In 2003, ERSTE Foundation evolved out of the Erste Oesterreichische Spar-Casse. In 1819 this savings banks association opened the first bank in Vienna for individuals who did not have the means to provide for their future. Today, we continue in the tradition of the founders and their commitment to the people. We develop social infrastructures that support people and help them take charge of their lives. This balance of social and individual responsibility is an exciting challenge for us, which we constantly confront also by using daring strategies.
As a private Austrian savings banks foundation, we are committed to serve the common good. ERSTE Foundation also carries a special responsibility as the major shareholder of the Erste Group. This dual responsibility is part of our history and identity. Currently, ERSTE Foundation holds 25.3% of the capital shares of Erste Group. On the one hand, we use the profit from our shares to support the development of societies in Austria and Central and South Eastern Europe, where the banking group offers its financial services. On the other hand, we invest parts of our dividends into the growth of the Erste Group. The independence and success of Erste Group safeguards the future of its major shareholder and its commitment to the common good.
At ERSTE Foundation we foster a culture of independence and freedom when planning and selecting our projects. We are accessible, multilingual and international. We have a flat organisational structure, keep our working processes as simple as possible and place value on direct communication. As an active foundation, we develop our own projects within the framework of three programmes: Social Development, Culture and Europe. Our working methods always aim to find a balance between strategically oriented concepts and their implementation by using region-based knowledge.
We put little stock in rash measures and try to resist the temptation of being satisfied with short-term successes. We aim to have an enduring impact and place emphasis on interdisciplinary and transnational cooperation by promoting a culture of listening and collaborative work.
We believe in the concept of a common Europe. After 1989 a divided continent grew together again. ERSTE Foundation focuses its work on the cultural region of Austria and Central and South Eastern Europe. We support social participation and civil-society engagement; we aim to bring together people and disseminate knowledge of the recent history of a region where the Schengen area and the European Union have established new dividing lines, but have also given rise to new hopes and expectations.