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.



The 3rd policy learning workshop of the RRI-LEADERS project took place on 29-30 June 2023 in Sofia, gathering over 30 stakeholders from the four partner countries, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, and Switzerland. Gencho Kerezov, deputy mayor and head of InnovativeSofia, welcomed the participants and spoke eloquently about the implementation of the city’s digital transformation strategy and the ways in which digital technologies are changing the policymaking process. At the heart of the workshop discussions were questions related to responsible territorial policymaking. Urban development policies in the past several years have focused on new urban transitions towards sustainability in areas like digital transformation, entrepreneurship, new skills, green innovation. They all require translation of research and innovation into policy priorities, as well as developing workable principles for cooperation and support from key local stakeholders. To implement societal transition pathways with positive impact on citizens makes co-creation approaches inevitable, as a way to meet the enhanced need for consensus building in the context of such transitions. In this context, the project RRI-LEADERS was a welcome opportunity for city officials from the partner countries to gain access to new tools for policy experimentation, rethinking and reconfiguration of the policymaking process.

RRI Leaders is funded by Horizon2020.







INNOAIR at Webit 2023

The achievements of the INNOAIR project were a key topic at the international event Webit 2023 - AI: A FUTURE TO SHARE. Innovative and green urban transport on demand was the topic of the panel “Digital Sofia 2023 - Smart City: Responsible and sustainable solutions for smart growth”.

The two applications BUSSINN and SOFIACOIN found even more partners and users. They were presentet as the new services introduced by the Sofia Municipality with the financial support of the Inoair project, financed by the UIA program of the European Commission. "The co-creation and design process of the new service was at the center of the achieved success. This new service and the process of its implementation is already attracting interest from both our neighboring countries and the geographically distant city Semarang, Indonesia," said Svetlana Lomeva, director of the Sofia Development Association. Dimitar Dilchev, director of the Center for Urban Mobility, also a partner of the INOAIR project, took part at the "Digital Sofia" panel. The discussion was moderated by the Deputy Mayor for "Digitalization, Innovations and Economic Development". Gencho Kerezov, who shared "The digital revolution in urban transport has been successfully completed - millions of citizens and guests travel annually with electronic tickets purchased through an application, directly with a bank card or online. Flexible technology was applied to meet the innovative pricing policy adopted by the Sofia Municipal Council. It generates a huge amount of data that serves to optimize transport lines. Project INNOAIR contributed significantly to the already prepared ecosystem of innovative urban transport and gave us the opportunity to test solutions that do not yet exist in other European countries." The topic of digital services of the Sofia Municipality was continued by arch. Zdravko Zdravkov, Chief Architect of Sofia, Maria Hristova, director of the Sofia Agency for Privatization and Investments, as well as Georgi Todorov in connection with the introduced throughout Sofia platform for electronic change of address registration.

INNOAIR project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. This is the first Bulgarian project selected for funding by UIA.



From June 28-30, 2023, SDA and Sofia Municipality are hosting the 3rd policy learning workshop of the RRI-LEADERS project. We are excited to have experts from the partner countries – Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, and Switzerland, discuss critical questions for the integration of responsible research and innovation in policymaking. The workshop will take a hands-on-perspective to various aspects of territorial governance and leadership practices that aim to aid urban planners and policymakers in designing forward-looking policies fit for the twin digital and green transitions. See the event program HERE.

 RRI Leaders is funded by Horizon2020.




VKBOON hackaton 1

On June 23 we saw the results of the teams' work from the hackathon "Beyond Borders: Breaking Stereotypes, Building Bridges", funded by UNHCR Bulgaria and organized by the Sofia Development Association.

The teams that won the first four places in the competition presented the progress of their projects. A few weeks ago, they shared their ideas with the jury, which evaluated their projects and awarded each team a place in the competition and a cash prize to carry out their project.

Today "Wizards for a Better World", "Pupe6", "Fight Club EG" and "Citizens for a United World" gathered again at SofiaLab and shared with the jury and the other participants their progress in implementing their projects.

Today's event started with a public discussion with Bistra Ivanova from Multi Kulti Collective on topics related to hate speech and public attitudes towards refugees and migrants. She told the attendees about the activities of the organization, various statistics related to refugees and migrants in Bulgaria and Europe, the integration of third-country nationals as a national competence, etc.

First to present the progress of their project was the team "Citizens for a United World", who in the last few weeks have managed to establish partnerships with numerous organizations and companies, including Arms Wide Open, whose office the team visited to meet with refugee children.

The team said that they have also prepared an exhibition showing the lives of those people we define as refugees and migrants.

Second were team Pupe6 with their Connectify app project, who showed the progress of the website they are creating as well as the informational materials they’ve prepared as part of the project.

Team Fight Club EG presented the Behind the Curtain project and the interviews they have carried out with refugees and migrants that are translated into several different languages. They also talked about the celebration of World Refugee Day and their progress in developing a website and social network profiles of the initiative.

Last to present their project were the Wizards for a Better World team from 37. Raina Knyaginya Secondary School, who talked about the school drawing competition titled "One Story - Many Paths", as well as the short film they made together with students, teachers and refugee children.

Voting followed, where the audience had the opportunity to choose their favourite team to win a special prize. Out of 266 people who voted, 53% supported the Citizens of One World team, who won the People's Choice Award of £1000.

All the teams are continuing their work on their campaigns.

The hackathon "Beyond Borders: Breaking Stereotypes, Building Bridges" was funded by UNHCR Bulgaria and organized by Sofia Development Association under the "Support for Integration of Refugees in Sofiaproject.

