The Essl Foundation and Zero Project

The Essl Foundation MGE gemeinnützige Privatstiftung is an Austrian Foundation established in 2007 by Martin and Gerda Essl, and their children, for social purposes and scientific research. The purpose of the Essl Foundation is to support those in need, in particular to promote proven social innovations and their social entrepreneurs from all over the world, as well as scientific research in this area. The original impetus for what would later become the Zero Project occurred when the Essl Foundation carried out a preliminary study on existing data related to persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.

In 2008 the Essl Foundation MGE gemeinnützige Privatstiftung – an Austrian charitable foundation that focuses on scientific research and charitable giving – initiated the what is now known as the Zero Project, to identify, curate, and share inclusive solutions, as intended and encouraged by Article 32 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), which focuses on cooperation in international research and the sharing of information, experiences, and good practices. A dedicated team developed the original idea into a renowned research-driven initiative that engages with more than 6,000 experts from around the world. 

The United Nations has recognized the Essl Foundation’s initiative in creating the Zero Project by granting the foundation consultative status to the United Nations  Economic and Social Council in 2014, with access to the various UN human rights mechanisms, including special events with the President of the General Assembly. Read more about the cooperation between the United Nations and the Essl Foundation here.


  • Financing and further development of the Zero Project.
  • Support for social projects, especially in Austria, with a focus on education, employment and accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as barrier-free art education.
  • Active participation in the activities of the Sinnstifter and member of the association for non-profit foundations.
  • Co-founder of the Haus der Philanthropie, Vienna – an office community for non-profit foundations and related organizations.

Essl Foundation Board Members

  • KR Martin Essl (Founder, Chairman)
  • KR Rudolf Humer (Deputy Chairman)
  • Gerda Essl
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Fembek
  • Dr. Peter Konwitschka
  • Prof. Dr. Dieter Waldmann