Irina  Ozimok

About the new reformers of Ukraine, the amazing projects that make daily life better, the way to victory in the length of...

About the new reformers of Ukraine, the amazing projects that make daily life better, the way to victory in the length of the Bosphorus, about traveling, friendship, inspiration – all that is in the life-affirming interview of the head of the local economic development program of WNISEF Irina Ozimok specially for LDaily.

bbcbd6a iryna ozimok

“Six months before the Bosphorus I did not know how to swim the crawl”


About the new reformers of Ukraine, the amazing projects that make daily life better, the way to victory in the length of the Bosphorus, about traveling, friendship, inspiration – all that is in the life-affirming interview of the head of the local economic development program of WNISEF Irina Ozimok specially fo.

“I’m always looking for a wow effect in my life. But in fact it is a bad trait, because when everything is not perfect, I get very upset” – our heroine shares with us. In search of her desired wow affect Irina Ozimok helps smart dreamers to turn the world around to the better every day, she shows the youth that it is possible to create mobile applications that solve specific problems, collect city heads and charge them with perseverance to create changes … But this is not enough for Irina, because she aspires to “do more and better from what you can.” And being in the team of LIVE.LOVE she has already overcame her first Bosphorus. Sometimes it becomes very frightening for her; it seems that she will get a leg cramps. But the fear decreases. She learned to overcome it thanks to a whole team of “insane brave souls,” the invisible support of loving parents and worried friends. That’s real wow! What more to do?

Such work – to change the world 

: Irina, tell us about your activities, what are you currently working on? 

I. Ozimok: I have the honor to be the head of the local economic development program at the Western NIS Enterprise Fund, which introduces technical assistance in Ukraine today with the support, in particular, for the development of innovation and entrepreneurship. Now we support a number of projects that help us invest in people, some agents of change who live and work in Ukraine. First, the work of the fund was planned until 2018, now it was extended until 2023. Our budget is 35 million dollars.

: Give examples of successful projects of the Foundation.

I. Ozimok: When I started here, we supported the ProZorro public procurement system which is known today. Then, at the start, we became the first one who financed this system. By the way, today ProZorro shows a saving of UAH 31 billion in the budget.

As part of the local economic development program, we are working on a number of projects that somehow contribute to the development of urban ecosystems. We are also the organizers of the International Mayors Summit, where city heads and an active community from different parts of Ukraine can get acquainted with the world’s leading practices and analyze their own achievements and positive changes in other cities.

Another interesting project is the school of urbanistics CANactions, where the foreign mentors are involved in. The school is designed for young people, activists, who want to work and work in the departments of urban planning and architecture. And the accompanying program “Activate your dream” helps active and courageous citizens get microfinance (up to $ 5,000) in order to make an urban transformation in their own city, involving business and local authorities. By the way, in the School of Urban Studies has already about 80 graduates, many of them moved to other cities to implement changes there.

All our programs have a great social impact. They give Ukrainian tools in order to make life better in those spheres, where they work in

: Is there any feedback from abroad on the results of the Foundation’s work?

I. Ozimok: Again I will return to ProZorro, which was the biggest success. The New York Times wrote about it, the Washington Post and other authoritative publications. It received prestigious awards in London and Paris. Success and recognition contributed to the further development of this project. Now ProZorro is going to enter the international level. The first results are already seen. For example, recently we went to Moldavia, where we signed a memorandum with the Minister of Finance of the country. The Moldavian version of the program is called MTender, but it is a prototype of ProZorro and even its developers are Ukrainians.

: Does WNISEF Foundation have the ultimate goal?

I. Ozimok: Firstly, we give people the belief that they CAN. Secondly, the tools for implementing their ideas. And the super-goal of our fund is, of course, positive changes in Ukraine. We want to create a fashion for an intelligent product and responsible leadership, the methods of work, because one of the key ways to change is education.

We think it’s much more useful to give knowledge to people, not money. So most of our projects are built on co-financing

: What forced you to take part in the program of local economic development?

I. Ozimok: I was not forced, I agreed with a pleasure. During my career, I worked on many projects.This is both work in the analytical center, and in the French Ministry of Finance, and European integration projects funded by the EU. However, everywhere my work had an advisory nature and ended with a pile of papers, recommendations, white books, which were then postponed and said “in our realities this is impossible to implement.” Western NIS Enterprise Fund has become a more logical transition from theoretical changes to practice. Working here is an opportunity to make real changes with not so much money, because we do not finance anything that ends up with papers.

For example, the Foundation issued a social loan for the start-up Pizza Veterano, which was opened by the guys who returned from the anti-terror operations. The second example is “Nut House”, a bakery in Lviv, where they produce extremely delicious cookies. The bakery is also a rehabilitation center for women who became victims of domestic violence, went through difficult life situations. These ladies work in a bakery, receive counseling assistance from psychologists and generally learn to live a new life. And there are many such examples!

: If you had the opportunity, would you like to move to another country?

I. Ozimok: My old dream was the UK, London. But after the Maidan started, this idea has disappeared, because in Ukraine the approach to entrepreneurship and reform has changed. It has become a country of possibilities. I think it’s very sad to live all my life in one place, if all borders are open, but now I feel that Ukraine needs me, as I need it.

Project LIVE.LOVE Swim

: Irina, how did you end up in LIVE.LOVE?

I.Ozimok: I always wanted to learn swimming. I went to the pool, but it did not work. I still felt insecure in the water. I have heard about two-month swim challenge from my friend. At first I thought that for a person who cannot learn swimming, this is a senseless adventure. But then for the sake of interest I decided to take part in at least a few classes. The first training days were horrible, I drank so much water from the pool, I smelled it for the whole days. But I did not quit. A huge role was played by our talented star coaches Oleg Lisogor and Vlasta Shovkovskaya, people who became my friends, with whom I went to the pool at six in the morning and, of course, the the goal – somehow, but still swim a distance of 1 km.

: What emotions do you experience while swimming?

I. Ozimok: This is a solid buzz, complete relaxation (smiling). I used to think that I look stupid in the water, but now I’m confident and I know that I can become someone else’s opponent, and overtake another swimmer (also an amateur).

S&B model

: What has changed in your character after LIVE.LOVE? Have you become a more categorical leader?

I. Ozimok: Swimming made me learn to control my thoughts, I learned to influence my body with thoughts (yes, it is quite possible!). I began to work better in the team, feel even greater responsibility for the overall result.

The project LIVE.LOVE proved to me that you cannot postpone your dream to 33 years. If there is something that rules you, practice it now!

I am categorical, but this is an important character trait for my work, because almost every day I have to refuse to people. The main criterion for refusal for me is the insincerity of those who are being submitted for the grant, and the lack of benefits for society. It should be noted that the sport trains the ability to understand people; because you need to know which team you can rely on in difficult times, and who should not be trusted.

: Do you plan to continue the program LIVE.LOVE?

I. Ozimok: I definitely will continue to swim, but now I will choose the program depending on the purpose that I personally need. For example, recently during a trip to Italy I visited an amazing lake Garda. It turned out that you can also swim there. I think this is a great location for a sport purpose. And next year I have the Bosphorus, the 30th jubilee championship. It’ll be cool!


: What inspires you in life except sport?

I. Ozimok: My most powerful drug is traveling. I’m an active traveler, and I like to travel around Ukraine. Formerly I even had a Facebook page in English, where I was telling to the foreigners about the amazing places in our country. I’m inspired by dreams and the prospect of realizing them, for example, there was a project that seemed quite unreal … and now it’s over.

But most of all I’m inspired by people. I learn more from them than from books!