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.



Only those who have literally plucked the fruits of their labor know what satisfaction farming brings. However, with the increasing trend towards urbanization, the number of people engaged in agriculture is decreasing at the expense of the need for more and more resources. Fortunately, we are increasingly finding more opportunities and ideas on how to grow our own crops in the city. It is easy when we have at our disposal a large outdoor area, but there is a solution for small, enclosed spaces as well - vertical gardens. The even better news is that everyone can make a vertical garden on their own now by simply using the manual developed by Sofia Development Association!

At the end of last year, Sofia Development Association, Sofia Green and Applied Research and Communication Fund launched the “Do-it-yourself vertical garden” initiative under the CityZen project. It was attended by students from UACEG, entrepreneurs, gardening and agriculture experts, designers, agri-environmentalists and marketing specialists. Together they developed a concept and models of vertical gardens, and after some hard work, real prototypes as well. Thus, 6 different locations in Sofia obtained vertical gardens designed and made by the citizens! Their "foster families" happily took on the important tasks of planting and caring for plants, as well as the most enjoyable - picking fresh spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits such as parsley, dill, oregano, chives, lemon balm, mint, radish, baby spinach, strawberries.

For 3 months, the vertical gardens were tested by their owners on how sustainable and functional they are, how they affect the working environment and the people. Through the design seminars and this project feedback, Sofia Development Association developed a manual "Do-it-yourself Vertical Urban Farming Garden". With it, anyone can easily and quickly make their own vertical garden from easily available materials on the market, as well as inform themselves about what is suitable to grow in it depending on the season. Each prototype takes several hours to make, costs no more than BGN 200 and requires basic skills with tools, desire and imagination. And growing crops is a skill that everyone is worth developing.

Check out the Handbook HERE, get inspired and create a garden in your home or office!

The CityZen project is funded by the INTERREG EUROPE programme, cofunded by EU’s ERDF.



The first in Bulgaria Bureau for Information and Services for third country nationals opened its doors in Sofia in September 2021. The Bureau now has its own website, where you may find information about the services provided to foreigners and migrants, past and upcoming activities, events and opportunities in the field of integration.

In addition, the website offers detailed information on services, provided in Bulgaria in the field of employment, administrative services, health care, education, access to housing and social orientation, in the section "Life in Bulgaria" HERE.

The bureau is the result of the combined efforts, resources and expertise of the Sofia Municipality, the Sofia Development Association, the Bulgarian Red Cross and Vazrazhdane Markets, UNHCR and over 13 NGOs. It gives foreigners and migrants access to information on specialized services, as well as guidance for providers of protection, health and legal issues.

The program and the services provided by the Bureau are in several languages.

You can find the program for January in Bulgarian HERE.

You can find the program for January in English HERE.

You can find the program for January in French HERE.

You can find the program for January in Arabic HERE.

You can find the program for January in Farsi HERE.

The Bureau for Information and Services for third country national is established under the #CONNECTION project and is funded by a European grant.

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

Fourth issue of the INNOAIR project newsletter

With the end of the year approaching, we are happy to inform you on some exciting events and publications that will help you enter 2022 full of inspiration. Not only have we achieved a range of interesting Sofia mobility and air quality developments, but we also started planning the 2022! We would love to hear from our community about your preferences for the second INNOAIR Hackathon so we can plan accordingly and would therefore appreciate your input in our 1-minute hackathon survey!

See more HERE.


Keep reading to access our latest research outputs and event details.



Responsible Employers of Refugees and Migrants Awards 2021

Sofia Development Association (SDA), Sofia Municipality (SM), Caritas Sofia and the UNHCR Representation in Bulgaria presented the first awards for responsible employers of refugees and migrants today, 17 December, at SofiaLab. 18 December, is the International Migrants' Day - on this date in 1990 the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. On this occasion, the awards aim to recognize companies that recruit and retain migrants in their teams, give them public recognition for fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and promote best practices for everyone's professional development.

"Sofia has always aspired to be a city that is open to cultural diversity, the skills to live together, and to lead our city to prosperity. You are the people who, with your professional skills and your hearts, give opportunities to migrants who are forced to look for a home elsewhere. In life it is very important to live with dignity, and work and employment are dignity," said Malina Edreva from the Sofia City Council.

"Employing people in a vulnerable situation is the highest form of responsibility - on the one hand to themselves and on the other to the local community. Admiration to all employers who conscientiously assume this responsibility!" added Tsvetomir Dumanov from Caritas Sofia.

The awards are also part of the activities of the new Bureau for Information and Services for third country nationals, which has been up and running since October this year through the joint efforts of SM, SDA, BRC, with the support of “Vazrazhdane” Markets and UNHCR, co-financed by the EU through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund under the CONNECTION project.

"Thank you to Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association and Caritas for the cooperation and partnership because the developments we have seen in Sofia in recent years are possible thanks to working together," said Petya Kovacheva from UNHCR.

CITUB, BCCI, members of the Integration Working Group collected nominations and the initiating organizations selected the winners in 5 categories - areas particularly relevant for the successful integration of foreign citizens. The 2021 winners have made a significant contribution to reducing barriers to migrants in the labour market and to fostering integration and understanding in the community of Sofia and its surroundings.

In the category for sustainable commitment to migrant employees the company “Convoy-World” AD was awarded, a leading manufacturer and distributor of household goods with a production base in the area of Novi Iskar. The company has been employing asylum seekers and third country nationals for more than 5 years. In addition to the much-needed work, as a socially responsible employer Convoy provides an address, housing and comprehensive support with other necessary services such as kindergarten enrolment, personal doctor, etc. Convoy currently employs 4 people from Syria and Pakistan.

