USE+FUL | SofiaLab – a laboratory, but not exactly

SofiaLab - our laboratory (and under ours, I mean of the citizens) is an area, space, hall, office, co-working and co-learning space, where both young and adults with young spirit are welcomed as long as they are people willing to learn, work, share and develop. We usually associate the word "laboratory" with medicine, but in our case the concept refers to a place where new and experimental ideas and projects are being developed. At SofiaLab, we believe that ideas for meaningful initiatives can be born in an informal environment and encourage young and not so young people to exchange experiences, approaches and views in the activities that excite them.

We call the place "laboratory" because it encourages experimental thinking, develops new practices and skills. A laboratory that works in the field of digital and social entrepreneurship is no less significant than a chemical one in the field of medicine. SofiaLab is part of a network of similar laboratories in other European cities. The space is funded by the project "New Generation Skills", which is implemented by the Directorate "European Programs and Projects" of Sofia Municipality and Sofia Development Association and it is financed by INTERREG Danube Programme.

SofiaLab's priority events are events that follow and apply the Quatruble Helix philosophy - those that result from partnerships between institutions, business, scientific and civic organizations; events related to the participation of Sofia in European initiatives (European thematic days and weeks that are held simultaneously in all EU Member States); events that support the two priorities of Sofia's Smart Specialization Strategy - Digital Technologies and Innovations in Culture, with a target group and/or predominant participants aged 15-29. All priority events are held at SofiaLab free of charge.

Fortunately, I have firsthand experience with what is happening in the lab. I have started working quite recently for Sofia Development Association, and although I have been interested in various events on the territory of Sofia for the past four years, at SofiaLab I discover activities that I have not been aware of so far. In the film "An education" Jenny says that action is character, and if we do nothing, we will remain no one. Every day I meet people who do a lot, have a cause, fight for it, follow it ... and that is stimulating, inspiring, wonderful.

To get an idea of what's happening at SofiaLab, I'll give you some examples of events that took place here recently.

On 12.11.2018 we hosted the Advisory Council on Youth Policy, along with us was the Deputy Mayor of Sofia Municipality - Assos. Prof. Todor Chobanov, municipal councilors, representatives of community centers and a bunch of other young people. The topic of their meeting was "Youth Spaces" (spaces where young people feel recognized, secure, invited to create events and free to make initiatives without being sued, a place where they gather to realize their ideas.) Young people decide whether to make the events themselves or invite someone to lead them. This is a place for development. By the way, SofiaLab is a place like this. :). After not a long but an intense discussion, the participants decided to indict a standpoint on the draft law for community centers, which would encourage the community centers to work as youth spaces. The idea is that this should happen on the principle of "funding for activities". We hope that this practice will come into force very soon and that in the Chitalishte will have more and more activities that develops skills for the young people.

Only two days later we hosted UNICEF ​​Bulgaria fundraising training for "Children's Champion". Young, smiled girls will collect funds in the form of SMS from benefactors for charity purposes. They will be the children's champions - young ladies who believe in UNICEF's motto - "Every child has the right to live, prosper and develop their full potential - for a better world." It was a pleasure for me to see how noble goal, gaming approach and good mood turn into quality training.

The weekend of the same week was no less interesting. A day full of emotions. The children of His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark, Soren Yakobsen, played together with children, living in social institutions in Nadezhda district, here in SofiaLab. They did not only play, they were juggling together, riding a unicycle, made a pyramid together, danced and laughed. In short, they socialized regardless of where they come from, their nationality and their capabilities. They were learning together. All this happened thanks to Mini Art Foundation. They are dealing with Social Circle supported by the Europe Program - an innovative, social service for the neediest groups of people such as youths in social institutions, prisoners, refugees and people with health restrictions and disabilities. The Scandinavian countries' embassies and the IWC charity bazaar stand behind them and their cause - integration and physical activity, which aims to involve minority groups in society and ensure their development, self-esteem and social skills.

Next week, we were together with Microsoft and their EduDays (Training Days for Directors, Teachers and Students) along with the Business School of Sofia University. We were learning to program robots that are already part of SofiaLab's equipment and are available to anyone who is not afraid to improve on programming. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development then presented various models for financing projects in the field of energy efficiency and ecology.

A day later, we met the activities and campaigns of AEGEE Sofia (for example, Y Vote - a campaign for the upcoming European elections in May 2019 to develop critical thinking among young voters in Europe, to motivate them to vote and to involve them in the processes of decision-making at European level through civic participation methods), then a Round Table on the INTEGRA project, funded by the European Union Fund for Asylum, Migration and Integration, aiming at the integration of people from third countries, now lies ahead Giving Tuesday of foundation Because and events related to the month of the migrant.

In general, many things are happening at SofiaLab, all good and fruitful, and we are yet to develop and expand. We are open to any suggestions and advice and we guarantee that our enthusiasm will not diminish.

We expect you, young people!

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