Next Article in Journal
Prioritization of Waste-to-Energy Technologies Associated with the Utilization of Food Waste
Next Article in Special Issue
Examining the Impact of Frontline Service Robots Service Competence on Hotel Frontline Employees from a Collaboration Perspective
Previous Article in Journal
Experimental Analysis of the Discharge Valve Movement of the Oil-Free Linear Compressor in the Refrigeration System
Order Article Reprints
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

Exploring the Potential of Social Farmers’ Networking as a Leverage for Inclusive Tourism

Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto, 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy
Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism, University of Macerata, P.le Bertelli, 1, 62100 Macerata, Italy
School of Business Economics, UiT-The Arctic University of Norway, NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2023, 15(7), 5856;
Received: 22 February 2023 / Revised: 22 March 2023 / Accepted: 24 March 2023 / Published: 28 March 2023


Social entrepreneurship plays a key role in making tourism an inclusive activity. Literature on the topic is increasing but needs to pay more attention to collaboration, which is crucial for social enterprises. To overcome this gap, the present study focuses on the impact that social entrepreneurs’ drivers and barriers towards collaboration might have on providing decent work in rural tourism. The research considers the case of social farming, which has important implications for developing inclusive tourism. By applying the coding technique to twelve in-depth interviews with social entrepreneurs in the Marche region (Italy), the research reveals different themes and sub-themes influencing the four pillars of decent work identified by the International Labour Organization. Results show that the drivers towards collaboration positively impact new employment opportunities and social security for social entrepreneurs and the most fragile people targeted by their services. Instead, the lack of resources for social businesses and the low embeddedness are the main dimensions hindering the provision of well-being through tourism. This study provides managerial and policy implications to sustain inclusive tourism activities in social farming. It concludes with the main limitations and possible directions for future research.

1. Introduction

Tourism would never be sustainable without considering local communities’ well-being. Even though tourism has a significant impact on world economies, this does not automatically make it a sustainable activity [1]. As stated by the OECD [1], tourism success should not solely be measured in visitor numbers. We should rather consider the benefits that this industry generates for the local communities’ development [1,2]. For this to happen, the United Nations embraces the principles of decent work promoted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), to encourage policies for creating quality jobs for all [3]. Although possible to achieve, such a goal is still very ambitious since strong discrimination, poor working conditions, and limited social protection are issues yet to be solved in the tourism industry [4]. It would be hard to change unless a more community-centred approach is adopted, allowing the needs of people and places typically marginalised or excluded from tourism to be considered [5,6].
More theoretical insights are needed: if it is true that tourism is inclusive when it creates conditions for the inclusion of all, it is of the utmost importance to consider how inclusive working conditions are [7]. This topic has been mainly explored in mainstream tourism contexts [2,8] rather than in alternative businesses such as social enterprises in rural places [9], which could instead be an asset to generate social and economic inclusion [5]. The more neglected the topic is, the more difficult it is to orient decent working policies toward the tourism sector [8].
Although social enterprises have generally been underestimated in tourism planning, they can certainly contribute to creating sustainable tourism activities [10]. In rural areas, whose development is mainly hampered by structural characteristics, social enterprises can develop inclusive tourism activities by creating employment opportunities for the most marginalised communities [7,11]. It is recognised that their work is strongly influenced by their ability to network, which allows them to secure human, technical, and knowledge resources [11] while contributing to the joint promotion of the territory [10]. Because of their influence on tourism, scholars argue that policymakers should increasingly consider social entrepreneurial experiences in tourism planning, to make tourism more sustainable [10].
Considering both the theoretical need to advance knowledge of the tourism workforce [8,9] and the practical need to improve it [5], this study focuses on the context of social entrepreneurship. The questions investigated are as follows: How can the propensity of social entrepreneurs to network promote decent work in rural tourism? And in which way can barriers towards collaboration negatively affect it? These research questions are addressed in the context of social farming, a social entrepreneurial activity that uses agricultural resources to provide social and working opportunities to disadvantaged people [12]. Even though the literature on social farming tourism only recently emerged, it has already clarified the significant impact of tourism activities for fair, sustainable, and inclusive rural growth [13].
This research adopted a case study methodology [14], including in-depth interviews with social farmers, which were carried out in the Italian region of Le Marche, a pioneer in developing experiences of social and working inclusion for marginal communities [15]. Data were analysed using a thematic approach [16,17] that revealed how social farmers contribute to the decent working pillars promoted by the ILO. The study has the following structure: a literature review exploring the topic of social entrepreneurship in inclusive rural tourism will introduce the research, focusing on the social entrepreneurs’ drivers and barriers to collaboration; then, the case of social farming will be presented. The methodology will be detailed, and insights into the investigated area will be provided. Findings will be reported and discussed, and conclusions will be drawn by detailing practical implications, while leaving room for reflection on future research.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Social Entrepreneurs: Why They Matter for Inclusive Tourism in Rural Areas

Tourism has powerful impacts on local communities. To ensure the long-term sustainability of this sector, tourism activities should be an asset to answer communities’ needs and benefit local development [1]. This approach is critical in rural areas, with tourism being one of the primary resources for economic and social development [18]. It is first and foremost in the interest of tourism businesses to break the mould and engage communities in a collective learning process, to make their activities a vehicle of local well-being [19]. This need to make tourism “responsive and answerable to the society in which it occurs” has been particularly evident with the COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects have led to major consideration on reinforcing business corporate social responsibility (CSR) [20] (p. 517).
Social entrepreneurship is one of the most vivid representations of CSR [21], which according to Matten and Moon [22] consists of “clearly articulated and communicated policies and practices […] for some of the wider societal good” (p. 405). Indeed, social entrepreneurship is seen as a catalyst for innovation and social development, whose actions aim to create inclusion, empower marginalised communities, and, more generally, contribute to changing public perception of them [21,23,24]. Although there is a clear need for the tourism industry to consider different stakeholders and promote more significant CSR actions [25], tourism practitioners still underestimate the role of social entrepreneurs [10].
However, it is acknowledged that they can use tourism to provide innovative solutions to contextual problems [26]: by addressing challenges from their roots, they make tourism a more conscious activity for visitors and residents [27]. In general, social entrepreneurship is recognised to support positive change in communities, mediating the power of neoliberal capitalist agendas when supported by institutional initiatives consistent with their mission [28]. Their impact is even more substantial in rural areas, where resources, good transport connections, and employment opportunities are generally lacking [10,29]. They use tourism to create new economic opportunities for local people [29,30,31], thus reducing the abandonment of rural places [29]. Their tourism activities create an advantage for multiple local stakeholders [29,31,32,33] and also attract attention to the needs of most isolated areas [10,33]. Indeed, social entrepreneurs adopt an educational approach towards tourism, allowing sharing of sustainable principles inside and outside the destination [30].
Besides many other sustainable purposes, rural social entrepreneurs can use tourism to generate inclusion. According to some scholars, social enterprises are often created to protect the dignity of mostly marginalised communities [34,35,36,37]. As Aquino et al. [11] explain, they “might increase the likelihood for marginalised communities to have a meaningful participation into tourism, and for their needs and aspirations to be heard and actioned” (p. 15). Inclusion might be promoted in different ways that may be more or less effective, from selling artistic products made by rural communities [34,36] to supporting employment opportunities for all through business models adopting inclusive recruitment policies and flexible schedules and tasks [29,34,35].
Nevertheless, to generate inclusive economic growth in rural areas, developing and fostering local skills and knowledge is necessary. Social entrepreneurship can do it in different ways: by creating activities to enhance local culture and heritage [34,37] or by providing rural communities with the knowledge and skills related to hospitality and tourism managerial aspects [29,34,35,37]. The latter does not always imply a direct economic return for the social enterprises [34] but can generate benefits in the long term for rural populations by allowing them to develop their career pathways [29,34,35,37] and further entrepreneurial opportunities [34,35,37].

2.2. Networking for Inclusive Tourism in Rural Areas

The opportunity for social entrepreneurs to fulfil their mission will depend on their ability to manage the interest of different social groups [32,33]. Therefore, collaboration is essential to legitimise their activities [33] and build trust and social cohesion [32]. Established networks might support the entire territory by stimulating innovation [31,32] and closer social dialogue among companies and national and supranational public bodies. The intensified coordination at a territorial level also enables activities of inclusive tourism, which have a significant potential to ensure decent work [36].

