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The first workshop was held in the new Innovation Lab of Sofia Municipality

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It is established within the EU project: Unlocking the potentials for business and social innovation in the Danube Region by equipping young people with new generation skills (NewGenerationSkills)

In September 2018, a workshop with international participation took place for the first time in the new innovation lab of Sofia Municipality. It was established within the project Unlocking the potentials for business and social  innovation in the Danube Region (New Generation Skills), co-funded under the Danube 2014-2020 Programme. Innovation Lab is planning to provide training, counselling and mentoring to young people aged 15-29 to promote youth innovation and entrepreneurship, with services being provided in partnership with the Sofia Development Association. The laboratory is located at 1, “Serdika” Street, 3rd floor, in the Sofia City Library - "Serdika" branch.

The first workshop brought together representatives of the project consortium from Belgrade, Serbia and Maribor, Slovenia, as well as local stakeholders - municipal institutions, organizations representing local youth and education and the business sector.

United by the topic of sharing good practices in Sofia in the field of youth entrepreneurship and innovation, the project participants were welcomed by Botyo Botev, a representative of the local innovation advisory group and municipal councillor in the Sofia Municipal Council. In his speech, he introduced Sofia as a city with a thousand-year old history and rich cultural and historical heritage.

The focus of the meeting was the report on the completed project activities and best practices of Sofia Municipality for promoting youth entrepreneurship, including the developed Action Plan on the NewGenerationSkills project.

Experts at the seminar presented four good examples of programmes and initiatives to stimulate youth entrepreneurship, education and employment: the Incubation and Acceleration Programme of the Founder Institute, the Junior Entrepreneurship Programmes of Junior Achievement Bulgaria, the Sofia Hackathons and the Academy of Social Entrepreneurs of Reach for Change.

Mr. Milen Ivanov, Director of the Bulgarian branch, presented the largest training programme for start-ups of talented entrepreneurs and the activities of the Founder Institute in Sofia. He informed the audience of the way the entrepreneur training system works, enabling the trainees to learn from proven successful mentors through specific examples, solving tailored tests and case studies, obtaining constant feedback on the results achieved or the lack of such.

The second good practice presented Mr. Svetoslav Manoilov, Senior Expert in Business Development, member of the team of Junior Achievement Bulgaria, a leading organization in the provision of innovative and modern education from the earliest age to the higher education institution. He presented the portfolio of educational products and services and the results achieved in kindergartens, schools and universities. A special emphasis was placed on the trainings for upgrading the qualification of pedagogical specialists and on the practical trainings for student start-ups.

Ms. Denitsa Lozanova, Programme Director of the Sofia Development Association presented the Sofia Hackathon Initiative. In recent years, Sofia Municipality was the first to organize municipal hackathons for developing innovative ideas. This year Sofia Municipality organized the first 24-hour Balkan Hackathon in Sofia. There were programmers from nine countries - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Kosovo, Romania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey and Bulgaria. They were developing innovative technologies not only for the digital connectivity of our countries but also for a better future for Europe where no citizen will feel isolated and digitally excluded. The hackathon was held only a month after the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia and within the framework of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union.

The experts paid a site visit to Betahaus (co-working space) in Sofia, which is a multifunctional, modern and convenient place suitable for social contacts, seminars, workshops and intensive individual or group work.

At Betahaus, Yuri Valkovsky, Managing Director of Reach for Change Bulgaria, presented the Academy of Social Entrepreneurs, organized annually since 2016. The Academy is an intensive training programme that provides practical knowledge, tools and contacts for people who want to start their own social business. The programme consists of 68 training hours, divided into three modules - "Significant Social Change", "Business Modelling" and "Attracting Support". Academy participants work in teams on case studies in the field of social entrepreneurship. Each team works with a social and business mentor who share their experience with the participants and guide them.

Reach for Change Bulgaria is part of the international network of the Reach for Change Foundation, which is represented in 17 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. The mission of the foundation is to find outstanding social entrepreneurs and help them develop innovations that will improve the lives of young people on a large scale. The Foundation organizes in partnership with Nova Broadcasting Group an annual competition for social entrepreneurs, THE CHANGE, which has been held since 2014.