Building Resilient Rural Communities through Social Entrepreneurship: Lessons from the Shorefast Foundation on Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador

Lay Summary 

Canada's rural communities provide important economic, social, cultural and environmental value to our country but have been facing a steep decline in population over the past decades. In Newfoundland & Labrador, this trend has been exacerbated by the collapse of the commercial cod fishery in 1992, which left 30,000 people, mostly in rural areas, unemployed, and which
has continued to have profound effects on communities across the province. On remote Fogo Island off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland, the Shorefast Foundation has been working since 2006 to reverse the trend of rural outmigration and to stimulate rural renewal by leveraging a unique place-based model of social entrepreneurship that promotes socially and ecologically responsible approaches to economic development. Shorefast aims to build a model of community resilience that can be shared with rural places globally. Community resilience refers to the capacity to cope with adversity by strengthening community resources and bonds.


Many rural areas rely on the non-profit sector to help address social, economic and environmental challenges, but this sector often lacks the business knowledge required to sustain activities over the long
term. Social entrepreneurship promises to leverage business tools to solve societal challenges, by combining social and financial goals, but must navigate tensions that arise from these
often contradictory goals. 


Our research program will examine the challenges and opportunities associated with social entrepreneurship in rural communities through a partnership between academic researchers in the fields of business and sociology, and the Shorefast Foundation. Our research program has the following objectives:
1) Develop research expertise on social entrepreneurship in rural communities by asking the following questions: a) how can social entrepreneurship skills be developed and leveraged to produce social benefits in the unique context of rural communities? b) what are some of the challenges associated with developing entrepreneurship skills in rural communities? and c) what are the benefits to rural communities of engaging in social entrepreneurship, including tourism-related social entrepreneurship?
2) Partner with the Shorefast Foundation to co-create knowledge on a viable model that enhances economic, social, and ecological resilience in rural places; 
3) Mobilize knowledge to provide lessons to communities looking to leverage social entrepreneurship;
4) Provide meaningful training to graduate students in the areas of social entrepreneurship and the social, ecological and economic viability of rural communities.

Specifically, we will work on three interrelated subprojects. The first examines the challenges to social entrepreneurship in rural places. The second analyzes the cultural and social impacts of the Shorefast model, and the third develops lessons to share with other rural communities and social enterprises. This research is significant to people living in rural communities, to social enterprises, and also to policy makers in the areas of social entrepreneurship and rural development.

Fogo Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
Rural Development
Social enterprise
Economic Development
Start date 
1 Apr 2016
End date 
31 Mar 2019