Entrepreneurialism and rural/small-town local government

Social and economic change across rural and small-town Canada has accelerated since the early 1980s. This project will investigate the 'entrepreneurial' activities of local governments as they adjust to rapid
economic restructuring, and changes in public policy and governance. The project focuses on local
governments because they are the managers of critical community infrastructure and have basic
responsibilities for community land-use and economic development planning. When dramatic changes
occur, local governments are 'on the ground', dealing with immediate effects and long-term impacts. Yet,
local governments struggle with outdated financial and jurisdictional structures and a senior government
public policy agenda that asks them to become more creative, innovative, and 'entrepreneurial' in their
approach and responsibilities. The outcomes both senior and local governments are looking for, but are
in no way guaranteed by the structural conditions of rural communities and path dependencies of past
development approaches, are transformations towards more resilient rural communities and more
sustainable rural economies. Given this context and research gap, the project thus addresses two main
research questions:

-How are rural and small town local governments dealing with dramatic economic restructuring and the
transition towards entrepreneurialism?
-How are rural and small town local governments approaching entrepreneurial solutions under their
current regime of financial resources and jurisdictional authority?

The project will be carried out in Northern British Columbia, North-central Alberta, Southern Ontario,
and Western Newfoundland in partnership with collaborators at the Alberta Center for Sustainable
Communities, the University of Guelph, and the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University. The work
will be carried out over four years based upon the following structure, inclusive of a variety of
traditional and innovative mechanisms for knowledge mobilization:

1) Year 1 research with 8 local governments in each region to inform and support the
research design and identify innovative case examples,
2) Year 2 research on 1 innovative case from each region, tracing its genesis, development,
execution, and operation to identify transferable lessons,
3) Year 3 research completion, participant checking, knowledge mobilization, and
4) Year 4 knowledge sharing in academic, government, and community venues.

The project will generate meaningful and impactful outcomes associated with: 1) Addressing the
literature gap concerning rural local government entrepreneurialism and updating Canadian literatures
on Staples Theory, Evolutionary Economic Geography, and public policy; 2) Informing provincial
government policy with strategic insights related to local governance in peripheral regions of Canada; 3)
Supporting rural local government through information and descriptions of innovative cases/models and
transferable lessons and; 4) Contributing to education and training of new researchers within the project
and creating teaching case studies to support "engaged classroom" education. Our goal is to enhance
theoretical knowledge and practical policy and development information directed at the SSHRC Future
Challenge Area, "Envisioning Governance Systems that Work", specifically addressing the
acknowledgement that "existing forms of governance at the local, national and international levels are
facing problems they were not designed to solve."

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada