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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SOFIA IS PART OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS SOLUTION

SOFIA IS PART OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS SOLUTION

April 1st, 2020

Sofia – as the rest of Bulgaria - is in a state of emergency, which has imposed severe restrictions on movement, introduction of distance work wherever possible, social distancing and disinfection measures. In addition to the national government measure, Sofia also plays a central role in preparing for, mitigating and adapting to the pandemics.

Sofia – as the rest of Bulgaria - is in a state of emergency, which has imposed severe restrictions on movement, introduction of distance work wherever possible, social distancing and disinfection measures. In addition to the national government measure, Sofia also plays a central role in preparing for, mitigating and adapting to the pandemics.

Good preparation and the early response are the key to flattening the pandemic curve. Sofia was able to rapidly take decisive action and prepare its healthcare system. One of the municipal hospitals – the 5th City Hospital, and one department in 2nd city hospital, were determined to specialize in treating COVID-19 patients well before the national hospitals capacity is exceeded, this way preventing potential chaos and the health system from becoming rapidly overwhelmed.

Establishing routine and reliable communication is critical in times of crisis. Sofia established two 24/7 online main communication channels dedicated solely to COVID-19 outbreak and providing news, information, advise, latest ordinances: a sub-website to the municipal site (https://www.sofia.bg/covid-19) and Sofia Municipality Viber Community (https://vb.me/COVID-19_Sofia). Both platforms are created as public-private partnerships. Regular information in English is provided to international communities residing in the city.

Sofia reviewed and duly updated its own services to both keep them functioning and to increase the personal and community protection. New e-services were introduced, including construction permits and full planning permission. Sofia also launched temporary relief measures for retail and corporate customers like free parking, eased-up occupancy practice and municipal rents.

The Mayor of Sofia Ms. Fandakova has called on the capital’s citizens to volunteer time and energy to help citizens at risk – the elderly, people with long-term health condition, socially isolated. Over 100 residents joined as volunteers, serving over 3,000 citizens who need assistance with food deliveries, other shopping, providing medication or a friendly social call. Over 60 local businesses support the volunteer drive donating food and needed products. You can volunteer here: 0700 17 310. Citizens who need assistance can request it at: 02/ 81 88 522, while psychological support is provided by professionals at 02/ 42 111 42.

Finally, now is the right time for planning mitigation measures. Sofia set up a temporary economic council to elaborate measures to support businesses in Sofia. Extension and exemption of certain local taxes and bank guarantees for SMEs for up to 50% of the loan provided by the Municipal Guarantee Fund are among the ideas proposed by the council. An analytical report entitled “Assessment of COVID-19 effect on Sofia economy” outlining the three most plausible scenarios was published. (https://investsofia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Potential-Impact-of-Covid-19-on-the-Economy-of-Sofia.pdf)

We will manage together!

Sofia Development Association took part in Kick-off online meeting on #CONNECTION project

Although everybody’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 situation, cities still have the responsibility to think about the smooth transition to our normal everyday life and the better integration of Third-country nationals.

On 31st of March SDA took part in the first partners meeting on CONNECTION project. During the webinar were discussed the main project activities, which will help the cities to exchange knowledge and to improve the lives of migrants. They include 14 workshops, 14 staff exchanges, 7 draft action plans and 5 implementation grants. All the partners received tips on how to communicate about integration and SDA’s articles were used as an example for well-presented content about migration issues.

In CONNECTION, 14 core cities and 8 fellow cities work in clusters on each theme (Strategic approaches to integration, Participation and interaction, Gender in integration policy, Pathways to migrant employment and One-stop-shops for integration needs) with other stakeholders. Through workshops, sight visits, on-the-ground training, action planning and implementation, they develop best practices in integration and overcome shared challenges. The coordinator of the project is EUROCITIES and the expert organization that facilitate the exchange progress between the cities is MigrationWork.

Sofia is one of the 22 partner cities along with Antwerp, Athens, Dortmund, Gothenburg, Madrid, Paris, Rotterdam, Tampere, Turin, Utrecht, Warsaw, Zagreb, Thessaloniki Region, which will promote transnational learning on and implementation of integration policies. SDA will mainly work on overcoming barriers to employment of migrants in cooperation with Sofia Municipality, business and NGO community.

The multi-national project CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration actiON was funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

   

   

 

FOLLOW-UP OF INTEGRA PROJECT


INTEGRA project was successfully completed at the end of 2019, but its great work continues to give results even today. A meeting of the lead partner of INTEGRA project - Sofia Development Association with the local authorities led in January 2020 was one of the continuations of the project for better integration of TCNs in Bulgaria. This month news about the meeting were published on the first page in the newsletter of Bulgarian Council on Refugees and Migrants (BCRM) and UNHCR Bulgaria for January-March 2020.

