The RurAction Autumn Skills Seminar on “Managing Social Enterprises” was held from the 6th to the 8th of September 2019. The event was jointly organized by Dr. Mary O’Shaughnessy, University College Cork (UCC), and our Ballyhoura Development CLG partners and held at the University College Cork in Ireland. The attending ESRs, academics and social entrepreneurs stimulated presentations and discussions around the topics of social entrepreneurship and rural development. The seminar started with the ESRs presenting their progress and their current state of research. For an international and multicultural group of PhD candidates, the informative and in-depth presentation of Dr. Mary O’Shaughnessy on ‘Writing in Academic English’ was a very fruitful moment as the ESRs are now in the process of article submissions and thesis writing.
The participation of social entrepreneurs from Social Impact (Germany) and ADC Moura (Portugal) further enriched the event. More specifically, Norbert Kunz and Florian Birk from Social Impact facilitated two presentations titled as “Managing social enterprises” and “Social Impact Finance – Challenges and opportunities for social entrepreneurs”. The Social Impact partners stressed the challenges of managing and financing a social enterprise. A highlight of those presentations was a role game, in which two fictional sub-groups of social entrepreneurs and potential funding associations had to negotiate and reach an agreement for funding a project. Through this role game the non-practitioner participants got a small taste of the difficulties of being a social entrepreneur.
The seminar was concluded with a fieldtrip to the Ballyhoura region, where we visited different organisations and traced the impact of the Ballyhoura Development activities. We started our trip with a visit to the Kilbehenny Community Centre, which was built in the mid 1970s and has the main objective of improving the quality of life for the locals and for those living in the surrounding areas. In 2009 the Community Centre worked together with Ballyhoura Development in order to raise funding through the LEADER program for renovation. We then visited the workplace of Ballyhoura Development CLG, where we had the chance to discuss with the staff members of Ballyhoura the history of the organisation, as well as today’s actions and challenges. Last but not least we attended CareBright, i.e. a social enterprise which provides homecare for elderly in the community of Munster for over 20 years.
During our field trip in the Ballyhoura region the embeddedness to and the importance of social entrepreneurship for the remote rural areas became apparent. As the relative literature on social entrepreneurship demonstrates, theoretical conceptualizations of social entrepreneurship are inextricably related to specific applications in the local context. The recent autumn skills seminar benefited from the successful engagement to both dimensions. A great appreciation for all the work that was done by Dr. Mary O’Shaughnessy (UCC) as well as Pádraig Casey and Catherine Smyth from Ballyhoura Development. Finally, a big thanks to Mara and Lucas for facilitating the event and creating such a welcome and creative atmosphere.
Photo credit: RurAction’s members at the Kilbehenny Community Centre, with members of the centre. Photo by Marie-Julie Jacquemot