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  1. Governance, partnership: Projects aimed at increasing the application of multilevel and transnational or cross-border governance, designing and testing appropriate governance structures and mechanisms. Also cooperation between public institutions on any theme.

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    Activities focussing on agricultural products, organic farming, horticulture, as well as forest management and wood products; furthermore the development of the food sector, food chains, organic food production, and seafood products and any topics related to animals and fishing.

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    Water management projects about management and distribution of drinking water, integrated sustainable water management, monitoring systems for water supply and improving drinking water quality; also water treatment (wastewater), in particular, innovative technologies to improve wastewater, treatments in the purification of industrial and domestic wastewater and water reuse policies. Waterways, lakes and rivers: This deals with any topics on waterways, lakes and rivers, from improving water quality, protecting and developing of ecosystems or sustainable wetland management.

    Activities that protect, promote and enhance cultural and natural heritage, increase the attractiveness through preservation and valorisation of common cultural and natural heritage in a sustainable manner, and improve and develop cultural and natural heritage objects, services and products. Cultural heritage management, art and culture, (maritime) heritage routes, access to cultural and natural heritage. Also all topics on cultural services such as festivals, concerts, art workshops.

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    Community integration and common identity projects that build identity, create a more cohesive society, promote positive relations through an increased provision of shared spaces and services.

    Demographic change and immigration is about projects tackling major societal challenges like demographic change in different areas and migration, in particular, aging society (active aging, best agers, silver economy strategies) and related new public services (adaptation of key services and infrastructure), social and spatial segregation, and brain drain. Also all topics on migration (policy tools, strategic planning, integration).

    All projects where ICT has a significant role, including tailor-made ICT solutions in different fields, as well as digital innovation hubs, open data, Internet of Things; ICT access and connecting (remote) areas with digital infrastructure and services; services and applications for citizens (e-health, e-government, e-learning, e-inclusion, etc.); services and applications for companies (e-commerce, networking, digital transformation, etc.).

    This is about the mitigation and management of risks and disasters, and the anticipation and response capacity towards the actors regarding specific risks and management of natural disasters, for example, prevention of flood and drought hazards, forest fire, strong weather conditions, etc.. It is also about risk assessment and safety.

    Education and training projects on expanding educational opportunities, reducing barriers in the field of education, improving higher education and lifelong learning, training and labour mobility, educational networks, higher vocational education, common learning programmes.

    Topics on energy management, energy-saving methods, evaluating energy efficiency measurements, energy rehabilitation/efficiency in buildings / public infrastructure, promotion of energy efficiency, cooperation among experienced energy efficiency firms, institutions and local administrations, co-generation.

    Projects focussing on wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal and other renewable energy, increasing the production of sustainable renewable energy and improving research capacities in biomass. Also projects focussing on storage and management of renewable energy, new technologies, sustainable regional bioenergy policies and financial Instruments for investments on renewable energy.

    Social projects concerning people with disabilities and excluded groups; enhancement of the capacity of children, young people, women and elderly; creation of infrastructure to improve access for disabled people, integration of socially vulnerable people; innovate in the care of victims of gender violence, social inclusion of women, etc.

    This deals with the development of health and social services and improved accessibility and efficiency for different groups (elderly, children, etc.). It is also about new healthcare models and medical diagnosis and treatments (dementia, cancer, diabetes, etc.), hospitals, care management, and rare diseases, as well as improving wellbeing and promoting sports.

    Projects about (organised) crime, efficient and secure borders, such as enhancing the effectiveness of the police in the prevention of drug crimes, the development of safety services, or tackling security and organised crime issues.

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    • Multimodal transport and logistics and freight transport focusing on using different means of transport, developing multimodal connections, optimising intermodal transport chains; offering multimodal logistics solutions and providing access to clean, efficient and multimodal transport corridors and hubs; establishing cooperation among logistic centres and developing multimodal mobility strategies.

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    • regional planning and development, such as the implementation of regional development policies/instruments and programmes, sustainable land use management plans, integrated regional action plans, spatial planning, and marine protected area management.
    • rural and peripheral development, referring to remote, sparsely populated areas, rural community development, and rural economics, in particular access to remote areas and policies for rural areas.
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Call key data

Actions to boost the development of finance markets for social enterprises

Funding Program

European Social Fund+

Call number




14.03.2024 17:00

Funding rate


Call budget

€ 3,000,000.00

Estimated EU contribution per project

between € 300,000.00 and € 400,000.00

Link to the call

Link to the submission

Call content

short description

The expected result is the cooperation between public and / or private entities of any type with the aim to ease access to finance for social entrepreneurs and to develop the investment readiness of social enterprises to ensure social enterprises are able to take on repayable finance.