During the meeting certain were discussed certain actions that must be taken in order to develop a Municipal center for information and integration of third-country nationals, including refugees in Sofia Municipality. The focus of the discussion was on the vision of the center, the type of services it will provide, as well as the coordination between the different organizations. An important feature of the Center is that, in addition to third-country nationals, the center will be open to Bulgarian citizens, institutions and organizations with an interest in the topic of migration and asylum.

The discussion is also a key-element and a stepping-stone for the implementation of the future projects #CONNECTION (CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action) and UMN (UnionMigrantNet and Cities Together for Integration) in which Sofia Development Association is a partner. Both projects are financed the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

You may find the newsletter in Bulgarian here: https://bcrm-bg.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020_Бюлетин_01-1.pdf

Sofia Development Association supports the development of the foreign community in Sofia through its partnership with Open Sofia Foundation


Sofia already has a website in help of all its foreigner citizens. There you will find the most recent news about current events, job openings, helpful tips and interesting, entertaining stories of foreigners, living in the capital.

The Open Sofia Foundation is the organization whose initiative and work led to the creation of this information site, and Sofia Development Association has been supporting their activities ever since the idea of building such a platform emerged. SDA provides relevant and important information to its partners and helps them disseminate their channel more widely.

The site can be viewed here: https://www.opensofia.org

If you would like to be part of the Open Sofia Foundation team or give feedback about their activities, you may send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hackathons

Through the Innovation Fund, established in 2013 and recognized as a good European practice by the European Commission, Sofia Development Association annually organizes hackathons and funds specific solutions to challenges, assigned by public institutions such as Sofia Municipality, The European Commission in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Nuclear Society and others.

Currently, over 20 hackathons have been organized and co-organized through the Fund by the Sofia Development Association. Among the biggest events are:


Balkan hackathon  

Participants: 30 teams of different companies, universities, technology parks and innovative companies from 9 Balkan countries

Partners: Sofia Tech Park, the State e-Government Agency of the Republic of Bulgaria, A1, Webit Foundation, Ministry of Education and Science, Software University and others.

Challenges: innovative solutions that will overcome the Digital divide – how can we guarantee the inclusion of all citizens in the digital era, regardless of their income, social situation, geographic location, health, or age.

Awards: 10,000 EUR in cash and other non-cash prizes, including invitations to visit Brussels during Code week 2018

Winners: The winner among 40 innovative solutions was the team that created the application BookvAR that adds augmented reality to schoolbooks. The app makes easier the teaching and learning of many subjects.

In the same year was organized also the first Southeastern Europe hackathon "Information Technology in Nuclear Science and Technology".

#BG10xEU Hackathon  

Participants: Over 350 participants from 10 cities, at age 15-67

Partners: The European Commission in Bulgaria, Sofia Municipality, Webit Foundation, The British Council in Bulgaria, Microsoft Bulgaria, The ministry of Education and Science, 12 universities and others.

Challenges: Technological solutions in the areas of Education and Environmental Sustainability and the identification of possible new challenges that the future holds.

Awards: 38,000 BGN cash and non-cash prizes

Winners: More than 30 technological solutions were presented, but the winners were the participants who developed a prototype application for direct translation of camera-captured text into sign language.


During the same year, two more large and significant hackathons were organized, namely
Hack4Health and the first architectural hackathon Elevated Habitat V1.0.

     

Sofia Municipality Innovation Hackathon 2016

Participants: 600 students from 7 universities

Partners: Innovation Starter, Student Innovation Academy, National Palace of Culture, Mtel, Ontotext, Superhosting, Webit, Reach for change Foundation, Sofia University, NBU and others.

Challenges: Technological solutions in the fields of Education, Health and Cultural and Cultural-historical Heritage.

Awards: more than 30,000 BGN cash and non-cash prizes

Winners: Among the many creative solutions five winning teams were selected, and the grand prize was given to the multilingual application Your Sofia, through which everyone has the opportunity to search and find information and create their own routes according to their interests.

A creative tool developed in the framework of INTEGRA project has entered an international competition for radio productions

The lead partner of the project INTEGRA - Sofia Development Association is pleased to announce that one of the creative tools created within the project was selected for the international competition of radio production Prix Bohemia Radio. The tool is a series of podcasts Salad Bowl of Prague: Voices, which introduces the stories of foreigners who have settled down in Prague and make the city a more interesting and richer place: Juanita, a bistro owner of Indonesian origin, the former Tibetan monk Sonam, the fashion designer Mimi from Vietnam and the Balcan family trio Biljan, Zlatka and Bojan who run a famous Prague ice-cream chain. The creative tool was created by Czech project partners - Integration Center Prague.

INTEGRA representatives from Integration Center Prague were supposed to present the podcast series at the Prix Bohemia Radio festival in Olomouc at the beginning of April 2020. Unfortunately, the festival has recently been moved to October 2020 due to the current COVID-19 pandemia. Let´s hope once the festival comes, the podcast series will succeed among the finalists, reach new audiences and make the INTEGRA team proud.

You may find the Czech interviews here: https://saladbowlofprague.cz/voices


SDA wishes success to its partners in the upcoming competition!

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