Filling a void? The role of social enterprise in addressing social isolation and loneliness in rural communities

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Abstract

Social isolation and loneliness has been classed as a major public health concern due to its negative physical and mental health implications, and living in a remote or rural area is a prominent contributing risk factor. Community-led social enterprise models are recognised in government policy as a potential preventative measure for social isolation and loneliness, yet there is a lack of understanding of their application in rural contexts. The objectives of this paper are to investigate the role of social enterprise in addressing social isolation and
loneliness in rural communities, and to explore the pathways in which social enterprise activity may act upon the health and wellbeing of social enterprise beneficiaries. We also discuss the capacity of rural community members to deliver and sustain such services. The study used in-depth interviews over a three-year period with 35 stakeholders from seven social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including board members, staff, volunteers and service users. Findings showed that social enterprises are successfully providing activities that counteract factors contributing to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, leading to wider health and wellbeing benefits for individuals. However, the sustainability and continuity of social enterprises are questionable due to the burden on smaller populations, limited expertise and knowledge of running social enterprises, and effects on the personal lives of social enterprise volunteers and staff. This study supports suggestions that social enterprises can be generators of health and wellbeing through their varied remit of activities that impact on the social determinants of health. However, it also shows that relying on social enterprise as a particular solution to social isolation and loneliness is precarious due to complexities associated with rurality. Therefore, rural policy and practice must move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling social isolation and loneliness, recognise the need for local level tailored interventions and, through harnessing the potential or rural social enterprises, enable flexible service provision that correlates with rural context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2019

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rural community
void
social isolation
rural policy
service provision
mental health
risk factor
public health
rural area
stakeholder
sustainability
health
staff
government policy
services
continuity
expertise
determinants
lack

Keywords

  • social enterprise
  • social isolation
  • health and wellbeing

Cite this

@article{22488d059dcf4e94a1fea1dca2c9c906,
title = "Filling a void? The role of social enterprise in addressing social isolation and loneliness in rural communities",
abstract = "Social isolation and loneliness has been classed as a major public health concern due to its negative physical and mental health implications, and living in a remote or rural area is a prominent contributing risk factor. Community-led social enterprise models are recognised in government policy as a potential preventative measure for social isolation and loneliness, yet there is a lack of understanding of their application in rural contexts. The objectives of this paper are to investigate the role of social enterprise in addressing social isolation andloneliness in rural communities, and to explore the pathways in which social enterprise activity may act upon the health and wellbeing of social enterprise beneficiaries. We also discuss the capacity of rural community members to deliver and sustain such services. The study used in-depth interviews over a three-year period with 35 stakeholders from seven social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including board members, staff, volunteers and service users. Findings showed that social enterprises are successfully providing activities that counteract factors contributing to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, leading to wider health and wellbeing benefits for individuals. However, the sustainability and continuity of social enterprises are questionable due to the burden on smaller populations, limited expertise and knowledge of running social enterprises, and effects on the personal lives of social enterprise volunteers and staff. This study supports suggestions that social enterprises can be generators of health and wellbeing through their varied remit of activities that impact on the social determinants of health. However, it also shows that relying on social enterprise as a particular solution to social isolation and loneliness is precarious due to complexities associated with rurality. Therefore, rural policy and practice must move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling social isolation and loneliness, recognise the need for local level tailored interventions and, through harnessing the potential or rural social enterprises, enable flexible service provision that correlates with rural context.",
keywords = "social enterprise, social isolation, health and wellbeing",
author = "Danielle Kelly and Artur Steiner and Micaela Mazzei and Rachel Baker",
note = "Acceptance from webpage Funded by OA block grant Wrong CC licence applied initially by publisher. Author requested change and is now CC-BY on webpage. Query to publisher sent 12/2/19 re licence also being updated on PDF; publisher confirmed this will be corrected on VoR. ET",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "29",
doi = "10.1016/j.jrurstud.2019.01.024",
language = "English",
journal = "Journal of Rural Studies",
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AU - Kelly, Danielle

AU - Steiner, Artur

AU - Mazzei, Micaela

AU - Baker, Rachel

N1 - Acceptance from webpage Funded by OA block grant Wrong CC licence applied initially by publisher. Author requested change and is now CC-BY on webpage. Query to publisher sent 12/2/19 re licence also being updated on PDF; publisher confirmed this will be corrected on VoR. ET

PY - 2019/1/29

Y1 - 2019/1/29

N2 - Social isolation and loneliness has been classed as a major public health concern due to its negative physical and mental health implications, and living in a remote or rural area is a prominent contributing risk factor. Community-led social enterprise models are recognised in government policy as a potential preventative measure for social isolation and loneliness, yet there is a lack of understanding of their application in rural contexts. The objectives of this paper are to investigate the role of social enterprise in addressing social isolation andloneliness in rural communities, and to explore the pathways in which social enterprise activity may act upon the health and wellbeing of social enterprise beneficiaries. We also discuss the capacity of rural community members to deliver and sustain such services. The study used in-depth interviews over a three-year period with 35 stakeholders from seven social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including board members, staff, volunteers and service users. Findings showed that social enterprises are successfully providing activities that counteract factors contributing to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, leading to wider health and wellbeing benefits for individuals. However, the sustainability and continuity of social enterprises are questionable due to the burden on smaller populations, limited expertise and knowledge of running social enterprises, and effects on the personal lives of social enterprise volunteers and staff. This study supports suggestions that social enterprises can be generators of health and wellbeing through their varied remit of activities that impact on the social determinants of health. However, it also shows that relying on social enterprise as a particular solution to social isolation and loneliness is precarious due to complexities associated with rurality. Therefore, rural policy and practice must move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling social isolation and loneliness, recognise the need for local level tailored interventions and, through harnessing the potential or rural social enterprises, enable flexible service provision that correlates with rural context.

AB - Social isolation and loneliness has been classed as a major public health concern due to its negative physical and mental health implications, and living in a remote or rural area is a prominent contributing risk factor. Community-led social enterprise models are recognised in government policy as a potential preventative measure for social isolation and loneliness, yet there is a lack of understanding of their application in rural contexts. The objectives of this paper are to investigate the role of social enterprise in addressing social isolation andloneliness in rural communities, and to explore the pathways in which social enterprise activity may act upon the health and wellbeing of social enterprise beneficiaries. We also discuss the capacity of rural community members to deliver and sustain such services. The study used in-depth interviews over a three-year period with 35 stakeholders from seven social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including board members, staff, volunteers and service users. Findings showed that social enterprises are successfully providing activities that counteract factors contributing to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, leading to wider health and wellbeing benefits for individuals. However, the sustainability and continuity of social enterprises are questionable due to the burden on smaller populations, limited expertise and knowledge of running social enterprises, and effects on the personal lives of social enterprise volunteers and staff. This study supports suggestions that social enterprises can be generators of health and wellbeing through their varied remit of activities that impact on the social determinants of health. However, it also shows that relying on social enterprise as a particular solution to social isolation and loneliness is precarious due to complexities associated with rurality. Therefore, rural policy and practice must move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling social isolation and loneliness, recognise the need for local level tailored interventions and, through harnessing the potential or rural social enterprises, enable flexible service provision that correlates with rural context.

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