Vision and Mission Statement

The Zero Project was initiated by the Essl Foundation in 2008 and focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities globally. It is a platform where the most innovative and effective solutions to problems that persons with disabilities face, are shared. Its mission is to support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and to work for a world without barriers.

We take a solutions-based approach to our work. Together with a continuously growing network of over 4,000 experts, with and without disabilities, in over 150 countries, we seek to identify the most innovative and effective Policies and Practices that improve the lives of persons with disabilities. And we tell the world about those Policies & Practices.

Throughout the year, we also disseminate these solution-oriented approaches to decision makers and opinion leaders worldwide and present the results of our research at various national and international conferences, for example, at Side Events at the annual Conference of State Parties to UN CRPD in New York.

The annual Zero Project Report presents the Policies & Practices that have been selected as the most innovative in their approach to that year’s theme. It also evaluated just how the UN CRPD is being implemented around the world. For this we created Social Indicators.

In recent years, and based on the large network and growing expertise, the Zero Project has been developing other subprojects and formats that support the implementation of the UN CRPD, both internationally and specifically within Austria, the home country of the Zero Project.

Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies

Each year we identify and share innovations that improve the daily lives and legal rights of all persons with disabilities by carefully selecting Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies. The Zero Project Awards, presented at our annual conference, supports their outstanding work with global recognition.

Team and Organization

The core of our work is the global research on Innovative Practices and Policies, which is conducted in an annual cycle: starting in early spring with exploring the new topic, followed by the nomination and selection process, and ending with publishing of the Zero Project Report and Website, and the Zero Project Conference in February. The research and all other activities are funded and managed by the Essl Foundation, based in Vienna, Austria. Some sub projects such as the Zero Project Dialogues in Austria, require additional funding.

The Zero Project Network: 4,000 experts

Most of the research of the Zero Project is based on contributions (nominations, evaluations, voting, selection, responding to questionnaires, etc.) from our partners and the full Zero Project network, using a transparent crowdsourcing methodology. Every year more than 1,000 experts contribute in this way, without compensation, simply because they share the same goal of realizing a world without barriers, as well as acknowledging the global impact of this joint effort. Over the past four years, more than 4,000 experts (with and without disabilities) from all sectors of society and 180 countries have contributed their expertise.

Further, we have 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 UN CRPD.

Zero Project Social Indicators

The network includes all respondents who filled in the Zero Project Questionnaires which measure the implementation of the UN CRPD on country and regional level since 2010. The Zero Project Social Indicators have been the first research topic (initially called the Essl Social Index until 2011), with more than 1,000 respondents since 2010.

A four-year research cycle

Our research is based on a four-year research cycle, which began in 2013 with Employment and moved on to Accessibility in 2014, Independent Living and Political Participation in 2015, and finally Education in 2016. We concluded this cycle by summarising the most important findings and its impact in the Zero Project Almanac (published in early 2017). In 2017 the cycle began once again with Employment.

To date, more than 400 Innovative Practices and Policies have been selected. Each year we also develop and research Social Indicators that measure how the UN CRPD is being implemented by comparing world regions in an annual survey.

The Zero Project Conference and Awards

The Zero Project Conference is a unique meeting point of people who inspire and want to be inspired, of innovators and change-makers. It is held annually in the Vienna Headquarters of the United Nations, and brings together some 500 participants from more than 70 countries. At the heart of the conference are presentations of the Innovative Practices and Policies as well as by international decision-makers and opinion leaders from all sectors of society – the Zero Project network and partners.