Final EQUAL Conference: Powering a New Future: 10-12 December 2008, Lisbon

The final EQUAL Conference involved over two thousand national and international participants and representatives from political, economic and social entities from all over the European Union, including Vladimir Spidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. In addition to the debates and conferences by specialists and social entrepreneurs from around the world, there was also an exhibition of projects, workshops, ad hoc forums, consultancy meetings and an exposition open to the public.

Click on each Day to watch presenters and participants comment on what they have learned during the eight years of EQUAL activity and what they consider important for the upcoming eight years of the European Social Fund.


Powering a New Future: 10 December 2008, Lisbon
Powering a New Future: 11 December 2008, Lisbon
Powering a New Future: 12 December 2008, Lisbon

Powering a New Future: 10 December 2008, Lisbon

Jerome Vignon, Director, DG Employment, Social Affairs and EQUAL Opportunities, European Commission

Jerome Vignon, Director, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission highlights that all the 'domains of innovation covered by EQUAL are an important message to convey to head of governments and ministers'. EQUAL showed the value of bringing together the diversity and richness of the experience on the ground. He cites social innovation as a key element for the foundation of Europe in the future as it underpins the novelty and the richness of the European social Model.

Olwen Lyner, Reachout- Northern Ireland

This project, based in Northern Ireland, built on the outcomes of a previous project (Personal Progression System) which focussed on pre-release employability training. ReachOut focus was on ex-offenders in the community and building links with employers with "hard to fill" vacancies. Olwen Lyner explains how there is a need of legislation to ensure a more comprehensive approach to provide support for offenders and ex-offenders re-integrating into the labour market. She also sends a crime reduction message to engage employers in a holistic way.

Pat Donnelly, Learning Network on Empowerment and Inclusion – Northern Ireland

Pat Donnelly explains how the Learning Network on Empowerment and Inclusion will focus on producing a tool to measure empowerment for three different groups: beneficiaries, employers and intermediary agencies. The tool will be tested over the course of the next 2 years.

Gediminas Pleckaitis, National Thematic Network: Integration of vulnerable youth in labour market – Lithuania

This National network supports young people who want to re-engage in education and motivates them to fulfil their social and professional skills. Gediminas' main message is that working together for common things helps achieve more and in a more efficient way. He highlights the importance of ensuring that great ideas that came out from EQUAL are not lost and continue to be implemented in the future.

Louis Vervloet, ESF Community of Practice on Results Based Management Belgium

The network aim is to 'implement better programmes with better results, deliver quality and achieve the objectives of the Lisbon agenda'. His main message is 'cooperation and collaboration': Involving the key stakeholders from the start and disseminating the achievements widely ensures that everyone can use them and adapt them to their own needs. He highlights the importance of looking at good practices not only within the EU but beyond and proactively sharing these practices. One of the expected outputs of this network will be a source book gathering the results of practices, programmes and methods.

Marianne Eringa, Your Deserved Right – The Netherlands

This project tried to improve the financial position of spouses that work together with their partners in the agricultural sector. Their financial position is often insecure regarding income, capital and social security. She explains the current cooperation with financial organisations to use their knowledge to address the problems of women in this sector established through the EQUAL project.

Bettina Reuter, Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship - Germany

The Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship (COPIE) aims to strengthen the capacity of practitioners and policy makers to design, plan, manage and evaluate projects, programmes and policies to help make entrepreneurship a normal option for anyone in society. To do this, COPIE collects information and knowledge, connects people working in the field of entrepreneurship, provides training and technical assistance.

Barbara Schmidt, Learning Network on Asylum Seekers - Germany

She gives an explanation of the composition of the network aimed at supporting asylum seekers and victims human trafficking.  She highlights the importance of the exchange of information and good practices that already exist between members as key factor for the success of the network activities and calls for other Member States to join.

Washington Rimas, Afroreggae – Brazil

This project started in 1993, influenced by a major tragic event that resulted in 21 people killed by the police at the community of Vigario Geral in Brazil. As a result, people saw the necessity of helping out the community in order to put a stop of negative activities and create new positive ones. Afroreggae was set up in order to promote cultural activities within the community. There are 74 projects, which include 5 radio programmes; one weekly TV programme; a monthly magazine which is published in India, Canada, USA, Colombia; 4 launched films. Vigario Geral has also produced 11 local music bands that currently use informal instruments, 'recycled instruments' as cans, big pots and an international band. New projects are coming up including a cultural centre in London amongst others, and training centres for young people in India, China and Colombia.