2.2.1. Drivers towards Collaboration

One of the main reasons for social entrepreneurs to develop collaborations is to access resources and valuable knowledge for their activities [10,29,30,32,33]. It should be noted that social enterprises widely depend on public resources [33]. Therefore, creating a collaborative environment with public actors is crucial for the feasibility of their social projects [30,32,33,37]. At the same time, collaboration allows them to gather valuable knowledge they might lack for their activities [37]. Moreover, to attract visitors to rural areas, the non-competitive spirit of social entrepreneurship allows for partnerships with other local businesses to be established [10,30]. This cooperation might both strengthen the market by creating competitive cost advantages for consumers and provide coordination to the activities of the entire destination [30]. As a result, a collaborative approach is a valuable asset in disseminating the values of places, people, and products generally underestimated in rural areas [10,30].
Besides being functional in creating tourism activities [11], collaboration is crucial for social entrepreneurs to foster inclusion [11,34,35,37]. Partnering with local actors is essential to identify the nature of local challenges and set long-term goals for their social activities [11], besides gaining emphasis on social causes and acceding to governmental aid programmes and funding [34,35,37]. At the same time, horizontal collaborations with local organisations sharing similar goals allow a greater emphasis on social causes and projects helpful in sustaining inclusiveness through tourism activities [34]. Furthermore, commercial collaborations are also essential to ensure decent work in rural tourism. Partnerships with local businesses enable control of production prices and foster employee work stability [35]. In general, networking in a rural context is a valuable tool for social entrepreneurs to gather increased visibility, thus calling the attention of public policies to their work to develop policies to protect the dignity of the most vulnerable people [35,37].

2.2.2. Barriers towards Collaboration

Territorial distance is a significant factor affecting collaborations. Actors operating in the same territory find networking easier since short distances can encourage a sense of belonging to a group united by the same objectives [10]. However, social entrepreneurs also tend to work with like-minded people [10,33] with similar social goals and “a tone of transparency, collaboration, positivity and fun” [10] (p. 85). In this case, exchanging mutual help, knowledge, and ideas can favour the organisation of activities benefitting their social and economic aims [10,37]. Therefore, physical distance can be less important than other factors.
Conversely, competition for public funds drastically affects their propensity to collaborate [33]. Although difficult to access due to excessive bureaucracy [33], public funds play a vital role in social enterprises: they help ensure the implementation of social activities while supporting their competitiveness with traditional businesses whose primary purpose is to reduce costs instead of guaranteeing the maximum societal benefits from their economic activities [35]. Consequently, a weak economic foundation results in the inability of social enterprises to employ people from marginalised communities based on respect for human rights and social security, as initially planned [37].

2.3. Framing Social Farming in Inclusive Tourism

Social farming is an entrepreneurial activity involving agricultural resources to provide disadvantaged people with health, social, and working opportunities [12,38]. The role of social farms is more significant in mountainous and extremely peripheral areas, where they actively support isolated communities through socially innovative activities [12]. “Built on the principles of equal human, social and working dignity”, social farming developed in Mediterranean contexts is “an inclusive model” [39] (p. 12), receiving support from farms and the entire civil society [12]. In this context, farms become a laboratory for personal growth, connecting disadvantaged groups with the surrounding community by helping them to develop sectorial working skills for social and work integration [39,40].
Tourism is an essential resource for the viability of social farming projects, as well as an innovative response to inclusive market demand: it has always been a resource for the economic sustainability of rural Southern Europe [13,41] and a key asset for small family-run farms [12]. Although tourism literature is still in its infancy, recent contributions explore the numerous recreational services that social farming can generate, from the well-known agritourism to sport and educational activities to promoting a new responsible tourism approach known as “Woofing” [13]. As highlighted by Uvarova and Vitola [42], small farms dealing with specific social needs are also more likely to find new pathways to meet new market demands, thus making social farming a resource for developing an inclusive tourism offer in rural areas [43].
When combined with agricultural projects, tourism can serve to develop social activities for local communities. One example could be the development of educational projects to transmit farming and environmental sustainability values [44,45]. Tourism can also promote the employment of people needing help accessing the job market by providing specific and sectorial-related training [41]. For example, agritourism offers employment opportunities to people with intellectual, relational, and physical disabilities [46] and generates positive externalities for individuals by improving their participation in social life [13].
Alongside support for disadvantaged people, tourism provides opportunities for social farmers to engage with communities [47]. Collaboration is essential to develop social farming experiences [47,48]. Indeed, social farmers collaborate with public and private actors to effectively design and implement activities according to the needs of rural communities [12]. However, there are numerous obstacles hindering the networking process. These are generally related to the diffidence and the competitive attitude typical of farmers [48] which might also hinder the insertion of new entrants to local agricultural knowledge systems [45]. In addition, the geography of marginal places often causes isolation, lack of institutional support, and discontinuity and weaknesses in the relation among territorial actors (which, according to the very recent study from Fazari and Musolino [49], already have a predominantly informal nature) [50]. In most marginal areas, the promotion of cultural and natural resources through projects involving local communities becomes an input for networking with local actors and civil society [44,47,51]. According to [44], the role of women and the young generation significantly contributes to developing farm diversification activities, although for social projects this does not imply significant economic income.
At the same time, activities in farm tourism, agritourism, and rural tourism allow social farmers to extend the tourism season, attracting new clients, improving quality standards, and gaining a stable source of income [52], besides contributing to the maintenance of rural landscapes [13,41]. From a consumption-based perspective, recent studies from Calabrò et al. [43] point out that networking enables the creation of multiple ad hoc services allowing visitors to base their decisions on their wishes and choices rather than having to choose among very few options.
There is no doubt that networking is crucial for rural social entrepreneurs in developing inclusive projects, including recreational and tourism activities. The literature reviewed highlights various aspects of networking, starting from the purposes generally related to the need for knowledge and resources for their activities, as well as the development of joint projects or commercial activities, to the type of actors involved from both vertical (mainly institutions and funding bodies) and horizontal (other companies with similar purposes) relations. The case of social farming is a clear example to highlight the social entrepreneurs’ collaboration with the broader civil society to realise ad hoc inclusive projects. However, the question of how networking affects the provision of decent work in rural tourism is still open. According to the literature, it can be deduced that the social entrepreneurs’ motivations towards networking (drivers), as well as those that hinder collaboration (barriers), both impact decent work in rural tourism. By testing these two research hypotheses, this study aims to understand how drivers and barriers towards networking impact decent work when related to tourism in rural areas.

3. Materials and Methods

3.1. Background Context

The Marche region is among Italy’s most predominantly rural regions. Agricultural regional policies promote social farming businesses in the most depopulated areas to answer the need to develop health, educational, and social services [15]. Compared to other Mediterranean sites, the peculiarity of the Marche region lies in the attempt to meet the needs of diverse social groups through specific models: The “Agrinido di Qualità” (quality nursery service) model targets children. It provides kindergarten services by applying Montessori’s principles of experiential learning in rural settings. In addition, the “Longevità attiva” (active elders) targets elderly people. Being one of the regions with the highest rates of ageing populations, this model aims at creating activities to support food education and physical and mental well-being for the elderly in a natural environment. The “Inclusione Sociale” (social inclusion) project aims to re-educate prisoners through agricultural activities as outlined by regional agreements with prisons and similar institutions. “OrtoIncontro” (the kitchen garden) seeks to reduce the gap between cities and rural areas, bringing citizens to farms to participate in environmental and food education activities by promoting the products grown by social farms. Only recently, the regional government, in collaboration with local companies, started to experiment with a new model dedicated to people with disabilities to understand the benefits of social farming for people affected by different disabilities. An overview of the initiatives can be found at the following link: (accessed on 15 February 2023).
The high number of social farming experiences is systematised under the Regional Law n.21/2011 on “Agricultural multifunctionality and farm diversification” [53], complementing the Italian National Law n.141/2015 [54]. The regional law specifies the opportunities for developing social farming experiences within farms and social cooperatives. Therefore, it allows for a wide range of experiences to be carried out. However, it requires social enterprises to maintain a connection with agricultural activities, whose revenues should be higher than social projects. The idea is to ensure the financial sustainability of enterprises but also to guarantee that social projects are designed and carried out in agricultural contexts.
Besides social farming, the same law also regulates agritourism services [53]. Two dedicated lists have been drafted, namely the EROAS and EROA lists. The first one, Elenco Regionale degli Operatori in Agricoltura Sociale (Regional List of Social Farmers) currently lists around 70 social enterprises whose activities relate to education and teaching services, social and health services, social and care services, and job placement. The second one, Elenco Regionale degli Operatori Agrituristici (Regional List of Agritourism Providers) lists more than one thousand businesses integrating activities related to hospitality, farm product supply, and the promotion of several cultural and sports events and well-being activities. to define the farms’ multifunctional characteristics. For farms, being registered in these lists means formalising the activities and the quality of their services as a guarantee for the final consumer, as well as to access specific funding calls.

