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A European Social Catalyst Fund to scale up high performing social innovations in the provision of social services


This coordination and support action will establish a consortium composed of a representative set of actors involved in the financing of social services and their provision such as venture philanthropists, foundations, social impact investors, government agencies and/or social service providers. The consortium will set up a European Social Catalyst Fund that will be funded jointly by the European Commission and the members of the consortium, i.e. the consortium will be under the obligation of signing on to the project. The Fund shall be of at least EUR 600.000 with the EU contribution accounting for a maximum of 25%, and it will put forward a call for proposals that will result in at least five social innovation implementation plans.

The proposal must clearly detail a fixed and exhaustive list of the different types of socially impactful activities supporting the priorities of the European Commission, including the European Pillar of Social Rights, for which a third party may receive financial support via the European Social Catalyst Fund. Examples of priority areas include aging, poverty and marginalisation, homelessness, vulnerable populations including people with disabilities, mental health difficulties and dementia, digital inclusiveness, employment and job creation, inequalities, education and training, skills, community development, the role and place of young people in the society, and intergenerational solidarity. Links to the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 could be considered.

The proposal should define the organisational process for selecting the implementation plans for which financial support will be granted, including the process of selecting, allocating and reporting on the use of independent experts and ensuring no conflicts of interest. It should also clearly detail the criteria for awarding financial support and simple and comprehensive criteria for calculating the exact amount of such support. The open call must be published widely, including on the Horizon 2020 Participant Portal and through National Contact Points.

The selected implementation plans should demonstrate a capacity to valorise unexploited potential by transposing or scaling up regional or national best practices. The plans should also offer means of overcoming geographical fragmentation by being implementable in at least five EU Member States of which at least two in Central and Eastern Europe. Plans should be implementable within a maximum of two years. The network should improve the selected plans as needed—striving towards them reaching investment grade—and oversee their implementation. In the process, it should help de-risk innovations, unlock bottlenecks at system level, overcome agency problems (e.g. when no one stakeholder benefits enough to justify the cost) and stimulate projects with marginal profitability. The network should specify how it will monitor and report on call results and how it will assess the quality of the outcomes and measure the impact achieved.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 250.000 of which at least EUR 150.000 should go to the Catalytic Fund would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Government funding of social services is often capped and undergoing reductions while other sources of funding are fragmented or highly uneven. There are also disparities in the delivery of social performance and difficulties in transposing regional or national best practices to other regions or Member States and in scaling up such practices to the EU level. In addition, significant geographical variation exists between Western and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs).

The action will strengthen the capacity of organisations and/or individuals to develop and upscale innovative and effective solutions to pressing societal challenges. It will contribute to the diffusion of solutions in a timely and geographically balanced manner. It will also raise awareness on the opportunities and challenges associated to social innovation in the provision of social services.