Vision and Mission Statement

The Zero Project was initiated by the Essl Foundation in 2008, with its mission on supporting the implementation of the Convention on the Righs of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of the United Nations and to work for a world without barriers. The approach of the Zero Project is to research and share Innovative Practice and Policies worldwide, by engaging with a worldwide cross-sectoral network of innovators, decision-makers and opinion leaders. More than 5,000 experts, with and without disabilities, in over 150 countries, have been actively contributing to the Zero Project in the past years.

In a four-year-cycle, each year the Zero Project focuses on one of these four topics: Employment, Accessibility, Independent Living and Political Participation and Education. Since 2020, ICT is the second focus of every year.

The Zero Project is based (1) on a unique research method based on co-creation with the Zero Project network, (2) a collaborative cross-sectoral platform-approach and (3) a focus on sharing and communication of Innovative Practices and Policies and its solution and patterns.

The Zero Project Conference, an annual event in the premises of the United Nations in Vienna, the annual Zero Project Report, an extensive Zero Project website and social media as well as presentations at events of Zero Project-partners are the pillars of sharing and communicating, most importantly hosting Side Events at the Conference of State Parties of UN DESA, each year since 2013.

In addition to that, the Zero Project is about creating direct impact. Zero Project-Impact Transfer – an accelerator programme jointly organized with Ashoka, and many activities within Austria support this approach.

In 2019, the Essl Foundation joined forces with Fundación Descúbreme from Chile, both to support the Zero Project in Latin America and in all Spanish speaking countries, as well as to support Zero Project-Impact Transfer.

”Zero Project Family” picture taken at the Zero Project Conference 2020 in Vienna

©Pepo Schuster,

Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies

Each year, the Zero Project selects, communicates and shares Innovative Practices and Policies that support the rights and lives of persons with disabilities, across a four year cycle of topics:

  • Independent Living and Political Participation (2015, 2019)
  • Education (2016, 2020)
  • Employment (2017, 2021)
  • Accessibility (2018, 2022)
  • Since 2020, in addition to these four topics, ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) is covered every year.

Team and Organization

The core team of the Zero Project is based in the “House of Philanthropy” (Vienna, Austria). The team of Fundación Descúbreme is based in Santiago de Chile.

These teams organize all the research, the network activities, communications and social media, and organize the Zero Project Conferences and all other activities.

The Zero Project network: more than 5,000 experts

Most of the research of the Zero Project is based on contributions from and collaborating with the Zero Project network, based on a unique methodology of nominations, evaluations and peer-reviewing, voting, responding to questionnaires, sharing, connecting etc.

Every year more than 1,000 experts with and without disabilities contribute in this way, without any compensation, simply because they share the same goal of a world without barriers, as well as acknowledging the global impact of this joint effort. Over the past years, more than 5,000 people from all sectors of society and 150 countries have contributed their expertise.

Further, the Zero Project has developed close relationships with many partner organizations, including U.N. agencies, international membership organizations, international funding agencies, academic institutions, foundations, NGOs, DPOs, professionals, activists, and others who share the common interest in identifying and scaling-up innovations that support the implementation of the CRPD.

The Zero Project Conferences

The annual Zero Project Conference is the most visible actitivity of the Zero Project, hosted annually by the United Nations Organization of Vienna in their premises. In 2020, 800 participants from more than 80 countries joined #ZeroCon20. An inspiring event, focusing on the presentation of the Innovative Practices and Policies and the unique opportunity to connect with them as well as with so many leading representatives of the worldwide disability community.

Since 2020, Fundación Descúbreme is hosting Zero Project-Latin America Conferences, initiated by the (virtual) Conference on Inclusive Education in November 2020.

Future projects and developments

Digitalization and Database: The Zero Project has digitalized all research on Innovative Practices and Policies, and creating a powerful database. Starting from 2021, the database will be made available publicly and freely.

Zero Project-Impact Transfer: Based on the growing number of Impact Transfer-fellows, that have been awarded and supported since 2018, several of them have developed growth or replication strategies in other countries, closely followed, supported and monitored by the Zero Project and Ashoka.

Solutions and Communities: Starting from 2020, the Zero Project is initiating small communities around Zero Project-Solutions. A Solution is a group of innovators that have developed similar projects, but completely independent from each other – a powerful indicator that these are solutions that have a high potential worldwide. A community consists of those innovators, but also of a community managers, and other partners and experts.