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VKBOON hackaton 5 VKBOON hackaton 6 VKBOON hackaton 7


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Following the Citizens Review Panel held last month, on June 14, 2023 SDA and the ARC Fund gathered stakeholders from academia, NGOs, and city authorities in SofiaLab to debate on the scope and objectives of municipal policies for sustainable urban development, digital transition, youth employment, and support for innovations. The workshop completes the cycle of co-creation activities within the RRI-LEADERS project, which included focus groups, a Delphi study, interviews and working meetings with a wide variety of experts. Not surprisingly, stakeholders largely agreed with the policy priorities and actions proposed earlier by the citizens. Regardless of the (minor) differences, both groups see the future of Sofia as a modern, connected, digital, smart city, where all citizens enjoy equal access to public services and no one is left behind in the transition to an all-encompassing digital working and living environment. Both the citizens review panel and the stakeholder workshop illustrated important features of public engagement, as defined by RRI-LEADERS, namely, that citizens are increasingly involved in domains with a more meaningful impact on daily lives, such as in healthcare, mobility, and circularity challenges (such as waste management). Respectively, cities and city authorities seem well placed to call on citizens’ ideas and energy to design new initiatives in these fields.

At the end of June, SDA will host a policy learning workshop under RRI-LEADERS, with project partners and stakeholders from Greece, Spain, and Switzerland. We are looking forward to a fruitful exchange and discussions on the future of transformative policymaking and innovation-led transition. Follow SDA’s website and the website of the project for more insightful and inspiring ideas.

 RRI Leaders is funded by Horizon2020.





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On 8 June, the final of the hackathon "InnoAir & Europeana: Sustainability and Social Justice" took place and the winners of the competition were announced. The event took place with the support of Europeana and under the InnoAir project, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.

The final was the culmination of a whole range of activities within the competition. Until 31 May, anyone interested could register their teams to take part, and on 2 and 5 June the mentor meetings took place, during which each team had the opportunity to present their ideas to the competition’s mentors and hear feedback on them, as well as ideas for improving them.

The jury of the hackathon included Doncho Barbalov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia Municipality and Head of the InnoAir Project, Dimitar Dilchev, Director of the Urban Mobility Center, the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Economics of Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski” Prof. Dr. Todor Yalamov, Head of the International Cooperation at NAMRB Yana Docheva, Antonia Shalamanova from Green Sofia, Jolan Wuyts from Europeana and Velko Velkov from the Digitalization, Innovation and Economic Development Department at Sofia Municipality.

Guests at the event were Romain Descroix from the French Cultural Institute in Sofia, Zornitsa Stoykova from the Portuguese Cultural Institute Camões, Nelly Dimova from the Hungarian Cultural Institute, Axel Bayer from the Goethe Institute and Elena Kirova from the Italian Cultural Institute in Sofia.

Five teams with different ideas and prototypes were selected to take part in the final and present their ideas to the jury - Day Off, SparkBot, CY Power, SOFIA PASS and the team of "Pencho P. Slavejkov" school.

The Day Off team, who were the winners of the second InnoAir project hackathon, came to defend their title with their concept and prototype for a gaming app with an environmental focus.

Students from the School of Technology "Electronic Systems" at the Technical University - Sofia with team SparkBot presented their project "SPARKBOT - the little city helper " - a concept and prototype of a robotic device for cleaning the city bike lanes and signaling for problems in the real city environment.

Team SOFIA PASS, on the other hand, presented to the jury and the participants their idea of creating a electric bicycle service and so-called E-Hubs (places where people can use multiple forms of public transport where these bicycles can be provided) and what its business model would be.

Representatives from Team CY Power shared their idea for the "Power" dynamo batteries, which can be mounted on a bicycle and used to charge various devices, charging through the movement of the bicycle.

The students from the “Pencho P. Slaveykov" school presented the project "Eco-port", which includes the creation of an application that will help those using public transport in the capital in their daily commute with a variety of different data and gadgets.

After the presentation of all the projects, the jury of experts in green transformation, urban mobility and technology made their choice:

1st place went to team SparkBot with their project "SPARKBOT - the little city helper", who won 8 000 BGN.

2nd place and a financial prize of 5 000 BGN was awarded to CY Power with their prototype of a dynamo battery for bicycles.

3rd place and 3 000 BGN was awarded to the visionaries from SOFIA PASS with their bringing service using electric bicycles.

There were also special prizes for the team of the "Pencho P. Slavejkov" school from the Urban Mobility Center - free public transport cards for a whole year, as well as courses for learning different foreign languages from a number of cultural institutes in the capital for the Day Off team.

For this hackathon, the organisers introduced a whole new kind of approach to the participating teams by giving everyone access to useful datasets about the capital's public transport, the history of Sofia in terms of urban mobility and the commuting habits of the capital's citizens - data generated by the InnoAir project as well as provided by Europeana. Through this data, participants could tailor their projects to the specific needs of the city, which they could derive from real, up-to-date data on urban mobility, history and cultural identity of Sofia.

"We went through absolutely every database. In the database provided by Europeana, for example, we found an interesting motivational photo that served as a transition between the past and the present. We were also able to see statistics about people's attitudes about whether they would switch to an alternative method of getting around. We were also able to analyze the information about all the bike racks positioned on the territory of Sofia in blue and green zones, which allowed us to create a map on which all such racks can now be seen," said the SOFIA PASS team about the databases available during the race.

"Such competitions are a very good investment for us as students because they give us the opportunity to meet many new people, exchange ideas, get better and challenge ourselves." said the winners of the hackaton for SPARKBOT.

The hackathon "InnoAir & Europeana: Sustainability and Social Justice" was supported by Europeana and is under the auspices of the InnoAir project, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.

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