European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)

European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)

Investors for impact could receive under the ESF+ programme financial support provided by national and regional authorities within their member state, as well as directly from the European Commission. Investors that are supported by the programme work on the realisation of the social rights outlined in the European Pillar of Social Rights or social innovation at a European level.


What is the ESF+ framework?

The ESF+ framework is an EU-wide funding programme that primarily issues grants at the level of member states and which funds initiatives that contribute to the realisation of the goals listed in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, augment social innovation, and/or diminish member state specific social issues.

The motivation for the creation of the ESF+ framework stems from the desire to decrease disparities between and within member states to fuel the creation of an equal social level playing field across Europe, thereby emphasising the uniqueness and needs of each region.

The ESF+ framework came into force in 2021 and merged the previously separated funding programmes: European Social Fund (ESF), Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD) Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) into a single framework to simplify the use of these funds and ensure greater flexibility. This enables the EU and member states to provide better integrated and more targeted support to social economy actors like investors for impact.

How can ESF+ support investors for impact?

The ESF+ supports investors for impact in multiple ways and it focused on funding European, national and local initiatives in domains such as skills and education, youth, equal labour market opportunities, child poverty, deprivation, health, housing, and social innovation. One of the main goals of this funding programme is also to strengthen social innovation at the level of the member state and cross-boarders, through 2 specially dedicated strands:

  • Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) – deployed at the level of the EU and funds initiatives related to the cross-border dimension of social innovation and social protection services. A further objective of the strand is to support the development of social enterprises, including their capacity to access EU funding.
  • ESF Social Innovation + – deployed at the level of the EU and supports social enterprises to transfer and scale-up social innovation across the EU.

How can investors for impact obtain funding under the ESF+?

EVPA The EU Budget for Investors for impact 2021 Page 4

Investors for impact could access different funding opportunities of the total EUR 99.3 billion under the ESF+ framework in a distinct way:

  • European Social Fund+ in the member states EUR 98.3 billion, by engaging directly with the managing authorities or intermediate bodies active within their member state. These are public- or private entities appointed by the member state’s national government. These entities are situated at the national level e.g. a department within a ministry or at a sub-national level e.g. a dedicated entity tasked with ESF+ within a region of the member state.
  • Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) – EUR 0.76 billion, by engaging directly with the European Commission via the Funding & Tender Opportunities webpage. All EU funding opportunities whereby the EU directly issues the funding to successful applicants are carefully selected and published by EVPA here.
  • ESF Social Innovation + (not in the above graph) – EUR 0.197 billion, by engaging directly with the “European Competence Centre for Social Innovation”. This is the European Commission entrusted entity to provide non-financial support and issue grants. Its work is closely linked to the “Competence Centres for Social Innovation” and the “EaSI National Contact Points”.

EVPA publications about the ESF+

EVPA helps to ensure that the ESF+ framework incorporates the needs of investors for impact and created the following material to guide social investors through the framework:

Contact for more info

Bianca Polidoro , Senior Policy and EU Partnerships Manager, EVPA

Cătălina Papari , Policy and EU Partnerships Associate, EVPA

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