3.2. Case Study

The present study draws on a case study strategy to conduct empirical research [14] to understand how collaboration can help social entrepreneurs foster decent work in rural tourism and how obstacles to cooperation hinder this process. A case study is “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context” [14] (p. 13). Specifically, the research adopts an embedded single case study to examine several units of analysis in a single context [14] (p. 40). In this case, the study investigates the phenomenon of social agriculture in the Marche region by analysing the peculiarities of some tourism farms and social cooperatives.
The first step consisted of crossing-reference the two regional lists (EROAS and EROA) and limiting the investigation to the organisations belonging to both, to focus on tourism-oriented social farms. This selection considered only organisations dealing with social and care services and job provision and excluded educational services for children and therapeutic services for care-dependent individuals, which are of lesser relevance to the central theme of marginalised people as tourism producers [7].
The final list included twelve social enterprises. Table A1 (in Appendix A) provides an overview of the companies examined, classified according to their legal form; a code was assigned for each unit of analysis, where F stands for farm and SC stands for a social cooperative. The companies’ description also includes the field of intervention, details of the type of social and tourist services offered, and the addressed target groups of the services.

3.3. Data Collection

The twelve selected companies received an invitation to join the study. Field data were collected from September 2021 to February 2022 through in-depth interviews with open questions about their motivation to network, the aims for collaboration, and the reasons that might hinder their networking propensity. Except for one case, the interviews were conducted online and lasted between 30 and 60 min, depending on the interviewee’s willingness to give frank answers. Because of the different sizes of companies, the research included the participation of founders, managers, and others from executive boards. The interviews, conducted by two authors, were audio-recorded with the participant’s permission.

3.4. Data Analysis

The interviews were digitally transcribed and shared within the research group. The data were subsequently analysed using a qualitative approach to understand how the propensity towards collaboration can foster decent work in rural tourism in the context of social entrepreneurship. Answers were then matched with the four decent working pillars (employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue) of the ILO. Therefore, a thematic approach to data analysis [16,17] was adopted to clarify how collaboration can support the pillars. The analysis was carried out using a triangulation process, which assumes that the data analysis is performed by each researcher separately and agreed upon afterwards [55]. Accordingly, the data analysis involved four different but consecutive steps:
  • Familiarisation with the transcription of the interviews and the decent working pillars proposed by the ILO. On this occasion, the decent working pillars have been included in a comprehensive framework together with their ten indicators defined by the ILO’s Experts during the Tripartite group meeting in 2013 [56]. The framework is provided in Table 1.
  • At the same time, three authors separately conducted an initial coding phase to identify the different categories of drivers and barriers to collaboration. These were associated with the different decent working indicators, considering their definition as reported in Table 1.
  • Group meetings among co-authors were organised to verify the data corresponding to decent work indicators and any correspondence or divergence in the identified codes extracted from the interviewees’ answers. To facilitate the understanding of this process, Table A2 and Table A3 of Appendix B (related to the drivers and barriers, respectively) in Appendix B provide an overview of the conducted steps.
  • In the end, it has been possible to reconduct the results from the interviews to the decent work pillars through the decent working indicators.

4. Results and Discussion

Results identified five central themes on how collaboration could support decent work provision and how obstacles can hinder this process for rural tourism. Concerning the three drivers that motivate social farmers to engage in networking, the emerging themes are related to the feasibility of collaboration, expressed through creating new employment opportunities for social entrepreneurs and double benefit for them and the several people interested or directly involved in activities. The second theme, social and working inclusion, is expressed through self-representation, raising awareness, work adaptation, social dialogue, and skills development. It refers to the possibility of creating new opportunities for marginalised categories to find wider societal and working integration through tourism. The last theme is personal growth, which is expressed according to the sub-categories of growth of self-esteem, growth of the sense of responsibility, sense of gratification, and, finally, self-placing in society: it stresses support provided to the inner and personal growth of socially excluded groups through tourism activities in social agriculture. When considering how barriers could affect the provision of decent work in social tourism contexts, two main topics emerge: first, the low embeddedness, influenced by poor cooperation, unclarity of roles, isolation, and narrow-mindedness; second, the lack of resources, referring to economic, infrastructural, human, and legislative ones. Compared to low embeddedness, which characterises a systemic perspective, the lack of resources relates to the household (individual) dimension of farms.
Identified themes were crossed with literature review outcomes through the decent work pillars. The following paragraphs will provide a detailed description of the results, using quotes from the answers from social farmers, which can be recognised through the assigned code. The extracts are reported in brackets and detailed according to the code assigned to each unit of analysis (see Table A1 of Appendix A).

4.1. The Influence of Drivers on Collaboration on Decent Work Provision

This section presents the influence of drivers towards collaboration on decent work provision in tourism. Each driver that emerged from the interviews will be related to a theme and to decent work pillars and indicators, according to the proposed framework adopted by the study.

4.1.1. New Employment Opportunities for Social Entrepreneurs (Pillars 1 and 2)

Given the heterogeneous nature of social farming experiences [39,46], the respondents could benefit from networking differently. For agritourism farms, networking might provide opportunities to create new off-season jobs and work all year round, thanks to the implementation of social projects (F7). Conversely, when related to organisations created for specific social purposes, it is emphasised that economic revenues are often scarce (F2, F9). Systemically promoting tourism would therefore help to create opportunities for companies to increase on-farm activities. According to an interviewee, tourism activities “contribute to increasing [farms’] revenues and services. They may be less binding or consuming in terms of time and resources [compared to social projects] but still essential for the company to access public funds” (F1). This proves the complementary nature of agricultural, social, and recreational activities from which small organisations can benefit from their sustainability [12,13,41]. In line with the work of Kline et al. [30] and Mottiar et al. [10], a non-competitive approach can also help create market ventures. Collaboration can foster new opportunities to organise joint project packages (F3) or joint sales of social farming products (F3, SC2).

4.1.2. Equal Opportunities and Treatment in Employment (Pillars 1, 2, and 3)

Given the labour-inclusive focus of social farming experiences in Mediterranean areas [12,38,39,46], collaboration could increase equal opportunities and treatment in the employment of marginalised people. In line with the work of Dahles and colleagues [37], one of the common elements that emerged from the research is that the feasibility of collaboration is related to the creation of a double benefit for farms and marginalised people by increasing the number of activities that can boost employment for both (F1, F9). For social entrepreneurs, this means identifying works that can be adapted to the targeted group to develop skills according to everyone’s abilities and time. “There will be a mutual benefit thanks to small tasks that are clear and carried out in an organised way while being adjusted to the disabilities of every single person. Only in this way, a result can be achieved: they (referring to people involved in therapeutic and socio and work activities) could take care of the animals (or) help with the accommodation. They could also be a tour guide for visitors and teach them little things about plant and animal life” (F1).

4.1.3. Social Security (Pillars 1 and 3)

Promoting equal employment opportunities for marginalised people also increases social protection through social security actions. According to one interviewee, stimulating collaboration in tourism would allow social enterprises to extend “suitable, rewarding and useful” employment for people outside the social farming setting. For example: “thanks to our external collaborations, people with mental disabilities found a job in restaurants […]. In the end, they felt gratified for their work […]. This would foster a growth in self-esteem and, therefore, they (people) can achieve more and more things” (F1). For social entrepreneurs, tourism is not the end but the means to achieve societal goals [10,32]. As [34] also reports, companies willing to promote working inclusion do not directly aim at an economic return for their activities. Instead, they focus on ways of working that can stimulate skill learning, thus creating benefits, albeit slowly, but with a long-term outlook.