Nikolaos Gkionakis, Synergia – Greece

The project supported the creation and maintenance of social cooperatives for people with mental health problems. Synergia's approach incorporates both the empowerment of people with mental health problems and a viable strategy to create jobs for this target group He explains how the active involvement and engagement stakeholders was a key factor for the success of the project.

Powering a New Future: 11 December 2008, Lisbon

Lenia Samuel, Deputy Director General, DG Employment, Social Affairs and EQUAL Opportunities, European Commission

Lenia Samuel, Deputy Director General of DG Employment, Social Affairs and EQUAL Opportunities gives her first impressions on the conference. She congratulates the organisers with a very successful event and emphasises the need to start with the mainstreaming of all the good practices that are on display at the conference into the European Social Fund.

Guillermo Vergara, Deloa - Spain (Galicia)

'The EU arrived for the first time in 2002 to this region with this EQUAL project'. With this opening, Guillermo explains the impact on the Deloa project in rural Galicia. The project focused on providing training and employment opportunities in new jobs for unemployed women and ensuring the sustainability of the actions. The services that have been created in this rural area include childcare and care for the elderly and also a flexible minibus system which is a real asset, as the remote villages are not well served by public transport. He explains how EQUAL, has positively contributed to promoting the local economic development of region improving transport and communications.

Elisabetta Cannova, PALMS - Paths to accompany separated children to working inclusion - Italy

This project supported 'separated' children, children under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents or previous/legal customary primary care giver. These children suffer physically, socially and psychologically as a result of being without the care and protection of their parents or previous primary care giver(s). The project set up integrated local networks between public authorities and third sector organisations to integrate social educational training and labour market policies. The networks were essential to provide comprehensive approach and a common vision to address this increasing phenomenon.

Heidi Gaube, Just Gem / POP UP GeM - Austria

This project focused on gender equality in the labour market as well as the implementation of the gender mainstreaming in public and private organisations. She highlights the importance of the presence of gender equality in politics, programmes and products and general services. Their main has been the training of over 500 people. Her main message is that the implementation of gender mainstreaming can only be achieved if there is a clear political will and resources are provided.

Heather Waddington, Common Ground / Breaking Common Ground - England

The main focus of Common Ground - Breaking New Ground was 'harnessing local potential' to develop the Kirklees workforce. To do this, the project worked to support local employers in embracing a diverse workforce and also in engaging individuals from 'underrepresented' and 'disadvantaged' target groups, with an overall aim to broker the two together.

Victoria Berrocal, European Network on Social Inclusion and Roma under the Structural Funds - Spain

EURoma is a European Network made up of representatives of twelve countries determined to promote the use of Structural Funds to enhance the effectiveness of policies targeting Roma and to promote their social inclusion. She explains their activities, which are mainly sharing experiences and practices and creating common tools and products.

Jenny Charlier, Deputy Director, ESF Agency, Belgium (Wallonia) - Belgium

She explains how 'innovation does not come by chance'. Project managers have a key role to play in the promotion of regulations, mechanisms and necessary competences for the development of that innovation. All these conditions have to be present for social innovation to take place.

Philipp Schwertmann, MORE - Germany

He explains that human trafficking is a reality in the EU. He describes a human rights-based and victim-centred approach is needed to increase the reintegration prospects for victims of human trafficking and to make it easier for them to step out of illegality.

Carlos Tortuero, ESF Managing Authority, Spain

He describes how during the period 2000-2006 of EQUAL Spain has been very active in EQUAL funding over 400 development partnerships that supported a large volume of individuals. He explains the importance of EQUAL in promoting partnership working, fostering innovation, transnational cooperation and looking at new ways of inserting disadvantaged into the labour market. Good practice under EQUAL has been successfully transferred into the programming period (2007-2013). EQUAL has been key in creating networks amongst key stakeholders and developing new ways of working together to share experience and achieve a bigger impact with the actions.

