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Interview with the Foundation's General Director Oksana Oracheva

Vladimir Potanin, our founder, delegated control of the Foundation to the independent team of governing bodies. Oksana Oracheva, the Foundation's general director, shares her view on the changes

14 September 2022 Vladimir Potanin declared the independence of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation. The revenue from the endowment, the size of which is to reach RUB 100 billion in 2022, will be used for the Foundation's budget.

- Today, on September 14, the Foundation announced changes to its organizational structure. The composition of its highest governing body, the Foundation Board, as well as the Supervisory Board and the Council for the Endowment Use, has changed. What does this entail for the Foundation in a practical sense?

Today is a very important day for us. Our journey to it has been a long and difficult one. Throughout the Foundation's existence since 1999, we have been progressing toward professionalism. The Foundation has been establishing itself over the past few years as a professional philanthropic organization that operates across Russia, allocating vast resources. We actively involve a sizable group of partners and professionals in our work; the Foundation has long cooperated productively with independent experts. The Foundation was one of the first to introduce independent grant competitions; they now play a significant role in our life. We are advancing to the next phase today.

Significant changes have been made to the governing structure. This means that new people have joined the Foundation's leadership team.

Marina Mikhaylova (Arkhangelsk Center of Social Technologies “Garant”) and Irina Arzhanova (National Training Foundation) are representatives of associations we have been cooperating with for a long time; they are now members of the Foundation Board, our highest collegial governing body. We are certain that inclusion of these experts will help the Foundation better comprehend the situations in our areas of presence and come up with fresh, useful tools.

The Foundation's Supervisory Board, our oversight body, has also undergone changes. Significant figures in the fields of culture and education, Mikhail Piotrovsky and Anatoly Torkunov, were traditionally represented on the Supervisory Board. Today they are joined by Maria Revyakina. In order to guarantee that our activities comply with the Foundation's vision and that we accomplish the objectives for which the Foundation was created, a totally independent Supervisory Board has been established.  

Last but not least, Zelfira Tregulova and Andrey Sharonov joined the Council for the Endowment Use. We expect to continue managing our endowment successfully with the assistance of these experts by taking care of all matters pertaining to revenue generation and distribution to support the Foundation's activities and initiatives.

These are all crucial changes in line with the latest developments in philanthropy. It is after all about helping people, and for a major foundation like ours, it is crucial to stay relevant, avoid alienating the communities we deal with, and include their views and perspectives into everyday operations. Creating autonomous governing bodies is a further step in this direction.

- Will the link with the Foundation's founder persist?

Of course. We will continue to do what the Foundation has been doing for over twenty years since its founding, when Vladimir Potanin came up with the concept of structured philanthropy. All these years, Vladimir Potanin has been actively advancing the concept of a structured philanthropy, notably by promoting the idea of endowments and relevant legislation. The Foundation's fundamental ideals and goals were subsequently established by him and the team in 1999.

The Foundation will continue to carry out the provisions set forth when it was founded, so this relationship will endure forever. At the same time, while discussing the Foundation's operations in his interviews, Vladimir Potanin repeatedly emphasized the significance of it being governed by professionals. Another step in this direction has been made today. Naturally, the Foundation will continue to go by the name established in 1999; it will always be known as the Vladimir Potanin Foundation and will continue to be associated with Vladimir Potanin.

- Please explain how these changes would impact the Foundation's ongoing operations. Will there be more grant competitions?

We are fulfilling all of the Foundation's current responsibilities while also achieving full financial independence. This is a very significant step for us, as well as an enormous responsibility; given how contemporary Russian philanthropy is evolving, we must be able to plan not just our costs as a grant-giving foundation, but also our revenue, and we must be prepared to deal with uncertainty. In order to ensure that the support does not dwindle but instead, if at all possible, grows, we must plan effectively and calculate our effort.

- How will the budget for the Foundation be generated?

The revenue from our endowment capital, which is now our principal source of funding, will make up the budget. This year, our endowment was established with initial contributions totaling RUB 10 billion. This money is already producing revenue, and we anticipate that it will do so in the future.

Vladimir Potanin made the decision to increase the Foundation's endowment, adding nearly 50% of his Rosbank shares. This will enable us to establish our endowment earlier than anticipated. The endowment of the Foundation is expected to exceed RUB 100 billion in the next months. This will help us retain confidence in the future while also providing us with a steady income. We are transitioning to a more conventional philanthropy foundation model, where the endowment generates funds used for philanthropic purposes.

- Will the Foundation's endowment serve as its only source of funding?

The endowment will serve as the only financial source, according to our plans. Once it is established, we will finally change to an income-based financing system. To that end, we are creating a number of additional endowment capitals in addition to those established in early 2022. Once we have transitioned to a new format, we will be able to demonstrate how our financial model functions.

In order for the transition from one model to another to be seamless for everyone, especially for our grantees and partners for whom the Foundation's consistent financial assistance is important, we are now planning our work, developing a model, and analyzing how to implement it. We will begin operating in this manner in the new year.

- What can you say about the Foundation's long-term prospects?

We need to consider our future development. We built a new strategic vision and established a number of ambitious objectives in late 2016. We have mostly met them despite the pandemic, which significantly altered the strategies of each organization. The creation of our strategies for the following five years and the determination of priorities will come after the transition to the new model which is currently underway.

This does not imply that we will stop working in other areas, but rather that we must continue to be relevant and choose which communities would benefit most from our help and where our impact will be most successful and useful. We have spent over 20 years helping these communities develop, after all. We must carry out this task throughout the transitional phase, while a new financial model is being developed.

- The Foundation now faces tough, ambitious challenges and objectives. Do you believe the team is up to the task?

I have no doubt that the Foundation's team is equipped to handle this challenge. Throughout the Foundation's efforts, a seasoned, knowledgeable, and close-knit team has formed. Such changes and progress are achievable as long as the team stays together. We are fortunate to employ like-minded teams who support the Foundation's mission and are willing to make contributions necessary to reach its objectives.

On top of the professionals who are directly employed by the Foundation, we are backed by a sizable network of long-term partners and grantees. Tens of thousands of people make up this enormous team. We are certain that we can rely on them. The support of the team, new members of the governing bodies, partners, and grantees combined makes for a resource that fills us with confidence in our future.

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