In 2021, Cracow University of Economics, in the scope of the Erasmus+ project Advancing Rural Development through Entrepreneurship Education for Adults (ARDENT), implemented a “Rural Entrepreneurship Accelerator”. The pitching event from the Rural Entrepreneurship Accelerator was held on 30 June 2021 at Cracow University of Economics. Below they share with us a few event impressions.

What is your overall impression of the rural entrepreneurship accelerator in Małopolska?

The accelerator has taken place online, through the Zoom platform, following up on previously organised meetings, as university-based meetings are still not allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the successful completion of the accelerator, Cracow University of Economics has organised a pitching event to showcase the developed solution by adult learners. 

There have been three groups of participants in the pitching event: the organisers, rural council members and initiative givers. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic and the online format, participants were very active. The purpose of the pitching event was to discuss the challenges and identify initiatives and give insights and consultancy to strengthen the developed solutions during the accelerator. The overall feedback can be described as very successful in terms of the social engagement of the participants. In addition to the general reception of the meeting, it is encouraging that the rural council members expressed their willingness to provide assistance and advisory support during the development of the initiatives.

The meeting was attended by representatives of four sectors: business, science, public administration, and society. During the meeting, three groups presented rural development initiatives. Many different ideas were discussed, but they were based on four main initiatives, in line with the previously identified development areas/challenges.

What kind of solutions did adult learners develop during the Rural Entrepreneurship Accelerator?

The solutions referred to the following challenges we have identified in the Rural Consultation Event. 

a) The need for digitalisation in rural areas 

b) The organisation of post-covid activities among rural residents

c) Integration of newcomers in rural areas

d) Promotion of local products 

e) Creation of a community of producers, consumers, and tourists

f) Increased attention to the legal form of social enterprise in the context of starting entrepreneurial initiatives in rural areas

g) Attention to the issue of legal regulations in terms of licenses and permits when running a business

h) Pricing policies and regulations in this area – consulting support for producers

j) Promoting modern architectural solutions while organising activities for rural residents – mobile village common room or common rooms built based on containers

k) Supporting cultural activities in rural areas – actions of collective book reading, movie watching, film clubs, discussion clubs 

What is the general overview of the situation in your region?

In comparison with the national Polish average, Małopolska is characterised by a high level of entrepreneurship. The number of entities in the region is systematically growing, and growth in recent years is higher than on the national scale. Entrepreneurship is, however, very diversified territorially. A higher level is recorded in larger urban centres and the western part of the region, while a lower one is in its eastern part. More than one-third of all business entities have their registered office in the region’s capital city – Kraków, mainly due to its human capital, well-developed infrastructure, business services sector, demographic potential, and scientific and research facilities. 

Can you please describe the teams that have participated in the Rural Entrepreneurship Accelerator?

The teams mainly represented businesses and non-governmental sectors. The database of participants of the accelerator consists of 20 people.

Team 1: Discovering the charms of “Kamieniec” Rural community centre for the village of Szklana Our commonplace on earth 

Description of the challenge: Stimulating local community activity and promoting cooperative attitudes

Despite relatively common belief in the sense and effectiveness of undertaking cooperation in various spheres of social and economic life, in practice, social activity and readiness to undertake actions for the common good are still rare. There is often a lack of local leaders who can integrate the local community around a common goal.  

Team 2: Let’s start AGAIN (Let’s start a ReNEWal)

Description of the challenge: Stimulating local community activity and promoting cooperative attitudes

Despite relatively common belief in the sense and effectiveness of undertaking cooperation in various spheres of social and economic life, in practice, social activity and readiness to undertake actions for the common good are still rare. There is often a lack of local leaders who can integrate the local community around a common goal.  

Team 3: Beekeeping incubator 

Description of the challenge: Renovation of the municipal building and adaptation for honey processing, training and hosting study groups. The incubator’s launch is a response to the defined problem of the lack of possibilities for legal processing of honey and its further distribution within short supply chains.

Team 4: Foundation: Treasures of the region / Regional Wines Store

Description of the challenge: The problem of the area was identified as the inability to sell their products by small family farms and local wine producers. This is due to the lack of proper promotion of the area and the outlet adapted to the sale of local products.

Are there some testimonials from participants? 

Yes. Participants highlighted the friendly atmosphere, valuable comments and suggestions from the moderators and the opportunity to connect with other groups and exchange insights, discuss topics and get hints and advice from other groups. They emphasised they would like to see included in the accelerator how to develop promotional and marketing activities, promote your idea to make it accurate in the local market (this could be more emphasised) and learn ways to raise funds to accomplish tasks (to be more stressed).