1. INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND
1.1. Programme/Legal base
This call for proposals is published under Regulation (EU) No 1296/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 11 December 2013, on a European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation ("EaSI") and amending Decision No 283/2010/EU establishing a European Progress Microfinance Facility for employment and social inclusion1.
This call is financed under the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation ("EaSI") 2014-20202 which is a European-level financing instrument managed directly by the European Commission to contribute to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, by providing financial support for the Union's objectives in terms of promoting a high level of quality and sustainable employment, guaranteeing adequate and decent social protection, combating social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions.
The 2020 annual work programme3 for grants and procurement for EaSI was published on 30 October 2019.
1.2. Policy and economic background
a) Promotion of social inclusion and poverty reduction in the European Union
The EU and its Member States must deal with a range of long-term trends, such as digitalisation, green economy and demographic change, which affect strongly the employment and social situation of many European citizens. In addition, while all Member States were showing signs of recovery from the economic and financial crisis of the last decade and unemployment figures were steadily improving, the recovery did not equally reach all parts of the economy and the society. It is put at stake again today because of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic and social consequences. The previous crisis and the situation that is now appearing have exposed gaps in our social and welfare systems, leaving too many people without work, decent living or adequate protection.
Modern social protection systems should provide adequate and well-targeted income support, foster labour market participation, reduce inequalities, ensure access to quality, accessible, suitable and cost-effective healthcare and long-term care and ensure social inclusion. In the field of social protection, social inclusion and social investment, the EU supports and complements the activities of the Member States in the form of policy guidance, knowledge sharing, exchange of best practices, capacity building, expertise, data and analysis and financial support.
The United Nations (UN) Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) with its ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)4 and the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR)5, with its 20 principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems, provide two complementary frameworks to build a more social and sustainable Europe. Jointly proclaimed by all EU institutions on 17 November 2017, the EPSR illustrates a shared commitment to foster equal opportunities, to improve access to the labour market, to fair working conditions and social inclusion, to supporting people in the face of changing realities of work and to achieving new and more effective rights for Europeans. It is a compass for renewed upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe.
As outlined in President von der Leyen’s agenda for Europe "A Union that strives for more"6, some of the key priorities to strengthen Europe’ social dimension are:
- Developing an action plan to fully implement the European Pillar of Social Rights;
- Working closely with Member States, to strengthen social protection systems in Europe, notably by using the European Semester to assess the impact of reforms over time, monitor social progress and identify areas for reinforcing the social dimension of the Economic and
Monetary Union (EMU);
- Support vulnerable persons, notably children and young people to give them the care,
education and opportunities they need, in particular by developing a European Child Guarantee to fight poverty and ensure that children have access to basic services.
Putting the Pillar into practice is a shared responsibility of EU institutions, all levels of government, social partners and civil society. Member States are invited to involve more closely national parliaments, social partners and representatives of organised civil society in the implementation of the European Semester and the follow-up on the principles of the EPSR. This can notably be done through the preparation of the National Reform Programmes (NRP), the application of the Country Specific Recommendations, and the implementation of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
The close association of relevant bodies and stakeholders is essential to ensure ownership and facilitate the implementation of common initiatives. In particular, the networks of social NGOs have the potential to support active inclusion and modernisation of social protection, both at national and local level, while also shedding light on social developments and policy challenges taking place on the ground across the EU.
b) Promotion of access to finance in the European Union: microfinance and social enterprise finance
Entrepreneurship and self-employment help to create jobs, develop skills and give unemployed and vulnerable people an opportunity to fully participate in society and the economy. They therefore make an important contribution to “an economy that works for people” indicated in the Political Guidelines of the current Commission. The Guidelines include a dedicated SME strategy to help SMEs thrive by reducing red tape and improving their access to the market ̧ making it easier for small businesses to become large innovators. In addition, social entrepreneurship also contributes to the actions announced in the European Green Deal, in particular in relation to EU’s Industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy.
Thanks to their social mission, social enterprises are also instrumental in the implementation of many of the rights and principles expressed in the European Pillar for Social Rights. In line with this, the Commission will launch an Action Plan for the Social Economy to enhance social innovation. Most consultations with stakeholders in view of developing the action plan are planned to take place already in 2020, while in 2021 the Commission will be taking stock of stakeholder’s input and effectively launching the Action plan.