4.1.4. Decent Working Time (Pillars 1 and 3)

A social farming tourism network could create new opportunities to promote adequate earnings, productive work, and decent working time in social agriculture. Indeed, social entrepreneurs generally consider tourism as an opportunity for new business revenues. This is more evident for farms “that give ethical value to their products” (F2), which can be more attractive for tourists, thus contributing to creating a double benefit again by supporting social projects and the same farm activities (F2, F9). In line with the work of Kline et al. [30] and Mottiar et al. [10], results show that social entrepreneurs find ways to disseminate educational values through culinary products from marginalised areas that would otherwise be underestimated. According to many scholars [10,11,29,30,32,33,35,37], new earning opportunities are crucial for the sustainability of social enterprises. In particular, one of the interviewees believes that the knowledge of alternative earning possibilities is a crucial element in preventing young people from being discouraged when approaching those activities in agricultural settings: “we must think that today the farmer is young, has different necessities and also needs an extra income. It is always an economic matter: organising a tourist offer would give the farm extra income to support its costs.” (F1). As Peng and Lin [29] report, this would help rural areas reverse the abandonment trend they suffer from. Therefore, when it comes to the organisation of recreational activities for tourists, the expectation of economic income is higher than services organised for the local communities, which as Gramm and colleagues [44] report, does not generate significant income. At the same time, the possibility of working in a network could favour decent working time as it could make it easier to carry out tourist activities, along with agricultural and social activities (L.R.21/2011), which require a great amount of time (F4). A social farming tourism-based network could lead to the joint promotion of tourism “by sharing activities and projects” (SC3). It would also be a way to provide a collective response to the need for well-being, which is very much felt by the most fragile groups [6]: especially after the COVID-19 pandemic period, an urgent goal is to integrate more services and activities for local communities (F4), as also suggested by Higgins-Desbiolles [20]. Therefore, in addition to welcoming people particularly interested in agricultural tourism, as in the case of Woofing, which is gaining popularity in social farming settings [12], a tourism network in social farming could also “develop tourism for people who are not normally tourists, it is to say people who would not travel otherwise” (SC1).

4.1.5. Social Dialogue and Workers’ and Employers’ Representation (Pillars 1 and 4)

A social farming tourism network could respond to pillars 1 and 4 of decent work through increasing social dialogue and workers’ and employers’ representation. First and foremost, as [12,47,48] report, relations are a prerequisite in social farming since they characterise the identity of social enterprises. As a consequence, networking is essential for them (SC1). This is in line with the study by Fazzi [47] stating that the more companies carry out project activities, the more networking opportunities they will find with local actors. By increasing social dialogue and fostering collaborations with their peers, social enterprises could create more development opportunities for their targeted groups and themselves. For the former, this would increase the chance of finding jobs fitting their needs. In particular, when referring to mentally disabled people, it must be considered that “after a while, all these people need to change their work. It is not useful for them to keep doing the same thing for a very long time” (F9). Fostering collaborations among social farmers enables a sense of belonging to a community, as reported by Mottiar et al. [10], and reciprocal acquisition of sectorial skills required for the activities [10,37]: “[…] it is important to have a shared experience because it is essential to listen to what others are experiencing and talk about your own experiences […]. In a network participated by skilled people, each one of us can draw on them to fulfil our role in the best possible way. It is important to (…) improve one’s knowledge and skills” (F7).
Social dialogue would also allow for strengthening relations with public institutions, which as reported by Musolino et al. (2020) are weak in prevalently rural regions. Representation would be more substantial from a group of social farmers than from an individual farmer (F8). In addition, private–public co-design could improve. In an interviewee’s words: “we do not want to manage money, rather manage activities. We aim at investing in collaboration with the public body because it is our first interlocutor” (SC3). This position confirms studies from Vázquez-Maguirre [35], who reports that networking helps to gain affirmation and easily access funds from third parties to be channelled towards social projects [30,32,33].
Following the same theme, several answers show the importance of broadening social dialogue in the community. According to respondents, a tourism network could foster social inclusion while educating and raising awareness about social themes among visitors (SC1), thus contributing to their personal growth. Among the others, this is in line with studies from Kline et al. [30] and Dahles et al. [37] and, more broadly, with the role of social entrepreneurship in making tourism a more educational and sustainable activity [27]. For social farmers, networking could increase the opportunities for self-representation thanks to a deeper dialogue with society, as they would represent their territory and traditions (F1) and the benefits of their businesses. Benefits are beyond productive activities: by putting people and relations at the centre (F6), they can share their stories and the daily efforts to provide the community with well-being activities (F6).
Moreover, this would increase the self-representation of marginalised people [11,34,35,36,37]. As one interviewee stated, people with mental disabilities could act as basic tour guides for visitors. “This would enable them to recognise what is important to communicate to others who might not know” (F1). Social entrepreneurs intend to build an inclusive community, which translates into the desire to turn the network into a tool to unite people: “it should be clear that (we are) open to everybody, as animals do: they manage to stay together, even though they are so different” (F6). The comparison with animals helps to convey messages of tolerance and respect as it allows people to “understand the importance of each person’s role in the society” (F1), fostering the growth of responsibility (F1) as well as self-esteem (F1). As one of the interviews notes, “taking people to these places is very important. At the end, they will go back home feeling that something in them has changed” (SC2). These statements respond reasonably to the concept of inclusive tourism proposed by [5], in which the self-representation of more marginalised territories and people is encouraged, contributing to making visitors participate and increasingly more aware of the reality of each context. Figure 1 provides an overview of the drivers to collaboration and their influence on decent working opportunities:

4.2. The Influence of Obstacles on Collaboration on Decent Work Provision

This section presents the influence of obstacles towards collaboration on decent work provision in tourism. Each barrier that emerged from the interviews will be related to a theme and to decent work pillars and indicators, according to the proposed framework adopted by the study.

4.2.1. Stability and Security of Work (Pillars 1, 2, and 3)

When looking at the dimension of each social enterprise, the evident lack of resources might have a negative impact on pillars 1, 2, and 3. Within this context, barriers to collaboration, particularly related to the lack of economic and infrastructural resources and aggravated by connected administrative and bureaucratic obstacles [33], may affect the stability and security of work. More generally, economic resources are highlighted as a critical point in social farming experiences (SC3; F5), as also Di Iacovo et al. [12] and Fazzi [47] report. Furthermore, from the perspective of an inclusive destination, one interviewee points out that “creating a social and disability-friendly agritourism is difficult due to the architectural barriers in agriculture, which are difficult to overcome” (F4). Similarly, the lack of stable internet connection (F7) and public transport (F8) should be considered in more peripheral areas. While for the former, an improvement of the service is suggested (F7), for the latter, a solution might be private-run transportation services whose high costs, however, could not be afforded by social entrepreneurs only (F8).

4.2.2. Decent Working Time (Pillars 1 and 3)

According to the findings, pillars 1 and 3 might be affected by obstacles related to more than one indicator. First of all, the lack of human resources dedicated to tourism activities (F4; F6) might affect decent working time, as reported by one farmer: “some companies could find it difficult to take care of the tourism activities, due to the small number of people working there, as they also have other things to take care of to support their agricultural production” (F6). This obstacle explicitly refers to the fact that social farming in the Marche region strictly depends on agricultural activities, whose turnover should be higher than the one provided by all the social activities (L.R./2011). At the same time, the lack of adequate legislative resources could make it difficult for companies to provide a safe work environment. Referring to Woofing activities mentioned by Giannetto and Lafranchi [13], one of the farmers pointed out that the lack of laws protecting the farmers in the event of an accident to visitors might be an obstacle to the development of tourism activities in agriculture (F4). From a network perspective, the need for regulations in this field becomes crucial to allow social entrepreneurs to diversify their experiences from each other and to guarantee nature-based tourism activities according to each farm’s resources (F4).
Lastly, a lack of laws regulating the sale of social farming products derived as the output of the working/rehabilitation services provided to marginalised people has been reported. This is evident for companies dealing with the elderly, which often organise manual laboratories related to the preparation of agricultural products. For those companies, the possibility of being able to sell these products is essential to gain the economic resources needed to support their social projects [37], as the following statement proves: “[…] the goal is that our cooking services, for some parts of our production, may allow the elderly to work without paying for using the equipment and premises […]. Any kind of work should be fairly compensated with a paycheck, but the problem is the elderly do it for free. It is something that has to be solved, and the solution could be to sign an agreement with the municipality [with the aim to] identify these activities as part of a social project. We are discussing it with the experts who could help us.” (F2). Thus, the lack of regulations could jeopardise marginal groups’ social protection and increase forms of work that should be abolished.

