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Robyn Eversole and Mary Duniam

An emerging research agenda on social enterprises in rural areas suggests social enterprises can mobilise place-based resources creatively to fill gaps and generate social and economic outcomes. This chapter explores what we know about social enterprises as rural development actors and how they relate to other actors such as local councils. Recent research conducted in the island state of Tasmania, Australia has documented that that both social enterprises and local councils saw themselves as playing an important role in local community development. Nevertheless, their ways of working with rural communities were markedly different. Further, neither social enterprises or local councils had a strong understanding of social enterprise as a concept, and so tended to interact within traditional council – community roles. This chapter highlights the potential of social enterprises as rural development actors and raises larger questions about how local social enterprises work with other actors in and beyond rural communities.

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Mary Duniam and Robyn Eversole

Duniam and Eversole explore in Chapter 14 the juxtaposition between community modes of governance and formal institutions of government with reference to recent empirical research in the Australian state of Tasmania. Past research has suggested that community modes of governance are regularly deployed to fill service gaps in rural Australian communities. Local people take informal joint action across organizational boundaries to fill gaps left by more formal government systems. These ‘community’ modes of governance mobilize local knowledge and relationships in creative ways, yet they are often overlooked when government organizations attempt to engage with rural communities. Their chapter demonstrates how rural people use social enterprises to mobilize local resources for problem-solving – including resources from local government – filling gaps that formal systems miss. Duniam and Eversole argue that social enterprises, as ‘hybrid’ organizations, represent a strategy for navigating the tensions between community and bureaucratic modes of governance at the local level.

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Robyn Eversole, Naomi Birdthistle, Megerssa Walo and Vinita Godinho

Women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial populations, contributing to the world economy through a significant share of employment generation and economic growth. Yet Australian women have significantly lower entrepreneurial participation rates and growth ambitions than men. This chapter uses the lens of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to understand and map the supports available for enterprising women in two Australian regions: rural North West Tasmania and urban Melbourne. The authors find gaps in the current ecosystems supporting women entrepreneurs, regarding the extent to which supports are available, accessible, and/or appropriate for women. In each context, these gaps compromise the ability of women entrepreneurs to realize their full potential to develop high-growth businesses. These findings contribute to the emerging literature on women’s entrepreneurship by providing a grounded understanding of the components of support ecosystems and how they vary across local contexts. The chapter recommends adopting a place-based, gender-sensitive approach to business supports to address gaps such as access to finance for women entrepreneurs.