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ZSE Foundation: Project ideas for real change

ZSE Foundation became active in 2016. Its manager Peter Bednár speaks about its priorities and projects.

What initiatives do you support?

We have defined four key areas we would like to systematically support in the long run: environment, education, innovations and community development. Our support works on two levels: first, we have partner projects such as Elektrárňa Piešťany, which functions as an educational and community centre, civic associations Živica and Ochrana dravcov na Slovensku, and Impact HUB, which is a start-up platform. We also run four grant schemes that focus on community development and support of disadvantaged groups. These include Rozprúdime regióny (Making Regions Move), which funds community projects, Dostaneme ťa do školy (We will get you to the school), which develops barrier-free solutions in schools, Búrame bariéry (We remove barriers), which helps handicapped people, and an employee grant scheme for volunteering initiatives of our employees.

Education as a theme is very popular now. However, so little change is seen in the educational system and schools if we consider means and attention paid to this field. What do you think?

ZSE has been supporting education for many years, long before education became an issue of social interest. I also believe that the situation in education cannot be solved only by a reform. No perfect law or institutions can transform the approach and behaviour of people. Change must come from the bottom and it will take many years before it is established and becomes a standard across society. That’s why we support projects such as Zelená škola (EcoSchool) or Sokratov inštitút (Socrate´s Institute). I am glad that these activities get public acknowledgement; Živica was awarded the Environment Minister’s prize last spring, and in October, the certification was attended by the President of Slovakia. For the Sokratov inštitút project, Živica received the award of the Technical University in Zvolen for long-term cooperation. Change takes place in schools and within society, but it needs time.

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What are the projects you are working on right now?

The third round of the grant scheme, Rozprúdime regióny, is under preparation. Last summer, we closed the second round of the grant scheme, supporting 157 projects out of 736 with a sum of EUR 120,000. We supported new and existing cultural, social, sport and other activities which will strengthen interpersonal and intergenerational relationships, encourage communities to be more active, contribute to the development of regional tourism and stress the importance of each region. In cooperation with the APPA civic association, we prepared two grant programmes, Dostaneme ťa do školy and Búrame bariéry, through which we supported 3 schools and 8 charity events, using the proceeds to improve the quality of life of the handicapped. We want to help individuals and draw public interest to this issue, too. We don’t want to just provide finances; we want to change the perception of the whole issue.

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