Investing in the Future – How Philanthropists Are Building an Ecosystem for Quality Education


Ekaterina Rybakova


5 min read

It is unlikely that here you often read news from Russia. However, this does not mean that nothing interesting for you happens here!

The new international Rybakov Prize is on a lookout for outstanding social doers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs who have developed school and preschool education in their village, city, region, or country. Three finalists will share an award fund of $1.2 million.

Now, Asia is the cradle of new social practices and the place of activity of powerful philanthropists. We want these people to gain global public recognition and inspire others to act and succeed in this crucial area, by providing quality education for all.

We focus on school and preschool education — we invest in the future

My husband and I have been operating the Rybakov Foundation, a private non-profit organization, in Russia for the last four years. When we founded it, we immediately chose a broad path: supporting educational initiatives and holding competitions for teachers. Now many of our initiatives are operating successfully and autonomously.

The experience we gained allowed us, in 2019, to evaluate our direction and focus on what we are really strong in. They are preschool and school education.

Why school and preschool? These years represent a unique period of life, in which our children’s personalities are being formed as they understand their strengths and capabilities. Therefore, investing in school and preschool education radically increase the social impact and return on investment.

Rybakov Prize: examples that inspire us

When you start doing something, it seems as though you are alone, and around you are problems that you must solve by yourself. However, the more you work, the more you meet like-minded people. Entrepreneurs, businessmen, philanthropists who, on their own initiative, due to a call from the heart, support education and are looking for effective solutions.

I will give some examples

An entrepreneur from Yoshkar-Ola (the capital of one of Russia’s regions) created an IT company and its products are used by corporations around the world. After he achieved success in his business, he created two non-profit IT schools in the region, where children learn programming and engineering, and lower-income families can receive a discount of up to 100%.

Another example comes from the Caucasus, a southern region of Russia, in which three family generations – a school teacher, an entrepreneur, and a university graduate – are engaged in a joint activity. In a small mountain village, they opened an education center where children are engaged in innovative studies through immersive pedagogical approaches. By inviting experts to teach, the center has created an environment where children not only gain skills and knowledge, but also learn to communicate and work together.

Inspirational stories are associated with the creation of endowments in schools. For example, in the Moscow region there is a scientific and engineering school. Seven graduates of the school from different years came together and created an endowment, invested their personal funds, and helped with fundraising. However, an endowment is not only about money: it helps to gather an active community around the school with the participation of graduates, entrepreneurs, and parents. Graduates regularly come to the school, share their experiences with students and help them to determine their life goals.

Such stories inspire our team! Since they inspired us, it means they can inspire others.

That is why we launched the international Rybakov Prize, with the support of The World Bank and UNESCO IITE. With applications from all over the world. we want nominees to get to know each other, strengthen each other, and become role models for others. This way, we can drive a transformative wave that contributes to the 4th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals – Quality Education.

Tell us about your contribution to education in your village, city, region, country, or nominate a candidate!


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Ekaterina Rybakova

Ekaterina Rybakova, Russian philanthropist and public person. Together with her husband, entrepreneur Igor Rybakov, in 2015 she founded the Rybakov Foundation — a private philanthropic organization. The Foundation's mission is to create a tradition of developing society with our own hands. To carry out our mission, the foundation have developed and adopted the concept of "School is the center of society" which will help to change the socio-educational environment in schools for the better and achieve the fourth target for sustainable development, as stated by the UN. Ekaterina is the ideologist and founder of the PRO Women initiative. This is a community in which women help each other to develop. Launched in 2016, today the community brings together more than 6000 participants from more than 100 cities in 6 countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Cyprus, Sweden. At PRO Women, the participants come together in small groups to support each other in achieving personal and professional goals.

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