On the 19th of October 2020, the S2BMRC organised a rural consultation workshop in Hafenkäserei, Münster. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the economic and societal challenges of Münsterland, especially under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and identify opportunities to reboot and revitalise rural entrepreneurship. The workshop was organised in the context of a larger European project “Advancing Rural Development through Entrepreneurship Education for Adults” (ARDENT) co-financed by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union in which the FH Münster is the project lead.
Rural entrepreneurs are essential contributors to economic growth, regional development, and social well-being. Successful start-ups like Münsterlander Bauernbox or Güllemarkt24 are living proofs that there is entrepreneurship potential in Münsterland and that rural entrepreneurship should be further encouraged. The development of rural entrepreneurship is vital since in recent years rural areas have faced various challenges, such as a higher percentage of rural unemployment or the population increasingly migrating to urban areas. Furthermore, the Coronavirus outbreak led to new challenges, making it more difficult for entrepreneurs to survive in the uncertain and ambiguous world of today. With this in mind, the S2BMRC took initiative and engaged with the local community in a workshop to discuss pressing issues within Münsterland.
The workshop “MÜNSTERLAND and regional development during COVID-19” took place following the state-wide imposed restrictions in the café ‘Hafenkäserei Münster’, a charming location with a great panorama over the Münster harbour. Here, representatives from our associated partners, such as TAFH Münster, and HEI representatives, entrepreneurs and regional experts for business development were invited. Residents from the Münsterland area also joined the workshop, bringing valuable contributions from end-to-use and target group perspectives.
The event started with a brief introduction from Prof. Dr Thorsten Kliewe, managing director of the S2BMRC, who emphasised the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in supporting Münsterland and its economic development. Subsequently, Iulia Stroila, ARDENT project manager and research associate at S2BMRC, and Ana Gathmann, ARDENT project assistant, explained the goal and the schedule of the workshop – outlining the economic and societal challenges of rural areas in the Münsterland region. Furthermore, they explained how the results of the workshop will be used as the basis for the creation of the adult education programme “Rural Entrepreneurship Accelerator”. To cover as many topics as possible and to make efficient use of time, participants were divided into three groups of 3-4 participants each. After a short brainstorming session, the groups identified common drivers/barriers to entrepreneurship in the region. The main part of the workshop focused on the identification of specific aspects related to a chosen challenge, such as advantages or disadvantages in mastering a challenge, potential barriers and stakeholders involved. While discussing these challenge-related aspects to entrepreneurship, the groups could visualise all their ideas on flipcharts, which were designed individually with creative tools.
Lastly, in a final pitching session, the groups shared their work results and identified challenges. In addition, the concluding get-together offered the opportunity to network and further exchange ideas. Six aspects are critical to be tackled to build an enabling culture of vibrant entrepreneurship in Münsterland and to reboot the rural economy: Entrepreneurial education needs to be better promoted within the region where “classic” images of entrepreneurship need to be challenged
a) Bureaucracy is shifting innovation in the region
b) Identification of competencies for the future under the new “normal”
c) Unprecedented lockdown measures have resulted in collapses of SMEs
d) SMEs in the region depend more than ever on an enabling business environment, including support for access to finance, information, and market
e) Different attitudes exist within rural and urban entrepreneurs
The outcome of the workshop serves as a starting point for the “Rural Entrepreneurship Accelerator” training. In this programme, which is scheduled for 2021, adult learners from Münsterland will develop, test, and grow creative and innovative solutions for the challenges identified in the previous workshop.