SOFIA DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION was founded as non-profit organization with the decision 348
of the Sofia Municipal Council to work for the sustainable development of the capital.


InnoBridge Interregional Workshop

The 8th Interregional Learning Workshop of InnoBridge project has held in Autonomous Province of Bolzano – South Tyrol, Italy, from June 6-8, 2018. Project partners enjoyed a very interesting Study Visit at NOI Techpark, former aluminium factory, Laimburg research center for agriculture and forestry and Microgate company, innovating in the area of aerospace telescopes and timing.

Partners, among whom Sofia Development Association, worked together on development of their Action Plans, aiming to improve city or regional level policy instruments that support research, development and innovation, particularly for SME. Sofia Development Association is focusing on the public-private Sofia Fund for Innovations, established in 2013.

InnoBridge is an INTERREG EUROPE project cofounded by EU’s ERDF.


INTEGRA Partnership Meeting

Experts from Sofia, Prague (Czech Republic), Osijek (Croatia), Kosice (Slovakia) and Italy gathered together for a partnership meeting in Rubano, Italy, from May 30 to June 1st, 2018.

The participants conducted a pilot city tour with checklists and photovoice in Rubano and neighbouring Padua to assess the policies and practices of integration of third country nationals and migrants, to identify good practices and challenges.

The project team was joined by representatives of the local stakeholder integration groups – people from local government and NGOs working in the area of integration. The stakeholder integration groups in the five countries formed a common expert network for exchange of experiences and interaction.

The partnership meeting is part of the INTEGRA project, lead by Sofia Development Association and co-financed by EC’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

Is the Internet possible without hate speech? 21 – 22 June, 2018, Sofia, Center for culture and debate Red House

“Living Together Online: positive messengers for tolerance” is an international conference to discuss methods to counter online hate speech.

How hate speech originates, who the offenders are, when hate speech crosses the border between digital and physical, how false news can cause tension and even violence, what the hate speech victims experience? These are some of the questions we will discuss together with a Rwanda genocide survivor, a founder of the most massive public campaign for Culture without Hate in the Czech Republic, with hate speech researchers, journalists and experts from Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany and Bulgaria.

We will look into the future together with politicians, human rights experts, gaming industry representatives, local authorities, we will review the instruments that are already being used online and offline, to effectively limit hate speech. We will map the way ahead together.

The conference is organized by Sofia Development Association in the framework of the project Coalition of Positive Messengers to Counter Online Hate Speech, co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union.

The conference is part of Sofia Municipality programme for Bulgaria’s presidency of the EU. Among the speakers are Iliana Yotova, Vice President of Bulgaria, and Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia.

You can see the programme here.

Register before June 18, 2018.

Available seats are limited.

Sofia Integration Audit

Over 30 participants took part in the first Sofia Integration Audit, held in the framework of INTEGRA project funded by EC’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Participants - representatives of Sofia Municipality, NGOs, third country nationals, law enforcement institutions, academia and schools - conducted a self-assessment of Sofia practices to integrate third country nationals and migrants. On May 16, 2018, in small groups, they toured the city and visited neighbourhoods where migrants gather, live and work, to assess the migrant friendly urban features and the missing, or inefficient integration policies of Sofia. Two instruments were used: checklists and photovoice - documenting achievements and shortages with digital photos. The photos and the comments to them can be seen in the Photovoice menu. The findings of the photovoice and checklists, together with desk research and focus group results, will be incorporated in Sofia City Integration Audit Report later this year.

Sofia Development Association is the lead project partner of the consortium including also ETP – Slovakia, RISSC – Italy, ICP – Czech Republic, Centar za mir – Croatia and RiskMonitor – Bulgaria.



On June 27 and 28, coders from all Balkan countries will gather at Sofia Tech Park in Sofia to shape Europe’s digital future.

The Balkan Hackathon is under the official patronage of: Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia.

The event is organized by the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Sofia Municipality, the State e-Government Agency, Sofia Development Association and Webit Foundation, and hosted by Sofia Tech Park.

The Balkan Hackathon gathers together the best coders – students, startups, designers, IT enthusiasts and professionals – from all Balkan countries to explore and prototype solutions to the challenges facing Europe’s digital future and the digital connectedness of the Balkans. All those interested in improving online government tools, guaranteeing the security and privacy of citizens’ data, and making technologies accessible regardless of location, age, gender, and occupation will be competing for considerable cash prizes provided by Mtel, Sofia Municipality, and the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria.

The winning team will receive a cash prize of 5000 EUR and an official invitation from Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to participate in Europe Code Week 2018 in Brussels.

The main challenge at the 24-hour hackathon is the digital divide: making sure no European citizens are left behind in the digital age. Just 1 month after the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia and as part of the program of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, teams of coders from the Balkans will present their solutions for a connected Europe.

The working language at the Balkan Hackathon will be English. More details about participation, coding challenges, and agenda are available at the Hackathon webpage:

Registration is open until June 1 2018.

The 2018 Balkan Hackathon: Breaking the digital borders will be made possible with the support of Mtel and the partnership of Upnetix, Dreamix, and Software University.


Sofia Development Association held the first focus group for qualitative analysis of Sofia policies and practices for integration of third country nationals (TCN) and migrants on May 10, 2018. Out of the none participants, seven were third country nationals and two – NGO experts in the area of integration. The main topics discussed were the presence of TCN in Sofia, the attitudes towards TCN, available services for them, challenges and difficulties they face.

The predominant attitude towards TCN is evaluated as neutral to positive. However, there are certain variables: it depends on the age of the host population, the younger generation being more tolerant than the elderly; it depends on the origin of the host population, people from Sofia being more tolerant than people from the countryside; and most of all it depends on the race.

TCN participants have some negative experiences with landlords who are not willing to rent to foreigners and oftentimes accuse them of stealing or terminate the contract unexpectedly, and also from the police because they are stopped, questioned and have their personal belongings searched more often than any Bulgarians they know.

Significant differences were observed with regards to services. TCN of Bulgarian origin (Bulgarian minorities abroad) – are in a privileged position, while the others claim they have no access to information and advise. The vast majority of TCN have no knowledge of the services provided by NGOs.

There is a lot of red tape for administrative and legal issues, mainly visas/permits. Fees are too high, it takes a lot of time to push papers, the requirements change very often, there is not translation from Bulgarian. Other challenges include limited access to health care, housing and employability, particularly issuing blue cards.

Recommendations what Sofia could do is to assist TCN integration included setting up an information center (public or CSR sourced), or developing/supporting a user friendly online information platform. Sofia can also work with employers and universities to explain and make information available on TCN education, work prospects, blue cards. It was recommended to have the local authority more engaged through appointing an ombudsman for TCN and migrants, a system for signals for racist graffiti, help line serviced volunteers, etc.
Sofia could also partner with Migration Directorate to service (voluntary) information desk and English interpretation, as well as CSR/voluntary legal aid to TCN.

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