The influence of wicked problems on community-based entrepreneurship in rural Sweden
Abstract: Entrepreneurship research has, since the 1930’s, mainly focused on so-called traditional entrepreneurship and studies have to a large part discussed management processes. During the past 40 years social entrepreneurship research and research into community-based entrepreneurship and practice has emerged, as a response to changes in society due to global, regional and local events that affect local development. Such changes often affect rural areas severely, for instance depopulation, which often leads to a decrease in small business development, a decrease in social services such as healthcare, schools, banks and road maintenance, and a decrease in local and regional economic health. These structural changes are usually due to political decisions taken at a governmental level, which trickle down through society and affect local economic development and, indirectly, small business development. Local enthusiasts, business associations and in particular entrepreneurs often try to meet these structural changes through community-based entrepreneurship, which involves processes through which new businesses are created and can operate within the existing social structure of the local community. However, the practical problem is that there are factors influencing communitybased entrepreneurship and hence the establishment of small businesses and local development, such as wicked problems, which in the rural context in this thesis refers to structural changes and complex relations. The theoretical and practical research gap is found in that there is a lack of studies exploring how wicked problems influence community-based entrepreneurship in rural contexts. Complex relations can be found in the three pillars of institutions based on regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive elements, where the same person can have many different roles, hence influencing local rural development. For this thesis, the theories of community-based entrepreneurship, state-society synergy, and small business development have been used to explore how wicked problems (structural changes and complex relations) influence community-based entrepreneurship in rural Sweden. Two literature studies were made on social entrepreneurship and community-based entrepreneurship, followed by three case-studies. The context of the first case-study was rural areas in the county of Jämtland and is based on results from the findings in the cross-disciplinary project on societal entrepreneurship in sparsely populated areas (SESPA). The context of the second case-study is the municipalities of Berg, Krokom and Östersund in the county of Jämtland, where a total of 23 interviews were conducted with farm owners, participants in the service social farming and municipal officials and politicians. The context of the third casestudy is the municipality of Sorsele in the county of Västerbotten and the municipality of Berg in the county of Jämtland, which are both situated in rural areas, where a total of 39 interviews were conducted with owners of small businesses, municipal officials and politicians. Results show that the development of community-based entrepreneurship research has furthered the possibilities to better understand the processes of entrepreneurship in local rural contexts. Furthermore, results indicate that the complex relations influencing communitybased entrepreneurship that appear in this thesis call for caution. The structural changes that are interrelated with community-based entrepreneurship are, in spite of facilitating increased interest, not necessarily positive for local rural development. It was also seen that the rural context studied is a semi-stable institution, indicating that local rural development, and thereby small business development, is incoherent. If a municipality and the owners of small businesses are well in tune with the regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive elements in their rural context, have an understanding of what wicked problems are, and if they are properly understood and dealt with, then there is a chance that, although experiencing a semistable institution, local rural development can be attained. The theoretical contributions of this thesis pertain to entrepreneurship in rural contexts, community-based entrepreneurship, and wicked problems. This thesis concludes that wicked problems, in the shape of structural changes and complex relations, are present in the rural contexts studied. These wicked problems influence communitybased entrepreneurship by being disruptive factors, affecting policy creation and implementation by the municipality. A flow-chart model has been created in order to show how wicked problems influence community-based entrepreneurship and hence local rural development.
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