Michelle Kergoat, Égalité des Temps - France

This project saw the daily race against the clock not only as a problem for people juggling jobs, careers and families, but also as the legitimate concern of public authorities, enterprises, social partners and NGOs. This project strengthened the Time Bureau in the city of Rennes that was set up in 2002. The decision to create a physical infrastructure to develop strategies that would improve the work-life-balance of women and men was based on research. This research looked into the changes involved in moving from an industrial society with work closely tied into well-established living patterns of families and communities, to a service and information society where the rhythms are increasingly out of sync.

Bernart Baltza, Lamegi - Spain

He describes how his project focused on issues related to social markets, social clauses and corporate social responsibility. He mentions the importance of influencing public authorities to promote the use of social clauses in their contracts or procurement processes to provide added social value and facilitate the integration of disadvantaged groups.

Anne-Karine Stocchetti, ALICE - Accompagnement Local de l'Innovation Concertée autour de l'Enfance - France

The project focused on looking into ways of structuring the childcare offer in order to improve social recognition, professional status and quality of jobs in the childcare sector. The project also aimed at attracting more men into the caring profession.

Pascal Pousse, People Working for People - France

The project objectives were to increase the provision of services for children and the elderly as well as the quality of these services to better fulfil the needs of the users. He describes the daily care services developed under EQUAL and how partnership working at national and transnational level has contributed to their success.

Teresa Bednall, ACBBA - England

SIED project aimed to support enterprises in communities who have experienced social exclusion in the labour market by further developing the REFLEX model so it could be applied London wide with potential as a national model. The essence of Reflex model was to develop the capacity of community organisations to enable them to support and advise businesses generated by their communities. Reflex enabled organisations to employ Community Based Business Advisers and to develop their capacity to support enterprises and entrepreneurs.

Anette Scoppeta, Community of Practice on Partnership- Austria

The objective of the Community of Practice on partnership in the ESF is to stimulate more creative partnership thinking and implementation in the structural funds, especially in the ESF. This is to be achieved by convincing programme managers of the importance of partnership and enabling them to provide high quality support to partnerships in a structural fund context.

Etienne Wenger, Community of Practice and Social Learning Theorist

Etienne Wenger emphasises the importance of building a social infrastructure of communities and networks to connect the different projects such as those presented by EQUAL.  He explains how the innovation in EQUAL was to define, recognise, and identify how to construct a 'social infrastructure'.

Brenda Gietema, Learning Network on Age Management – The Netherlands

This Learning Network of Member States will focus on how to promote age management actions in different programmes, approaches and actions based on the exchange of experiences and practices.

Hugh Cassidy, Access Ability - Ireland

Access Ability was a Dublin based project with a mission to maximise employment opportunities for people with disabilities by addressing the structural, attitudinal and policy issues which currently prevent employers from recognising the abilities of individuals.

Norbert Kunz, Verbund Enterprise - Germany

The aim of the project was to make young people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds more independent by providing an integrated offer of quality support services consisting of 4 phases – idea development, concretisation, entrepreneurial commitment and common on an optimal business creation plan. The young entrepreneurs were provided with training, qualifications and individual support services in the development of a business plan and also during the implementation of their business idea. In the last years Verbund Enterprise assisted 1300 young people in the development of their business and created additional 1000 workplaces. Around 70% of these young people are still in business.

Romualda Navikaite, Roma Integration into the Labour Market - Lithuania

The project tested new solutions for the vocational, and also the social, integration of Roma. What is extremely important is that Roma representatives are directly involved and they are making sure that many other members of that community have the opportunity to gain additional skills and to strengthen their existing capacities. All this is aimed at ensuring that these isolated individuals and groups can participate in the labour market and in wider public life.

Wolfgang Wirth, Zubilis and MABis.NeT – Germany

The MABIS programme which was a predecessor to the ZUBILIS DP operated a number of prisons in North Rhine-Westphalia providing an individualised support plan for the prisoners that involved guidance on suitable training opportunities and possible placement in employment after release.

Chris Webb, Last Mile Development Partnership - United Kingdom

The aim of the Equal Last Mile Development Partnership was to equip beneficiaries from the target groups with the skills, experience and confidence to move forward in their chosen career paths and become integrated into the region's creative and cultural networks. In many cases, individuals have been enabled to move 'the last mile' into employment or self-employment in fields in which their groups are currently underrepresented. Others have succeeded in progressing into further education and training.