4.2.3. Social Dialogue and Workers’ and Employers’ Representation (Pillars 1 and 4)

The barriers that might hinder collaboration for social entrepreneurs can be referred to as social dialogue and workers’ and employers’ representation, which can be an obstacle for pillars 1 and 4 of decent work. The research shows the low embeddedness of social farms, which makes it difficult for them to network with other actors in the area. Among these factors, the first is poor cooperation. While one respondent reports this lack in the specific context of social cooperatives (SC2), another respondent pointed out that cooperation is generally lacking among all the companies in the area (F1). On the other hand, another interviewee highlights that a barrier to cooperation might be related to the difficulty, albeit initial, for farms to clarify the reasons for them to carry out social activities: “social cooperatives did not really understand why farms have started to carry out the cooperatives’ work […]. The farm should actually be a tool for cooperatives […] to carry out the activities together. [This] would provide a better-quality service […]. Carrying out nature-based activities would help to achieve better results” (F2). This is somewhat in line with studies from [10], which show that diversity in business goals, linked to an unclear, common vision of the collaborative activity, strongly affects networking capabilities. Some farms, among the youngest in social agriculture, also highlighted a problem of isolation and, consequently, difficulty connecting with others (F3). Therefore, it is not the territorial distance [10] but rather the recent company’s incorporation into social farming that causes certain isolation [45]. Lastly, from the interviews, it emerged that the condition of being open to networking is an a priori criterion for collaboration (F7), according to what was argued by [10,33]. On the contrary, some respondents highlighted that a narrow-minded attitude by the farmers causes a low propensity to collaborate, as well as a lack of flexibility in the presentation of a tourism offer (e.g., a very strict time-table for farm visits), which, from a systemic perspective, can negatively affect the image of the entire destination and, more generally, contributes to undermining the possibility of disseminating values of inclusion and appreciation of differences which still remain taboo in our societies (F9). Figure 2 provides an overview of the obstacles to collaboration and their influence on decent working opportunities:

5. Conclusions

This qualitative study explores the potential of social entrepreneurship networking for providing quality employment in rural tourism. To do so, it proposes the following research questions: How can social entrepreneurs’ propensity to network promote decent work in rural tourism? And in which way can barriers towards collaboration negatively affect it? The questions were explored in the context of agricultural social entrepreneurship in the Marche region, which, due to the heterogeneity of experiences, provided a broad and diverse range of answers. As for the methodological perspective, using the decent working indicators to frame the findings served as a connecting point to understand how drivers and barriers to collaboration may influence the ILO’s decent working pillars [36].
The results confirm the research hypothesis that both drivers and barriers to collaboration impact the provision of decent work in rural tourism. Indeed, the research revealed that the propensity to network matches the different pillars of decent work according to three main themes related to the feasibility of collaboration (i.e., the reasons that make collaboration sustainable), social and working inclusion, and personal growth. The findings showed that networking could, first and foremost, boost the creation of new employment opportunities for both social entrepreneurs and marginalised people included in work programmes. This also proves the complementarity of agricultural, social, and tourism activities in the rural contexts of Mediterranean areas [12,13,41]. For social entrepreneurs, the propensity to network would contribute to broadening the range of opportunities for adequate earnings and productive work for them, increasing on-farm tourism activities, and creating additional opportunities to promote products in social agriculture. When designed for tourism purposes, recreational activities become a source of extra income for the farm and, thus, an incentive for generational turnover and for fighting rural depopulation. Networking would also increase the opportunities for social dialogue with other local farms, public administration, and society in general. It facilitates the acquisition and exchange of resources, raising awareness and fostering education on social issues.
On the contrary, the obstacles to collaboration experienced by social entrepreneurship reveal that lack of resources and low embeddedness could negatively affect the provision of decent work. Concerning the household (individual) dimension, the lack of economic and infrastructural resources could undermine the stability and security of work in social enterprises. In contrast, the lack of human resources could create working conditions that go beyond decent working time. From this perspective, the tourism network is an opportunity to employ new human capital to manage tourism activities in a more coordinated way. On the other hand, the lack of adequate legislative resources for recreational activities can undermine the social protection of those involved in such activities. For the former, the lack of insurance regulations protecting the entrepreneur would hinder new tourism experiences in agriculture, such as Woofing, which, as reported by Giannetto and Lanfranchi [13], is growing strongly in social agricultural contexts.
This study reveals relevant implications from both a theoretical and managerial perspective. Investigating social entrepreneurship in the context of inclusive tourism [5,34,36] constituted a first attempt to respond to the need for studies on the tourism workforce in non-mainstream contexts [8,9]. By examining the collaboration sphere, we had a clear and more punctual overview of the embeddedness of social entrepreneurs’ actions in the territory [11]. Furthermore, the use of decent working pillars as a tool to analyse results supported an understanding of how social entrepreneurs make tourism an inclusive economic activity [5], i.e., in which terms their tourism activities are capable of generating decent work [34].
Concerning the managerial implications, this study showed that social entrepreneurship significantly and robustly influences the creation of inclusive and sustainable tourism activities in rural areas. Therefore, it further highlighted the need to consider those experiences in tourism planning activities [10]. The study details the limits and opportunities for joint development from the state of the art, including individual or collective dimensions identified by the respondents. Focusing mainly on the obstacles to collaboration, the need for more significant economic and infrastructural support emerges. Vázquez-Maguirre [35] emphasises that social enterprises that promote labour inclusion need more support from policies than standard businesses. The legislative aspect is, therefore, of the utmost importance as its support is particularly required to allow recreational activities to be managed while guaranteeing the social security of both the social entrepreneurs and the marginalised groups participating in farm activities. Therefore, increased legislative attention to solve specific gaps concerning tourism in farms and agricultural environments could be crucial for developing collaboration as a first step towards an inclusive tourist destination.
Overall, this study outlines significant policy implications. While didactic farms are the only type of social farming formally recognised to provide tourism experiences because of their educational mission (see the National Law 141/2015 on social farming [54]), the results of this study showed that the contribution of social farming to tourism is instead extended to different types of social businesses. To concretely support the development of individual and networked tourism activities in social farming, there is a need for tourism policies to consider social farming experiences, as well as to strengthen the collaboration with agricultural and social policies where social farming is generally developed (see the study from Genova et al. [15]).
Nonetheless, this research has some limitations concerning both its explorative nature and the peculiarity of the case study considered. Indeed, this study deals with collaboration from a potential rather than an actual perspective. Therefore, studies on existing networks are suggested to reveal significant aspects influencing decent work. In this context, it is also recommended to consider the viewpoint of marginalised groups involved in agritourism working activities besides social entrepreneurs’ perspectives.
This research, albeit in a very exploratory way, highlighted some characteristics that a tourism social farming network could have, starting from both commercial and project-oriented aims, which would contribute to the sustainability of farms and their social projects, and extending to the network dimension, involving public and private actors who, each with their role, can contribute to set the basis for a tourist destination inclusive for visitors and residents alike. Future research in this context could be extended to the ecosystemic dimension of social farming tourism experiences by involving social farms and other public and private actors to work together on the characteristics that social farming tourism might have. Participatory approaches (e.g., focus groups) and the use of the business model canvas can be considered as useful operational tools, among others.
In any case, the results of this research cannot be generalised to the entire field of social entrepreneurship. Although the diverse sample of social businesses (farms and social cooperatives) is one of the strengths of this research, the study should be replicated in other social entrepreneurial contexts and geographies.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.F., C.F., S.T., A.C., G.B. and G.P.; methodology, A.F., C.F. and S.T.; validation, A.F.; formal analysis, A.F., C.F. and S.T.; investigation, A.F. and C.F.; resources, A.F., C.F. and A.C.; data curation, A.F. and C.F.; writing—original draft preparation, A.F.; writing—review and editing, A.F., C.F., S.T., G.P., G.B. and A.C.; visualization, A.F.; supervision, A.C.; project administration, A.C. and A.F.; funding acquisition, A.C. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by the Regional Operational Programme—Marche Region—European Regional Development Fund (Progetto “Dottorato Innovativo”—Borse di studio per dottorato di ricerca per l’innovazione del sistema regionale, 2019).

