With the mounting cost of living crisis and environmental challenges affecting rural areas, there is a need to look beyond ‘business as usual’, writes Dr Ian Vickers, of the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Research (CEEDR) at Middlesex University.
Social enterprises provide an alternative that meets the needs of rural communities while addressing sustainability concerns. But are such enterprises destined to remain as small niche contributors or can they be encouraged to multiply, grow and flourish more widely?
Social enterprises and community businesses – mixed purpose organisations that trade in order to support a primary social or environmental mission – have considerable potential as pathways to enabling prosperous, inclusive and sustainable rural economies and tackling the challenges faced by rural communities. This is one of the conclusions of our report Rural Social Enterprise: contributions, challenges and support needs which combines a comparative statistical analysis of the two national data sets on small business and social enterprise (SE) with the close understanding of key experts involved in supporting social enterprises and rural economies.
Our research - see Exploring the contribution of social enterprises to rural economies, carried out in partnership with Social Enterprise UK, was one of seven projects exploring rural enterprise funded by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) from the first round of funding from its Research and Innovation Fund. The second round is now open with proposals invited until 15 December 2022 – see Applications sought for funding to research rural enterprise.
Pictured are volunteers at Cletwr, a community business and social enterprise in rural Wales which has been supported by the Plunkett Foundation, which participated in the research. Photo courtesy of Plunkett Foundation.