Social inclusion and poverty reduction

Promoting social inclusion and combating poverty and discrimination are key priorities in the 2014 to 2020 European Social Fund (ESF) programme, one of the European Structural and Investment Funds.

The £9.7 million Growing the Social Economy programme and £18.9 million Aspiring Communities Fund are part-funded by us and part-funded by the ESF, as highlighted in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan. These funds will support the delivery of new projects and/or additional activity up to March 2020.

Read about the National Rules on cost models for the funds in our European Social Fund: cost models guidance.

Aspiring Communities Fund

The Aspiring Communities Fund is now closed.

The Aspiring Communities Fund (ACF) supports communities to work collaboratively with partners to accelerate the design and delivery of community-led initiatives that tackle poverty, inequality and exclusion

ACF will help enable community bodies and third sector organisations in Scotland’s most deprived and fragile communities to deliver and implement long term local solutions that address local priorities and need, increase active inclusion and build on the assets of local communities to reduce poverty and enable inclusive growth.

This challenge fund is being delivered by the Scottish Government as Lead Partner for the 2014-2020 European Social Fund (ESF) Programme.

The application form and associated guidance is available from the links below. Please ensure you read all documents before completing the application form

Forms and guidance

Aspiring Communities Fund: application form and guidance

Approved projects

Growing the Social Economy

This programme aims to invest in and strengthen Scotland's social economy, so that it can support disadvantaged groups to participate in society.

It aims to:

  • increase the capacity and sustainability of third sector organisations by creating jobs and developing and expanding servives to disadvantaged individuals, families and communties
  • encourage and support social innovation approaches to tackle social problems, thus creating stronger links between social economy organisations, academia and other agencies

It splits into two funds: the Social Innovation Fund and the Social Economy Growth Fund. We are using the third sector budget to match funding provided by the ESF, which means applicants do not need to provide match funding in order to apply.

Social Economy Growth Fund

The Social Economy Growth Fund is now closed.

The Social Economy Growth Fund is targeted at social economy organisations whose primary purpose is to tackle disadvantage and poverty and promote social inclusion. It aims to increase organisations' capacity to develop, enhance and deliver support programmes to disadvantaged areas and groups.

Funding is provided as grants of up to £250,000 and will be directly linked to organisational development and job creation. Applicants to this fund must demonstrate the positive long-term impacts that the investment will bring to support disadvantaged people. This may be through:

  • expansion of existing business activity
  • diversification and creating new products, services or business models

Forms and guidance:

Approved projects: Social Economy Growth Fund: approved projects

Social Innovation Fund

The Social Innovation Fund is now closed.

The Social Innovation Fund aims to stimulate, test, support and deliver new ideas to encourage innovative approaches to tackling poverty and inequality. It supports partnerships between the third sector, academia, and other agencies such as public bodies and SMEs.

It follows the the EU's three-stage approach:

  1. Research and development (grants offered: £30,000 to £50,000)
  2. Testing and evaluating (grants offered: £100,000 to £150,000)
  3. Scaling up of new approaches and innovative ideas (grants offered: £150,000 to £250,000)

Forms and guidance:

Approved projects: Social Innovation Fund: approved projects


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