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study did not require ethical approval. Consent forms were collected from interviewees according to the Privacy Law of Italy.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

Data are available upon request to the correspondence author.


The authors would sincerely thank all the social entrepreneurs who took part in the investigation.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Case selection. Overview of social farms and their activities.
Table A1. Case selection. Overview of social farms and their activities.
TypeCodeField of InterventionTargeted GroupsServices Provided
FarmF1Social and care servicesPeople with mental and physical disabilities-Didactic farm
-Experiential labs for children and elderly people
-English language learning in nature for children
-Nature tours at different levels
-Educational and sustainability-related events about using alternative energies and environmental and food education
-Training activities for third companies and/or organisations
FarmF2Social and care servicesElderly people-Educational and didactic activities for schools
-Production of agricultural and processed products
FarmF3Social and care servicesElderly people-Musical experiences in nature for children
-Wellness activities in nature for adults
-Sale of farm produce
FarmF4Social and care services; job placementPeople with mental and physical disabilities-Sale of farm produce
-Cultural activities
FarmF5Social and care servicesPeople with mental and physical disabilities-B&B
-Sale of farm produce
Social cooperativeSC1Social and care services; job placementPeople with physical disabilities; refugees and asylum seekers-Field and laboratory work
-Agritourism (mostly residential)
-Cultural and educational activities for schools
-Summer camps for children and youth
-Sale of farm produce
Social cooperativeSC2Job placementPeople with drug addiction and legal impediments-Field and laboratory work
-Sale of farm produce
-Cultural events
FarmF6Social and care services; social and healthcare servicesPeople with physical disabilities-Cultural and private events
-Didactic farm
FarmF7Social and care servicesElderly people; children; adults-Agritourism
-Nature-based well-being activities
-Didactic farm
-Cultural and educational activities for schools
-On-farm visits
FarmF8Social and care servicesElderly people-Agritourism
-Didactic farm
-Farm visits for infancy and primary schools
-Educational labs
FarmF9Social and care servicesPeople with mental, relational, and economic problems-Educational activities
Social cooperativeSC3Social and care services; health services; job placementPeople with relational problems; elderly people; children; people with economic difficulties-Cultural and educational agricultural activities for children and elderly
-Tourism itineraries
-Spaces for accessible tourism in nature

Appendix B

Table A2. The impact of drivers towards collaboration for the provision of decent work in rural tourism.
Table A2. The impact of drivers towards collaboration for the provision of decent work in rural tourism.
Decent Work Pillars Decent Work Indicator Sub-Category CodeSelected Examples of Coded Text and Interviewed Organisation Code
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 2
Employment creation
Pillar 3
Social protection
Equal opportunity and treatment in employmentWork adaptation[A network of social farms allows to increase] “small tasks that are clear and carried out in an organised way, while being adjusted to the disabilities of each single person […]” F1
Skills development
Growth of self-esteem“[…] thanks to our external collaborations, people with mental disabilities found a job in restaurants […]. At the end, they felt gratified for their work […]. This would foster a growth in self-esteem and, therefore, they (people) can achieve more and more things” F1
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 3
Social protection
Social securitySense of gratification
Double benefit“People with different disabilities can be included in these (tourism) activities and this will help themselves and farms: my main point is to create a double benefit, helping the social businesses while helping the most fragile categories” F1
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 2
Employment creation
Employment opportunitiesNew employment opportunities for social entrepreneurship“Creating networks to facilitate joint businesses and product selling” F3
“To increase the opportunities to create a stronger agritourism offer all year long F8
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 3
Social protection
Decent working times“Compared to the past, today young farmers need a different (and higer) income […]” F1
Adequate earnings and productive workMy job is to be a farmer, and, for this, I spend most of the time in the field. To manage tourism activities, I should hire someone. […] If we all are part of a network, maybe this can be easily managed” F4
Double benefit“We also work for an economic profit […]. While this is difficult to achieve through social activities, tourism opens the possibilities for us to sell social agricultural products […]. I aspire to attract tourists.” F9
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 4
Increase social dialogue
Social dialogue, workers’ and employers’ representationSelf-representation“[The goal is] to create a network of social farms, where each one has something to tell about its past and the obstacles and difficulties overcame […]” F6
Social dialogue“[…] it is important to have a shared experience because it is essential to listen to what others are experiencing and talk about your own experiences […]” F7
Raising awareness[In a social farming tourism network] it should be clear that (we are) open to everybody, as animals do: they manage to stay together, even though they are so different” F6
Work adaptationNetworking with other social farms could increase the opportunities for people with relational disorders to have different therapeutical works at disposition. […] After a while they need to change their work” F9
Skills development“[…] it is important to have a shared experience because it is essential to listen to what others are experiencing and talk about your own experiences […]. In a network participated by skilled people, each one of us can draw on them to fulfil our role in the best possible way. This is important to (…) improve ones’ knowledge and skills” F7
Growth of self-esteem“[…] We try to convey positive messages in their growth: tolerance and respect for all animals, so that through the study of animals, they can also understand the importance of each person’s role in society. The goal is growth and self-esteem, and growth and responsibility” F1
Sense of responsibility
Self-placing in the society
Main Themes Emerged
Personal GrowthSocial and Working InclusionCollaboration Feasibility
Table A3. Coding process. The impact of barriers towards collaboration for the provision of decent work in rural tourism.
Table A3. Coding process. The impact of barriers towards collaboration for the provision of decent work in rural tourism.
Decent Work Pillars Decent Work Indicator Sub-Category CodeSelected Examples of Coded Text and Interviewed Organisation Code
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 2
Employment creation
Pillar 3
Social protection

Stability and security of workEconomic“Social farming is always lacking economic resources. F5
The administrative and bureaucratic obstacles are so high that nobody took the money […]. Managing an RDP project, who can do it if not a professional? […]. Access to funding must be more flexible” SC3
Infrastructural“We always struggle with the internet connection” F7
“Creating a social and disability-friendly agritourism is difficult due to the architectural barriers in agriculture, which are difficult to overcome” F8
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 3
Social protection
Decent working timeHuman“[…] some companies could find it difficult to take care of the tourism activities, due to the small number of people working there, as they also have other things to take care of to support their agricultural production” F6
Work that should be abolishedLegislative“[…] the goal is that our cooking services, for some parts of our production, may allow the elderly to work without paying for using the equipment and premises […]. Any kind of work should be fairly compensated with a paycheck, but the problem is the elderly do it for free. It has to be solved and the solution could be to sign an agreement with the municipality [with the aim to] identify these activities as part of a social project. We are discussing it with the experts who could help us.” F2
Safe work environment“Woofing sounds like a very social tourism activity. But this still has bureaucratic gaps. Why should I risk some penalties to allow visitors to be in the field if there is no insurance for this kind of activity? If some legal frameworks were dedicated to this activity, everything would be easier to do.” F4
Pillar 1
Promote fundamental human rights
Pillar 4
Increase social dialogue
Social dialogue, workers’ and employers’ representationPoor cooperation“Often there is not a sharing attitude among companies.” F1
“Social cooperatives don’t help each other” SC2
Unclear roles“At the beginning of social farming’s first experiences, social cooperatives did not really understand why farms had started to carry out the cooperatives’ work […]. The farm should actually be a tool for cooperatives […] in order to carry out the activities together. [This] would provide a better-quality service […]. Carrying out nature-based activities would help to achieve better results” F2
Isolation“I do like networking. […] I did not join networks because nobody asked me to. Right now, I feel to be very isolated” F3
Narrow-minded“The condition is that everyone is open-minded: we are very narrow-minded” F7
Main Themes Emerging
Low EmbeddednessLack of Resources


