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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HACKATHON “INNOAIR AND EUROPEANA: THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE”

 The new challenge is here!

Sofia Development Association and Sofia Municipality, with the support of Europeana, launch a hackathon “The Challenge of Sustainability and Social Justice”, the grand finale of which will be held live on June 8, 2023. The hackathon challenges participants to look for bold technological and social innovation solutions that guide the vision for a next generation transport services, access and cultural heritage preservation. These areas are powerful catalysts for cities and regions in times of rapid urbanization, digitalization and individualization.

How?

If you are interested in sustainability technology and innovation, and if you have ideas that can improve our urban environment, take part in the hackathon with a team of 2 to 5 people in order to propose solutions for cleaner mobility and environment, or for sustainable use of cultural heritage.


What can you receive?

The ideas with the highest scores will be awarded total financing of 15,000 BNG (7,500 Euro) provided by Sofia Municipality, for further development and implementation of the solutions.

Other non-financial awards will also be provided.

What are the challenges?

-       Programming the cycling city of the future.

-       Creating tools – a bridge between citizens and transport operators.

-       Looking into the past to rethink the future - historical photographs and contemporary urban mobility.

-       Green sustainable future and environmental solutions - Biodiversity Databases.


Detailed information about the competition - program, conditions for participation, challenges, jury and final, can be found on the page of
INNOAIR.
 

 

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

CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES FOR MAY 2023 IN THE BUREAU FOR INFORMATION AND SERVICES FOR THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS

In April, over 60 people used the services provided in the Bureau for Information and Services for Third Country Nationals. Legal consultation and applications for financial assistance remain among the leading sought services. Requests for humanitarian aid also take the lead in submissions from foreign nationals.

A program, that describes the various services by days and hours, is offered each month to facilitate the requested assistance. The program can be found in several languages: Bulgarian, English, French, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic and Persian.

You can find the program for May in Bulgarian HERE.

You can find the program for May in Ukrainian HERE.

You can find the program for May in English HERE.

You can find the program for May in French HERE.

You can find the program for May in Russian HERE.

You can find the program for May in Arabic HERE.

You can find the program for May 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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LEAD-ONLINE PARTNERS DISCUSSED THE HATEOUT! GAME STRUCTURE AND SCENARIOS IN PERUGIA, ITALY LAST WEEK

viber image 2023 04 24 17 04 07 304The LEAD-Online EU project partners gathered in Perugia on 20 & 21/04/2023 to discuss the next steps of our project, namely the scenarios and structure of the HateOut! Game that will help users combat hate speech incidents following an avatar’s actions and the LEAD-Online Talks, awareness raising events that will take place in all partners’ countries. Denitsa Lozanova, LEAD Online project manager and Rumyana Grozeva, financial manager, lead the sessions on the project management progress.

On behalf of the Sofia Development Association we want to thank FORMA.Azione Giove In Formatica for the excellent organisation and the warm hosting!

Validating the HateOut! Game concept with external experts was at the core of the discussion, which was done with Debora Barletta from No Hate Speech Movement Italia and other experts in the field. The 2nd day of our partners' meeting in Perugia offered a good chance to meet people from similar backgrounds who also shared their experiences on actions, projects, and campaigns with the same targets as the LEAD-Online project. 

The project is funded by the EU’s Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme. SDA is the lead partner and coordinator of the project with Asociatia Divers, Forma.Azione, Future Needs Management Consulting LTD, Hellenic Open University, ZARA - Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus Arbeit and Udruge Centar za Mir, Nenasilje i Ljudska Prava as partners.

THE BUREAU FOR INFORMATION AND SERVICES FOR FOREIGN CITIZENS IN SOFIA RECEIVES RECOGNITION AS GOOD PRACTICE BY THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION

The Bureau for Information and Services for Foreign Citizens is recognized as a good practice by the European Commission and the integration community. The news is published onThe European Website on Integration (EWSI), an initiative of the European Commission under the Directorate-General Home Affairs and Migration, and the only EU-wide source bringing up-to-date information and good practices on migrant integration for policy makers and practitioners.

The Bureau for Information and Services for Foreign Citizens, founded in September 2021, is a collaborative initiative led by Sofia Municipality to establish a service centre providing up-to-date information and services to refugees and migrants, third-country nationals, NGOs, employers, and stakeholders. Sofia Development Association manages the Bureau together with the Bulgarian Red Cross and the support of UNHCR, Bulgaria. Over the past year and a half, the Bureau has established itself as an important source of information and coordination of integration-related services in the city, following the one-stop-shop approach.

Click here to read more about the good practice on EWSI.

