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Resourcefulness of locally-oriented social enterprises: Implications for rural community development

Entrepreneurial theories of resourcefulness consider the ways in which organisations generate value in resource-constrained environments. While rural communities often face resource constraints, few studies of rural social enterprise have considered the resourcefulness practices of these organisations in detail, or the ways in which these practices in turn inform community development activities of social enterprises. The small but growing body of literature about rural social enterprise has also rarely offered comparative insights of rural and urban experience. This paper examines the resourcefulness practices of small to medium rural and urban social enterprises and their effects on community development. Based on a comparative case study of 11 social enterprises in Australia, we find that rural social enterprises make relatively greater use of the financial and physical assets accessed through networks within their communities, while urban social enterprises make greater use of assets available through corporate relationships and structured philanthropy. Similar to other studies, we find that networks play a particularly significant role in accessing and leveraging resources; however, our findings identify types of network use that have not been previously identified in the resourcefulness literature. The study also finds that organisational resourcefulness is extended outward to a focus on resourcing communities by social enterprises, playing out in different ways in rural and urban contexts. Our research extends thinking about the resourcefulness of rural social enterprise and its role as a community development actor.

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  • Community development
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