Liina Pärtel, Children Taken Care of Mothers at Work – Estonia

She explains how the birth rate increase in Estonia has had a negative effect on the availability of places for children at the kinder gardens and the professional qualified childminders. The EQUAL project aimed at increasing employment opportunities for parents by creating flexible childcare options.

Namu Nambiar, New Paths to Employment BASTA- Sweden

This project developed vocational training and self-empowerment support for adults and young people so they can be integrated into the labour market. The one-year education consists of both theory and practical work and leads to a certificate, acknowledged by the labour market organisations. She explains the value of their empowering approach and the positive effect it had on the students.

Rosalia Mera, Paideia Galiza Foundation – Spain

The Paideia Galiza Foundation has a long-standing commitment to the social inclusion of vulnerable groups and to rural development, taking women as one of the principal 'agents of change'. Rosalia describes how the concept of 'Europe' has come alive through the implementation of programmes like EQUAL and how this concept can be taken as an opportunity for the future development of social responsibility and social justice.

Gottfried Eich, Development Partnerships Step by Step – Germany

The project aimed at making vocational training more flexible. He explained how the project was developed between job creators, qualification companies, local authorities and chambers by the testing of different modules.

Alina Szklaruk, Black Sheep – Poland

The project's main idea was to increase the employability of ex-offenders by providing vocational training and practical experience assisting local farmers. The contact with the local community also provided the opportunity to challenge attitudes and perceptions. She describes how the project developed and that more than 1000 courses were given for more than 600 people. A staggering 50% of ex-offenders that attended the courses found a job.

Catharina Alpkvist, Gender Expert, Researcher and Entrepreneur – Sweden

She highlights the importance of having a long term perspective when working on gender issues rather than having a 'project' mentality. 'Gender perspective is something you have to work with all the time, it doesn't have a beginning and an end'. It has to be addressed within the organisations, staff, education system and methods used in order to change the way of treating men and women and achieve full equality. She welcomes the approach of European Social Fund in requesting all projects to have a gender perspective rather than having special projects for gender issues.

Powering a New Future: 12 December 2008, Lisbon

Matti Mäkelä, VaSkooli - Development of an Education & Training Guarantee System – Finland

The objective of the project was to develop a regional model of education and training to offer a place of study for every young person finishing basic education. The model is based on multi-vocational guidance and support, flexible co-operation in working life, support to educational responsibility as well as enhancing the students' life management and increasing their experiences from working life.

Siham Chernoubi, Colourful Brabant – The Netherlands

project aimed at improving the position of migrant youth in education and in employment and preventing migrant students from dropping out of school. She describes empowerment as an effective tool in the fight against discrimination within the labour market.

Sarka Chrudimska, Learning Network on Transnational Co-operation – Czech Republic

The objective of this network of Member States is to stimulate learning and build= capacity among ESF programmes managers to ensure successful implementation and promotion of transnational actions under ESF (2007 – 2013). The main message for ESF project promoters is 'Go transnational!'

Gunnar Svensson, Beneath the Surface / Under Ytan – Sweden

The goal of the "Beneath the Surface" project was to raise the issue of sexual orientation and homophobia in school - a working environment that has carefully avoided working practically with discrimination in these areas. Gunnar explains how they trained more than 3000 teachers and school staff around Sweden to achieve its aim.

Jan Rychlík, Facilitation of Lifelong Education in Rural Conditions – Czech Republic

Facilitation of Lifelong Education in Rural Conditions project focused on facilitating education for inhabitants of remote rural locations with limited public transport services and limited opportunities for lifelong learning.

Isabella Orfano, Osservatorio Tratta – Italy

This project focused on the fight against human trafficking which it is described as a major complex phenomenon that needs to be further analysed. 'Knowledge is an essential key in the fighting human trafficking' as this knowledge can be used to influence initiatives and policies. She calls for the continuation of innovation and transnationality as key factors of any future projects.