Click here to find out more about the Bureau and the services offered.

THE "CULTURE AND CREATIVITY" PARTNERSHIP

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The Mayor of Sofia Municipality Yordanka Fandakova met with mayors and deputy mayors from Kyustendil, Pernik, Burgas, Gabrovo, representatives of the National Association of the Municipalities of the Republic of Bulgaria and different Bulgarian professional associations and clusters, non-governmental organizations, universities and businesses related to culture, representatives of the network of European cultural institutes in Bulgaria, to discuss and develop the "Culture and Creativity" partnership. The meeting was hosted by the Sofia Development Association.

Mrs. Fandakova presented the implementation of Bulgaria's first cultural development strategy "Sofia - Creative Сapital 2013-2023" and emphasized the vision, consistent policy measures, achievements and potential of Sofia as a city for development of and through culture. "We know that many other municipalities in Bulgaria have similar stories and achievements. That's the exact point of this meeting - to join forces, so that our cities can be stronger at the European level and also to take advantage of new opportunities, specifically in the field of culture," she said.

Mrs. Malina Edreva, Chairperson of the Education, Culture, Science and Cultural Diversity Standing Committee of Sofia Municipality, led the discussion, that focused on the future. Svetlana Lomeva and Sevdalina Voynova from the Sofia Development Association presented the upcoming second European Innovation Campus that will be held in Sofia on June 8-9, 2023, and is organized together with Maria Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and the vision for the "Culture and Creativity" partnership, whose goal is to jointly protect the interests of Sofia and Bulgaria, to put them on the European map and to contribute to European policies as a whole.

The event’s participants all agreed that Sofia has the capacity to be a regional center of cultural and the creative sectors and industries for Southeast Europe, and a common platform can give many opportunities for support, advocacy, projects and mutual support and exchange.

"We have been waiting for such an initiative for a long time. We want to have such a partnership, with Bulgaria as the center for it. We must be proactive and united," said Genoveva Hristova, chairman of CreaTech Bulgaria.

The Executive Director of the National Association of the Municipalities of the Republic of Bulgaria Silvia Georgieva expressed the Association's support for the initiative and emphasized that the unification of all Bulgarian municipalities can provide a suitable platform for the exchange of ideas and knowledge for the development of the partnership. She also pointed to the project of a concept for integrated territorial investments in the South-West Development Region developed by the Association’s consulting team, which is specifically aimed at the development of cultural and creative industries through the perspective of information and communication technologies, and added that this is an example of consistency in policy of Sofia as an established generator of economic growth. NAMRB will be a partner in the upcoming European Innovation Campus in early June, which will be hosted by Sofia. 

A cooperation agreement with all interested parties is to be drawn up and signed.

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BETTER AIR QUALITY THROUGH LOW EMISSION ZONES AND GREEN CORRIDORS

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On March 29 2023 the first of a series of four knowledge transfer webinars organized by the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria under the INNOAIR project was held.

INNOAIR is testing an idea not yet implemented in Europe – introducing transport services and pilot solutions in two neighborhoods of Sofia, that provide citizens with travel alternatives, reduce car traffic and improve air quality.

The first event of the series was dedicated to the introduction and design of low emission zones and green corridors, the different sources of air pollution and the effect of changes in transport patterns throughout Sofia.

During the opening of the event, Svetlana Lomeva, director of the Sofia Development Association (SDA), emphasized that the webinars aim to share the achievements of the project, but also to check the interest in these solutions and, in general, support their development in other cities as well. In this regard, she also encouraged the participants to familiarize themselves with the new European Urban Initiative (EUI) program.

Mrs. Lomeva pointed out that this is the first Bulgarian project under the program, and the process leading to the emergence of Inoair is the result of serious efforts - formulating an innovative idea that has not been implemented elsewhere, identifying the specific need of the Capital, which will be addressed with the innovation, formulating specific solutions for the relevant urban problem and last but not least, motivating the municipality to participate in the project.

She briefly presented the four main areas in which innovative solutions are introduced, namely: 1) Green public transport on demand; 2) Congestion Charge Model; 3) Geospatial low-emission urban areas and 4) Green corridors for active transport.

Mrs. Lomeva pointed to green public transport as the main priority of the project and added that "it is the first time that the local government has introduced this innovation". From research experience, right now such a service is offered to a limited extent only by private companies. She drew attention to the fact that such innovations require a change in the regulatory framework, which is an additional challenge in the project implementation.

