On 8-9 March 2018, COFACE Families Europe participated in the Second fi-compass ESF Conference ‘Financial instruments funded by the European Social Fund – boosting social impact’ in Brussels. Fi-compass is a platform for advisory services on financial instruments under the European Structural and Investment funds (ESIF) and microfinance under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).
As part of COFACE work on advocating for a next Multi-Annual Financial Framework, it is important to understand what role financing instruments and solutions and the European Fund for Strategic Investment Fund (EFSI) could play to boost social investment. The event provided a great overview of:
- recent developments in social impact investing and innovative financing solutions across the EU;
- the role of the EU and the ESF in social financing today and tomorrow;
- the opportunities provided by ESF financial instruments for EU Member States and regions;
- the importance of microfinance in promoting self-employment and entrepreneurship;
- how social entrepreneurship and social inclusion can be supported;
- the support options available to Member States and managing authorities and on further support available from cooperation between the European Commission and European Investment Bank Group (EIB Group) for social inclusion and social impact.
In her opening, Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility underlined that EFSI will not replace European Social Fund Grants, but would complement them better in the next financing period. While the EU budget has to continue supporting the EU’s social market economy, there are emerging economic and political (Brexit) challenges as well as new priorities. Therefore, it’s necessary to explore how financial instruments could play a bigger role and EFSI seems to be a success according to the European Commission in this regard. However, only 4% of the EFSI funding (in total 264 billion Euros) has been spent on social infrastructure and there were challenges regarding the geographical distribution of projects.
The using of financial instruments for social infrastructure is a new territory for COFACE Families Europe to explore, but it’s certain that we will continue advocating for a strong and sustainable EU budget that should invest in people and improve the social inclusion of Europe’s most marginalized families. In the 2014-2020 funding period, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) have already brought positive changes to the lives of thousands of European for instance through the creation of new jobs, or by triggering transition from institutional to community-based care for children, or persons with disabilities in some Member States. If the use of loans and micro-financing tools is further encouraged in the next MFF for social infrastructure (e.g. housing, childcare services etc.), it should not mean under any circumstances replacing public responsibility to maintain and run social services. It is also important that social investment must respect human rights and a strong monitoring framework should be put in place to ensure the quality of social outputs and outcomes under these types of investment.
For more information about the Fi-compass, please check: www.fi-compass.eu
For more information about COFACE’s work on the next MFF, please contact Magdi Birtha: firstname.lastname@example.org