20 July 2020, Tomasz Kusio

On the 25th of June 2020 at the Cracow University of Economics the inaugural on-line meeting of the Rural Council of the Małopolska Region took place, established as part of the international project ARDENT – Advancing Rural Development through Entrepreneurship Education for Adults, implemented under the European Union’s ERASMUS+ Programme.

The participants represented various stakeholder groups involved in the socio-economic development of rural areas in the Małopolska region, such as rural residents, rural businesses, public administration, NGOs, local leaders, business councils, and researchers from other Higher Education Institutions. There were 21 participants among whom 5 people were CUE project team members. The meeting was also honored by the participation and welcome words by CUE Rector-Elect, Professor Stanislaw Mazur. This shows support of CUE authorities when the projects supporting entrepreneurship are implemented. In opening the meeting, he expressed his conviction that coping in a very complicated and turbulent environment without building local structures that integrate different resources and involve different partners is extremely difficult and such initiatives create the necessary basis for the development of entrepreneurship. They are also a manifestation of the realization by the Cracow University of Economics of its mission.

During the meeting the RC constitution has been officially confirmed and activities considered as started. President and Vice-President of the RC have been elected. Then the ARDENT project implementation and the principles of functioning of the Rural Council with the proposed scope of activities of its members were discussed, as well as the problems and barriers faced by the inhabitants of rural areas of Małopolskie region.

The subject matter of the discussion was based on the following discussion blocks:

• motivation of the Rural Council members to undertake cooperation and their expectations related to the project implementation and cooperation with the Cracow University of Economics;
• objectives, functions and activities which could be implemented by individual members of the Rural Council;
• further actions to be taken in order to extend the cooperation network;
• cooperation formulas.

In turn, the following conclusions have emerged from the opinions of the Council members:

• achievement of project objectives may be hampered by the potentially low interest of the rural environment in the project offer. This is why it is important to create a tailor-made education and support offer, for potential project beneficiaries,
• the scope of interests of the Rural Council should include the identification of problems resulting from the lack or inadequacy of legal solutions and the presentation of recommendations for changes in this area,
• for the effective implementation of the project and to ensure greater scale of its impact, the cluster initiatives would be recommended,
• the priorities for the development of entrepreneurship in rural areas of the region should be support for: 
• digitization of business activities (solutions for running a business with the use of digital tools, at a distance);
• organic farming;
• rural tourism;
• commercialization of the offer of social economy organizations.

In the opinion of meeting participants, the idea of establishing the Rural Council of the Małopolska Region is very valuable. An initiative which integrates various actors operating in rural areas, can have a real impact on desired changes. It may result not only in an effective implementation of the ARDENT project, but also in the creation of a platform to share knowledge and experience, giving the opportunity to implement good entrepreneurship practices in the whole Małopolska region.