  1. OECD. OECD Tourism Trends and Policies 2020; OECD: Paris, France, 2020; ISBN 978-92-64-70314-8. [Google Scholar]
  2. Cañada, E. Too Precarious to Be Inclusive? Hotel Maid Employment in Spain. Tour. Geogr. 2018, 20, 653–674. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  3. United Nations Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; United Nations: New York, NY, USA, 2015.
  4. International Labour Organization. COVID-19 and the Tourism Sector; International Labour Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, 2022. [Google Scholar]
  5. Scheyvens, R.; Biddulph, R. Inclusive Tourism Development. Tour. Geogr. 2018, 20, 589–609. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  6. Higgins-Desbiolles, F.; Carnicelli, S.; Krolikowski, C.; Wijesinghe, G.; Boluk, K. Degrowing Tourism: Rethinking Tourism. J. Sustain. Tour. 2019, 27, 1926–1944. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  7. Biddulph, R.; Scheyvens, R. Introducing Inclusive Tourism. Tour. Geogr. 2018, 20, 583–588. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  8. Baum, T.; Kralj, A.; Robinson, R.N.S.; Solnet, D.J. Tourism Workforce Research: A Review, Taxonomy and Agenda. Ann. Tour. Res. 2016, 60, 1–22. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  9. Baum, T.; Cheung, C.; Kong, H.; Kralj, A.; Mooney, S.; Nguyễn Thị Thanh, H.; Ramachandran, S.; Dropulić Ružić, M.; Siow, M. Sustainability and the Tourism and Hospitality Workforce: A Thematic Analysis. Sustainability 2016, 8, 809. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  10. Mottiar, Z.; Boluk, K.; Kline, C. The Roles of Social Entrepreneurs in Rural Destination Development. Ann. Tour. Res. 2018, 68, 77–88. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  11. Aquino, R.S.; Lück, M.; Schänzel, H.A. A Conceptual Framework of Tourism Social Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Community Development. J. Hosp. Tour. Manag. 2018, 37, 23–32. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  12. Di Iacovo, F.; Moruzzo, R.; Rossignoli, C.; Scarpellini, P. Transition Management and Social Innovation in Rural Areas: Lessons from Social Farming. J. Agric. Educ. Ext. 2014, 20, 327–347. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  13. Giannetto, C.; Lanfranchi, M. Social Agriculture and Its Related Tourist Activities. In Decent Work and Economic Growth; Leal Filho, W., Azul, A.M., Brandli, L., Lange Salvia, A., Wall, T., Eds.; Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland, 2021; pp. 880–887. ISBN 978-3-319-95866-8. [Google Scholar]
  14. Yin, R.K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Applied Social Research Methods Series, 3rd ed.; Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA, USA, 2003; ISBN 978-0-7619-2552-1. [Google Scholar]
  15. Genova, A.; Maccaroni, M.; Viganò, E. Social Farming: Heterogeneity in Social and Agricultural Relationships. Sustainability 2020, 12, 4824. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  16. Gibbs, G. Analyzing Qualitative Data; SAGE Publications, Ltd.: London, UK, 2007; ISBN 978-0-7619-4980-0. [Google Scholar]
  17. Saldaña, J. The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers, 2nd ed.; SAGE: Los Angeles, CA, USA, 2013; ISBN 978-1-4462-4736-5. [Google Scholar]
  18. UNWTO. Recommendations on Tourism and Rural Development—A Guide to Making Tourism an Effective Tool for Rural Development; World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): Madrid, Spain, 2020; ISBN 978-92-844-2217-3. [Google Scholar]
  19. Postma, A.; Cavagnaro, E.; Spruyt, E. Sustainable Tourism 2040. J. Tour. Futures 2017, 3, 13–22. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  20. Higgins-Desbiolles, F. Socialising Tourism for Social and Ecological Justice after COVID-19. Tour. Geogr. 2020, 22, 610–623. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  21. Cezarino, L.O.; Liboni, L.B.; Hunter, T.; Pacheco, L.M.; Martins, F.P. Corporate Social Responsibility in Emerging Markets: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainability Integration. J. Clean. Prod. 2022, 362, 132224. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  22. Matten, D.; Moon, J. “Implicit” and “Explicit” CSR: A Conceptual Framework for a Comparative Understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility. Acad. Manag. Rev. 2008, 33, 404–424. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  23. Campos, V.; Sanchis, J.-R.; Ejarque, A. Social Entrepreneurship and Economy for the Common Good: Study of Their Relationship through a Bibliometric Analysis. Int. J. Entrep. Innov. 2020, 21, 156–167. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  24. Chandra, Y.; Man Lee, E.K.; Tjiptono, F. Public versus Private Interest in Social Entrepreneurship: Can One Serve Two Masters? J. Clean. Prod. 2021, 280, 124499. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  25. Madanaguli, A.; Srivastava, S.; Ferraris, A.; Dhir, A. Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in the Tourism Sector: A Systematic Literature Review and Future Outlook. Sustain. Dev. 2022, 30, 447–461. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  26. Sheldon, P.J.; Pollok, A.; Daniele, R. Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism: Setting the Stage Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism; Sheldon, P.J., Daniele, R., Eds.; Tourism on the Verge; Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland, 2017; pp. 1–18. ISBN 978-3-319-46516-6. [Google Scholar]
  27. Pollok, A. Social Entrepreneurship in Tourism: The Conscious Travel Approach; TIPSE: London, UK, 2015. [Google Scholar]
  28. Aquino, R.S. Community Change through Tourism Social Entrepreneurship. Ann. Tour. Res. 2022, 95, 103442. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  29. Peng, K.-L.; Lin, P.M.C. Social Entrepreneurs: Innovating Rural Tourism through the Activism of Service Science. Int. J. Contemp. Hosp. Manag. 2016, 28, 1225–1244. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  30. Kline, C.; Shah, N.; Rubright, H. Applying the Positive Theory of Social Entrepreneurship to Understand Food Entrepreneurs and Their Operations. Tour. Plan. Dev. 2014, 11, 330–342. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  31. Mottiar, Z.; Boluk, K. Understanding How Social Entrepreneurs Fit into the Tourism Discourse. In Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism; Sheldon, P.J., Daniele, R., Eds.; Tourism on the Verge; Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland, 2017; pp. 117–132. ISBN 978-3-319-46516-6. [Google Scholar]
  32. Naderi, A.; Nasrolahi Vosta, L.; Ebrahimi, A.; Jalilvand, M.R. The Contributions of Social Entrepreneurship and Transformational Leadership to Performance: Insights from Rural Tourism in Iran. Int. J. Sociol. Soc. Policy 2019, 39, 719–737. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  33. Lang, R.; Fink, M. Rural Social Entrepreneurship: The Role of Social Capital within and across Institutional Levels. J. Rural. Stud. 2019, 70, 155–168. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  34. Biddulph, R. Social Enterprise and Inclusive Tourism. Five Cases in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tour. Geogr. 2018, 20, 610–629. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  35. Vázquez-Maguirre, M. Building Sustainable Rural Communities through Indigenous Social Enterprises: A Humanistic Approach. Sustainability 2020, 12, 9643. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  36. Moreno de la Santa, J.G.-S. Tourism as a Lever for a More Inclusive Society. Worldw. Hosp. Tour. Themes 2020, 12, 731–738. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  37. Dahles, H.; Khieng, S.; Verver, M.; Manders, I. Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism in Cambodia: Advancing Community Engagement. J. Sustain. Tour. 2020, 28, 816–833. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  38. Guirado, C.; Valldeperas, N.; Tulla, A.F.; Sendra, L.; Badia, A.; Evard, C.; Cebollada, À.; Espluga, J.; Pallarès, I.; Vera, A. Social Farming in Catalonia: Rural Local Development, Employment Opportunities and Empowerment for People at Risk of Social Exclusion. J. Rural. Stud. 2017, 56, 180–197. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  39. Giarè, F.; Ricciardi, G.; Borsotto, P. Migrants Workers and Processes of Social Inclusion in Italy: The Possibilities Offered by Social Farming. Sustainability 2020, 12, 3991. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  40. Pavoncello, D. Social Agriculture: Experimentation of a Sustainable Inclusion Laboratory. In Proceedings of the One-Day International Conference, Psychology of Sustainability and Sustainable Development: A Current Research Area, Florence, Italy, 6 December 2018. [Google Scholar]
