Social Enterprises in Rural Areas: A Comparative Study of the Baltic States

Social Enterprises in Rural Areas: A Comparative Study of the Baltic States

The idea behind the «One day, one team, one chapter…» series is to present the four books published in the framework of the ICSEM Project and the Empower-SE Action, Social Enterprise in Asia, Social Enterprise in Latin America, Social Enterprise in Western Europe and Social Enterprise in Central and Eastern Europe, and to introduce the so many incredible people who took part in the crazy “ICSEM adventure”!

Similar historical contexts and challenges, different solutions

The chapter reveals the evolution of rural social enterprises in the Baltic States by highlighting the factors that influence their development and the interplay among their different stakeholders.

In all three Baltic countries, many rural social enterprises emerge from the NGO/NPO sector. They provide public-benefit services, satisfy general public needs, and their operations cover local community interests. These social enterprises rely on a mix of various types of resources and use their market-oriented activities to complement their existing resources.

The chapter addresses the processes and factors that facilitate or hinder the development of rural social enterprises, financial and policy challenges and barriers encountered, and ways in which social enterprises overcome them. While the three countries faced similar historical contexts and challenges, the solutions implemented to support the development of social enterprises differed. Overall, the concept of social enterprise is still poorly understood in the region.

The chapter also highlights the importance of collaboration with a variety of stakeholders and clients (governmental institutions and municipalities, conventional enterprises, local community, associations, social enterprise networks and business incubators, education institutions) as an essential driver for social enterprises and especially for rural social enterprises to succeed in their mission.

The authors: Roger, Mervi, Lāsma, Eglė, Philipp, Audronė and Agota

EMES member Lāsma Līcīte-Ķurbe is an associate professor and leading researcher at Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (Latvia), where she has delivered a study course in social entrepreneurship for more than 10 years. She is the author of several publications on social entrepreneurship. Lāsma has presented research papers on social entrepreneurship at various international scientific conferences as well as delivered lectures in Estonia, Turkey, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Poland, Ukraine, etc., including an intensive international BOVA course titled “Exploring Social Entrepreneurship in the Baltic States”. In 2014, she defended her doctoral dissertation, “Social Entrepreneurship Development Opportunities in Latvia”, which was subsequently published as a book under the same title.


EMES member Eglė Butkevičienė holds a PhD in Sociology. She is a full Professor and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania). She is also a visiting professor at University of Central Florida (UCF, US). She gives lectures and conducts research on social entrepreneurship, civil society issues, civic participation, social innovations, citizen science.


EMES member Philipp Erpf is co-director and a senior researcher at the Institute for Research on Management of Associations, Foundations and Cooperatives (VMI) at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). He holds a PhD in the field of social entrepreneurship. His research examines social enterprises and social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial orientation in non-profit organisations as well as social innovation.



EMES member Audronė Urmanavičienė holds a PhD in management science. She is a social entrepreneurship lecturer at the School of Governance, Law and Society, Tallinn University (Estonia). Her PhD thesis (2019) was on social impact assessment of work integration social enterprises in the Baltic states. Her research interests include social enterprise, social impact and social-impact assessment.



Roger Evans, PhD, is a Senior Specialist at the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ, Estonia) working in project development, education and training for communities and small enterprises in rural areas, and the development of vocational education and qualifications, with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship, rural community development, microbusiness development, rural tourism, craft and local food production, rural community and rural development education, training and curriculum development. He is also a Visiting Professor in entrepreneurship at Nürtingen Geislingen University (Germany). He established his own training and development company in Estonia and has undertaken training and business development work throughout the EU. He has worked as a community development specialist on many international projects supporting the development of community rural business and tourism initiatives, SME networking and cluster development as well as village community and social enterprise creation.


Mervi Raudsaar, PhD, is Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Tartu (Estonia) and Head of the Chair of Entrepreneurship. She teaches and researches entrepreneurship and has developed special courses on social entrepreneurship, creative industries and entrepreneurship for educational studies. She has been one of the key trainers and mentors in several projects. She works in close cooperation with social enterprises and their umbrella organisations. She has worked as an expert for local and international institutions (such as the OECD) and serves as an expert in social entrepreneurship at ICF S.A., a leading public policy research consultancy. She is a member of the research team of Nordic NoE: Social Entrepreneurship Network. She is also a member of the EMPOWER-SE network.


Agota Giedrė Raišienė is a professor of management and administration at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania). She focuses on several closely related areas—leadership, human resource management, and organisational communication—to find out how people in organisations should and can function so that their joint activities are both beneficial and deeply meaningful to them, the organisation, and society.


Visit the Routledge website to get information about the four ICSEM books as well as the full Social Enterprise and Social Innovation series. You can also contact these national researchers to learn more about their work or download the ICSEM Project’s flyer here.

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