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European Social Fund financial instruments supporting self-employment and entrepreneurship

Vienna saw the first thematic fi-compass workshop on European Social Fund (ESF) financial instruments supporting self-employment and entrepreneurship under Thematic Objective 8. This full day workshop was attended by representatives from ESF managing authorities, financial intermediaries, and other stakeholders from across the EU.

Practical insights from the Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund 2014-2020 in Lithuania were presented by Rūta Dapkute, from the Lithuanian Ministry of Finance, the ESF managing authority and Inga Beiliuniene from INVEGA, the fund of funds manager. Their presentation highlighted that the success of the financial instrument depends very much on a robust ex-ante assessment and on adequate attention during implementation to ensure geographical coverage by financial intermediaries. Furthermore, good communication and capacity building support for potential applicants were mentioned as crucial. Referring to the workshop, Ms Dapkute said: “It was a great opportunity to share our experience and in this way to encourage other Member States to use financial instruments. From the many questions we received, I see a big potential for further development of financial instruments.”

The workshop's second case study, describing the Italian SELFIEmployment, was presented by Martina Rosato, Agenzia Nazionale Politiche Attive Lavoro (ANPAL), the ESF managing authority and Concetta Granato, Invitalia, the financial instrument manager. The speakers highlighted the fundamental importance of training for the target group of NEETs (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) when completing applications and learning how to set up a business. Another issue which arose during implementation was the importance of communication that is properly targeted at a local level using information channels that are favoured by young people.

Commenting on the SELFIEmployment session, Ms Rosato said: “In Vienna I found the audience very interested in the Italian financial instrument. Particularly, there was great interest in the activities financed via the instrument and in the type of eligible expenditure, in the context of the ESF. The audience also positively perceived the importance we gave to the ‘Business Development Service’ before and during the design of the financial instrument.”

The Question & Answer sessions that followed each case study were very active with peers exchanging experiences and ideas on a wide range of topics. For the Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund these included discussions on the selection of financial intermediaries, combining financial instrument support with subsidies, performance related fees, and eligible expenditure. Another topic of particular interest was the provision of training at all levels including for managing authorities and financial intermediaries, as well as additional services for potential final recipients. Ms Beiliuniene was encouraged by the session, commenting: “The interest we received from the audience allows us to believe that financial instruments can also be successfully implemented in other countries, as they are in Lithuania.”

Participants stressed the benefits of the presentations and peer-to-peer discussions with speakers willing to share their experience. The networking opportunities with peers and speakers were also highly valued.

Further information about this thematic ESF workshop, including the presentations, is available from the fi-compass website's past event section.

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