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.



On OCtobern 25-26, 2018, Sofia will host the biggest blockchain forum in Central and Eastern Europe CEE Block Sofia (, organized by CEE BLOCK in partnership with Sofia Municipality (Sodia Development Association).

The forum brings together over 1,000 top managers of world companies of world companies, politicians, experts, start-ups, academia, investors, financial institutions, under the leadership of the EU Commissioner of Digital Economy Mrs. Maria Gabriel. The forum will discuss successful models of blockchain applications, as well as the the regulatory, legal and tax framework for their development. The event includes world-class content in a two-day series of keynote presentations and interactive panels for operative applications in disruptive industries – logistics, energy, social media, travel, adversiting, production, finances, legal servises, health care, insurance.

The forum is accompanied by an exhibition to showcase, meet and greet and interact with the developing blockchain world.

The forum participants can compete with their developed technology for the prize of 250 000 EURO.



Staff exchange between Sofia and Alentejo to support innovation policies

On September 19 and 20, 2018, members of SDA team visited Evora, Portugal, to gain in-depth knowledge how the region fosters innovations and investments. The major regional Portuguese initiatives include massive hydro-agricultural infrastructure developments, promoting Evora as the first skylight tourist destination in the world, global investment attraction program. Sofia and Evora colleagues discussed the role and management of (regional) operational programs, tech parks, incubators and accelerators to create conditions for meeting the challenges of the future.

The staff exchange knowledge will be applied in further design of Sofia innovation policies, including smart specialization strategy action plan, the public-private fund for innovations and the new youth innovation laboratory.

The staff exchange is part of the InnoBridge project, INTEEG EUROPE programme, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund of the EU.




On September 12, 2018, an international working seminar was held for the first time at Sofia Municipality’s new Innovation Lab. The Lab was created under the Project New Generation Skills, co-financed by the Danube Transnational Programme 2014-2020. The Innovation Lab is envisioned as a center for training, consultation and mentorship to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in young people ages 15-29, offered in partnership with Sofia Development Association. The Lab is located on the 3rd floor of № 1 Serdika Street, in the Serdika branch of Sofia Library.

At this first seminar, representatives of the project consortium, which includes Belgrade, Serbia, and Maribor, Slovenia, as well as local stakeholders from municipal institutions, local youth and education groups, and the business world, gathered to share Sofia’s good practices in the sphere of youth entrepreneurship and innovations. The participants in the project were introduced by Botyo Botev – a member of the project’s Consultative Group for Innovations and Municipal Councilor on the Sofia Municipal Council. In his address, he presented Sofia as a city with a rich cultural and historical heritage tracing back millennia.

The main focus of the meeting was the execution of the project activities, as well as the good practices for stimulating youth entrepreneurship in Sofia, including the New Generation Skills Action Plan.

Four examples of programs and initiatives for stimulating youth entrepreneurship, education and employment were showcased at the seminar: the “Incubation and Acceleration Program” by the Founders Institite, the Youth entrepreneurship initiatives organized by Junior Achievement, the Sofia Hackathon and Reach for Change’s Social Entrepreneurship Academy.

The Founders Institute’s work on the largest training program for startups and talented entrepreneurs was presented by the Director of the Bulgarian branch, Milen Ivanov. Mr. Ivanov introduced the audience to the entrepreneurship training system, which offers trainees opportunities to learn from successful mentors working through specific examples, solving specially adapted tests and cases, and receiving constant feedback on their progress and achievements.

The second good practice was presented by Svetoslav Manoilov, senior expert in Business Development on the team of Junior Achievement Bulgaria, a leading organization offering innovative and modern education methods from pre-school through university. Junior Achievement’s portfolio of educational products and services, as well as the results from their work in kindergartens, schools and universities were presented, with special focus on trainings for increasing the qualification of pedagogic specialists and practical trainings for student startups.

The Sofia Hackathon initiative was presented by Denitza Lozanova, Program Director at Sofia Development Association. Sofia Municipality is the first to organize a municipal hackathon for developing innovative ideas over the past several years. This year, Sofia Municipality organized the first 24-hour Balkan Hackathon in Sofia, which gathered programmers from 9 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Kosovo, Romania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey and Bulgaria. They developed innovative technologies not only to promote the digital connectivity of our region, but to ensure a better future of Europe, in which no citizen will be digitally excluded. The Hackathon took place just one month after the EC – Western Balkans summit in Sofia under the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Council.

The experts then visited Betahaus co-working space in Sofia, a multifunctional, modern and convenient space for social events, seminars, work meetings, as well as intensive individual or group work. At Betahaus, Yuriy Valkovski, Executive Director of Reach for Change Bulgaria, presented the Social Entrepreneurship Academy, organized annually since 2016. The Academy is an intensive training program that offers practical know-how, tools and contacts for people starting their own social enterprise. The program includes 68 hours of training divided into three modules: Meaningful Social Change, Business Modelling, and Gaining Support. Participants in the Academy work in teams on practical cases in the sphere of social entrepreneurship. Each team is matched up with a social and business mentor, who pass on their experience and guide the participants.

Reach for Change Bulgaria is part of the international network of the Reach for Change Foundation, spanning 17 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Foundation’s mission is discovering exceptional social entrepreneurs and helping them develop innovations to improve the lives of young people on a large scale. In partnership with Nova Broadcasting Group, the Foundation organizes the social entrepreneurship competition ПРОМЯНАТА, organized annually since 2014.



INTEGRA project team in Bulgaria co-organized a workshop together with the Balkan Youth Forum. The Balkan Youth Forum is a programme for informal civic education of young people aged 16 to 21. On July 20, 2018 the participants - 28 young people from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey worked together to identify ways to make Sofia a more welcoming place for third country nationals in terms of educational opportunities, access to services, visa procedures. Sofia Mayor Mrs Yordanka Fandakova was also in attendance to hear the proposals of the young people.







Balkan Youth become Positive Messengers

The Balkan Youth Forum participants organised a workshop for detecting hate speech and countering mistrust in this region of Europe. Thirty young people, aged 16 to 21, from twelve countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro developed together their skills how to recognise stereotypes and combat biases.

The change of what we say about each other is a change of the region”, “If we establish a culture of mutual respect, the Balkans will be a region people do not eat to flee from but see future in it”, “Individual societies thrive if the whole region is a realm of peace and tolerance” - these are among the hotlines of the young Balkan messengers joining the Coalition of Positive Messengers to Combat Online Hate Speech.

Balkan Youth Forum

Sofia Mayor Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova will host the final event of the Balkan Youth Forum on June 20, 2018, from 3 to 4 pm at the hall of Sofia Municipal Council. 28 young people from 12 countries, selected out of more than 300 candidates, have a week-long programme of meetings, lectures, debates, workshops, simulations and mutual sharing and learning. AT the final event they will present their ideas what could be done to have better connected and more cohesive Balkans, with more collaboration and youth empowerment.

The Balkan Youth Forum is an initiative of informal education of young people (16 – 18) from the Balkan countries, which is organized by a very young team of mentors (18 to 21) – alumni of the transatlantic exchange programme Benjamin Franklin. The project is a result of the 2017 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) competition, won by the Bulgarian participant Yana Voynova. It is therefore funded by U.S. State Department’s AIEF, the US Embassy in Bulgaria, and is implemented in partnership with Sofia Development Association.

Representatives of Balkan country embassies, NGOs and academia are invited to attend the final event. Mrs. Samantha Smith will also have a congratulatory address.

More information on the Balkan Youth Forum is available here:


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