From Open Sofia to Open Bulgaria
Why we’re expanding to other cities, and what we’re building
Written by the Open Bulgaria Team.
Bulgaria has become home to thousands of people from all over the world. They are workers, teachers, entrepreneurs, students, and volunteers. This beautiful country with its gorgeous nature, ample work opportunities, and its laid-back approach to life attracts those who want to build their lives here. They accept the downsides; like paperwork, learning a new language, and building connections with locals and fellow foreigners. Many Bulgarians come back from abroad after years and decide to stay, as well. There is something about this place that the rest of the world has yet to discover and that we love dearly.
When our founder Giuseppe created the Facebook group Foreigners in Sofia and Friends six and a half years ago, little did he know that it would become such an important part of people's lives. As of today, 32,000 people share their experiences, give each other advice, support initiatives, and create new projects and activities in the group.
What is the most important for us to clarify? It’s that we are a volunteer-run project. We are highly skilled professionals and passionate enthusiasts who dedicate our free time to writing and editing articles, taking photos and creating videos, organizing events, and building partnerships with governmental institutions, NGOs, and businesses. Our mission is to help Bulgaria grow and become more known in the world as a wonderful place to be.
We launched the Open Sofia platform in March 2020. The global pandemic pushed us to release it faster than we thought. Our community needed some order on all the chaos around. We share the story in our article We are not ready. Why we decided to launch Open Sofia early.
We saw hundreds and thousands of readers checking this new website after we’d announced it in the Facebook group, but this wasn’t the most beautiful thing, it was what happened next that truly astounded us.
Dozens of people contacted us about joining the team as writers, editors, photographers, video makers, developers, and designers. Foreigners and Bulgarians wanted to join the team because they believed in our mission.
Companies, NGOs, and Institutions saw it, too. We have connected to almost 30 partners and have already created amazing projects and activities with many of them. We are always looking for new organizations and initiatives to add to our list, and we're sure that we're only getting started.
We also realize that Sofia is not the only place that attracts foreigners and where the international community lives. That's why we are building networks with partners in Plovdiv, Varna, Bansko, and soon to be many others.
How do we plan to make our mission sustainable in the long term? Open Bulgaria is a joint venture between the Open Sofia Foundation and Open Cities Ltd., a social enterprise we created to manage commercial partnerships and economic activities. While the Open Sofia Foundation will focus on the non-profit aspects of the project and on its social impact, serving our community, and supporting our local and international institutional partners and other NGOs, Open Cities will work on finding ways to create a stable budget to support our initiative. That’s why we have decided to donate 25% of Open Cities' profits every year to the Open Sofia Foundation. This way we will be able to cover the running costs of the project and to reward our volunteers’ contribution, their professional skills, and their diligent commitment to the cause.
We have big plans for Open Bulgaria because we see how much our people need it, how much the country itself needs it. We are building a network to facilitate collaboration between people and organizations, and also between companies, associations, and initiatives.
We designed our project to connect different parts of this multicultural ecosystem. Locals connect and build friendships with foreigners, which in turn forms our international community. This community connects with and gets involved in projects by various local organizations with whom we collaborate and support. Lastly, we facilitate collaboration between these organizations in the form of joint projects, events, and promotional activities.
And you, the reader, can be part of it! Stay with us as a reader, share our articles and tell your friends about what we do.
If you want to help us grow, we're always looking for writers, editors, photographers, videographers, designers, community managers, marketers, and sales experts to join our multicultural team as volunteers.
If you run or are part of an NGO, company, or public institution, we would be happy to hear from you! Drop us a line on [email protected]
Together we can do so much more. That's why we are all here!