Access to finance remains one of the most important problems faced by micro-entrepreneurs, in particular by those from vulnerable groups, and by social enterprises across Europe.
The Commission is intensifying its efforts to promote access to microfinance and, as such, is responsible for multiple related activities including the provision of funding under the EaSI Financial Instruments and the EaSI Technical Assistance to microcredit providers. The Code of Good Conduct developed by the Commission aims at setting out good practice guidelines to raise the quality standards of the European microfinance sector.
To improve access to finance and build the finance market for social enterprises, the Commission launched under the EaSI Programme a comprehensive package of financial instruments and technical assistance services aimed at social enterprise finance providers. In addition, pilot social equity instruments were launched in 2016 under the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), including a facility for financial intermediaries linked to incubators, accelerators, and/or that provide incubation services and a Business Angels co-investment scheme. A call for proposals to boost the development of social finance markets was launched in 2019.
Finally, a call for proposals intended to incentivise mainstream business incubators to expand their outreach to inclusive and social entrepreneurship was launched in 2020 with the aim of selecting a consortium of European networks.
Financial instruments and measures supporting microfinance and social enterprise finance are planned to be continued in the next period under the InvestEU Fund and the European Social Fund Plus.
Networks active on the supply side are key in supporting microfinance and social finance providers to make best use of the instruments available at EU level, while networks active on the demand side are essential to enhance cooperation between support organisations and address the insufficient capacity of these organisations in helping social enterprises to become investment-ready.
1.3. Main Purposes
The purpose of this call for proposals is to provide specific operating grants to support the implementation of the 2021 work programmes of EU-level networks of non-governmental organisations (NGO) having concluded a Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) with the European Commission.
FPAs were signed at the end of 2017 following the call for proposals VP/2017/015 for the establishment of 4-year partnership to support EU-level NGO networks active in the promotion of:
- social inclusion and poverty reduction, or;
- access to finance (microfinance and social enterprise finance).
The agreements set out the framework conditions governing potential operating grants and encompass a 4-year work programme proposed by the EU-level NGO networks and accepted by the European Commission.
Regarding the description of the policy context, the definition of priorities and the available budget for operating grants, this call refers to these two groups of networks separately.
2. OBJECTIVE(S) – PRIORITIES – TYPES OF ACTIONS - EXPECTED RESULTS
2.1. Objectives – Priorities
The overall political priority underpinning the EaSI activities is the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar illustrates a shared commitment to foster equal opportunities, to improve access to the labour market, to fair working conditions and social inclusion, to supporting people in the face of changing realities of work and to achieving new
and more effective rights for Europeans.
The networks support the Commission in its outreach activities at EU, national and local level with the aim of: (1) ensuring awareness, contribution to and implementation of EU level policies and initiatives in the areas of the promotion of social inclusion and poverty reduction for Area 1; or (2) supporting the implementation of the financial instruments for microfinance and social entrepreneurship for Area 2.
In coherence with the five priorities for action that structure the 4-year work programmes, applicant organisations should focus on:
a) Area 1: European level networks active in promoting social inclusion and poverty reduction
Support the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of initiatives undertaken towards the policy objectives of, among others, the Political Guidelines of the Commission, the EPSR, the SDG and the Social Investment Package (SIP). Where relevant, links can also be made with the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 or its potential follow-up. Significant emphasis shall be put on supporting the development, dissemination, and implementation of innovative policies.
Support the main EU-driven processes such as the European Semester and the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) regarding social protection and social inclusion.
Support stakeholders', and in particular national member organisations', involvement in the dissemination and implementation of the main political EU-driven processes, and encourage cooperation with other civil society organisations and social partners' organisations both at EU, national, regional and local levels.
Provide data and strong evidence-base on policy developments and trends, as well as collection of relevant information about citizens' concerns and good practices in the social policy field in the Member States, including information on the impact of different policies on citizens and their social situation, to contribute to better policy making.
Area 2: European level networks active in the promotion of access to finance on the demand and supply side of microfinance or social enterprise finance markets
Support the Commission in its outreach activities at EU, national and local level with the aim of ensuring the implementation of European policies in the area of microfinance and social enterprise finance (e.g. ESF and EaSI financial instruments and measures and their successor under the InvestEU Fund and ESF+, Social Economy Action Plan).
