The project explores the role of political institutions in the development of social entrepreneurship in weak rural areas and ipso facto the very development of the areas. The present research approaches the situation of structurally weak rural regions as a matter of political support and policy measures. It essentially seeks to investigate the interactions, the potentialities and the conflicts of interest around the development of social enterprises and rural areas, inside a political framework that appears threefold: European, national, regional.
The aim of this project is to investigate social economy as a socio-political occurrence in four selected European NUTS 3 regions: Baixo Alentejo (Portugal), Mühlviertel (Austria), Pthiotis (Greece) and Mid-West (Ireland). By adopting a sociological institutionalism lens, the research tries to address two main research questions: a) Is the ‘logic of appropriateness’ inside the political institutions a valid assumption, which renders institutional change difficult and hinders the development of the social economy sector? b) Is there an ‘institutional isomorphism’ between the different regions, that would indicate the possibilities of common conceptualisations and common policy measures around European states? The first research question is addressed at an inter-regional level, by conducting a cross regional analysis. The second research question is addressed at an intra-regional level, by conducting a cross-political analysis.
A survey will be conducted in the four selected RurAction regions. The interviewees will be policy makers and public officials from the regional, national and EU level. A research design and methodology was developed, drawing from the sociological institutionalism literature. Document analyses and mixed methods interviews will be combined at both inter-regional and intra-regional levels.