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.



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.




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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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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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Today the final of the competitive part of the hackathon "Beyond Borders: Breaking Stereotypes, Building Bridges" was held, which is implemented under the "Support for Integration of Refugees in Sofia” project and was funded by UNHCR Bulgaria, the UN Refugee Agency, and organized by Sofia Development Association.

The 4 teams that signed up for the competition participated in the final, which took place at the SofíaLab, and presented their projects to a jury. Their challenge was to create an online campaign that opposes the use of discriminatory language and hostile attitudes towards refugees and migrants.

They were evaluated by an expert jury including Boris Cheshirkov from UNHCR Bulgaria, Denitza Lozanova from Sofia Development Association, media expert Polly Zaharieva, journalist Nadia Obretanova and Sara AlKaf, interior architect and member of the Refugee Advisory Board.

The team "Wizards for a Better World" presented their project, which includes making a video with refugee and migrant children and celebrating different dates (International Day for the Protection of Child Victims of Aggression and World Refugee Day) through a number of events and visits.

Team Pupe6, on their part, introduced the jury to their idea for the online platform Connectify, which aims to connect refugee children with organisations, volunteers and companies in Bulgaria, giving them the opportunity to develop and reconnect in a new environment.

The team, under the title "Citizens for a United World", talked about the project "A United World Beyond Borders", which includes a photo exhibition, the organisation of various events, and a social experiment related to building connections between people, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality.

Team Fight Club EG shared their idea for the "Behind the Curtain" campaign.

After evaluation by the jury, the team "Citizens of One World" was chosen as the winner and they received a prize of 3 000 BGN for the implementation of their idea.

They were followed by “Fight Club EG”, “Wizards for a Better World” and “Pupe” who came second, third and fourth respectively in the competition and also received cash prizes to bring their concepts to reality.

Over the next two weeks, all teams will aim to implement their projects, with the presentation of the results, as well as the effects of the campaigns already created in the affected communities, taking place on June 23.

The Hackathon is part of the project " Support for Integration of Refugees in Sofia " and is funded by UNHCR Bulgaria, the UN Refugee Agency, and organized by Sofia Development Association.

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In May, over 100 people used the services provided at the Bureau for Information and Services for Third Country Nationals. Legal consultation remains among the top sought services, along with the accompanying service and applications for financial assistance.

On the official website of the bureau, a program is offered every month, in which the various services are described by days and hours. The content of this program is in several languages: Bulgarian, English, French, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic and Persian.



You can find the program for June in Bulgarian HERE.

You can find the program for June in Ukrainian HERE.

 You can find the program for June in English HERE.

 You can find the program for June in French HERE.

You can find the program for June in Russian HERE.

You can find the program for June in Arabic HERE.

You can find the program for June in Farsi HERE.

The project Support for the Development of Integration Policy Framework and Service Provision for Refugees in Sofia is supported by UNHCR – Bulgaria.

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