Social & Rural Enterprise

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Theme: Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation

Between 2006 and 2011, unemployment in rural Ireland increased by 192%, while underemployment and low-paid, seasonal work remain significant factors impacting on rural poverty and social exclusion. The focus here relates to the challenge of driving continued local economic development, including the diversification of the rural economy, to create employment opportunities for the local community, including those from disadvantaged groups. In order to help enable local actors achieve this objective, this theme has been broken down into four sub-themes.

Rural Tourism

Examples of actions that may be supported include feasibility studies to explore the tourism potential of an area, marketing initiatives and the creation of tourism hubs to facilitate a multi-sectoral approach. Activities that centre on the development and renovation of infrastructure are also an important contributor to historic and heritage-based tourism. Other actions that promote an innovative tourism sector include the development of cultural/heritage infrastructure of local significance and arts-based activities and events. The provision of amenity and leisure facilities can support adventure/eco-based tourism, which is a growing sector.

Enterprise Development

The significance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to the rural economy is demonstrated by the fact that SMEs account for 92% of all enterprises. Actions supported under this sub-theme may include sector-specific training programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs, early stage promoters, social enterprises, start-ups and established SMEs.

Innovative actions supported through LEADER, may include greater access to financial instruments and micro-credit schemes for early stage promoters and established firms who want to diversify or grow their existing business, for example, farmers who want to diversify into non-agricultural activities.

Rural Towns

This sub-theme supports the regeneration of rural towns by promoting them as attractive places to visit, live and do business in. LEADER is particularly suited to revitalising rural towns through co-ordinating an integrated approach that builds on the economic strengths and infrastructure of the area whilst addressing the key challenges for business, community and recreation.

Actions that support the regeneration of rural towns include town renewal schemes that renovate derelict buildings with incentives to attract business to vacant properties. The building or refurbishment of community buildings also provides a multifunctional infrastructure for social, cultural and sporting activities and training for the local community. The development and promotion of unique social events and activities, such as farmers’ markets, can provide an important stimulus to rural towns.


This sub-theme supports local actions that complement the national initiatives tasked with developing a comprehensive rural broadband infrastructure. Examples of actions include, basic ICT training to priority groups, for example, to enable older people and young people to stay connected. Other activities may centre on skills development for installing broadband, feasibility studies in relation to community broadband and funding for small scale equipment, such as boosters, for local businesses.

For further details of enterprise support under LEADER, please Click Here