Rurality as context for innovative responses to social challenges – The role
of rural social enterprises
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.