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.

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ЕMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING FOR THE OTHER

Did the war in Ukraine change the attitudes of Bulgarian society towards migrants and refugees? Do we know how to help the people who need protection for themselves and their families, no matter what country they are coming from? What does it take to realize that the differences between “us” and “them” are one more opportunity for improving the way we all live?

These questions framed the roundtable discussion held within the project “Da opoznaem drugia”, implemented by the Bulgarian Red Cross and the State Agency for Child Protection. The event, held on 5 August 2022, brought together representatives of civil society, universities, international organizations working for the integration of refugees in Bulgaria. Sofia Development Association also shared its experience and lessons learned from several initiatives on the topic. One is the need for providing regular, impartial information to the host society about the real situation of refuges and migrants in the country. Coalition-building and advocacy with fellow civil society organizations, but also collaboration with local and national public bodies are critical for changing the negative attitudes and misperceptions of integration. At the end of the day, acknowledging dignity and treating others with respect is the first step of building a prosperous society.  

      

CONNECTION project: CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action, and UMN project are co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.       

   

  

PLOUTOS: COOPERATION FOR ACHIEVING THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS' FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE THROUGH FINANCIAL LITERACY TOOLS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP BOOTCAMPS

A 36-months EU funded project aiming to improve third country nationals’ financial access to financial services

On February 3-4, 2022 a multistakeholder consortium of 11 project partners from 7 EU member states (Sweden, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Croatia) met both physically and virtually to launch PLOUTOS project and set up the collaboration plan which will be followed during the project implementation. PLOUTOS is an EU project funded by the European Commission under AMIF-2020-AG-CALL-02: Reducing obstacles and promoting access to basic services for third-country nationals.

Introduction to the context

Integration in EU Member States remains a challenge not only for TCNs who are seeking to rebuild their lives but also for the local communities and authorities who envision a peaceful coexistence and prosperous life between all the people living in these communities. Unfortunately, the access to financial services (particularly at traditional banking institutions) for TCNs are hindered by the limited language proficiency, registration, legal status, lack of experience and knowledge about the (local) financial system and their product offers.

About PLOUTOS

PLOUTOS aims to improve TCNs’ access to financial services which will impact the local communities by increasing TCNs’ confidence and motivation for self-employment thanks to a new skillset; it also aspires to reduce the fear and instability that comes as a result of TCNs’ dependence on the surrounding society. Thus, the main outcome of PLOUTOS is the improvement of TCNs' financial literacy and the provision of access to a variety of financial services through language and community interpreting courses, entrepreneurship and financial literacy training, practice business programme enabling practical training of TCNs in applying their financial literacy skills on the job and innocative multi-lingual technological tools especially designed for TCNs.

''Financial literacy and access to financial services'' & ''Labour market, access to public employment services and to vocational training'' are the general objectives of PLOUTOS project action. PLOUTOS will help host countries recover faster from the fiscal spending shock, such as higher government spending on TCNs in the short-term, as TCNs gain financial independence; at the same time it will further enhance the medium-term benefits from TCNs in-flow as a result of faster integration into the labour market and new investments in the local economies. As a medium- to long-term benefit, PLOUTOS will contribute to a qualitative change in the national human capital.

The diversity of partner countries in numbers of TCNs, in the level of experience in the implementation of integration initiatives, in funds available for such initiatives will help them support each other in different areas and exchange views and experiences in order to achieve the optimum results for the integration of TCNs in the financial communities of host countries. At local level, PLOUTOS also contributes to the priorities of the EU Urban Agenda, especially to the partnership for inclusion of migrants and refugees. PLOUTOS will boost cities' innovation potential and investments, as statistically immigrants start businesses at higher rate than locals, create jobs, and thus contribute to overcoming the problem of urban poverty.

PLOUTOS aspires to unlock the huge potential of TCNs and, consequently, the economic growth of host countries through its broad contributions to a set of activities. During the first stage of PLOUTO’s implementation, the consortium conducted an outreach campaign in order to identify 30-40 (40% women) beneficiaries per pilot country. From this pool, at least 30 TCNs will attend the training about financial literacy and business language which will be started in September 2022 in 6 pilot countries. In addition, during the first semester the involved organizations completed the desk research about existing literature in financial literacy/business language and field research through a multilingual structured questionnaire for identification of barriers and needs during financial inclusion of TCNs. The next steps are the development of business language and financial literacy curricula, the designing of technological tools focused on TCNs and practice in order to apply their financial literacy skills on the job.

