The EQUAL Community Initiative was financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) and co-funded by the EU Member States within the 2000-2006 programming period. The initiative focused on supporting innovative, transnational projects aimed at tackling discrimination and disadvantage in the labour market. These projects were created to generate and test new ideas with the aim of finding new ways of fighting all forms of discrimination and inequality within and beyond the labour market. This website provides an introduction to EQUAL and presents the results and the strategic lessons learned from the initiative under its five main pillars:

The principles underpinning EQUAL projects were:

  • Partnership-working - involving different actors (private, public and non-governmental organisations) to find integrated solutions to common labour market challenges. An EQUAL project was known as an EQUAL Development Partnership, DP for short.
  • Innovation - developing, testing and learning from new ideas and approaches.
  • Empowerment - prioritising the 'bottom-up' approach by involving and engaging the beneficiaries and partners (government, employers and trade union representatives) in the DP activities from the very outset.
  • Transnational cooperation - establishing a transnational partnership with at least one other EQUAL DP in another Member State, with the view to finding solutions that adding value across national boundaries.
  • Mainstreaming at the local, regional, national and international levels - making sure that the activities and ideas have an impact beyond the lifetime of EQUAL and help to inform the development and improvement of labour market policy.

In many ways, EQUAL was a unique funding stream within the ESF 2000-2006: it provided a 'test bed' to explore and test out new ways of addressing the employment difficulties faced by vulnerable groups, using partnership-based approaches involving enterprises, public authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social partners, amongst others. What emerged from these activities over the years was a wide range of lessons, insights and good practices, which have since been disseminated to practitioners and policy-makers working in the employment and social fields - at regional, national and European levels.

EQUAL was structured according to thematic fields defined within the four pillars of the European Employment Strategy (EES): Employability, Entrepreneurship, Adaptability and Equal opportunities. In addition to these pillars, the programme supported a further theme of activities to help the integration of asylum seekers.