The role of social economy in the promotion of social integration

The research will present the actual situation of social economy and social entrepreneurs/initiatives in four different Hungarian rural areas and seeks to identify the relationship between their special (substantive) modus operandi and social integration of disadvantaged/hard-to-integrate local people, and integration of communities. We explore the differences in the social economy in four different rural micro-regions, thus it broadens our knowledge not only about social economy and local development but also about contemporary Hungarian rural society. The planned research connects to previous research in social economy and local development in Hungary and presents systematic analyses of the changes that have occurred in the last decade. The novelty of the research is that it does not only map the actors of the social economy along the traditional organisational forms and available databases but also tries to explore the actors as broadly as possible along a substantive definition, using expert interviews and local data, documents and using snowball method. We investigate the social entrepreneurs/initiatives not as independent actors, but embedded in local societies along their networks combining more sociological and anthropological methods in order to make in-depth analyses, like semi-structured interviews, case study analyses, transect-walking and participatory observation, visual data collection, focus groups and network analyses. The research will focus not only on the benefits of the social economy at the individual level (disadvantaged workers), but also on the effects on the community as a whole. So, we link research areas such as the social economy, local identity and place attachment. The results of the research may also help in rural and social policy formulation by demonstrating the role of social economic initiatives in the development of the local economy and society. There may be also important implications for social integration and sustainable development, and specifying the role of different stakeholders in those processes and results may be used also in rural development strategies.