An EU Conference has this week recognised the important contribution of community-led local development and social enterprises activity across the Ballyhoura area. 

Over the past three years, the European Research Network RurAction investigated several aspects of social innovation and social entrepreneurship within rural areas throughout Europe. This week, a two-day international academic conference and an international policy round table demonstrated the results of the research. Local community-led social enterprises in Bruff, Croom and Mitchelstown were highlighted by the researchers as showing what and how communities can achieve when coming together to tackle local challenges using innovative solutions.

The image of rural villages that lose their shops, post-offices and other essential services is one that was recognised by many across Europe. The conference highlighted that while rural areas are often equated with the decline and slow rates of change, at the same time, in many rural places, people have become active to established community-led responses to local needs. The Carebright Community in Bruff, Mitchelstown Leisure Centre and Croom Civic Centre were included in the research, each demonstrating their incredible contribution to the community and economic life of the community. 

The Conference and research found that social innovation was found to be an important way in which development in rural areas takes place. Social innovations are new ways of working and new relationships that are built which provide a solution to social problems. By focussing on creating local, collaborative relations between individuals, organisations and authorities, social innovation can contribute to solutions to the challenges rural areas are presented with. Community-run village shops, community childcare services and rural transportation services are all examples of social innovations found in rural areas.

Social enterprises are important partners in creating these solutions across the Ballyhoura area. These local organisations combine social, economic and sometimes environmental goals in one organisation. They are not aimed at creating profit for their shareholders but use their profit to reinvest in their social activities.

The EU level research shows that social innovation is an important element of sustainable rural development and that rural social enterprises play an important role in providing essential services in rural areas. At the same time, recognises that long-term, place-specific and flexible support structures are needed to make sure that rural social enterprises can make a meaningful contribution to rural areas. These organisations can not realise this by themselves but need help from among other enterprise offices, local development companies and regional and national authorities in order to realize their full potential.


RurAction is a European Union-funded Horzion2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie innovative training network (ITN), in which 10 PhD-researchers and 5 social enterprises have collaborated.

In Ireland, Cork University Business School (CUBS), UCC and Ballyhoura Development CLG (BD) have been active participants in this network.

The 2020 Conference is the culmination of three years of ongoing research on social enterprise and social innovation in peripheral areas of Europe.