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Social enterprise as a driver for sustainable rural economies? An analysis of recent trends and implications for policy and practice

Funded by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE)

This project explores the contribution and potential of social enterprises and other purposeful businesses as pathways to strengthening rural economies and tackling the challenges faced by communities. Previous research shows that social enterprises have considerable potential to help rural economies respond to the challenges of greening the economy, Covid-19 recovery, Brexit, and community health and wellbeing needs. The project therefore responds to a core NICRE theme – how to make rural economies more resilient, as well as potentially more engaged, smart and productive. To this end, the project will draw on existing data sources and key informant interviews to:

  1. Identify the various types of SEs found in rural areas across the UK, taking into account their diverse forms.
  2. Longitudinally assess rural SEs in terms of: their performance as businesses; how they contribute to rural communities; their ambitions, strategies, innovation activity and collaborations; the challenges they face and their support needs.
  3. Provide new evidence which can inform policy and practice, thereby supporting the scaling of SEs and their influence on other enterprises in ways that have potential to provide multiple economic, social and environmental benefits to rural communities.

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