ESR-project 4

Mara van Twuijver

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Business Studies and a master’s degree in Strategic Management, both from Tilburg University in the Netherlands. After graduating from university, I successfully gained a place on the multi-company development programme run by ORMIT, a specialist in traineeship. In this graduate programme, I completed assignments for three different companies in the Netherlands while receiving training and coaching through ORMIT. A very rich experience at the start of my career. After finishing the programme, I realised that my love for research was not met in any of the organisations I had worked in so far.

My search for a combination of research and practice led me to the Dutch institute for applied scientific research (TNO). Here, I conducted (applied) scientific research and consulting assignments for both governmental and private organisations. Together with my colleagues, I worked on developing, testing and implementing scientific based interventions aimed at an inclusive labour market and sustainable regional development. It was here that my interest in regional development and social entrepreneurship grew. So when the opportunity came by to conduct PhD research on this topic I did not hesitate to grab it. My wish to be able to dedicate more time to this topic and simultaneously develop my research skills further are completely met by the position of an early stage researcher in the RurAction consortium.

My research project
Work package 2: On a mission for the region. How social entrepreneurial actors tackle problems in structurally weak rural regions

Social entrepreneurial actors as troubleshooters in rural regions

Rural communities continuously need to find ways to maintain themselves in a turbulent world. Processes such as globalisation affect both their economic and social welfare. It is acknowledged that in order to address problems that arise because of this, local responses need to be sought. To realise such a local response, local resources and local needs must be matched effectively. Both scholars and policymakers look at social entrepreneurs to play a part in this. Even though it is acknowledged that social entrepreneurs can create both economic and social value in rural areas, our evidence base on how they achieve this is limited.

The main aim of my thesis will therefore be to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the way in which social entrepreneurs construct and conduct problem solving activities within rural areas. In this, the multi-level relationship between social entrepreneurs and their environment will be taken into account. The main research question of my thesis is therefore: How do social entrepreneurs construct problem solving activities in rural communities? In answering this question, I will look at the way in which social entrepreneurs decide which problem-solving activities to undertake, which dilemma’s they come upon in doing so and how they aim to solve these dilemmas. Furthermore, I will look at the role the local context plays in these aforementioned processes. I will investigate this through a qualitative, comparative case study design. Data will be collected by means of interviews based on narrative and critical incident principles, participant observation and document analyses.

During this project, I am employed by Ballyhoura Development LCG, a local development company in the Ballyhoura region in Ireland. I conduct my PhD through the Cork University Business School at University College Cork. If you would like further information on my research project, please feel free to get in touch via

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