Irish rural social enterprises and the national policy framework
There is a growing recognition of the role that social enterprises play in rural areas. In Ireland this is formally acknowledged in recent social enterprises and rural development policies which commit to developing a suite of supports to realise the potential of social enterprises and strengthen their contribution to place-based sustainable rural development. However, these policies offer a generalised approach to social enterprises, compounded to date by the considerable gaps in our knowledge of these organisations. The main purpose of this article is to fill a gap in our understanding of Irish rural social enterprises. Using Defourny & Nyssens’ meso-level framework (2017), this paper presents an analysis of surveys completed by 258 Irish rural social enterprises. Our findings illustrate five clusters which represent different types of Irish rural social enterprises. The findings confirm the validity of applying a meso-level approach for capturing in-country heterogeneity within the social enterprise sector and for informing policy supports for these significant actors in place-based sustainable rural development.