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Cited as: van Twuijver, M. W., Olmedo, L., O’Shaughnessy, M., & Hennessy, T. (2020). Rural social enterprises in Europe: A systematic literature review. Local Economy, 35(2), 121-142. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269094220907024
Rural social enterprises in Europe: A systematic literature review
There is a growing perception that social enterprises represent a significant solution to the range of contemporary challenges facing rural areas across Europe. However, while much of the existing studies of European rural social enterprises provide a rich insight into specific case studies, as of yet, there is no comprehensive review of the breadth of research currently published on rural social enterprises in Europe. We respond to this gap by providing a systematic literature review incorporating 66 studies of rural social enterprise in Europe. We highlight the range of research in this field and demonstrate how the organisations act as key actors in fulfilling needs of rural areas that are not met otherwise. This systematic literature review confirms that rural social enterprises are characterised by strong local involvement with an ability to combine different goals and resources. Based on this review, we suggest that the rural and local contexts, often combined with tailored external support, are important factors in enabling rural social enterprises. This review also indicates that the academic field is relatively young and rapidly growing, leaving room for new lines of potential research to improve our understanding of these enterprises and their contribution to the development of rural places.