and the municipalities of Östersund and Härnösand in Sweden, CBT Competence in Norway, Social Entreprise Academy Scotland and Udaras 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 get a broad knowledge base to, in the next step, be able to find things that can constitute "best practice" in how to support this industry, says Pelle Persson, Coompanion .