Aeres The Leonardo project EcoPreneurship Austria

The Leonardo project EcoPreneurship is a co-operation between educational institutes from Norway, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Aeres took part with the Groenhorst location Dronten, the Netherlands. This school for vocational education is specialised in biodynamic agriculture.

The motivation for this project and why this project is needed

The aim of this partnership is the creation of a curriculum for rural entrepreneurs. To achieve this goal a cooperative work-style has been chosen, in which every partner contributes certain elements that will finally build up the curriculum.
The curriculum will train farmers and other rural entrepreneurs in “EcoPreneurship”, which will enable them to design, develop, implement, manage and/or innovate concepts of multifunctional agriculture like social farming and other Green Care interventions.

The partnership will focus on three quality-aspects within the curriculum:

  1. “user approach”: its content will be based on knowledge and competences that have proven most essential in already existing enterprises of this sector;
  2. “relation based experiential learning” method to speak to the initiative- and will-forces of the learners;
  3. “modular set-up”: the curriculum has to fit in different existing courses and function as both improvement by modification and innovation by re-development.

The partnership has been working together on this project for about 1,5 years. A good deal of the desired contents and elements already exist and have already been gathered, in order to achieve the objectives of this project. The aim of the project will mainly be the process of evaluating, adjusting and assembling single elements that will lead to the main-objective: a modular curriculum “EcoPreneurship” which is thoroughly implemented in different European countries to complete existing vocational training options.

Relevant national issues are increasing costs of subsistence and maintenance of social/public service and infra-structure, or national budget cuts.By comparing these national issues, the benefit of combining our educational efforts to participate in this development became quite evident. Being connected to the movement of multi-functional agriculture, the partnership has experienced that new concepts and business-models for rural enterprises can have a big counter-effect (directly or in-directly) on de-migration, senescence and other phenomena in rural areas. This results in re-vitalising and ensuring crucial resources for future generations.

So what competences and knowledge does an EcoPreneur need

The partnership pre-defined three main focus- and learning-areas:

  1. Entrepreneurial skills and competences: Some of our partners like the Warmonderhof in the Netherlands or the SJH in Norway have many years of experience in teaching organic and bio-dynamic farming and care-farming: they have educated many students who then became pioneers of enterprises we would define today as “Eco-Enterprises” (care-farms, educational-farms etc). The relationships to these pioneers are still well established and enables the partnership to identify the key-competences needed to not only run a “1-0-1”-business in terms of management and book-keeping, but to build a cross-sectoral, multi-bottom-line enterprise in an integral manner, using the multi-functionality of a farm to create revenue and value that serves not only the farm but the local community and the whole region.
  2. Personal attitude and leadership: To be able to do so, a certain mentality is needed as well as courage to go out and realize ones visions. In modern entrepreneurship “risk-management” is being taught as method to avoid risk and to minimize profit-loss. Being an “EcoPreneur” is more about to be able to take a well calculated risk – not trying to avoid it. The challenges of rural areas in many European countries can not be addressed by entrepreneurs, who are depending on subsidies and who have learned to avoid every risk as best they can: only entrepreneurs in the “classical sense”, who see chances and gather all necessary means to change them into a positive reality, have that potential. This asks for new approaches of how to educate the future generations of entrepreneurs, and what to teach them.
  3. Integral approach and Public-Social-Private-Partnership: One of the key-success-factors for existing “Eco-Enterprises” is the coordination and the management of multi-stakeholder interests in projects that answer to both the need of the entrepreneurs and his/her affiliates. Many issues of rural and regional development have not been successfully addressed yet, because it is not clear where the responsibilities lie: the partnership intends to integrate the knowledge and approach of how to take responsibility of public issues as private entrepreneurs in the curriculum. This will enable “EcoPreneurs” to find solutions and ways of cooperation that leads to new forms of financing and to sustainable concepts for addressing economic, social and ecological long-term-objectives of the public body on regional and national level.

Thus, active contribution to rural/regional developments implies a broad, cross-sectoral perspective, motivation to create cooperation between un-alike actors and also a certain degree of un-selfishness and courage. It cannot sufficiently be explained by work-input, employment-rates and output-percentages. Tradition, identity and connection are essential factors as well. To govern the local/regional resources of nature and culture and a heightened sense of own traditions and values are essential for the creation of well-being, pride and responsibility to develop one’s own region. This also contributes to create attractive places to move to.
Regional development is about creating better places for living and working. A well-established learning-environment, cultural- and spare time-offers and meeting points for inhabitants are an important fundament for future developments of a region.

End review

The project is now ended and the end review resulted in a very good result. Quotes from the assessment are:


  • Excellent way in changing the main goal, without losing quality in this project.
  • By using a "on-going monitoring and evaluation" it was possible in an early stage of the project, to change the goal.


  • No real weaknesses