“Covid19: Incubator for Innovations and Solutions in the NGO Sector”
Training Course 7-15 May 2022

With enhanced creativity, a sense of innovation and the energy to make a difference to our surroundings, this is how EKO’s team returned from the interesting training course coordinated by the “Walk Together Association” in Bankya, Bulgaria in May 08-15 2022. The training course brought together 19 young workers from different backgrounds and countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Serbia).

Throughout the world the Covid-19 pandemic has brought several problems and challenges, be they economic, social, demographic, cultural, among others. Thus, various governmental and non-governmental institutions, private entities, and individuals have created actions and activities as a way to combat and create solutions to these adversities. In this aspect the young workers provide an important role, with their creativity and thought design we could with this course scrutinize methodologies, discuss ideas and make decisions and find solutions to this phase of fears, stress and climate of uncertainties.

In particular, the objectives of the training were:

  1. Expand the current network with young creative workers from 5 youth NGOs and acquire the know-how, skills, and tools to facilitate “local innovation incubators” using the youth map of design thinking during a 7-day training course on “creativity, design thinking, and innovation”.

  2. Support youth NGOs in adapting their local services and interventions to the new challenges posed by the pandemic, through 1 innovative tool and demo-local workshops.
  3. Promote different innovation approaches in Youth NGOs through a collection of 5 podcasts with them, on the theme “Creativity Awakened”, in order to inspire young people to take actions in their communities.

During the training activities, in non-formal education, the participants worked in teams, they did practical exercises in group dynamics, worked on creativity processes, innovation, design thinking, and entrepreneurship. Simulating an incubator and through the exercises learned, the participants created their own business ideas and the business plan for these ideas, as a way to solve a social problem, developing in a final phase a prototype to launch in their communities. All this process under the wonderful guidance of Emilia Radu as facilitator. During these days the participants were also able to develop workshops in their areas of expertise, such as drawing and painting, opportunities abroad, dance and meditation.

Bankya was first mentioned as Banka in the 15th century, deriving its name from the noun Bankya meaning “hot spring,” a diminutive of banya (“baths”). The district being famous for mineral springs and baths used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. As such, we went on a tour of the Bankya Mineral Bath with the Deputy Mayor Alexandra Alexandrova, learning about the place, the history and curiosities of the city.

Since this is a cross-border project, and as tradition dictates, there was also time for intercultural evenings, where participants could present their countries in an interactive way, with games, music, and traditional dances, as well as delicacies from each country.

This experience also included a visit to Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, quite historic with some evidence of millennial development, with the well-known Nebeth Tepe (one of the hills of Plovdiv where the city was founded, the first settlements date back 4000 BC). The Rila Monastery was also visited and there was also time for the memorable International Moonlight Festival in Sofia.

This experience and cultural interaction, and the knowledge acquired, can foster in these young workers the spirit of initiative to make a difference in their communities. The focus on solving problems for the social good and the entrepreneurial aspects of entrepreneurship may be the solution to this new post-covid reality.

Thanks to Quim, Fatbardha and Kristina from the Greek team and of course to our partner Vilislava Metodieva for her excellent collaboration and to the trainer Emilia Radu!