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The Social Farmer as a shared Value Creator, University College Ghent

The social farmer as a shared value creator: creating new business models with the Impact Driven Business Modelling tool. Since the increasing success of social farming, its professionalism surely is made necessary. Therefore, within the scope of our research, we aimed to define social farming, which is scientifically underexposed in Belgian academic resources, in a clearer way. In a multidisciplinary team consisting of agricultural (Department of Agro- and Biothechnology) and orthopedagogical (Department of Orthopedagogy) researchers, as well as experts in entrepreneurship and strategic management (Department of Business Management), we wanted to create a profile of the social farmer, to determine success factors and to explore innovative business models.

By the output of the research project, we wanted to provide the farmers with professional support and advice in order to realize their plan and to prevent starters to pull out before the start. Social farmers can be regarded as social entrepreneurs providing assistance in an inclusive, dynamic and creative way and offering a possible solution to budgetary problems in the social sector. A well-designed business model is a useful tool to avoid that the social orientation becomes an obstacle to the economic activities and to guarantee the balance between economic and social value creation.

We did 29 in-depth interviews with social farmers across Flanders, Belgium. Besides this, three of them participated in a course, coordinated by the multidisciplinary team. A multidisciplinary team of students was involved as well. The cases were chosen based on the specific questions and needs of the interviewed farmers. We employed the Impact Driven Business Modelling Tool. This is a method which is
specifically designed for social entrepreneurs to integrate both objectives, impelling them to think about goals, business concept, resources, stakeholders and partners, processes and policies and eventually the social impact they bring about. In mixed teams, students and researchers had brainstorming
sessions and reflected on the different items of the IDBM. Results were frequently submitted to the farmers who gave feedback, what could lead to some adjustments. Students and researchers visited four social farms in the Turin region to become inspired by successful Italian cases. Inspiring aspects gained from this experience were also integrated in the final business models.

The in-depth interviews revealed seven key success factors of social farming: entrepreneurship and
strategic management, design thinking and innovation, partnership, evoking development opportunities, providing an ordinary context and enabling to perform meaningful work.

Whereas governments undeniably are limiting their financial support increasingly, a hybrid revenue model becomes interesting for farmers who want to create both social and economic impact. The model is applicable for starters as well as for experienced social farmers to support them in taking every important aspect of their social enterprise into consideration. The composition of a multidisciplinary team has demonstrated its value in many ways. The viewpoints were complementary and innovative by looking at the topic from different point of views. Social farmers are therefore advised to let them be supported by a similar monitoring team, advising them on several topics, in order to keep the crucial balance between social and economic value creation.


Ghent University College (HoGent)
Faculty of Education, Health and Social Work: Nicky.Dirkx@hogent.be
Faculty of Science and Technology: Frank.Vanboxstael@hogent.be  
Faculty of Business and Information Management: Tom.Vanwassenhove@hogent.be


 



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