Social Innovation

Social business approaches and digital solutions trigger new advances

1. January 2018

Social inequality, the ongoing erosion of solidarity and digitalisation are challenges our society is currently facing. Familiar political and economic strategies and models are often no longer effective. ERSTE Foundation thus places one focus of its activities on social innovation. We help unleash creative and entrepreneurial potential to create new effective stimuli and innovative solutions for relevant social problems.

What we need is a strong civil society with both the independence and resources necessary to create something new. ERSTE Foundation is civil society’s close partner in this process of transformation. We aim to develop a broad awareness of social entrepreneurship and strengthen the innovation capacity of civil society actors. We support digital innovation in its incubation stage. We develop new methods to strengthen disadvantaged communities by applying social business approaches and scale them across target groups. We help civil society organisations by reinforcing their organizational structures and honing their management skills. And we enable people to lead a self-determined economic life – which is key to financial inclusion – by providing access to financial instruments and financial education.

ERSTE Foundation NGO Academy

The ERSTE Foundation NGO Academy was founded in 2013 with the aim of empowering the civil society sector in Central and South-Eastern Europe by providing educational services. It offers executive managers and members of NGOs a range of especially designed, high-quality programmes to strengthen organisational structures and enhance management skills. They are organised in cooperation with the Competence Center for Nonprofit Organizations and Social Entrepreneurship of Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Wien).

Largest management capacity building programme for civil society organisations in CEE

40 events a year
120 lecturers and experts
400 participating organisations
1,000 participants
4,500 participant days

Partner: Vienna University of Economics, Porticus Foundation, “la caixa“ Banking Foundation

More information: Project website

The Social Innovation and Management Programme aimes at NGO executives and the Regional Programme offered in five languages focuses on local contexts. The lecturers’ high level of expertise, high-quality content and its practical applicability, the building of international networks with like-minded professionals and experts, and insight into current developments and trends are of key importance.

In 2017 the programme lecturers also published a study on civil society in the region: Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities. 27 authors analysed the situation in 16 countries in Central and Eastern Europe: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

Effects on attendees of the Social Innovation and Management programme after one year:
90%: “We have initiated new projects due to the programme.”
55-75% of class projects are implemented.
90-100% of the participants still keep in touch.
50% are in contact with the faculty.
40% have cooperated professionally (e.g. new project).
65% have assisted other participants in a professional context.
95% want to cooperate in the future or support other participants.
100% would “highly recommend” the programme.

ERSTE Foundation NGO Academy, Social Innovation and Management Programme 2017, Photo: © Igor Ripak

Social Impact Award

This award supports young innovators in establishing social enterprises that aim to tackle the most challenging questions of our time.

Social Impact Award 2017

227 workshops
172 incubated, highly talented teams
791 project applications
55 awarded social Projects

Social Impact Award

More information: Project website

Events and workshops are designed to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship, impart the skills necessary to turn vague intentions into promising projects, enable access to networks and promote the best teams with the Social Impact Award.

The award offers new opportunities to the next generation of social innovators. Young people are provided with the necessary input to set up a social enterprise as well as feedback by experts and like-minded individuals. They get an idea of social entrepreneurship as a potential career opportunity, and gain expertise, incubation support and seed financing. Currently, the project spans Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia. There are plans to further extent the Programme.

Social Banking / Financial Literacy

We would like individuals, social entrepreneurs and executives in the non-profit sector to be able and willing to understand, independently manage and plan their financial affairs. They have to be able to deal with and recover from financial difficulties. Furthermore, they must be familiar with and have access to a selection of financial instruments tailored to their needs; they need to know where they can get help and be willing to accept this help.

With the effects resulting from these activities we aim to exert a positive influence on the development of our society as a whole: they create jobs, increase private investment in health and education, offer more security and privacy in financial matters and foster growth in organisations and optimisation of social services. Financial literacy thus contributes to reducing the risk of poverty and to economic growth, social inclusion and stability.

Erste Group


BeeTwo supports digital social innovation and thus contributes to social inclusion. It provides digital solutions to disadvantaged groups to enable them to participate in economic, political, social and cultural life. Drawing on expertise and experience from civil society, technology and business, it creates an environment that supports and develops digital social innovation. This not only enables civil society to increasingly use and benefit from digitalisation; civil society actors themselves also acquire digital, technological and economic skills and develop an understanding of social impact und how to communicate it.


Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities