Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe
In the past few years there is an increasingly growing gap between the metropolitan regions and rural peripheries. While the cities and their agglomerations are attracting a growing number of people and getting economically stronger, the structurally weak regions, which are mainly in rural areas, are losing their population and their economic potential. This process can be observed in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) within the new member states of the European Union the best. The high unemployment rate, population loss, or the high ratio of the elderly people are just some of the challenges that these regions are facing.
A 4-year-long research project, called RegPol² (Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe) has been set up to understand the causes of polarisation between metropolitan areas and rural peripheries. The project is run by the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, is financed by the Marie Curie Actions program and focuses on Central East European countries. 3 post-doctoral researchers and 13 early stage researchers, who have also started a 3-year-long PhD are working since September 2014 to understand
- the causes of the intensifying regional polarization in CEE,
- the policy responses to the challenges and
- to identify ways of adaptation and possible strategies to overcome disparities.
Based on the three major research topics three work packages have been created. Social Impact, as a social enterprise itself and as an agency which engages social entrepreneurship plays an important role in the research of work package three. It creates an opportunity to the researchers to better understand social entrepreneurship in the context of regional development.
Social Impact is hosting six PhD students during the three years. Five PhD students have a short-term stay (1-3 months) while one PhD student is having a long-term (3-year-long) stay within Social Impact.
Our long-term researcher is Melinda Mihály from Hungary. She has spent 5 months in the Social Impact Lab Berlin in order to get a general overview of Social Impact and to understand the organizational structure of our enterprise. In February Melinda has moved to Leipzig, in order to be more connected to the RegPol² “Alma mater”.
Melinda is a graduate of Corvinus University of Budapest, Regional and Environmental Economics MSc. She participated in a student research project connected to one of the most marginalized regions of Hungary (Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, Northern Hungary) and through a qualitative inquiry (conducting semi-structured interviews) has attempted to understand the innovative practices for bottom-up rural development.
As a participant of the Climate-KIC Winter Journey (2012), Melinda has also learnt the essential knowledge to start an own enterprise (business modelling, writing business plans or pitching in front of investors). Furthermore as a member of ECTP-CEU Young planners working group of 2014 with a stakeholder analysis she has researched how old housing buildings can be rehabilitated in a sustainable manner. Recently Melinda writes articles to a Hungarian online magazine focusing on sustainable transition (http://recity.hu/).
The role of social entrepreneurship and social business in regional development
In her PhD research Melinda focuses on understanding social enterprises and their potential in developing rural regions. Through a comparative approach she seeks to understand how certain social enterprises of rural Hungary and Germany define development. To be able to answer this theoretical question Melinda has formulated the following research questions on a practical level:
- How do social enterprises with different level of community embeddedness define their challenges?
- How do these social enterprises build up their strategies to overcome their challenges?
In order to gain a deep understanding of a smaller number of social enterprises Melinda will use qualitative research methods, such as the case study method with semi-structured interviews or observation. To find out more about her project listen to her podcast or contact her directly on the following e-mail address: mihaly(at)socialimpact.eu.
The research leading to these results was conducted in the frame of the project “Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe” (RegPol²), coordinated by the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig/ Germany. The project received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013/ under REA grant agreement n° 607022.