By conducting a web search for rural enterprise supports on the island we became aware that the current EU initiative LEADER+ is the main rural initiative running both North and South. It is an initiative that is jointly funded by the European Union and state funds, and attempts to encourage rural enterprise and combat poverty problems encountered in rural areas in recent years. On the web we found the contact details for each of the Leader Action Groups (LAG’s) delivering the programme.
I contacted each of them and requested a copy of each LEADER+ action plan, from this we established what is actively being doing by the LAG’s to encourage rural enterprise. Social Enterprise: When carrying out our research on social enterprise we were fortunate enough to have Pat Kearney from The Social Enterprise Institute at The National College of Ireland, visiting InterTradeIreland for a meeting with one of our directors. When learning of his visit I contacted him and requested an hour of time following his meeting with the director.
Mr Kearney met with myself and Eoin and provided us with some very useful information on social enterprise. We learned that Fi?? S are the main deliverers of social enterprise in the Republic of Ireland and The Social Economy Agency are the main providers in Northern Ireland, along with some others such as the Workers Educational Association, Vocational Education Committees and Bord Iasaigh Mhara. Through some web searches and phone calls I acquired more detailed information on the courses and programmes provided. Female Entrepreneurship:
Researching this area was quite difficult as programmes and initiatives are quite patchy with no central agency or contact point. After speaking to contacts in universities we learned of some initiatives in different areas across the island. When speaking to the local enterprise agencies in Northern Ireland and city and county enterprise boards in the Republic of Ireland we discovered some had courses specifically for women wanting to start their own business. Also through watching the newspapers we became aware of networking events, workshops etc. The three themes were also chosen as they feature in more than one map.
For example a course offered in rural agriculture by a city and county enterprise board features in the Local Agencies map as well as the Rural Enterprise map. When we pointed this out to our research manager she made the decision to highlight the themes by giving them their own colour. Rural Enterprise was green in colour with the text green and a green square on the map to indicate the presence of rural enterprise in a particular area. Social enterprise was blue and Female entrepreneurship red, again this was indicated with coloured text and squares on the maps.
Writing up the Reports When all the research had been carried out and all the information collected, the next stage was the writing up of reports. Designing the Publication When myself and Eoin had finished gathering and writing up the information it had to be sent down to the design company in Belfast. At this stage my research manager decided I would be responsible for managing the project from this point on. This involved sending them the information to be mapped by e-mail, answering the various queries the designer had in relation to colours, fonts and layouts etc.
I also took regular regular visits to the design workshop in Belfast to check the progress of the work. When receiving the first printout of all fourteen maps, myself, Eoin and our research manager sat down together and discussed any changes that had to be made to the maps. Again I went down to Belfast and communicated these to the designer. I also informed him that for the overall map it would be better if we had all the counties border lines in, instead of a square indicating a location, as in the other thirteen maps.
I felt this would enable one to see the level of entrepreneurial activity taking place within each county, relative to its size. When receiving a copy of the up-dated maps, we were very pleased with them. The overall map also looked impressive and the new design distinguished it from the others which was good. Presently I am carrying out one of the final tasks for the publication, which is proof reading the material to check for grammatical, spelling and typing errors. Within the next few weeks my research manager and the director of strategy and policy will both take a last read through the material and sign it off.
This is the final chance to make any changes, as it is then set by the design company and sent off to be printed. Problems Encountered The research and writing of reports for this publications was carried out over a period of approximately six months and during this time we encountered some problems: When sending the information on youth entrepreneurship to the design company in Belfast they informed us that they had great difficulty mapping the information as the youth initiatives were running in a large number of schools across the island.
After a discussion between myself, Eoin and our research manager the decision was taken to abandon the actual youth entrepreneurship map as it was proving too difficult and write a piece on it instead. After collecting the information on courses with entrepreneurial teaching in Further Education Colleges we found that there were inconsistencies as Eoin and myself had split the work and we both had a different interpretation of what an entrepreneurial module actually was.
Modules ranged from Entrepreneurial studies and Enterprise Development to Business Planning, Business Management, Business Strategy and Business Policy and we could see that the information was not accurate. After agreeing between ourselves and our manager on what should and shouldn’t be deemed an entrepreneurial module, we had to collect the information once more! We first gathered the information on entrepreneurial supports provided by Local Agencies and Economic Development Agencies in December 2002.
By the time all the information was gathered and the writing up complete we had entered 2003. We were concerned that information on the agencies and accompanying statistics had become dated. I checked the websites of some enterprise agencies and they had a new spring/summer timetable of courses on offer, so the information had to be collected again and the organisations contacted for their most recent statistics. We also encountered problems with our three thematic areas Female, Social and Rural Enterprise.
These were highlighted the three different colours by the design company as requested, but when we saw the maps we realised that we had made the wrong decision. The maps had become cluttered and quite confusing with the various colors, the text was also difficult to read, as some of it was coloured. The design company then had to undo the work, and changing it back to its original form, this added to the designing cost of the publication and also cost us valuable time.