On 8-9 March, Fi compass ESF Conference “Financial instruments funded by the European Social Fund – boosting social impact”.
Delegates representing EU institutions, national and regional ESF authorities, social economy practitioners and other stakeholders attended more than 30 interventions and presentations provided by distinguished speakers and facilitators.
Positive feedback was received from the conference participants who commented on its usefulness, mentioning that the event was "inspiring and informative" giving them "new ideas and examples that you can really relate to".
As underlined once again during the closing remarks, financial instruments are not an alternative to ESF grants; they constitute instead an opportunity to unlock additional resources in pursuing ESF policy objectives and goals.
Ms Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, opened the conference by stressing the need for Europe to fully overcome the economic crisis through convergence policies and the implementation of the EU Pillar of Social Rights and remarking the importance of well-designed financial instruments to foster employment and social inclusion as a complement of ESF grants and subsidies. To address social issues: "financial instruments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) should play a role”.
As also underlined by MEPs Giorgi Pirinski and Brando Benifei, financial instruments may turn out to be a very effective mean to deliver the European Pillar of Social Rights, when it comes to even the access to finance across the EU and ease the labour inclusion of vulnerable groups.
Ms Andriana Sukova, DG Employment Deputy-Director General, hailed the increasing importance of financial instruments implemented within the social economy sector, highlighting their potential in helping ESF managing authorities to "do more with less" and reach a wider range of final recipients.
Interventions of high representatives of the European Commission and European Investment Bank Group remarked both the need for focusing on a measurable social outcome of financial instruments and the need of capacity building actions to enhance the success of such financial instruments. Specialised advice to managing authorities on financial instrument is available through the fi-compass Capacity Building Services for ESF managing authorities.
Ideas for the future of ESF financial instruments have been pitched on day 1, as crowdfunding platforms and social impact funds, like those focused on reducing ex-convicted re-offending rates, refugees’ integration or enhanced healthcare services. In this regard, the crucial theme of creating an enabling environment for social investing was under the spotlight.
Microfinance and social entrepreneurship financial instruments as well as other innovative experiences in current programming period were showcased on day 2, providing the audience with a sense of magnitude of the potential of financial instruments in matching the unmet financing needs faced by disadvantaged groups.
Final workshops sessions shared further knowledge among participants about some of the technical topics faced by ESF managing authorities regarding State aid issues and impact measurement.