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.


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:


Youth spaces and entrepreneurship are an important issue

Youth spaces and entrepreneurship are an important issue, which will be discussed in upcoming Sofia Youth Council meeting.

And the best place for this discussion would be the Youth Innovation Lab that will be opened in Sofia in September 2018 under the project New Generation Skills, co-financed by Interreg Danube Programme.

Sofia Development Association chaired the Sofia Youth Council on 12 July 2018 and also presented the Youth Innovation Lab and the Dynamic Learning Programme Call for Applications.

Sofia Innovation Potential Assessment

The teams that work to implement Sofia Smart Specialisation Strategy gathered together on July 12, 2018 to discuss its progress. The meeting was also a concrete occasion to present and discuss a new survey - the first Annual Sofia Innovation Potential Index, developed specifically for the purposes of Sofia RIS3 by The Institute for Market Economics in partnership with Sofia Development Association. 

The index showed that the innovation potential of Sofia doubled between 2008 and 2016. It also demonstrated very good developments in the area of human capital, scientific infrastructure and especially the multiplication of private investments in R&D&I. The challenges and threats are seen in the realm of relatively low quality of the scientific produce, low number of patents, low economic activity of young people. 

The research findings will be used for Sofia RIS3 evaluation and reporting and for setting up new measures for its implementation.  



Digital Cities Challenge Workshop

Sofia Development Association took part in the workshop under the Digital Cities Challenge on June 10, 2018, aimed at formulation of a Strategy for digital transformation and industrial modernization of Sofia. Together with representatives of ICT companies, local authority, municipal enterprises and public administration, innovation agencies, VC, business angels, technology park, incubators, we reviewed the existing policies and mainly Sofia Smart Specialization Strategy, and worked on developing scenarios for digital transformation in the domains of governance, transportation, utilities and start-ups.

The Digital Cities Challenge is a tailored programme of coaching and facilitation launched by the European Commission to help 15 cities, among which Sofia, develop and implement digital policies that can transform day to day life for residents, businesses, workers, and entrepreneurs. The project is coordinated locally by Sofia Investment Agency.

The First Balkan Hackathon, “Breaking the Digital Borders,” Has Concluded

The first Balkan Hackathon, organized by the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Sofia Municipality and Sofia Development Association, the State e-Government Agency, Sofia Tech Park and Webit Foundation, is now over. Of the 30 teams from 9 Balkan countries participating in the 24-hour challenge, 24 were able to produce a working demo to present to the jury.

Nine teams reached the final round. Team Ethereal from Kosovo developed a “smart family” mobile app – for sharing responsibilities beween family members, shopping, paying utilities and family budgeting. Team Swift from Macedonia developed a virtual administrative assistant – a messaging app for communicating with local government authorities: citizens can ask questions and receive answers generated by an AI algorithm. Two teams from ELSYS reached the finals – Infinity+1 and Hushovete. Hushovete developed a voice assistant for the visually impaired using both software and harware on Raspberry Pi. Infinity+1 prototyped an accessibility AI that can interpret and summarize the content of text files and images. Wakanda Forever from Bulgaria created a model of an online university for peer-to-peer learning. Another Bulgarian finalist – Spoko – developed a working demo of Ana, their bulgarian-speaking equivalent of Alexa and Google Home, trained for 24 hours to read news articles and turn home appliances on and off.

The main prize of 5000 euro, generously provided by A1, and an invitation to Europe Code Week in Brussels from European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was awarded to the Bulgarian team BookvAR and their education app for augmented reality textbooks. The team was also awarded the special prize of 500 euro from the Ministry of Education and Science.

Second place went to another Bulgarian team – XPNCTO – who presented a gamified app for monetizing good citizenship: donating blood, planting trees, volunteering, and other deeds with a positive social impact reward citizens with a virtual currency that can be used to access public services like parking, tickets to museums and concerts. The second place award is 2500 euro.

Third place went to a team from Serbia – Balkan Reconnect – who created an online marketplace for products made by Balkan artisans and won 1500 euro. The cash prizes for third and second place were provided by Sofia Municipality (Sofia Development Association).

In addition, several other special prizes were announced. Green Sofia awarded 500 euro to team Waste Heat Map from Macedonia for their app on reporting unregulated waste pollution. The Sofia Development Association award, the first scholarship to the newly unveiled Sofia Innovation Lab, accredited by Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, was won by the all-girls team Winners from Baba Tonka High School of Mathematics in Ruse. Finally, The Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria invited the members of 5 teams: Spoko, Hushovete, Waste Heat Map, BMPKP and XPNCTO, for a visit to Brussels and the European insitutions in September.

The Balkan Hackathon showed breaking down the borders of the Balkans in action and confirmed that creativity is the greatest resource for increasing connectivity.

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