Welcome to the ViSEnet Online Learning Resources
The Village Social Enterprise Network (ViSEnet) is an Erasmus+ project which aims to promote social enterprise in rural areas through learning materials, guidance, and networking.
Social Enterprise in rural Europe
Across many countries, rural areas face similar challenges, such as diminishing local services, economic and employment issues, and demographic changes – with an increasing older population and out-migration of young people. Social enterprise is a tool which can assist rural communities to address these challenges and ensure sustainability.
Social and community enterprise examples from across rural Europe demonstrate a wealth of local potential, knowledge and skill for sustaining services and enhancing community life. However much of the learning resources, guidance and networking for social enterprise and community development have evolved from an urban perspective.
Who are these resources aimed at?
The learning materials address the need to have learning materials, tools and networking opportunities which are designed for the rural context. They are free, online, and open-access.
These resources are aimed at individuals who are interested in developing and sustaining their rural communities, who are willing to consider socially enterprising solutions or who already have an idea for social enterprise.
The materials can also benefit individuals already engaged in social enterprise activity who wish to gain new skills, knowledge and expertise to assist them in their venture.
ViSEnet Learning Materials
Module 1 – Community Involvement
To help you in the beginning stages of starting a community or social enterprise, this module offers clear guidance, helpful templates and activities for each topic.
There are 6 chapters, which cover:
Module 2 – Networking & Partnerships
Offers practical guidance to explain the benefits of networking and collaborations for social enterprises in the rural context.
There are five chapters, which cover:
Module 3 – Social Enterprise Solutions
Describes social impact as a foundation for your social enterprise, with practical guidance to enable you to plan, deliver and sustain your activities, and measure the impact of your social enterprise.
There are nine chapters, which cover:
Defining Your Community
Being able to define and describe the key characteristics of your community will allow you to understand the dynamics of your community, and to track changes over time.
Defining Your Community will:
- Explain how to define your community, using geography and household demographics.
- Highlight and point to successful case studies you can learn from.
Community engagement is essential to create local support and ownership of your idea.
Community Engagement will:
- Describe community engagement methods and techniques, and how to use them.
- Showcase case studies which display effective community engagement.
- Highlight the importance of inclusive engagement, which gives everyone the opportunity to participate.
Needs and Opportunities
Communities often come together to address specific needs and opportunities that arise.
Needs and Opportunities will:
- Explain how to collectively identify needs and opportunities.
- Consider options for enterprising solutions.
- Demonstrate how to gather community feedback through surveys methods and focus groups.
Prioritising and Action Planning
A community or project plan is a bridge between your community as it is today, and your vision for the future.
- Demonstrate how to collect and prioritise community needs and aspirations.
- Explain how to write an action plan, which can form the basis for decision making and actions.
- Demonstrate how participatory budgeting uses priorities to inform decision making, and provides a toolkit for you to use.
Unlocking Assets for Your Community
Assets can be tangible assets like land, finances, or buildings, or human assets like skills, expertise, or diversity.
- Highlight the range of assets in the rural context, from village halls or renewable energy sources, to experience in land management.
- Give group activities for how to identify your assets, with tips for overcoming communication barriers or shyness.
- Use an enterprise assessment tool to assess how your assets could develop into a social enterprise approach.
Any action you take forward will likely impact your community. You should consider people locally who have an interest in your activity, and how they might help or hinder your plans.
Stakeholder Engagement will:
- How to identify and engage with potential stakeholders, using a group or indidivual approach.
- Explain how to understand the potential motivations, support, or conflict that may arise with stakeholders identified.
- Showcase good practice case studies.
Social Enterprise Networking
Social enterprise networks create a collective voice for many small organisations, and provide opportunities for peer support and learning.
Social Enterprise Networking will:
- Signpost to existing local and international networks you can join.
- Explain how networking events work, and how to participate.
- Demonstrate how to build a contact list.
How to Organise Networking Activities
Hosting a network event can promote your enterprise and lead to improved visibility and connections, building relationships with key contacts.
How to Organise Networking Activities will:
- Explain the different types of networking activity and their uses.
- How to plan and promote your event.
- Choosing who to invite and how to reach them.