Madeleine Starr, Action for Carers and Employment (ACE) - United Kingdom

Action for Carers and Employment (ACE) National DP developed and tested innovation in supporting unpaid carers, people looking after family, partners or friend who are ill or disabled. Six out of ten carers give up work to care and can be out of work for long periods, facing significant barriers to returning. Madeleine highlights the extent of the problem as the UK has currently 6 million carers and the amount will increase up to 9 million in the next 25 years. This is a critical issue for an ageing workforce. The project took to government an arguable case for embedding support for carers, wanting to juggle work with care, into mainstream service delivery. ACE changed the policy direction at the local and national level, changing legislation to achieve long lasting support for carers beyond EQUAL. Her message to ESF is 'let the innovators innovate'. Her message for the innovators 'your good ideas are only as good as their implementation next year, the year after and into the future'.

Peter Stub Jorgensen, Director, DG Employment, Social Affairs and EQUAL Opportunities, European Commission

He explains that the next step after the conclusion of EQUAL is to recognise the useful and constructive experience and knowledge EQUAL developed. He highlights that more than 200,000 people benefited from the success of EQUAL in integrating disadvantaged groups into the labour market, breaking up the gap between inactivity and activity.

Nicholas McKinlay, Urban Community Support Programme – Portugal

He addresses the issue of financing innovation within communities and reinforcing networks and capacities of local social organisations to engage them effectively in the work. He highlights the importance of adopting a holistic view of communities and the problems to be addressed as the financing available is sometimes compartmentalised so there is a need to link up different initiatives to ensure bigger impact.

Stephen Christopher Vella, Integration of Asylum Seekers into Maltese Society – Malta

This project had the aim to provide training to asylum seekers on various topics as well as offering them the necessary support and guidance. This helped to empower asylum seekers to become self-sufficient and independent, prepare them for employment in Malta and overseas, and to build a sense of community between asylum seekers themselves as well as within the Maltese society. He explains how dissemination of information and the use of media played a key role in changing attitudes regarding asylum seekers.

Catherine Curran, Community of Practice on Quality Management – Ireland

There are currently three Member States (MS) involved in this Community of Practice, Ireland as a lead partner, Lithuania, and Belgium Flanders. She describes how important it is to to learn and exchange the wide range of expertise and know-how in relation to quality programme management that has evolved within the management of EQUAL, identifying amongst the MS what tools they use and how people work with them. The COP has developed and tested a peer-mentoring programme and a peer-review programme. They hope that over time membership of the Community will expand and make strategic relationships with other relevant communities.

Andrew Westwood, Chairman, OECD LEED Forum on Social Innovation - United Kingdom

He highlights that the key message in going forward and understanding the lessons of EQUAL is 'that innovation has to happen and has to be captured from the ground up'. He explains how this is the big shift for governments and people across Europe; 'You cannot make good policy without people in communities helping out without their learning, experience and their ability to shape the way they approach their skills and ambition'.

Pilar Lucio, Councillor for Equality and Employment, Extremadura, - Spain

She explains how the region of Extremadura has participated in EQUAL with 6 different projects. She highlights the importance of the mainstreaming of the EQUAL principles and methods based in innovation, cooperation and transnationality. She describes the value added of transnational cooperation and expresses an interest in continuing working with different Member States, as well as to further develop social innovation.

Martin Hirsch, High Commissioner for Active Solidarities against Poverty, France

Martin Hirsch notes the high number of EQUAL partnerships that were created and successfully completed in France. A number of these projects focused on childcare services, to help parents to smoothly return to work even when they had long or irregular working hours. Other projects combated discrimination with regard to access to social housing. EQUAL was fully complementary to national and local funding, but helped to create new partnerships. In France, EQUAL was used to further social experimentation, which, when accompanied by rigorous monitoring and evaluation, can help to truly understand what works well and under which circumstances. He also says that they are counting on the fact that a part of the ESF budget can be put aside for transnational projects in the field of social experimentation.

Vladimir Spidla, European Commissioner, DG EMPL, responds to a press conference question on flexibility of ESF programming and administration.

In response to a question during the press conference on the quickly changing socio-economic circumstances in the EU and the increasing recession, the Commissioner explains that, for the European Social Fund, there are proposals to enable reprogramming of the fund in case Member States would require this. Another possibility to tackle socio-economic challenges would be the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, the first results of which are highly promising.