A clear link between multiple activities of the Commission in the field of access to finance shall be envisaged. In particular, the focus should be on the Commission's activities in building microfinance and social investment markets in Europe. Promoting the "Better Entrepreneurship" self-assessment tool for inclusive and social entrepreneurship policies and programmes remains an important communication priority. Moreover, activities can also focus on communicating about the upcoming Action Plan on Social Economy.
Reinforcing the capacity of the network's members, including through offering a platform for the exchange of good practices in the relevant field, and raising awareness about relevant EU policies.
Voicing the needs, concerns and expectations of organisations facilitating access to finance to (potential) entrepreneurs from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups / social enterprises. Focus should be put also on assessing the impact that the EaSI financial instruments have on the microfinance and/or social finance markets, and on identifying needs and expectations for the next programming period.
Providing data/research on developments, trends and practices in the field. Data/research should provide input for policy design in the areas of microfinance or social enterprise finance. The focus can be put on broad overviews as well as on specific niche topics related to the field.
Description of the activities to be funded / Type of actions
The proposed work programme for 2021 should be in line and have a clear link with the quadrennial strategic plan and budget forecast agreed with the European Commission in the framework partnership agreements. It can develop further the 4-year work programme and describe its implementation in more details, but should not contradict it.
Minor adaptations due to changes in the overall context (i.e. COVID-19 crisis) or unforeseeable new organisational developments are possible and should be marked. Deviations (e.g. modification or suppression of an activity foreseen in the 4-year strategic plan) should be clearly explained and justified in the annex “Description of the action and work programme” under “Additional information”. This is important to assess the consistency with the 4-year strategic plan and the scope of any change proposed.
The types of activities that may be funded under this call for proposals include:
Analytical activities, such as (i) the collection of data and statistics; (ii) the development of common methodologies and, where appropriate, policy analyses and recommendations; (iii) the monitoring and assessment of relevant legislation, policies and practices, including the development of statistics and indicators or benchmarks; (iv) studies, researches, analyses and surveys; (v) mapping projects, evaluations; (vi) the elaboration and publication of guides, reports and educational material; (vii) workshops, seminars, experts' meetings and conferences;
Training activities, such as staff exchanges, workshops, seminars, capacity-building actions, train-the-trainer events, and the development of online training tools or other training modules;
Actions aiming at the creation and improving of networks, mutual learning, cooperation, awareness-raising and dissemination activities, such as (i) the identification of, and exchanges on, good practices, innovative approaches and experiences; (ii) the organisation of peer reviews and mutual learning; (iii) the organisation of conferences, seminars, media campaigns, including in the online media, information campaigns, including institutional communication on the political priorities of the EU as far as they relate to the objectives of the programme EaSI; (iv) the compilation and publication of materials to disseminate information about the programme EaSI and its results; (v) regular information on EU social and employment policy issues (e.g. newsletters and mailings), the development, operation and maintenance of systems and tools using information and communication technologies, development of web pages or a helpdesk for members.
The European Commission supports an output-oriented approach, looking at the quality, relevance and sustainability of the results reached. The work programme should clearly demonstrate the organisation’s potential and capacity to generate concrete impacts with regard to the objectives and priorities defined in 2.1. The Commission will pay particular attention to the expected outcomes of the work programmes at the level of the target groups of the organisations.
Applicants are invited to:
provide a clear description of the methodology, main outputs and their expected contribution to EU policy processes development in the thematic areas of this call, as well as to demonstrate the added value of their activities;
The Commission, with the support of an external contractor, will monitor regularly the EaSI Programme. Therefore, beneficiaries will have to transmit qualitative and quantitative monitoring data on the results of the activities. These will include the extent to which the principles of equality between women and men has been applied, as well as how anti- discrimination considerations, including accessibility issues, have been addressed through the activities.
The Commission will monitor the action for the EaSI programme through the information provided in the specific Annex to the Grant Agreement. The reporting template is published on the call page
In setting up the action, beneficiaries must foresee the necessary funding for monitoring and reporting to the Commission. For events, it is important to get from participants their specific consent by a statement or by a clear affirmative action for processing and transferring their personal data also to an external contractor responsible for the monitoring of the EaSI programme. Beneficiaries/contractors should therefore inform all participants via a Privacy Statement that it is not only published online, but it is also provided individually to each participant (e.g. as part of the e-mail where the beneficiary/contractor first contacts the individual concerned) that the Commission/external contractor would be processing their personal data. Beneficiaries/contractors have to be able to demonstrate that consent was obtained subject to conditions of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data (i.e. keep a record that shows how the consent was obtained and whether it was valid) and Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.
