The European Social Fund is arguably the EU’s most powerful policy tool for creating a more ‘social Europe’. Since 2008, Europe’s renewed Social Agenda has explored how the European social model can be made more modern, inclusive, innovative and sustainable.
The current ESF regulation explicitly encourages social innovation as a way to achieve these goals - as does the proposal for ESF+. However, many ESF stakeholders and beneficiaries report several challenges in attempting to use the fund for social innovation. These include a lack of capacity to effectively design, implement, evaluate and scale innovative actions, and a widespread misunderstanding of what social innovation is and what the rationale for supporting it is. As EU policymakers debate the future of ESF, SIC's final policy report asks: how can it be optimised for social innovation as a way to achieve these goals?
The report brings together analysis of ESF expenditure on social innovation, previous reports on ESF and social innovation and responses to the ESF+ proposals, with primary data from stakeholder interviews and roundtable discussions. It makes clear recommendations about further amendments to the ESF+ proposal, and for its eventual implementation in the 2021-2027 programming period.