The Open Estonia Foundation (OEF) is an operational and grant-making non-governmental not-for-profit public benefit organization founded on April 19, 1990 with the support of the investor and philanthropist George Soros. The Open Estonia Foundation is based in Tallinn, Estonia, and is affiliated with the Open Society Foundations (OSF) network, established by Soros in 1984 to help countries make the transition to democracy and promote open society.
OEF’s goal is to contribute to the development of open society in Estonia and other countries. Over the past 20 years the Foundation's initiatives have ranged from school reforms to contemporary art and legal reforms. Today our focus is on strengthening open governance and civil society and reinforcing the principles of participatory democracy. Our activities are driven by a vision of democracy, civil society, social responsibility and equal opportunities in democratic decision-making processes. We are dedicated to making a lasting contribution towards greater justice, open democracy and respect for diversity. We share experiences with countries in democratic transition and build cross-border partnerships in the European Union and across the globe.
The Open Estonia Foundation’s mission is to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. In order to achieve this goal, the Foundation runs and supports a range of initiatives to advance openness and democratic practice in decision-making processes, substantive and inclusive civil dialogue in society, and human dignity. We help shape and advocate public policies and actions that assure greater justice in society and promote fundamental rights.
For the period 2016-2018 we will focus on priority areas:
- transparency and accountability of governance;
- fundamental rights and social cohesion.
The Foundation runs and supports initiatives in line with its strategic priorities. In the framework of our priority areas, we also initiate and operate special programs (such as the NGO Fund) and open competitions which support the Foundation’s goals.
In the Transparency and Accountability of Governance priority area, we aim at:
- promoting open and transparent governance in the public sector as well as in civil society;
- achieving a greater engagement of civil society in policy processes and improving the capacity of citizens, civil society actors and the government to interact in creating policy solutions that uphold the values of open an society and best serve the public interest and generate a positive social change;
- promoting the adoption of new, more participatory, transparent and accountable models of democracy, particularly using ICT tools, and developing better access to information.
Our strategic goals in the Fundamental Rights and Social Cohesion area include:
- creating a better awareness of and compliance with fundamental rights and freedoms;
- combating discrimination and prejudice, intolerance and xenophobia, especially against vulnerable and minority groups;
- building a better understanding of democratic values among the public, particularly youth, and increasing their dedication to democratic practices as a key to social cohesion.
How we work
In the framework of its priority areas, OEF initiates and supports innovative projects that help non-state actors, grassroots, marginalized groups and networks to hold governments to account, develop and advocate better public policies and meaningfully participate in critical policy debates. An integral part of our activities is supporting advocacy and raising the capacity of formal and informal networks of non-state actors.
Board and management
The Open Estonia Foundation is governed by a Board that has a maximum of eleven members whose mandate lasts for four years. The members of the Board come from a variety of backgrounds relevant to the Foundation’s work. New members are selected by the incumbent Board members by a consensus vote. In other cases the Board takes its decisions by a majority vote. The Board sets the Foundation’s policies related to management, governance, investment and grant-making practices. It is also responsible for the approval of all the Foundation’s grants. The Executive Director ensures the implementation of the strategy and policies approved by the Board, and carries out the day-to-day activities together with the Foundation's staff.
We develop partnerships with other organizations, such as think-tanks, civic groups, social movements, other foundations, socially responsible entrepreneurs and public authorities. OEF is a founding member of the Estonian Network of Non-Profit Organizations (NENO), a long-term member of the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) and a member of the European human rights funders network Ariadne. These partnerships help to build a wider constituency for our initiatives, and spread new ideas through our partners’ networks as well as our own. While we focus on the Estonian society, we also work together with our partners at the European and international level, including EU Eastern neighbours, Russia and other countries with emerging civil societies.
Communication and dissemination of information
The Foundation works with newspapers, television and radio broadcasters and online media to give its projects a greater impact. We distribute electronic annual reports and weekly newsletters, produce audio-visual materials and communicate via our website and social media.
OEF follows the Code of ethics of Estonian nonprofit organizations. People acting on the Foundation’s behalf should aim to be honest and ethical in their dealings with each other, community members, grantees, partners, suppliers and the public. The Foundation does not practice or tolerate discrimination on the basis of place of origin, ethnicity, citizenship, gender, age, political or religious affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, family relationship or economic or medical status. The Foundation aims to treat all people with respect, and to foster a productive environment free of harassment, intimidation and discrimination. The Board, staff and experts have a duty to follow the Foundation’s conflict of interest policy, which is intended to permit the Foundation to identify, evaluate, and address any real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest.
The financial governance of the Foundation is subject to strict control. The Board bears the final responsibility for the budget and accounts, which are published in our annual report each year. The Board annually designates an independent auditor responsible for performing an audit of the Foundation’s financial statements in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, and rendering an opinion thereupon.