A model privacy statement is available on the Europa website of the EaSI programme: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1081&langId=en&furtherCalls=yes&callType=2.
2.5. General requirements for the activities to be funded under EaSI
The EaSI Programme shall, in all its axes and actions, aim to:
(a) pay particular attention to vulnerable groups, such as young people;
(b) promote equality between women and men,
(c) combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation;
(d) promote a high-level of quality and sustainable employment, guarantee adequate and decent social protection, combat long-term unemployment and fight against poverty and social exclusion.
Hence, in designing, implementing and reporting on the activity, beneficiaries must address the issues noted above and will be required to provide details, in the final activity report on the steps and achievements made towards addressing those aims.
a) Publication of the call
Mid May 2020
b) Deadline for questions and requests for clarification
c) Deadline for submitting proposals
Swim, Courier and Post : 24:00 Brussels' time (CET)
Hand deliveries 16:00 Brussels' time (CET)
d) Evaluation period (indicative)
e) Information to applicants (indicative)
f) Signature of the grant agreements (indicative)
g) Starting date of the action (indicative)
01 January 2021
3.1. Starting date and duration of the projects
The actual starting date of the action will be the starting date of the applicant's budgetary financial year.
No expenditure can be incurred before the start of the beneficiary's budgetary year for operating grants. Any expenditure incurred before the signature of the Specific Grant Agreement (SGA) may be considered eligible but it will be at the applicant’s risk.
The duration of the work programme to be covered by the 2021 operating grant should coincide with the budgetary (financial) year of the applicant (12 months).
4. AVAILABLE BUDGET AND CO-FINANCING RATE
4.1. Available Budget and Grant Amounts
The total budget earmarked for the EU co-financing of projects under this call is estimated at:
10.500.000 for area 1
1.600.000 for area 2
The EU grant requested should indicatively be between EUR 100.000 and EUR 1.000.000 for area 1, and between EUR 100.000 and EUR 600.000 for area 2.
The Commission reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.
The Commission reserves the right to increase the amount of the funds, if available, and distribute them to proposals admitted in the possible reserve list. This top-up is limited to 20% of the initial budget of the call.
Under this call for proposals, the EU grant may not exceed 80% of the total eligible costs of the action. The applicants must guarantee their co-financing of the remaining amount covered by the applicants' own resources or from sources other than the European Union budget9.
5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
Applications must be sent no later than the deadline for submission referred to in section 3(c);
Failure to comply with the above requirements may lead to the rejection of the application.
Applicants are encouraged to submit their project proposal in English in order to facilitate the treatment of the proposals and speed up the evaluation process. It should be noted, however, that proposals submitted in any other of the official languages of the EU will be accepted. In this case, applications should be accompanied by an executive summary in English (see checklist, point 3).
6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant.
For British Applicants: Please be aware that following the entry into force of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement10 on 1 February 2020 and in particular Articles 127(6)11, 13712 and 13813, the references to natural or legal persons residing or established in a Member State of the European Union are to be understood as including natural or legal persons residing or established in the United Kingdom. UK residents and entities are therefore eligible to participate under this call.14
6.1. Eligibility of the applicants
Proposals can only be submitted by organisations having signed a Framework Partnership Agreement with the European Commission for the period 2018-2021, following the 2017 Call for Proposals VP/2017/01516.
Please note that:
Proposals may not involve consortia;
Affiliated entities to the applicant are NOT eligible to receive funding under this call for proposals
6.2. Eligible activities
To be eligible, actions must be fully carried out in eligible participating EaSI countries17.
Activities taking place in other countries are therefore not eligible in this Call for proposals.
However, where the participation of the beneficiary's representatives to events organised by International Organisations outside the eligible countries is directly linked to its work programme and essential for achieving its objectives, related travel and accommodation costs (departing from an eligible country) could be accepted as eligible. This must be duly justified in the work programme and will be subject to individual assessment by the Commission.
b) Types of activities
The grant will finance inter alia the activities indicated in section 2.2.
