Oxygen evolution catalysis is restricted by the interdependence of adsorption energies of the reaction intermediates and the surface reactivity. The interdependence reduces the number of degrees of freedom available for catalyst optimization. Here it is demonstrated that this limitation can be removed by active site modification. This can be achieved on ruthenia by incorporation of Ni or Co into the surface, which activates a proton donor–acceptor functionality on the conventionally inactivebridge surface sites. This enhances the actual measured oxygen evolution activity of the catalyst significantly compared to conventional ruthenia.