The Lab launch will take place on September 27, 2018, from 17:30, at 3 Serdika Street, floor 1 (above the Sofia City Library branch). At 18:30 a session of the Council on Youth Policies with the Mayor of Sofia will start.
The Lab was established in the framework of the project “Unlocking the potential for business and social innovations in the Danube region through increasing the knowledge and skills of young people – New Generation Skills”, implemented by Directorate “European Programmes and Projects” of SOfia Municipality and Sofia Development Association. The Lab is developed in partnership with Sofia Library.
The main goal of the lab is to build a platform between local government as a facilitator, youth organizations, educational institutions and businesses to develop the skills of the young people for innovations and entrepreneurship. The project aims to create a network of Innovation Labs in the participating partner cities for exchange of educational programmes, training of young people (15 – 29 year-olds) and support for entrepreneurship. The expected results are better links between education and labour market, increase of the economic activity of the young and overcoming the emigration trend.
The lead partner of the project is the municipality of Budapest and the other partners are Prizma Foundation (Slovenia), NOWA (Austria), akzente – center for equality and regional cooperation (Austria), Intercommunity Development Association Cluj (Romania), DEX Innovation Center (Czech Republic), North-West Regional Development Agency (Romania), Institute Mihajlo Pupin (Serbia), Municipaloty of Savski Venac (Serbia). Associated partners are also the municipality of Belgrade, city of Graz and Corvinus University of Budapest Small Business Development Center.
SDA, together with SOfia Municipality, is a project partner. The project is supported by the Interreg Danube program, co-funded by the funds of the EU (ERDF, IPA), http://www.interreg-danube.eu/approved-projects/newgenerationskills.
The priject activities are in support of the implementation of SOfia Youth Strategy and Sofia Smart Specialization Strategy.
On September 12, 2018, an international working seminar was held for the first time at Sofia Municipality’s new Innovation Lab. The Lab was created under the Project New Generation Skills, co-financed by the Danube Transnational Programme 2014-2020. The Innovation Lab is envisioned as a center for training, consultation and mentorship to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in young people ages 15-29, offered in partnership with Sofia Development Association. The Lab is located on the 3rd floor of № 1 Serdika Street, in the Serdika branch of Sofia Library.
At this first seminar, representatives of the project consortium, which includes Belgrade, Serbia, and Maribor, Slovenia, as well as local stakeholders from municipal institutions, local youth and education groups, and the business world, gathered to share Sofia’s good practices in the sphere of youth entrepreneurship and innovations. The participants in the project were introduced by Botyo Botev – a member of the project’s Consultative Group for Innovations and Municipal Councilor on the Sofia Municipal Council. In his address, he presented Sofia as a city with a rich cultural and historical heritage tracing back millennia.
The main focus of the meeting was the execution of the project activities, as well as the good practices for stimulating youth entrepreneurship in Sofia, including the New Generation Skills Action Plan.
Four examples of programs and initiatives for stimulating youth entrepreneurship, education and employment were showcased at the seminar: the “Incubation and Acceleration Program” by the Founders Institite, the Youth entrepreneurship initiatives organized by Junior Achievement, the Sofia Hackathon and Reach for Change’s Social Entrepreneurship Academy.
The Founders Institute’s work on the largest training program for startups and talented entrepreneurs was presented by the Director of the Bulgarian branch, Milen Ivanov. Mr. Ivanov introduced the audience to the entrepreneurship training system, which offers trainees opportunities to learn from successful mentors working through specific examples, solving specially adapted tests and cases, and receiving constant feedback on their progress and achievements.
The second good practice was presented by Svetoslav Manoilov, senior expert in Business Development on the team of Junior Achievement Bulgaria, a leading organization offering innovative and modern education methods from pre-school through university. Junior Achievement’s portfolio of educational products and services, as well as the results from their work in kindergartens, schools and universities were presented, with special focus on trainings for increasing the qualification of pedagogic specialists and practical trainings for student startups.
The Sofia Hackathon initiative was presented by Denitza Lozanova, Program Director at Sofia Development Association. Sofia Municipality is the first to organize a municipal hackathon for developing innovative ideas over the past several years. This year, Sofia Municipality organized the first 24-hour Balkan Hackathon in Sofia, which gathered programmers from 9 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Kosovo, Romania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey and Bulgaria. They developed innovative technologies not only to promote the digital connectivity of our region, but to ensure a better future of Europe, in which no citizen will be digitally excluded. The Hackathon took place just one month after the EC – Western Balkans summit in Sofia under the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Council.
The experts then visited Betahaus co-working space in Sofia, a multifunctional, modern and convenient space for social events, seminars, work meetings, as well as intensive individual or group work. At Betahaus, Yuriy Valkovski, Executive Director of Reach for Change Bulgaria, presented the Social Entrepreneurship Academy, organized annually since 2016. The Academy is an intensive training program that offers practical know-how, tools and contacts for people starting their own social enterprise. The program includes 68 hours of training divided into three modules: Meaningful Social Change, Business Modelling, and Gaining Support. Participants in the Academy work in teams on practical cases in the sphere of social entrepreneurship. Each team is matched up with a social and business mentor, who pass on their experience and guide the participants.
Reach for Change Bulgaria is part of the international network of the Reach for Change Foundation, spanning 17 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Foundation’s mission is discovering exceptional social entrepreneurs and helping them develop innovations to improve the lives of young people on a large scale. In partnership with Nova Broadcasting Group, the Foundation organizes the social entrepreneurship competition ПРОМЯНАТА, organized annually since 2014.
Youth spaces and entrepreneurship are an important issue, which will be discussed in upcoming Sofia Youth Council meeting.
And the best place for this discussion would be the Youth Innovation Lab that will be opened in Sofia in September 2018 under the project New Generation Skills, co-financed by Interreg Danube Programme.
Sofia Development Association chaired the Sofia Youth Council on 12 July 2018 and also presented the Youth Innovation Lab and the Dynamic Learning Programme Call for Applications.
Sofia Development Association (SDA) co-organized the first Balkan hackathon “Bridging the Digital Borders” on June 27-28, 2018 in Sofia. 30 interdisciplinary teams of nine Balkan countries came together in a friendly competition to propose solutions for the digital divide: between young and the elderly, men and women, urban and rural, people with and without disabilities, EU and non-EU members.
The hackathon was held in the framework of the New Generation Skills project, as a major inspirational event leading up to the launch of Sofia Innovation Lab in September 2018.
Our purpose to co-organize the hackathon and promote the Innovation Lab this way was two-fold: both to support the continuous development of some minimum viable products to successful business after the hackathon, and to build on the effort of the individual teammates, people who decide to find the motivation to go on, and the ability to work together to address social challenges. That is way SDA gave a special prize – a scholarship for the first dynamic learning package training in the lab – to the only completely female team, “Winners”, consisting of high school students, who developed computer apps for people with impaired vision. Аt the same time we directly engaged all attending 100 coders in conversations as they are the potential Innovation Lab participants, and handed them promotional leaflets. Since the event received significant earned media because of its high-profile guests, including the European Commissioner of Digital Society and Economy Mrs. Maria Gabriel and the Mayor of Sofia Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova, the international competition and the innovative character – we managed to reach through the media hundreds of young people as well.