Are rural health professionals also social entrepreneurs? Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Social entrepreneurs formally or informally generate community associations and networking that produces social outcomes. Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new and poorly understood concept. Policy promotes generating community activity, particularly in rural areas, for health and social benefits and 'community resilience'. Rural health professionals might be well placed to generate community activity due to their status and networks. This exploratory study, conducted in rural Tasmania and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland considered whether rural health professionals act as social entrepreneurs. We investigated activities generated and processes of production. Thirty-eight interviews were conducted with general practitioners, community nurses, primary healthcare managers and allied health professionals living and working rurally. Interviewees were self-selecting responders to an invitation for rural health professionals who were 'formally or informally generating community associations or networking that produced social outcomes'. We found that rural health professionals initiated many community activities with social outcomes, most related to health. Their identification of opportunities related to knowledge of health needs and examples of initiatives seen elsewhere. Health professionals described ready access to useful people and financial resources. In building activities, health professionals could simultaneously utilise skills and knowledge from professional, community member and personal dimensions. Outcomes included social and health benefits, personal 'buzz' and community capacity. Health professionals' actions could be described as social entrepreneurship: identifying opportunities, utilising resources and making 'deals'. They also align with community development. Health professionals use contextual knowledge to envisage and grow activities, indicating that, as social entrepreneurs, they do not explicitly choose a social mission, rather they act within their known world-view. Policymakers could consider ways to engage rural health professionals as social entrepreneurs, in helping to produce resilient communities.

publication date

  • December 2009