Call objectives

The objective is to contribute to the development of feasible, suitable and reliable schemes or funds providing finance to social enterprises as well as support structures providing business development services and networking facilities to improve social enterprises' investment readiness. The objective of the call is also to identify, develop, promote and disseminate good practices in supporting social enterprises in accessing finance.Social enterprises are instrumental in the implementation of many of the European Pillar of Social Rights principles. In particular they play a key role in delivering the following European Pillar of Social Rights (‘EPSR’) principles: 3. Equal opportunities, 4. Active support to employment, 5. Secure and adaptable employment, 11. Childcare and support to children, 17. Inclusion of people with disabilities, 18. Long-term care and 20. Access to essential services.

Expected effects and impacts

The expected result of the call is the improved cooperation between public and / or private entities of any type with the aim of setting up financial instruments that respond to the needs of social enterprises. Ultimately this should enable more social enterprises to get access to repayable finance for developing and scaling their business model, and to reduce their dependence on grants. Moreover, investors and business development organisations are expected to increase their awareness of the needs of social enterprises and improve their capacity to design and manage financial products that respond to these needs. Market facilitators such as qualified intermediaries are expected to be put in place where they do not exist.

Expected results

The grant is aimed at the actors entering into the early stages of collaboration towards the creation of a financial instrument to support social enterprises.

Actions must be fully carried out in ESF+ eligible countries and must focus on supporting social enterprises that are in need of smaller investments (< EUR 500 000).

In line with the ESF+ Regulation, a social enterprise is an undertaking, regardless of its legal form, including social economy enterprises, or a natural person which:

  • in accordance with its articles of association, statutes or with any other legal document that may result in liability under the rules of the Member State where a social enterprise is located, has the achievement of measurable, positive social impacts, which may include environmental impacts, as its primary social objective rather than the generation of profit for other purposes, and which provides services or goods that generate a social return or employs methods of production of goods or services that embody social objectives;
  • uses its profits first and foremost to achieve its primary social objective, and has predefined procedures and rules that ensure that the distribution of profits does not undermine the primary social objective;
  • is managed in an entrepreneurial, participatory, accountable and transparent manner, in particular by involving workers, customers and stakeholders on whom its business activities have an impact.

The social enterprises must be established / in the process of being established in one or more of the ESF+ eligible countries.

The activities to be funded will consist of developing social finance partnerships and feasible, suitable and reliable financial instruments or schemes providing finance to social enterprises, as well as non-financial support aimed at improving the social enterprises' investment readiness (such as business development and networking). The following activities can be carried out under this call for proposals:

  • analytical activities such as in-depth market assessments, mapping projects, assessment of feasibility and suitability of setting up social finance mechanisms/instruments, design of methodologies, tools, processes where such information is missing or required in the context of the target market and envisioned financial instrument;
  • communications/networking actions aimed at bringing in additional investors (e.g. organisation of meetings or participation in relevant conferences/ fora that gather potential investors);
  • training activities and capacity building actions (e.g. aimed at developing capacities for managing investments and investment readiness for social enterprises);
  • knowledge dissemination and know-how transfer from and to peers in other ESF+ eligible countries (e.g. study visit, expert workshop, training session, adaption of tools, procedures/contracts);
  • the replication or adaptation of proven financing or support models, to be implemented in other countries. This may also include translations;
  • work of financial experts and lawyers to draft the legal documents for setting up the social finance instrument or mechanism required by EU or national legislation;
  • IT services in case the financial instrument uses web-tools or is based on a web platform (e.g. crowdfunding platforms).

Applicants are expected to provide a detailed description of their target market in their Application Form – Part B, under 1.2 Needs analysis and specific objectives. This should include an outline of the current situation in the target market and the research already available and areas which require further development.

