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Project information

Project team

Thilo Lang, Sunna Kovanen


Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Germany; Adam-Mickiewicz-University, Poland; Roskilde University, Denmark; University College Cork, Ireland; Ballyhoura Development, Ireland; University of The Aegean, Greece; Otelo eGen, Austria; University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal

Duration of project

12/2016 – 12/2020

Funded by

European Union, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions

Further information

Dr Thilo Lang
Tel.: +49 341 600 55-159

Project website

Social entrepreneurship in structurally weak rural areas: innovative troubleshooters in action (RurAction)

Marie Curie research and training network

Rural-peripheral regions, in comparison to urban areas, are commonly characterized by limited economic productivity and service provision. In addition, the lack of educational opportunities and qualified workplaces drives increasing amount of young people to cities. Thus, rural regions have even less chances to overcome their structural challenges. Simultaneously, however, many organisations, social movements and citizens question the phenomenon and set up social economic alternatives in the countryside. Some of these alternatives, which aim at solving social and ecological problems with entrepreneurial strategy, may be researched as social enterprises.

The project RurAction brings together researchers and practitioners working with social entrepreneurship in order to facilitate exchange between the respective fields. As a member of the international project consortium, Ifl has the responsibility for providing an integrated training program for the doctorate students in the project.

Sunna Kovanen engages in her sub-project in the collaborative practises of established rural social enterprises. The comparative international case study explores cases from Uckermark (Brandenburg) and Baixo Alentejo (Portugal), and observes, how scale, as well as collaborative and economic networks influence one another in social entrepreneurship. Performing social enterprises as collective processes broadens the typical image of entrepreneurship as an individual venture. The research questions are:

  • Who are participating in the daily work of social enterprises?
  • How do social networks within and beyond the immediate locality influence on the long-term sustainability of the enterprise?
  • Under which conditions do the entrepreneurs succeed in combining different economic, social and collective needs of the participants and how are conflicts solved?


A virtual photo exhibition has been published within the Marie Curie ITN project and Network RurAction. The exhibition presents challenges of rural development as well as impressions and solutions from socially innovative initiatives in three case study areas of the project, based on the team´s ongoing research: Alentejo in Portugal, Phthiotis in Greece and Ballyhoura in Ireland The main visual narrative is accompanied with short excerpts and images based on the work of the early-stage researchers, one of whom is based in Ifl.

Visit the online exhibition