ViSENet – resources for Rural Social Enterprise

ViSENet – resources for Rural Social Enterprise

ViSENet: Village Social Enterprise learning material, guidance and networking – project to promote social entrepreneurship in rural areas

Across many countries, rural areas are face similar challenges, such as a diminishing local services, economic and employment issues, as well as demographic changes with increasing older population and out migration of young people.  There is a need to find new tools to assist rural communities to address these challenges and ensure sustainability.

  • Examples from Social Enterprise and Community Enterprise from across Scotland demonstrates a wealth of local potential, knowledge and skill for sustaining services and enhancing community life using an enterprise approach, explains Ailsa Clark, Development Manager for Argyll based social enterprise Inspirlba.

Social enterprise is an exciting, ethical and sustainable way of doing business which benefits the community, society or environment. Social enterprises are businesses which trade but reinvest their profits into their social or environmental aims. Some may also achieve their aims by the way in which they run their business, for example by training and employing people who find it difficult to get a job.  There are a wealth of examples of rural social enterprise running community shops, fuel filling stations, older peoples services, community cinemas, swimming pools, youth services, and the list goes on.

This approach to sustaining services is well established in Scotland (and particularly rural Scotland). The 2017 Social Enterprise Census for Scotland demonstrates the significance of Social Enterprise in the rural context with 34% of Scotland’s social enterprises with only 18% of the nation’s population.  This is particularly relevant in Argyll and Bute, one of the top 3 local authority areas with the lowest population densities and highest density of social enterprise per capita. However much of the  learning resources, guidance and networking for ‘social enterprise’ and ‘community development’ has evolved from an urban perspective.

The concept is, however, relatively novel in rural development across much of Europe.   ‘This is why there is a need to develop tools, resources, guidance and networking, bringing together examples of good practice in relation to rural social enterprise  to assist local people across Europe to develop knowledge and skills.  This would include rural community involvement, partnerships and networking, business thinking and recognising the potential of social entrepreneurship in sustaining rural communities’. continues project assistant Rachael Robinson.

As challenges are somewhat similar across rural areas, it made sense to combine the international expertise of rural development and social enterprises to develop methods for promoting and supporting social entrepreneurship in rural areas.

  • We have a great consortium of partners which supports new approaches to local community and social entrepreneurship based on the combination of diverse fields of knowledge and competences, says researchers.

The project is aimed to individuals who are interested in developing and sustaining their rural communities, who are willing to consider socially enterprising solutions to assist their rural areas or individuals who already have an idea for social enterprise in rural areas, as well as individuals already engaged in social enterprise activity but wish to gain new skills, knowledge and expertise to assist them in their venture. Nearly 300 participants will be engaged in learning while participating in the actions of the project.

The project outcomes will include Open access learning material, International Network of Rural Social Enterprises and Practical Guidebook of Good Practices for supporting the development of social entrepreneurship (SE) in rural areas, which will be developed over the next 2 years. Results of the project will be shared through disseminating outputs in the open access format. All products and materials will be available and accessible online to all who are interested in social entrepreneurship and community development.

The project is funded by EU Erasmus+ Strategic partnership for adult education. The Finnish National Agency for Education is hosting the national agency for the European Union’s education and youth programmes.

More information and links to the project’s materials will be available in project partner’s websites:

Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU), Estonia:

The Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ASE), Romania:

Nürtingen-Geislingen University (NGU), Germany:

Inspiralba, Scotland:

University of Helsinki Ruralia Institute, Finland (coordinator):

InspirAlba | A social enterprise providing development, management, funding and evaluation support for the community sector.

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