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.


Sofia Youth Innovation Lab officially launched

“Sofia city of the young. I believe in you!” was the Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova message at the official launch of the Youth Innovation Lab.

Immediately after, a debate on the Sofia Transport with the members of the Sofia Youth Council, the Mayor of Sofia Mrs. Fandakova and municipal councilors was held. How to make the transport even more eco-friendly, how to improve the bicycle- to-rent network, the metro development were part of the questions and ideas discussed.

A Dynamic Learning Program on social entrepreneurship and innovations is about to start in the new Lab. The programme will be certified by the Sofia University grace to the SDA partnership with its Economic Department.

Sofia Youth Innovation Lab was opened thanks to the NewGenerationsSkills project, co-funded by the Interreg Danube Programme. Sofia Development Association and Sofia Municipality are among the project partners.

SDA is a project knowledge partner in the NGS project under the Danube Transnational programme, co-founded by the EU funds (ERDF and IPA),


SDA starts a new project: Finances4SocialChange

Social entrepreneurship has become increasingly relevant in today’s economic setting as social changes have mounted. Bulgaria and the other Danube region countries currently lag behind global trends in the field of social entrepreneurship and social impact investments.

Finance4SocialChange brings together a multi-disciplinary quadruple-helix partnership of 14 partners from 12 countries – among that SDA - and 6 associated partners from across Europe to deliver improved policy learning, and develops practical solutions on impact investing to better shape the regulatory framework for the proper functioning of the social financing sector in the Danube region. The project will work towards creating the first "Social Impact Investment Strategy for the Danube region" by paving the way for promoting more social innovations and social impact investment ready social enterprises. The project delivers 130 hours of "blended" learning experiences through the “Social Impact Investment Transnational Design Academy”, and launches the first "Business Plan Competition" warm-up 2-stage investment ready competition", funded through EUR 200,000 investment capital. A mentorship pool, the "Social Impact Investment Community Council" will be established to provide mentoring to scaling up social entrepreneurs, and will continue beyond the lifetime of the project.

On September 26 and 27, 2018, partners gathered in Budapest for a launching conference, training of trainers session and project management issues. 

Finances4SocialChange co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)
Project website:




The Cultural Management Academy has now begun in Sofia, an initiative underway in Bucharest, Thessaloniki and Sarajevo as well. On September 29 to 1 october, the network meeting and conference on the topic of Cultural Heritage will gather nearly 50 cultural managers from leading institutions and independent organizations.

For over four years Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, and Goethe-Institut Bulgaria have successfully partnered to organize the Cultural Management Academy, whose purpose is to increase the competences of local cultural operators and to stimulate new approaches and innovative ideas. The Academy is an important step for the cooperation and dialogue between public institutions and the private sector, each year bringing together representatives of the most important museums, public and non-governmental organizations. Participants engage in trainings, workshops and conferences, and meet with leading specialists from all of Europe. The Academy aims to bridge theory and practice, and this year its program is certified by New Bulgarian University, a key partner for the event.

The Cultural Management Academy has expanded with the support of Goethe-Institut branches in Bucharest, Thessaloniki and Sarajevo, and today the CMA has grown into an international project with a network of more than 150 cultural managers from South and Eastern Europe. In addition to its network the Academy offers direct opportunities for investment in new cultural projects.

Sofia remains the center of the growing network and this year the city will once again be the host of the Academy’s international conference on September 29, on the topic of “Cultural Heritage” in the context of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The conference will address themes relevant to the region: modern art and cultural heritage, digital technologies, the legacy of socialism and intangible cultural heritage. Invited lectors include specialists from Bulgaria, Moldova and Poland – Lukasz Galusek (Director of the International Cultural Center in Krakow), Stefan Rusu (Architect), Margarita Dorovska (Director of the House of Humor and Satire Museum in Gabrovo), Asen Kanev (culturologist and game developer) and Dr. Vihra Baeva (ethnologist).

After the conference the participants will continue the dialogue in a more creative format, where they will develop ideas for new cultural projects to apply for funding from the CMA Project Fund. Last years’ edition financed 8 projects with up to 5000 EUR, one of which is still available in Sofia before it travels to Thessaloniki and Athens – the exhibition “Matter Over Matter” on display at the Goethe-Institut until October 5.

The Cultural Management Academy will continue in 2019, with registration open in the Spring.

Register to attend the Conference on September 28 at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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.


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