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9th RURAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
CONFERENCE: Observations, Themes ,
Implications
David Smallbone
Professor of Small Business and
Entrepreneurship
Small Business Research Centre
Kingston University
IN WHAT SENSE RURAL?
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International papers from Portugal, Poland, Pakistan, India, China,
Mexico, Zimbabwe emphasise the heterogeneity of rural
environments, although in country differences can also be
considerable
In UK, peripheral rural areas are characterised by distance from
major markets; depopulation; infrastructure deficiencies; high
dependence on land-based activities
More central areas typically have higher population density; closer
proximity to markets; less dependency on agriculture; a more
diversified economic base
In developing countries rural areas are typically the poorest
RURAL HETEROGENEITY
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in OECD members urban-rural contrasts do not always show rural areas
to be disadvantaged.
However, key challenges are said to include
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declining employment opportunities in primary industries
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an ageing population
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difficulties in maintaining a critical mass of services
Significant heterogeneity raises question of what constitutes rurality
population density;
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% of population living in rural communities
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size of urban centres (OECD 2005)
CONTEXT
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Growing recognition of role of context in entrepreneurship studies
“tendency to underestimate influence of external factors &
overestimate internal/personal factors when analysing
entrepreneurial behaviour” (Gartner, 1995)
The circumstances, conditions, situations or environments that are
external to the phenomenon under study and enable or constrain it
Context is important for understanding when and how
entrepreneurship happens and who becomes involved
CHANGE AND CONTINUITY IN THE
CONFERENCE
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Broader rural policy perspectives
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marked increase in international papers
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Broad themes: rural communities, enterprise and sustainable
development are fairly consistent, with an increase in the number of
papers on green topics
Tourism and social/community enterprise ever present
Increasing number of agriculture related papers reflecting the
growing recognition of farming as a business and farm
diversification as almost the norm
Substantial growth in papers using case study and qualitative
methods
KEY THEME I – RURAL COMMUNITIES
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Alleviating rural poverty –
 evaluation of a rural welfare scheme in China (Xiaolin Wu et al);
 Diaz-Pichardo et al – from farmers to entrepreneurs (Mexico).
 Masiya et al show that even modest increases in income can
make a difference at the household level
Defining rurality
 Gary Bosworth-uses case study to deconstruct concept of rural
business. Operating in a rural area; serving a rural population.
Argues that policy support should target businesses contributing
to rural society
 Annabela Dinis reviews various definitions-functional, ecological
etc
KEY THEME II– RURAL ENTERPRISE
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Interdependencies within the rural economy (Colette
Henry et al)
Are rural businesses really different from urban firms?Sanders et al show rural firms are similar to urban firms
in website quality. Assessment tool can help managers
focus on key issues-particularly important for rural firms
KEY THEME III – SUSTAINABLE
RURALITY
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Social enterprise & sustainable rural communities
 (Steinerowski) – a critical perspective emphasing contextual
factors
 (Lyon & Munoz) demonstrated contribution of social enterprises
to rural development
 (Jacuniak-Suda) social ent. in the Western Isles
Feasibility of community leadership for rural energy projects concluded that context specific circumstances and factors enabled
successful voluntary leadership
Implementation gap in terms of policy (Galloway et al) Ecotourism
cases in Scotland, Portugal & Greece
RURAL POLICY AT THE CROSSROADS
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Will rural interests be adequately
represented in LEPS?
Who will be responsible for rural proofing?
Who will fund and deliver business
support?
HOW CAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP AFFECT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND
COMPETITIVENESS?
Productive ‘churn’
Enterprising
SME
sector
Competition
Innovation
Employment
growth
Productivity
growth
GDP
growth
OECD PRIORITIES FOR FUTURE RURAL
POLICY IN ENGLAND
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Devolve policy design & offer more flexible funding locally
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Rationalise the number of policy agents
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Look for market solutions, with government adopting a strategic
role
Improve integration of maintreaming and rural proofing
Strengthen rural economy with better joined up policies eg housing,
planning, economy
Expand rural connectvity
RESEARCH-POLICY
INTERFACE
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Policy makers often do not value research, which they
view as ‘academic’ rather than practical
Researchers often fail to communicate their results to
policy makers in an effective and accessible manner,
thereby contributing to the ‘ivory tower’ image which
some policy makers perceive.
In short, a clash of cultures can limit effective dialogue,
even though there may be an ‘a priori’ basis for
developing such communication
POTENTIAL ROLES OF RESEARCH IN
RELATION TO PUBLIC POLICY?
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To contribute to the development of an evidence base for
policy formulation
 Research can assist policy makers to become aware of an issue
& define it for an appropriate policy response to be formulated.
 Evidence at this stage may avoid reinventing the wheel & also
ensure that any locally specific characteristics of the issue are
fully recognised
To contribute to more effective policy implementation,
 where previous experience can provide important lessons
To monitor and evaluate policy
EVIDENCE BASED POLICY
CHALLENGES TO EVIDENCE BASED POLICY (Ian
Drummond, Analytical Unit, BERR)
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BERR has made efforts to build a consultative relationship
with the external research community & improve researcherpolicy maker dialogue
BUT
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Available evidence is often partial
The nature of available evidence may be variable in quality,
reliability, transferability and generalisability (e.g. small
samples; or only investigates a narrow range of relationships)
Ministers often need to produce quick and visible impacts so
policy development can get ahead of the evidence base.
CHALLENGES TO EVIDENCE BASED POLICY (Ian
Drummond, Analytical Unit, BERR)
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There are biases associated with a tendency to
privilege quantitative data; placing over-emphasis
on the positive;
NEVERTHELESS
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He concluded that all policies are based on
evidence (of some sort). The question is more
about the nature of the evidence & the processes
through which the evidence used to set out policy
options are of sufficient quality
FINALLY
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It is difficult to demonstrate direct links between
research and policy
Independent and critical research evidence is not
always welcomed by policy makers, who
sometimes hide behind:
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a lack of evidence of policy effects
a lack of transparency in the policy process,
which is not as logical as some academic often
ssume