c) Core activities
The following activities are considered core activities and may not be subcontracted:
management of the work programme. Ineligible activities
The following types of activities are not eligible for EU funding:
financial support to third parties as defined in point 3 of the Financial Guidelines;
membership fees to other networks supported by EU grants;
sponsorships/scholarships to individuals for their participation in workshops, seminars, conferences, congresses, training courses, etc. (i.e. fees to attend an event);
activities supporting political parties;
7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA
Applicants must sign a declaration on their honour signed in their name certifying that they are not in one of the situations referred to in article 136 and 141 of the Financial Regulation concerning exclusion and rejection from the procedure respectively, using the relevant form attached to the application form available at:
The authorising officer shall exclude an applicant from participating in call for proposals procedures where:
(a) the applicant is bankrupt, subject to insolvency or winding-up procedures, its assets are being administered by a liquidator or by a court, it is in an arrangement with creditors, its business activities are suspended national laws or regulations;
(b) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is in breach of its obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the applicable law;
(c) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is guilty of grave professional misconduct by having violated applicable laws or regulations or ethical standards of the profession to which the applicant belongs, or by having engaged in any wrongful intent or gross negligence, including, in particular, any of the following:
(i) fraudulently or negligently misrepresenting information required for the verification of the absence of grounds for exclusion or the fulfilment of eligibility or selection criteria or in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision;
(ii) entering into agreement with other applicants with the aim of distorting competition; (iii) violating intellectual property rights;
(iv) attempting to influence the decision-making process of the [Commission] [Agency] during the award procedure;
(v)attempting to obtain confidential information that may confer upon it undue advantages in the award procedure;
(i) fraud, within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Article 1 of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 July 1995;
(d) it has been established by a final judgment that the applicant is guilty of any of the following:
(ii) corruption, as defined in Article 4(2) of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 or Article 3 of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 May 1997, or conduct referred to in Article 2(1) of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA, or corruption as defined in the applicable law;
(iii) conduct related to a criminal organisation, as referred to in Article 2 of Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA;
(iv) money laundering or terrorist financing within the meaning of Article 1(3), (4) and (5) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(v) terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, as defined in Articles 1 and 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, respectively, or inciting, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit such offences, as referred to in Article 4 of that Decision;
(vi) child labour or other offences concerning trafficking in human beings as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(e) the applicant has shown significant deficiencies in complying with main obligations in the
performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision financed by the Union's budget, which has led to its early termination or to the application of liquidated damages or other contractual penalties, or which has been discovered following checks, audits or investigations by an authorising officer, OLAF or the Court of Auditors;
(f) it has been established by a final judgment or final administrative decision that the applicant has committed an irregularity within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95;
(g) It has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that the applicant has created an entity in a different jurisdiction with the intent to circumvent fiscal, social or any other legal obligations of mandatory application in the jurisdiction of its registered office, central administration or principal place of business;
(h) it has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that an entity has been created with the intent referred to in point (g);
(i) for the situations referred to in points (c) to (h) above, the applicant is subject to:
(i) facts established in the context of audits or investigations carried out by European Public Prosecutor's Office after its establishment, the Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office or the internal auditor, or any other check, audit or control performed under the responsibility of an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body;
(ii)non-final judgments or non-final administrative decisions which may include disciplinary measures taken by the competent supervisory body responsible for the verification of the application of standards of professional ethics;
(iii) facts referred to in decisions of persons or entities being entrusted with EU budget implementation tasks;
(iv) information transmitted by Member States implementing Union funds;
(v) decisions of the Commission relating to the infringement of Union competition law or of a national competent authority relating to the infringement of Union or national competition law; or
(vi) decisions of exclusion by an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body.
7.2. Remedial measures
If an applicant declares one of the situations of exclusion listed above it must indicate the measures it has taken to remedy the exclusion situation, thus demonstrating its reliability. This may include e.g. technical, organisational and personnel measures to correct the conduct and prevent further occurrence, compensation of damage or payment of fines or of any taxes or social security contributions. The relevant documentary evidence, which illustrates the remedial measures taken, must be provided in annex to the declaration. This does not apply for situations referred in point (d) of section 7.1.
7.3. Rejection from the call for proposals
The Commission shall not award a grant to an applicant who:
is in an exclusion situation established in accordance with Section 7.1; or
has misrepresented the information required as a condition for participating in the procedure or has failed to supply this information; or
waspreviouslyinvolvedinthepreparationofcallsforproposalsdocumentsusedinthe award procedure where this entails breach of the principle of equality of treatment, including a distortion of competition that cannot be remedied otherwise.
Administrative sanctions may be imposed on applicants, or affiliated entities where applicable, who are guilty of misrepresentation, if any of the declarations or information provided as a condition for participating in this procedure prove to be false.