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Eligibility Criteria

Regions / countries for funding

EU Member States, Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT)
Moldova (Moldova), Albania (Shqipëria), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина), Island (Ísland), Kosovo (Kosova/Kosovë / Косово), Montenegro (Црна Гора), Norway (Norge), Serbia (Srbija/Сpбија)

eligible entities

Education and training institution, Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Other, Private institution, incl. private company (private for profit), Public Body (national, regional and local; incl. EGTCs), Research Institution incl. University, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)

Mandatory partnership


Project Partnership

Proposals must be submitted by a consortium of at least three applicants (beneficiaries; not affiliated entities), which complies with the following conditions:

  • At least one applicant should be a potential investor that has signed a letter of intention to invest/co-invest in the envisaged financial product (Annex A)
  • At least one applicant should be a support organisation that has signed a letter of intention to provide business development /investment readiness services to (potential) investees (Annex B);
  • The consortium must be made up of applicants based in at least two different eligible countries in order to promote mutual learning and facilitate a transnational dimension.
  • For example, to promote mutual learning and share experiences applicants can choose to include an additional partner from a different eligible country than that of potential investor and support organisation. Investors and support organisations can also be from different countries if this makes sense in the context of the project (e.g. if a cross-border financial product is envisaged).
  • All members of the consortium shall comply with the eligibility criteria described below.

other eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible, the applicants (beneficiaries and affiliated entities) must:

  • be legal entities (public or private bodies)
  • be established in one of the eligible countries, i.e.:
    • EU Member States (including overseas countries and territories (OCTs))
    • non-EU countries: listed EEA countries and countries associated to the ESF+ or countries which are in ongoing negotiations for an association agreement and where the agreement enters into force before grant signature (list of participating countries)

Natural persons, i.e. sole traders, where the company does not have legal personality separate from that of the natural person). International organisations — International organisations are eligible. The rules on eligible countries do not apply to them.

International organisations are NOT eligible. The rules on eligible countries do not apply to them.

Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees for the protection of the EU financial interests equivalent to that offered by legal persons.

EU bodies — EU bodies (with the exception of the European Commission Joint Research Centre) can NOT be part of the consortium.

Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’ . Please note that if the action will be implemented by the members, they should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible).

Social partner organisations — These include notably the European social partner organisations that are consulted in accordance with Article 154 TFEU (for the list, see List of consulted organisations) as well as other European-level social partner organisations that are not included in this list, but who are for example involved in the preparation and launch of European social dialogue at sector level. Social partner organisations without legal personality are eligible provided that the conditions for entities without legal personality (see above) are met.

Countries currently negotiating association agreements — Beneficiaries from countries with ongoing negotiations (see list above) may participate in the call and can sign grants if the negotiations are concluded before grant signature (with retroactive effect, if provided in the agreement).

Financial support to third parties is not allowed.

Additional information


Administration & Governance, Institutional Capacity & Cooperation, 
Competitiveness of Enterprises, Employment/Labour Market, SME & entrepreneurship, 
Health, Social Services, Sports

Relevance for EU Macro-Region

EUSAIR - EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Space, EUSBSR - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSDR - EU Strategy for the Danube Region

UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs)

project duration

between 24 and 36 months

Additional Information

Proposals must be complete and contain all the requested information and all required annexes and supporting documents:

  • Application Form Part A — contains administrative information about the participants (future coordinator, beneficiaries and affiliated entities) and the summarised budget for the project (to be filled in directly online)
  • Application Form Part B — contains the technical description of the project (to be downloaded from the Portal Submission System, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded)

Mandatory annexes and supporting documents (to be uploaded):

  • detailed budget table/calculator: not applicable
  • CVs (standard) of core project team
  • activity reports of last year
  • list of previous projects relating to the subject of the call in the last 3 years) (template available in Part B)
Additional Special Annexes: Please note that all the special annexes must be provided
  • Annex A: (A) signed letter(s) of commitment to invest/co-invest in the financial instrument to be established from the potential investor(s).
  • Annex B: (A) signed letter(s) of commitment to provide business development/investment readiness services to (potential) investees from the support organisation(s).
  • Annex C: At least one applicant or co-applicant needs to provide a list of the projects reflecting work undertaken over the past three years in the design or implementation of finance mechanisms for social enterprises. Identify for each action the objectives, location, results, organisation's role and degree of involvement, cost etc.
  • Annex D: At least one applicant or co-applicant needs to provide a list of the projects reflecting work undertaken over the past three years in the design/provision of business development and/or investment readiness services to social enterprises. Identify for each action the objectives, location, type of services provided, number of organisations, results, organisation's role and degree of involvement, cost etc.

Proposals are limited to maximum 70 pages (Part B). Evaluators will not consider any additional pages.


ESF+ Programm Österreich

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