In the category of green jobs for third-country nationals, the prize went to “Franciskup”, a company that recycles starters and alternators and sells them at home and abroad. Currently, 3 boys from Afghanistan are working at Francizkup and they had the chance to get their first job in this company. The company also offers them housing.

In the category "Employer with respect for mothers and women" the award went to “Angel Baby” Ltd, a company for clothing for children from 0-4 years and textiles for the nursery. This year “Angel Baby” Ltd has hired 3 women from Afghanistan and Yemen and is in the process of opening 2 more positions for vulnerable women, and they have expressed a desire to hire qualified men as well.

In the category "Combining work and learning" “Ortotech: Ltd, the largest Bulgarian manufacturer of orthopaedic medical devices, won. “Ortotech” currently employs 2 boys from Afghanistan, who are not only provided with on-the-job training, but also the opportunity to combine the work process with Bulgarian language courses.

In the "teamwork" category the award went to “TerraStone”, a Bulgarian company with import, distribution and direct sale of porcelain tiles, floor ceramics, sanitary ware, technical marble and granite. “TerraStone” employs 3 people from Syria who received full support and acceptance from the team, and realized their successful inclusion as equal colleagues in a better working team.

"Thank you for this award. I have shared this news with my colleagues, and they are very happy that positive feedback is coming back to us in this way," said Georgi Gyurov from “Ortotech”.

"Bulgaria needs replenishments in the cadres - young people who can be integrated and socialised. In this way we develop the Bulgarian economy, and the country prospers." Kiril Angelov, Frantsizkup Ltd.

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








SofiaCoin: when efforts are rewarded

If clean air is not one of the incentives that will get us out of our cars, then we need extra encouragement. That's why Sofia Municipality and Sofia Development Association have already provided a very easy way for citizens to receive rewards for their contribution to cleaner air in the city.

This unexpectedly good combination of cleaner air, a more active lifestyle and rewards is now available through the use of a mobile app - Sofia Coin, developed by the INNOAIR project. It does not restrict you in any way, but only encourages alternative ways of getting around. It doesn't matter if you decide to walk, ride a standard or electric bike, ride an electric scooter, the result is the same - saved emissions for the environment, more physical activity for you and a variety of rewards.

Prizes range from gloves and a cycling helmet to free concert tickets, tablets and a surprise prize! It all depends on how many kilometers you cover in an environmentally friendly way. After each logged ride, you can see the distance you've travelled, how many harmful emissions you've saved, and you can share your achievements with friends and family.

Eventim, A1, E-bike rental, Hobo and Brum join the cause by providing prizes that bring unforgettable experiences.

"Save yourself money for a ticket to a concert of your favorite band - use a bicycle, walk or any other alternative method that helps you think about your health, save money and have a good time" - Miroslav Emanoilov, CEO of Eventim for Bulgaria and Romania.

"Your city, your world – they need green energy. Alternative methods of getting around are that hidden force for cleaner air. Download, use, win ... With the Sofia Coin app, each one of us is part of the change for a different and greener city." - Dobromir Cholakov, manager of E-bike Rental.

More importantly, in addition to the individual awards, the most frequently used walking and cycling routes will be publicly announced every four months. These routes will be included in Sofia Municipality’s investment programme to ensure their good condition and user-friendly connections. In this way, the data from the app will be used to improve cycling and walking policy in Sofia. "We have long needed an opportunity like Sofia Coin so that cyclist movements are reliably reflected by the municipality. Ride and report the kilometers cycled in the city - participation means a lot for the future development of our real needs for active transport", urges Radostina Petrova from the non-profit organization Bike Evolution.

The support of citizens is the most important to achieve sustainable urban mobility. "Every time we move sustainably, we improve our environment, our health, our economy and protect future generations," says Kristian Krastev, Project Manager of INNOAIR and Deputy Mayor for Transport and Urban Mobility, who is also among the users of alternative vehicles.

You can download the Sofia Coin app for Android from HERE or for iOS from HERE, and if you use it enough, unlock your rewards.

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


The Bureau for Information and Services for third country nationals, which opened in September of this year, now has a new activity! To promote the integration of foreign nationals into the labour market, the team of the Bureau is organising the first ever Responsible Employer Awards for Refugees and Migrants 2021. The event takes place on the eve of the International Migrants Day - on 17 December at 13:30h at SofiaLab on 1 Serdika str., 3rd fl. and will be broadcasted online on the SofiaLab website.

The successful socio-economic integration of third-country nationals into the labour market is a chance and an opportunity for our society that would lead to greater economic and financial stability. The purpose of the awards is to recognize companies that recruit and retain migrants in their teams, to give them public recognition for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and to promote best practices for everyone's professional development.

The nominated employers have made a significant contribution to reducing barriers for migrants in the labour market and to fostering integration and understanding in the community of Sofia and its surroundings. The award categories are in 5 areas: Sustainable Commitment to Migrant Employees, Green Workplaces, Employer Concerned with Mothers and Women, Combining Work and Studying, and Teamwork.

The awards are formed by Sofia Development Association and Sofia Municipality, Caritas - Sofia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The idea is to hold the initiative annually in the future and to expand it more and more.

You are welcome to visit us at SofiaLab on Serdika str., 3rd fl., 17 December at 13:30 or join SofiaLab's Facebook page to find out who the winners are!

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


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