Among the other highlights in the presentation of the SDA director, was the role of citizens and their involvement in the implementation of such initiatives, as she emphasized that the key to success is for citizens to "become authors and ambassadors of these ideas". She talked about the various interesting solutions presented and implemented through the project's public and information days, civic competitions, hackathons and partnerships. Among them: a parking platform in Sofia, bicycle counting cameras, the design of the electric buses, the SofiaCoin mobile phone application and much more.

On the topic of low-emission zones, Dimitar Petrov, director of the "Traffic Management and Analysis" Directorate in Sofia Municipality, presented the path to their creation, as well as how the INNOAIR project supported their introduction.

"INNOAIR gave us the tools and motivation to convince the public and politicians that such a zone is useful for the city and moreover - necessary," he stressed.

Mr. Petrov pointed out that when assessing the quality of atmospheric air, a number of negative factors independent of the municipal administration should also be taken into account, among which the peculiarities of the capital's geographical position for the retention of harmful emissions. He also pointed to the serious urbanization of the territory, the large concentration of residents, as well as the number of registered cars - 800,000 private cars in the city alone.

All this was also a prerequisite for the search for solutions to the city’s pollution, including the development of the idea and strategy for the introduction of the low-emission zone. A great help in this process was the so-called White Book developed under the INNOAIR project, which reflects all aspects of the issue of the territory of Sofia Municipality, including the various options, locations and time periods for the introduction of the LEZ. Statistical data, as well as mathematical modeling of the traffic data from the installed cameras, were used to develop the scenarios, and they were processed by software to specify the distribution of emissions.

"So we have a pretty accurate forecast of what we expect from the introduction of LEZs in both areas," Mr Petrov said. He added that with the document adopted by the Sofia City Council, two zones with restrictions for category 1 cars are distinguished, and in the small ring the restriction starts from December 1, 2023 and applies only to the winter months.

"The goal is to achieve maximum effect with minimal discomfort for drivers and minimal impact on people's daily lives", he pointed out and emphasized that a number of measures are planned to reduce the negative effects for those living in the LEZ area, as well as for people in disadvantaged situation. Mr. Petrov also talked about the technical solution for the introduction of low-emission zones.

On the topic of green corridors and their role in improving air quality and mobility in the city, Mr. Metodi Avramov, director of the Directorate "Strategies, Innovations and International Projects" at the Urban Mobility Centrer, spoke.

Introducing the topic of green corridors, he shared with the participants information about the distribution of trips in Sofia by type of transport - 39.70% by public transport and 39.20% by cars. Mr. Avramov emphasized that "one of the main goals of the Plan for Sustainable Urban Mobility is that in 2035, road transport will account for only 20% of all trips" and added that the INNOAIR project, the renewal of the rolling stock, investments in public transport and in the infrastructure are aimed at this goal and reducing air pollution, traffic jams and noise.

Mr. Avramov pointed out that the green corridors are a natural upgrade of the main innovative solution of the INNOAIR project, namely on demand public transportation, in combination with LEZ. "On demand transportation will provide an opportunity for those who wish to use an electric bus, with which they can move to a main transfer point of public transport," said Mr. Avramov, pointing out that at its core this type of mobility should start and finish with traveling by electric transport. "The green corridors that link all types of electric transport are the natural extension of on-demand transport and, as a very innovative measure, will be upgraded."

It demonstrates the digital map of the green corridors https://livemap.sofiatraffic.bg/ which shows the movement of public transport in real time.

The first webinar ended with the presentation of Prof. Dr. Dimitar Atanasov from the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology. He shared with the participants the various sources of pollution in Sofia and the dependencies they have established, as well as the effect of reducing traffic in the various scenarios for improving air quality.

Prof. Atanasov pointed out that the most significant of the main sources of pollution is that caused by traffic and added that the so-called "background pollution" which is caused by sources outside the territory of the municipality, including dust from the Sahara desert.

He focused on the LEZ planning process and the use of the forecast scenarios for the effect on ambient air quality when introducing the restrictions, pointing out that data is essential for informed choice and achieving maximum effect.

Prof. Atanasov pointed out that "Before arriving at an assessment of the effect of low emission zones, it is necessary to make another division, apart from the origin of the emissions, according to whether they are changeable or unchangeable". Fixed emissions include background concentrations, emissions from the household sector and emissions from industry. Emissions from traffic in the LEZ are variable, and may change when certain restrictions are introduced.

Among the conclusions of the analyzes carried out, it can be stated that even with strict restrictions and a 50% reduction of traffic in LEZ, areas with average annual concentrations of fine dust particles exceeding the norm of 40 micrograms per cubic meter may exist, the reason being background pollution.

Prof. Atanasov also indicated possible solutions, as well as the next steps, including the methodology proposed in the NIMH report, by which this can be done.

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.

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