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ERSTE Foundation

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Location  Vienna, Austria
Founded  2003
ERSTE Foundation httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Focus  Social Development, Culture, European Integration
Origins  legal successor of Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse (First Austrian Savings Bank) of 1819
Area served  Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe
Method  operational foundation and grant giving
Revenue  main shareholder of Erste Group Bank AG
Type of business  Austrian private foundation

The bee the symbol of erste foundation

ERSTE Foundation (in German DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Privatstiftung or in short: ERSTE Stiftung) is the biggest Austrian savings bank foundation. In 2003, it evolved from the Erste Oesterreichische Spar-Casse, the first Austrian savings bank founded in 1819. It is the main shareholder of Erste Group. ERSTE Foundation uses the profit from its shares to support the development of societies in Central and South Eastern Europe.


Appearance on the map erste foundation projects go media


ERSTE Foundation is active in Central and South Eastern Europe. Its mission goes back to the savings banks idea of the 19th century. It supports social participation and civil society engagement; it aims to bring people together and disseminate knowledge of the recent history of a region that has been undergoing dramatic changes since 1989. As an active foundation, it develops its own projects within the framework of three programs: Social Development, Culture, and Europe.

Social development

The foundation encourages the development of fairer and stronger societies, where nobody is left behind. It has developed two complementary strategies of social intervention: the integration of individuals and groups who live on the margins of society and research into social change. Its activities create fair prospects for people in difficult social conditions and situations of extreme need with regard to education and participation.


The culture program works on mostly transnational projects, involving research activities that focus on the visual arts from the 1960s to the present day. Culture is seen as a driving force for a democratic society and in its ability to forge links between diverse linguistic and geographical regions. Working with artistic strategies creates an experimental playing field for utopias and for proposals beyond the feasibility of everyday politics as well as for exploring the possibilities of various artistic approaches. Therefore, the culture program promotes independent projects and those engaged in the cultural sector by providing them with resources and cross-border contacts that are not embedded within state institutions, also to stop the so-called brain drain.


The Foundation promotes the process of European integration by providing a platform for exchanging ideas, knowledge and initiatives. Europeans are encouraged to live according to common values, to freely share ideas, to work together and to learn from one another. The projects focus on establishing a lively culture of dialogue. In an environment insisting on differences, people should be enabled to experience feelings of solidarity, connection and cooperation. The projects anticipate the reality of a unified Europe and convey the potential of the common union, in particular in those countries where, at present, EU programmes cannot yet be implemented. A focus lies on the work with young people, programs for journalists and debates on the future of Europe.

Projects (examples)

  • Academy of Central European Schools (aces) – transnational school network in 15 countries of CEE to create a better understanding of European values among young people and reduce prejudices
  • Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence – Fellowship for journalists from 9 Balkan countries in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Robert Bosch Stiftung to strengthen democracy and free speech through good quality journalism in media.
  • ERSTE Foundation Fellowship for Social Research – 10 Eastern European scientists are granted each year a fellowship to research in depth a sociological, demographic, or socio-political topic within a European context.
  • Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe – the first exhibition, which dealt with the topic of gender roles and offered a representative overview of art from Eastern Europe since the 1960s. 25 curators from 24 countries worked for the show in the Museum of Modern Art Vienna that featured more than 400 works of more than 200 artists. It was also presented at Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw.
  • KomenskýFond - Named after the Czech renaissance pedagogue Jan Komenský the fund is a cooperation of Caritas Austria and ERSTE Foundation, established in 9 countries to help alleviate poverty through education especially for children in Romani communities.
  • PATTERNS Lectures - This series of lectures supports the development of new university courses in Central and South Eastern Europe in the fields of art history, cultural theory, and cultural studies. It supports lecturers’ international study visits and encourages international academic exchange by offering the possibility of guest lectures.
  • tranzit.org – the independent tranzit network operates in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and the Slovak Republic. Each tranzit local ‘unit’ has its unique and autonomous way of working, deals with several artistic settings and manifests itself in lectures, performances, discussions, publications, exhibitions, and researches. In 2010, the tranzit team was one of the three curatorial teams for the European art biennial Manifesta 8 in Murcia, Spain.
  • Social banking and financial inclusion

    Being a savings bank foundation, ERSTE Foundation is committed to the social savings bank idea of the 19th century. Therefore, social banking and financial inclusion are key issues within the Program Social Development. The best known projects in this field are:

  • Die Zweite Sparkasse (The Second Savings Bank) - A bank for the unbankable
  • good.bee - the micro finance and social entrepreneurship institute of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation
  • The Social Business Tour 2010 - a roadshow with workshops to promote social business in Eastern Europe with Muhammad Yunus
  • ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration

    Every two years, starting in 2007, the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration is awarded to projects working successfully for the social integration of people in their communities. During an open call, 30 winners are selected among over 1000 applicants from 12 countries (2011) and will receive a total price money of EUR 610,000. Additionally, the publicly honoured NGOs get two years for free public relations (PR) support for their projects and access to an international network of peers. Award ceremonies have been held so far in Ljubljana (2007), Bucharest (2009), and Prague (2011).

    Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory

    ERSTE Foundation established the biennial Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory in 2008. It supports the work of art historians and theorists in CEE and highlights the notion of arts and culture, encouraging the production of cultural knowledge and exchange between ‘East’ and ‘West’. The award is named after the Slovenian author, art critic and curator Igor Zabel (1958–2005), the senior curator of Ljubljana's Moderna Galerija. He established cultural links between Eastern and Western Europe.

    Cooperations with other foundations in international projects

  • Archis SEE Network
  • European Fund for the Balkans (EFB)
  • Forum for Roma Inclusion
  • Grant Makers East Forum
  • Roma Education Fund (REF)
  • Networking European Citizenship Education (NECE)
  • History

    The origins of the foundation go back to the 19th century. The Erste österreichische Spar-Casse was founded in 1819. As a result of the amendment to the Austrian Savings Bank Act, Erste österreichische Spar-Casse was split into an operational bank (Erste Bank AG) and a holding company (DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Anteilsverwaltungssparkasse, in short: AVS) in 1993. In 1997 Erste Bank, which had merged with GiroCredit Bank AG der Sparkassen, went public, making AVS the main shareholder of the company, which has been listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange ever since. In 2003 AVS was formally transformed into DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Privatstiftung, in short: ERSTE Stiftung (ERSTE Foundation), which began its operations two years later.

    The first major projects included the Zweite Wiener Vereins-Sparcasse, in short: Zweite Sparkasse, founded in 2006, and the Academy for Central European Schools (aces) network, established in the same year. 2007 saw the presentation of the first ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration in Ljubljana and the launch of the first call of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence. The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory and the foundation of good.bee followed in 2008. In 2009 ORF and 3sat first broadcast the TV documentary series "Balkan Express (Return to Europe)" and the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration went into its second round, with the ceremony being held in Bucharest. The largest culture project to date – the exhibition Gender Check – opened at MUMOK Vienna in 2010. In the same year, the Social Business Tour 2010 with Muhammad Yunus toured through six Eastern European countries with the aim of introducing the concept of social business as a form of sustainable economic activity in Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague, Bucharest and Belgrade. That same year the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory was awarded to Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowski in Barcelona. In 2011 the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration – then in its third round – was presented in Prague to 34 projects from 12 countries.

    Legal status

    ERSTE Foundation is a savings bank private foundation as defined by the Austrian Savings Bank Act.


    The bodies of the foundation include the Managing Board, the Supervisory Board and the Association. The private Savings Bank Association, established in 1819 and comprising more than 100 members, elects the members of the Supervisory Board and designates its president. The Supervisory Board appoints the members of the Managing Board and supervises the foundation’s management. The Managing Board conducts the foundation’s business and decides on the allocation of project funding, assisted by an Advisory Board of international experts.

    Members of the supervisory board

  • Georg Winckler (chairman)
  • Maximilian Hardegg
  • Bernhard Kainz
  • Peter Mitterbauer
  • Barbara Pichler
  • Peter Pichler
  • Johanna Rachinger (deputy chairwoman)
  • Markus Trauttmansdorff
  • Members of the managing board

  • Franz Karl Prüller (chairman)
  • Richard Wolf (deputy chairman)
  • Bernhard Spalt
  • Members of the advisory board

  • Doraja Eberle (chairwoman)
  • Christoph Badelt
  • Erhard Busek
  • Caroline Hornstein-Tomić
  • Ivan Krastev
  • Johanna Mair
  • Boris Marte
  • Franz Salm
  • Andreas Treichl
  • Ivan Vejvoda
  • Employees, budget and projects

    At ERSTE Foundation work around 35 employees at 2012. The Foundation has spent 40 million EUR for projects between its founding date in 2003 and the end of 2010. During that period, the total number of projects that ERSTE Foundation has implemented and/or supported was 548, 110 have applied for open calls. Around 80% of ERSTE Foundation's annual budget is invested in projects that are initiated within the 3 programs Social Development, Culture, and Europe. The remaining 20% are spent as grants to non-profit organisations to support their projects.

    Memberships in umbrella organisations

  • European Foundation Centre (efc)
  • European Venture Philanthropy Association
  • Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation
  • Society for Organizational Learning
  • Verband österreichischer Privatstiftungen (VÖP)
  • ERSTE Foundation Library

    Founded in 2007, the ERSTE Foundation Library collects literature mainly in English and German. It contains around 5000 items and 35 periodical subscriptions (2012). Topics include art and media theory and history, minority and gender issues, cultural theory and policies, economic and political developments, social banking, innovation in foundations, philanthropy, demography, migration, education, and the art of memory. Geographically, the collection focuses on Central and South Eastern Europe. The Library is open to the public. The free-access collection is accessible on the premises by appointment.


    ERSTE Foundation Wikipedia

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