PLOUTOS is implemented with the support of the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

 

SOFIA MAYOR PRESENTED THE LOW EMISSION ZONE PLAN AT C40 WORLD MAYORS’ SUMMIT

Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova was a key-note speaker at the International Air Quality and Climate Solutions Summit at London City Hall together with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. On July 19, 2022, representatives of over 20 global cities – from Seattle to Johannesburg, from Warsaw to Los Angelis, from Lima to Quezon City, from Nairobi to Montreal - got together to discuss how to reduce the emissions by half within one decade to promote health and social justice and foster sustainability.

The speech of Mayor Fandakova came only 2 days before the upcoming vote in Sofia Municipal Council on the introduction of the low emission zone is Sofia – not only the first one in Bulgaria, but the first one in Eastern Europe. The low emission zone introduction was prepared in the framework of INNOAIR with research, three pilots and a white book and the proposed Ordinance is published for public consultations.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan congratulated Sofia for the brave climate leadership and shared the effects of the low emission zone in London: 20% less NO2 concentrations in inner London as 94% of all vehicles in the zones meet the strict eco standards, up from 37% in 2017.

The plans of Sofia were supported by the World Health Organization, whose representative Dr Maria Neira expressed her wish to visit Sofia, get first-hand experience and promote its achievements in stopping the invisible health crisis.

During the summit the delegation of Sofia had bilateral meetings with Clean Air Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, representatives of cities, businesses and international organizations.

C40 is a network of mayors of nearly 100 leading world cities committed to cooperate and take urgent actions to address the climate crisis.

INNOAIR project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.

      

Sofia Coin – nudging healthier travel behavior for cleaner air

 Learn more about the measures that Sofia takes in order to improve the air quality in Sofia. Discover SofiaCoin – the app that rewards the users that move actively around the city and tracks their roads so that Sofia Municipality could renovate them with priority. Hear out about the idea behind its development, the opinion of Sofia Municipality representatives and most importantly – the opinion of its users. The podcast is hosted by Gereon Meyer (UIA expert). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUDENTS FROM NBU CREATED THE DESIGN OF A NEW TRANSPORT SERVICE IN SOFIA

Very soon, a new transport service will be introduced in Sofia - public transport on demand in the south-western districts of Sofia. The minibuses will be electric and their routes will be determined based on the demand of the users. The new electric minibuses will be requested by a mobile application, they will pick up citizens from the nearest possible point and take them to the nearest subway or tram line. This innovative transport service is implemented for the first time in Europe and in the framework of INNOAIR project.

Sofia Municipality and Sofia Development Association organized a design competition for the new transport service in partnership with New Bulgarian University. The students' task was to create a design that shows that the minibuses are part of the public transport system, but also that their use is via an application and without a fixed route.

Students from the Bachelor's program "Web Design and Graphic Advertising", NBU, took part in the competition and worked on the projects with great desire and enthusiasm. The projects they present are creative and colorful, modern and simple. A jury composed of representatives of the Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association and New Bulgarian University made the difficult decision which projects should be implemented. Three projects reached the final, and two of them will be realized, as their designs are similar and complement each other. These are the projects of Kemi Dimitrova Kostadinova and Vanessa Ventsislavova Panayotova. Congratulations on the ideas, we look forward to seeing them implemented soon!

The competition is held within the INNOAIR project, the first and so far the only project from Bulgaria, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. The project introduces for the first time in Europe on demand public transport, as well as for the first time in Sofia and Bulgaria low emission zone, green corridors, and the mobile application SofiaCoin with awards for active transport.

INNOAIR project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.

            

The Sofia Development Association published two reports on the subject of social innovation

The Sofia Development Association published two reports that study the need for social innovation and different strategies used for the implementation of such practices in Bulgaria and throughout the EU.

The two studies are a key component of the “Social Innovation Plus - Competence Centres (SI PLUS)” project, which is funded by the European Commission, the European Social Fund and the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation. 

The first report studies a few already existing examples of centers for social innovations in the EU. More specifically it concentrates on interesting practices from Portugal, France and Poland.

The second report observes the need for social innovations in Bulgaria and other countries in the EU. It focuses on the main changes in those needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also focuses on the main potential beneficiaries of such projects as well as some key target groups – from the corporate world to risk groups and others.

The two reports, as well as other information on the “Social Innovation Plus - Competence Centres (SI PLUS)” project are available here.

The project is funded by the EUROPEAN COMMISSION, European Social Fund and European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation.    

    

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