Group Name: Rural entrepreneurship as a lever for local and regional development
Group Members: Prof. Michael Sofer, Dr. Levia Applebaum, Prof. Irit Amit-Cohen, Dr. Orit Rotem
In recent decades Israel's rural space is undergoing a process of restructuring, from a farming space to a multi-functional space, encompassing a wide range of economic activities, including industry and crafts, personal and business services, tourism and recreation. The non-agricultural activities provide new income sources for rural households - active and non-active farming households, non-farming residents and recent in-migrants. In addition they contribute to rural development by creating new jobs, utilizing redundant resources, providing a variety of services to the local population and tourism and recreational services to incoming visitors. Most of this activity is based on bottom-up initiative, since public support to rural entrepreneurs is limited and government policy actually restricts their ability to develop their businesses wisely.
The main research objectives are:
1. To identify and characterize the rural entrepreneurs by their motivations, types of businesses, business strategies and location in various settlement forms: moshavim, kibbutzim and community settlements and different regions of the country.
2. To identify the mechanisms that support or obstruct rural entrepreneurs in their efforts to integrate into the local economy and realize their development potential. In this context the analysis will focus on the impact of public policies on the one hand and local and external socio-economic networks on the other hand, on the development of rural enterprises;
3. To evaluate the contribution of entrepreneurship on the rural region and communities, distinguishing between centre and periphery;
4. To propose recommendations for policy measures designed to promote rural business enterprises and to prevent their negative effects on the surrounding environment.
The research is based on interviews with officials of 12 regional councils nationwide, including their mayors and other office-holders involved in promoting economic infrastructure within the council, and on a survey of entrepreneurs who are running small and medium size businesses in the various forms of settlements.
The research is funded by a grant from the chief scientist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as part of a wider research project on the socio-economic changes in the rural space of Israel.