  41. Tulla, A.F.; Vera, A.; Valldeperas, N.; Guirado, C. Social return and economic viability of social farming in Catalonia: A case-study analysis. Eur. Countrys. 2018, 10, 398–428. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  42. Uvarova, I.; Vitola, A. Innovation Challenges and Opportunities in European Rural SMEs. Public Policy Adm. 2019, 18, 152–166. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  43. Calabrò, G.; Chirieleison, R.C.; Giannetto, C.; Lanfranchi, M. Social Farms in Support of Local and Accessible Tourism. In Tourism and Disability; Abbate, T., Cesaroni, F., D’Amico, A., Eds.; Tourism on the Verge; Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland, 2022; pp. 115–126. ISBN 978-3-030-93611-2. [Google Scholar]
  44. Gramm, V.; Hoffmann, C.; Cattivelli, V. Transmitting and Transforming (Agri)-Cultural Values of Mountain Farming: Farm-Based Educational Services in South Tyrol. Mt. Res. Dev. 2019, 39, E21–E28. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  45. Gretter, A.; Torre, C.D.; Maino, F.; Omizzolo, A. New Farming as an Example of Social Innovation Responding to Challenges of Inner Mountain Areas of Italian Alps. J. Alp. Res. 2019, 25, 107–172. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
  46. Moruzzo, R.; Riccioli, F.; Galasso, A.; Troccoli, C.; Espinosa Diaz, S.; Di Iacovo, F. Italian Social Farming: The Network of Coldiretti and Campagna Amica. Sustainability 2020, 12, 5036. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  47. Fazzi, L. Social Co-Operatives and Social Farming in Italy: Social Co-Operatives and Social Farming in Italy. Sociol. Rural. 2011, 51, 119–136. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  48. Nazzaro, C.; Uliano, A.; Marotta, G. Drivers and Barriers towards Social Farming: A Systematic Review. Sustainability 2021, 13, 14008. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  49. Fazari, E.; Musolino, D. Social Farming in High Mountain Regions: The Case of the Aosta Valley in Italy. Econ. Agro-Aliment. 2023, 3, 1–33. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  50. Musolino, D.; Distaso, A.; Marcianò, C. The Role of Social Farming in the Socio-Economic Development of Highly Marginal Regions: An Investigation in Calabria. Sustainability 2020, 12, 5285. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  51. López-i-Gelats, F.; Milán, M.J.; Bartolomé, J. Is Farming Enough in Mountain Areas? Farm Diversification in the Pyrenees. Land Use Policy 2011, 28, 783–791. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  52. Kmita-Dziasek, E. Social Farming-Based Tourism from the Perspective of Metropolitan Areas. In Metropolitan Commuter Belt Tourism; Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2017; pp. 199–212. [Google Scholar]
  53. Consiglio Regionale delle Marche. Disposizioni Regionali in Materia Di Multifunzionalità Dell’azienda Agricola e Diversificazione in Agricoltura; Consiglio Regionale delle Marche: Ancona, Italy, 2011. [Google Scholar]
  54. Camera dei deputati; Senato della Repubblica. Disposizioni in Materia Di Agricoltura Sociale; Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica: Italiana, Roma, 2015. [Google Scholar]
  55. Denzin, N.K. The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods; Aldine Transaction: New Brunswick, NJ, USA, 2009; ISBN 978-0-202-36248-9. [Google Scholar]
  56. International Labour Organization. Decent Work Indicators, Guidelines for Producers and Users of Statistical and Legal Framework Indicators; International Labour Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, 2013. [Google Scholar]
Figure 1. Drivers to collaboration. Topics and sub-categories influencing decent working opportunities.
Figure 1. Drivers to collaboration. Topics and sub-categories influencing decent working opportunities.
Sustainability 15 05856 g001
Figure 2. Obstacles to collaboration. Topics and sub-categories influencing decent working opportunities.
Figure 2. Obstacles to collaboration. Topics and sub-categories influencing decent working opportunities.
Sustainability 15 05856 g002
Table 1. Decent work pillars and indicators. Author’s elaboration from ILO’s website (, accessed on 15 February 2023) and ILO [56].
Table 1. Decent work pillars and indicators. Author’s elaboration from ILO’s website (, accessed on 15 February 2023) and ILO [56].
International Labour Organization’s Decent Working Pillars
PillarsArea of InterventionDescription
(1) Promote fundamental human rights at workRespect fundamental principles and rights at workFreedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining are fundamental human rights to be safeguarded along with dignity and social justice when speaking of decent work, together with the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, child labour, and discrimination in employment or occupation.
(2) Employment creationPromoting jobs and creating enterpriseEmployment creation allows for decent work when raising living standards and widening access to incomes.
(3) Social protectionPromoting security in the workplace and security of livelihoodSocial security makes people feel secure and able to take advantage of new and changing opportunities. It serves to meet people’s urgent subsistence needs and provide protection against contingencies, which is an important aspect of decent work.
(4) Promote social dialoguePromoting social dialogue at multiple levelsDecent work should foster dialogue among workers, employers, and government representatives, with the aim to design and implement critical economic and social policies.
Tripartite Meeting Decent Work Indicators (2013)
N.IndicatorDescription Referred pillar(s)
1Employment opportunitiesIt provides insights regarding the quantity of labour demand and supply in a country. It covers concepts mainly related to (un)employment.Pillar 1
Pillar 2
2Adequate earnings and productive workWork has to be productive and provide workers with adequate earnings. It also contains working poverty rate to monitor working poverty levels.Pillar 1
Pillar 3
3Decent working timeIt is related to employment and working time, that is, the time associated with activities within the production boundary of the System of National Accounts and the arrangement of this time.Pillar 1
Pillar 3
4Combining work, family, and personal lifeIt is related to standards and fundamental principles and rights at work and social protection.Pillar 1
Pillar 3
5Work that should be abolishedIt stresses that certain types of work, such as child and forced labour, should be abolished. Measurement can inform action and monitor progress towards its elimination.Pillar 1
Pillar 3
6Stability and security of workIndicators show a share of employment related to a specific unstable or insecure worker category.Pillar 1
Pillar 2
Pillar 3
7Equal opportunity and treatment in employmentIt refers to equal opportunities and working conditions for all people who may suffer discrimination by sex, race, or ethnicity; indigenous groups; rural workers; migrant workers; and people with disabilities.Pillar 1
Pillar 2
Pillar 3
8Safe work environmentIt refers to workers’ protection from work-related hazards and risks. It includes measures related to occupational injury (fatal or not), time lost for injury, or labour inspection.Pillar 1
Pillar 3
9Social securityIt provides all benefits to secure protection, benefits to address lack of work-related income due to sickness or injury, old-age social security benefits, and general poverty and social exclusion benefits.Pillar 1
Pillar 3
10Social dialogue, workers’ and employers’ representationIt covers all types of negotiation, consultation, and exchange of information between representatives of governments, employers, and workers on issues of common interest.Pillar 1
Pillar 4
Disclaimer/Publisher’s Note: The statements, opinions and data contained in all publications are solely those of the individual author(s) and contributor(s) and not of MDPI and/or the editor(s). MDPI and/or the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to people or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Ferrara, A.; Ferrara, C.; Tomasi, S.; Paviotti, G.; Bertella, G.; Cavicchi, A. Exploring the Potential of Social Farmers’ Networking as a Leverage for Inclusive Tourism. Sustainability 2023, 15, 5856.

AMA Style

Ferrara A, Ferrara C, Tomasi S, Paviotti G, Bertella G, Cavicchi A. Exploring the Potential of Social Farmers’ Networking as a Leverage for Inclusive Tourism. Sustainability. 2023; 15(7):5856.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ferrara, Annapia, Concetta Ferrara, Sabrina Tomasi, Gigliola Paviotti, Giovanna Bertella, and Alessio Cavicchi. 2023. "Exploring the Potential of Social Farmers’ Networking as a Leverage for Inclusive Tourism" Sustainability 15, no. 7: 5856.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop