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.


Development of private cultural operators through public engagement – AGORA workshop

Cultural operators can develop much more effectively and contribute to the cultural offer of Sofia if they collaborate with areas such as technology, marketing, planning, interaction with business. For this to happen, however, all sectors need to be open to the idea and the cultural sector needs to be visible and recognizable. In this regard, Sofia Development Association organized workshops as part of the AGORA project, where private cultural operators and independent artists shared with local government representatives their experiences and opinions on what tools could help them to develop their full potential.

During the discussions held on 19 and 30 of November at SofiaLab, realistic and innovative ideas emerged, ranging from the creation of an internal contact network between all managers of cultural spaces to the implementation of training programs for niche specialties such as lighting technicians; from the provision of funding for specific tasks to basic grants to support private cultural venues according to their contribution to the implementation of municipal policies. In the independent sector's view, it would always be better to work with foreign organizations and trainers when providing non-financial support to ensure diversity, exchange of experience and greater sustainability.

Participants in the discussions agreed on the creation of a platform linking users and cultural venues, as long as such a platform facilitates both parties and does not only serve to publish information provided by cultural operators. So far, Sofia does not have such a tool that includes both private and public cultural venues. Both the public and private sectors are aware of the importance of the way cultural activities are communicated and are united around the idea of creating a city PR, marketing and communications team to assist all cultural operators. Both sectors are ready to join forces and establish long-term partnerships.

This workshop is the second of three workshops, the outcomes of which aim to develop an Urban Regeneration Agenda of cultural spaces.

The AGORA project is implemented under the INTERREG Danube program and is co-financed by the European Union funds (ERDF, IPA II).

Find out more about the project and upcoming activities at and




F4SC closing conference main point - Social impact investments matter!

Social impact investment could be a natural opportunity for any type of investment in the near future according to the experts that were present at the Finance4SocialChange final conference, which was held on 24th and 25th of November in Budapest. That is why the F4SC project partners from the 12 partner countries developed a Social Impact Investment Strategy in the Danube region. Its transferability and sustainability were discussed in details during the conference and it is expected that its implementation will lead to positive impact not only on entrepreneurs but on the society as a whole.

Sofia Development Association (SDA) team in the face of Denitsa Lozanova, Sevdalina Voynova, Sanya Raeva and Albena Nacheva took part in all panel discussions and contributed to the event. Moreover, the expert Veronika Manova from Sofia Municipal Council presented the municipal program “The crisis as an opportunity” managed by SDA in support of SMEs affected by the pandemic.
In the last 3 years, the F4SC partners organized over 120 workshops that led to the successful development of the Strategy. Another great achievement of the project was the AIR business plan competition which gave social entrepreneurs from 12 countries the opportunity to win an investment, provided by UniCredit. The competition was accompanied by transnational AIRMOOC training program and local mentoring program.

Sofia Development Association is glad to share that all of the beneficiaries of the AIR mentoring program in Bulgaria found it useful not only for the finals of the competition but for any future investment opportunities in general. Blazhka Dimitrova, one of the beneficiaries of the Bulgarian program was present at the conference. She pitched her business idea and shared the experience of being mentee in the Bulgarian mentoring program. “The knowledge gained during the program is not only useful, but transferable and I am still applying it to new opportunities. The networking sessions gave added value of the whole process, the contacts we made during the program keep on developing… like a snowball… we definitely became more competitive!“ she said.

Our “secret” is that we evaluated the investment readiness of the enterprises before developing the concept of the mentoring program with practitioners from the field. That is the only way to support the development of an enterprise efficiently. The needs of the enterprises depend on their stage of development, they are individual and we are proud that we managed to meet them thoroughly. Our biggest goal was to help the entrepreneurs to further develop their enterprises – mission accomplished!

The project "Finances4SocialChange" is co-financed by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI).




A team from FISN at Plovdiv University "Paisii Hilendarski" developed a system monitoring the comfort of passengers in public transport

It's time for S.M.A.R.T. solutions! The INNOAIR project strives for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely solutions - creating a sustainable and economically sensible system that responds to citizens' preferences and increases their satisfaction with public transport.

Our hectic daily lives increasingly require us to anticipate the perfect time to move from point A to point B, and the main concern of local governments remains the problem of air quality. Large cities are most affected by the problems of modern times, including this one. The use of private cars, along with the conveniences they provide, is increasingly putting commuters in difficult situations and causing them to look for other ways of getting around in urban environments. Solutions related to congestion modelling, public transport delays, on demand green public transport and low emission zones/corridors are of interest not only to Sofia but also to other cities in the country that are experiencing problems with population concentration.

The solution lies in providing greater convenience for passengers and giving them a choice of alternative transport options to suit their needs. INNOAIR project, the first Bulgarian project funded by the EU's Urban Innovative Actions initiative, which promotes the testing of innovative solutions in modern urban environments, is working in this direction.

During the first phase of the project various experimental models were developed in the thematic area of the project - innovative solutions for mobility and green travel. Their application allows to test a set of coordinated tools that lead to:

* On demand green public transport, formed by a platform with machine learning and advanced analytics capabilities, which is supported by mini electric buses;

* Models to analyze and reduce the negative effects of congestion;

* Low-emission urban zones preventing vehicles from entering the city center and designated areas on polluted days;

* Green corridors for active transport.

The concept of on demand green public transport resonates with the desires of consumers as seen through their eyes and reflecting their lifestyles. The system analyzing this aspect was developed by Plovdiv University within the INNOAIR project. Up until now ready-made and widely applied options for transport in urban environments were offered, here the focus is placed on the user as a leading figure in the process of searching and offering adequate travel solutions. Attention is paid not only to the rational for choosing a specific mode of transport such as: travel time, waiting time, certainty of the passenger for the calculation of the time of arrival at his destination, etc., but also to aspects such as: lifestyle, fondness to a specific transport, holistic motives, travel comfort, pleasure, etc. The impact of these key indicators on passengers' preferences and satisfaction levels is considered, with service quality leading the way. Part of the given solutions based on the evaluation of customer satisfaction are related to the development of analytical and self-learning systems to suggest optimized travel routes and schedules.


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



On 22 November, at SofiaLab, Sofia Development Association presented the Bureau for Information and Services for third country nationals to Masters students in Public Management from the Specialized Administration and Management Institute of La Francophonie (ESFAM). The students marked the establishment of the Bureau as a great success not only from the point of view of their professional knowledge but also from their personal experience as foreigners in Bulgaria.

The dedicated work of Sofia Development Association in partnership with the Bulgarian Red Cross, UNHCR, “Vazrazhdane” Markets and over 13 NGOs on the establishment of the Bureau for Information and Services for third country nationals has led to easier orientation of foreigners in Sofia. The Bureau provides a wide range of services such as psychological assistance and accompaniment with translation when visiting different institutions and advice on issues related to labour market integration, health and legal issues, as well as cultural events. The students from ESFAM found that this diversity is due to both good organisation and strong cooperation with a common goal - to help every resident have easier access to work, education, training, cultural orientation.



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


SDA Shares Good Practices for Integration of Third Country Nationals in the Labor Market

At the invitation of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SDA presented the activities of the Bureau for Information and Services to Third-Country Nationals at the final international conference of the ERIAS project held on 17.11.2021. The project, in which BCCI is a partner, is a joint initiative of 13 industrial chambers from 5 European countries and aims to improve the capacity of employers to hire migrants and refugees. In this regard, the joint initiative of Sofia Municipality, SDA, and the Bulgarian Red Cross to establish the Bureau for Information and Services to Third-Country Nationals (TCN) is an extremely important step in the process of consolidating the efforts of NGOs and local authorities in Sofia for the provision of information, consultation and training both to TCNs and to local employers. SDA's cooperation with BCCI has a long history; in 2020 BCCI became part of the local coalition for integration of TCNs into the labor market, created by SDA under the UnionMigrantNet project. In 2021 and 2022 SDA will continue its information campaign among employers within the UnionMigrantNet project, and through such collaborations we have the opportunity to reach a significant number of stakeholders at local and national level.

The UMN project is funded by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.





The CONNECTION community of practice meets in Madrid

Representatives of 6 cities and the network EUROCITIES got together in Madrid on November 15-17, 2021, for the second workshop of the community of practice focusing on employment for migrants. Mardrid welcomed Tampere, Finland, Antwerp, Belgium, Sofia, Karditsa, Greece, and Brest, France, to get acquainted with their practices and engage in mutual learning with the support of Migration Work and the project lead partner EUROCITIES.

Project partners received direct impressions from the municipal/community lead integration and employment initiatives, as well as from the work of the regional employment agency and the various stakeholders.

Through action learning partners also assisted each other in refining their action plans for improving migrant employment perspectives.

In the framework of CONNECTION Sofia is piloting the Bureau for Information and Services for Third Country Nationals that was open in September this year, as an innovative way to unite resources and information flow for the benefit of foreign-born citizens.


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


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