Published in: Journal of Rural Studies
Cited as: Lucas Olmedo, Mara van Twuijver, Mary O’Shaughnessy, Rurality as context for innovative responses to social challenges – The role of rural social enterprises, Journal of Rural Studies, 2021,
Rural social enterprises are increasingly recognized as organisations that contribute to local development by providing goods and/or services to meet community needs and by fostering inclusive social and governance relations. The purpose of this paper is to explore how rural social enterprises engage in a plurality of socio-economic relations with different dimensions of their ‘place’ when contributing to the development of their localities. Based on three in-depth case studies of social enterprises operating in rural Ireland, our findings illustrate how rural social enterprises engage with locational, institutional, material and identity aspects of their ‘place’, which indicates their ‘placial embeddedness’. Moreover, our findings also demonstrate how these organisations engage in, and combine market, redistribution and reciprocity relations, which indicates their ‘substantive hybridity’. Based on the interrelated nature of these findings, we argue that it is through a process of placial substantive hybridity that rural social enterprises foster social innovation in order to contribute to an integrated development of their localities. They harness and (re)valorise (untapped) local resources while complementing these with other resources from extra-local sources and accommodate and/or respond to structural-exogenous forces based on the needs of their local population in line with neo-endogenous rural development.
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We would encourage further research on other types of rural social enterprises operating in different fields. Finally, the focus of this study has been on the rural social enterprises as one pivotal actor for fostering social innovation conducive to neo-endogenous rural development. Our findings confirm the contribution of rural social enterprise to this end; however, they also highlight that social enterprises represent but one of the key actors whose social innovative capacity can be unlocked through a collaborative framework of a diversity of actors and institutions. Future research might focus on exploring such collaborative frameworks for successful neo-endogenous rural development.