- Explains how to follow-up after an event and why it is useful.
Guidance for Digital Networking
Digital networking enables you to reach a wide audience and engage with the wider community, individuals, organisations and customers – both locally and further afield.
Guidance for Digital Networking will:
- Explain how to improve your digital networking skills.
- Explain how to use videoconferencing.
- Give an overview of the main social networking platforms.
- A how-to guide for creating blogs and vlogs to engage your audience.
- Remind you of the importance of accessibility, and the need to still have written and in-person communications.
Social Enterprise Learning Exchanges
A learning exchange is an opportunity for people to visit other communities and learn through the exchange of ideas and common solutions.
Social Enterprise Learning Exchanges will:
- Explain the benefits of learning exchanges or study visits for rural communities.
- Demonstrate how a learning exchange works, and what is expected from the host/visiting partner.
- How to plan and get the most from a learning exchange visit.
- Show case studies from Scotland, Estonia and Romania.
Partnership working is when two or more groups come together to achieve a common purpose.
Partnership Working will:
- Explain the benefits of partnership working, and why this approach works well in the rural context.
- Explain some of the barriers to effective partnerships, and what to look out for.
- How to identify potential partners.
- Partnerships for project or contract delivery.
- Case studies of good partnerships
Introduction to Social Enterprise
Social enterprise is simply a business approach with a strong social goal, where profits are reinvested back into the local community.
- Explain the basics of social enterprise, including how it can work in the rural context.
- Highlight the features of rural communities which help social enterprise to thrive.
A social enterprise must be able to communicate the impact it wants to make.
What is the impact you want to make will:
- Enable you to identify the potential for delivering impact from your enterprise idea.
- Help you to define your aims and objectives.
How to Measure Social Impact will:
- Explain how to measure your social impact.
- How to select impact measurement indicators.
- Highlight useful tools for impact measurement.
Understanding your market
Customer and market analysis helps you to assess how your product or service will be received.
Understanding Your Market and Competitors will:
- Highlight rural social enterprise as a response to market failure.
- How to conduct analysis for your indsutry, external market, competitors, and stakeholders – using interactive tools.
Customer Analysis will:
- Explain how to do market research, and use information gathered to inform products and services.
- How to understand your customers.
- Demonstrate how to do market segmentation.
Rural social enterprise often favours the equal distribution of power throughout the community.
Collective Leadership will:
- Explain how collective leadership works, and how it differs from traditional top-down approaches.
- Activities to help your group identify collective skills and talents.
- How to collectively delegate tasks, activities, and responsiblities.
- How to reach a consensus, and monitor collective decision making.
Governance is the systems and processes which direct the overall direction, supervision, and accountability of an organisation.
Good Governance will:
- Explain organisational structure, including who should be on the governing body or board.
- The importance of having a diverse board.
- Explain what measures should be in place to ensure accountability.
- Board and committee responsibilities.
Who Will Be Involved
Rural social enterprises opften rely on support from local people.
Who Will Be Involved will:
- Explain the role of the board or committee
- Outline the specific roles of each board member
- How to conduct a skills audit for your board
- How to attract and retain skilled staff
- How to attract and support volunteers
Succession planning ensures that a business can continue to operate without the presence of people holding key positions.
Succession Planning will:
- Explain the importance of proper future proofing for rural organisations.
- Overview of the succession planning process, and how to create a strategy for your social enterprise.
- Highlights common barriers to succession planning.
How Will the Financials Work will:
- Give an overview of set-up costs and how to build a financial plan.
- Explain how financial management works, using friendly language.
- Gives templates for cash flow, balance sheet, profit and loss account.
Securing Investment will:
- Highlight different sources of funding that social enterprises can access.
- Give funding sources for SMEs in Scotland, Finland, Romania, and Estonia.
Business Planning and Activity
Business Planning will:
- Give a comprehensive guide and outline to enable you to develop your own business plan.
- Refer to existing sections including finance, impact, and leadership.
Business Activity will:
- Explain how to outline your products and services clearly.
- Demonstrate why you should consider the practical aspects of operations and delivery.
- Give an overview on suppliers, legal requirements, and risk management.