Rural Entrepreneurship Ecosystems: REFLECT
While the literature on entrepreneurial ecosystems has grown significantly in the past decade, current theoretical frameworks and normative models are insufficient to observe, explain, and inform policies at the communal level in rural or peripheral regions.
Tackling this issue, the research team conducted four large studies. The first and main study was conducted in 17 rural communities in Chile, which included 120 interviews to local entrepreneurs, civil society and public officials. In this research, Prof Munoz and colleagues identify distinct conditions through which entrepreneurship flourishes in rural contexts. They propose an integrated framework comprising four determinations and twelve enabling dimensions characterising a multi-layered rural entrepreneurial place. The framework is called REFLECT: Rural Entrepreneurship Framework for Localised Economic and Communal Thriving. REFLECT allows for observing and analysing the structure and dynamics within such places and sets the basis for further developments including indicators and proxies for measurement and assessment. Further research by Prof Munoz investigates emergence process of rural entrepreneurial ecosystems, characterised, in the absence of resources, by the repurposing of cultural, material and social attributes of such places. A third published study looked at the recovery process of 50 rural entrepreneurs after a volcano eruption in Chile, and the enactment of entrepreneurial preparedness when under continuous threat of external shocks. Moreover, research conducted in Kenya, explores changes in entrepreneurial life circumstances of farming entrepreneurs and how such changes form expectation of prosperity and a better tomorrow for their children. Combined, these findings challenge the adequateness of current views of entrepreneurship in rural areas and resource-constrained contexts. They offer a new understanding of the complex nature and inter-complementarities of the factors associated with such contexts and the role entrepreneurship can actually play as a way of overcoming challenging circumstances. At the same time, they set the basis for the development of a new set of place-sensitive policy instruments that take into account the cultural, social and material richness of rural areas.
Corfo’s Networks and Territorial Development Office (Chile’s Development and Production Agency) is running a new programme called Acelera Chile, which seeks to promote entrepreneurship in rural areas with the aims of increasing the productivity in rural business, giving business access to new markets, strengthening local value chains and fostering positive social externalities. The underpinning research and frameworks developed by Prof Munoz are currently being translated and operationalized, with the aim of setting the basis for the development of this particular support mechanism and derived localised programmes.
Moreover, The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture’s Development and Planning Office has expressed interest in working with this framework to inform development policy and promote of entrepreneurship in rural areas. Aligned with Corfo’s Acelera Programme, the strategy seeks to improve the quality of life and increase the opportunities for people living in rural areas. Policy agents have recognized that the research conducted will be of great use for evaluation and decision-making since it enables a more fine-grained understanding of the functioning of a contextualised entrepreneurial space that is sensitive to the dynamics of rural areas. This resonates with the new strategy that seeks to advance a new paradigm of rural development in the country, which involves a new understanding of rurality which should be valued as a space of opportunities.
Additional, concrete support programmes are in development and planned to reach rural entrepreneurs in the summer of 2019.