European Solidarity Corps programme final evaluation for 2014–2020 and interim evaluation for 2021–2027

This evaluation aimed to provide a final review of the European Solidarity Corps programme for 2018-2020 and a mid-term review for 2021-2027.

Specifically, the objectives were:

The evaluation report will be used to prepare a report on the overall European Solidarity Corps programme.

The main methods used to answer the research questions were:

The evaluation produced a report in both Estonian and English, along with a leaflet for the programme’s target groups.

The evaluation concludes that the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) is a relevant and effective programme. It matches Estonia’s national and EU youth policy goals, meets societal expectations, and helps achieve set objectives. The ESC complements other youth programmes and national efforts. The programme’s budget has been used effectively, achieving its targets and positively impacting participants, supporting organisations, and the community. Participation in ESC activities promotes values such as solidarity, diversity, tolerance, and openness. Young participants gain entrepreneurial skills, work experience, and a better understanding of their abilities and interests. Organisations improve their capacity to engage young people effectively. As a result, society becomes more tolerant, and many community issues are addressed. However, the exact extent of the impact is not clearly quantifiable.

The ESC budget is invaluable for supporting voluntary activities and youth-led projects. To maximise the programme’s impact and involve more young people, the recommendation is to increase the ESC budget. As living costs rise, fewer young people can receive support. The programme must decide whether to involve more young people for shorter periods, showing quantitative efficiency, or to support fewer young people through higher quality and more impactful activities.

The programme’s success depends significantly on reaching its target groups. Despite the limited budget and competitive application rounds, the agency has performed well in this regard. However, the evaluation indicates a need to engage more young people with fewer opportunities and those who have not previously participated in ESC and Erasmus+ initiatives. This requires clearer guidance materials, closer collaboration with specialists working with target groups, and a more user-friendly registration and application system.

Based on the evaluation, the ESC is effective. The supported activities, target groups, and application/reporting conditions are generally appropriate. The programme complements other funding opportunities and offers significant added value as a distinct EU youth programme. The evaluation generated several ideas for improving the programme’s implementation efficiency.

Recommendations for Enhancing the Programme and Designing the Next Programming Period:

  1. Continue funding the ESC, implementing the current measures, and developing the programme. The ESC should remain a separate EU youth programme to maximise its benefits within both EU and Estonian national youth policies.
  2. Review the indicators being monitored and the methods for collecting data from target groups to support programme management decisions.
  3. Further simplify the programme guidelines, contracts, website content, and application/reporting system for the target groups.
  4. Focus more on engaging young people with fewer opportunities.
  5. To improve the programme’s effectiveness, increase the overall budget and unit costs for covering expenses, and consider adjusting the proportions of the measures.
  6. To ensure effective budget use, maintain flexibility for countries to reallocate budgets between programme measures.
  7. Improve IT systems to support programme management effectively and ensure smooth operation.
  8. Clarify roles and encourage collaboration among stakeholders in marketing the programme, reaching target groups, improving activity quality, and setting priorities.

Recommendations for Youth Workers and Project Implementers:

  1. Seek ways to reach more young people with fewer opportunities and those who have not previously participated in ESC and Erasmus+ initiatives.
  2. Ensure the suitability of the organisation and tasks when offering voluntary opportunities and verify the proper functioning of the host organisation.
  3. Think broadly about collaboration opportunities with organisations sending and receiving young people.
  4. Mentors of Solidarity Projects should encourage young people to take responsibility and share tasks equally.
  5. Be open to programme changes and regularly check for updated conditions.
  6. Help spread programme information and talk about the opportunities and achievements to those not currently in the target group.
  7. Share project and programme results widely.
  8. Encourage young people to step out of their comfort zones and support them in planning, implementing, and reflecting on their projects.
  9. Seek advice and support from agency staff, colleagues, other field workers, or the young people themselves for information dissemination, application, activity implementation, reaching young people, and reflecting on learning outcomes.
  10. Do not leave project reporting until the last minute!