Social Impact Award

Transforming intention into action

Did you know?

Emigration is a major problem in Eastern Europe, thousands of young people in particular leave their native countries every year.

They hope to lead a decent life abroad, with a job and a family in a society whose progress is not paralysed by corruption. In many countries, unemployment rates are high even among university graduates. Yet there are in fact enough fields in which well-educated people could actively contribute to developing their environment. With over 20 million students in the European Union alone, there is also enormous potential for training and supporting a new generation of social entrepreneurs in Europe. At present, only a few of these students engage with the topics of entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship during their studies, and even fewer receive support in setting up social ventures.

What can we do?​

Young people could be challenged to find solutions to the problems of our time and make it a sustainable business.

Therefore the Social Impact Award (SIA) was founded in Austria in 2009. ERSTE Foundation has been an important supporter from the outset. SIA offers young people education and incubation programmes in more than 25 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. It supports early-stage social entrepreneurs in developing and implementing innovative business ideas to tackle the most important societal challenges of our time. Events and workshops raise awareness of social entrepreneurship. SIA teaches the necessary skills to navigate from vague intentions to promising business cases, providing access to networks and promoting the best teams with the Social Impact Award.

“One in four companies established in Europe primarily pursues a social mission – and young people are at the forefront of the trend.”

ERSTE Foundation facilitates the activities in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe. Support is given to successful solutions to problems such as rising emigration, poverty, food waste, climate change, exclusion of people with disabilities, to name just a few. The Impact Ventures, which SIA has been funding since 2009, contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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Why are we doing this?

Because young people are willing to change the world, and we should support them.

Successful young social entrepreneurs serve as inspiration for others, forming the heart of an ever-growing community and the ecosystem around the Social Impact Award. We want to reach as many students as possible and help them discover their social entrepreneurial talent. The aim is to help them gain self-confidence and put structures in place that will enable them to positively influence their own lives and those of others with social entrepreneurial ideas. We assist young people who care for their regions and communities and who want to tackle social problems in an innovative way. In doing so, we strengthen inclusive societies and improve regional development.

Good to know

Impact Report 2019
Over 4 million social media contacts, more than 8,000 event participants, more than 800 applications in 16 countries, around 200 workshops and events in 71 cities with more than 3,000 participants, 2,000 mentoring hours, 220 impact ventures founded, prizes awarded to the most effective 58 ventures, cooperation with more than 1,000 partner organisations worldwide.

Social Impact Award 2009–2019
SIA winners who run their ventures for 3.5 years or longer
Successfully incubated ventures


The largest management capacity-building programme for civil society organisations in Central and Eastern Europe
A tool to empower traditional artisans

Florian Bauer

Director Social Finance, Sustainability and Innovation
Since 2023, Florian Bauer has been responsible for social finance, sustainability and social innovation at ERSTE Foundation. Prior to this role, Florian worked in the NGO & Social Entrepreneurship sector for more than 13 years. He led the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral NGO that works to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient systems in developing countries, and was Managing Director & COO of the Impact Hub Vienna. From 2020-2023, Florian established strategic alliances with key partners and helped to create innovative semantic technology solutions at Semantic Web Company (SWC), a leading IT company in semantic AI solutions.