CIDC and BESCO Launch Officially One-of-a-Kind Advocacy Academy in Bulgaria to Advance Democracy

May 02, 2024 Despina Koleva
CIDC and BESCO Launch Officially One-of-a-Kind Advocacy Academy in Bulgaria to Advance Democracy

On April 20, the first-of-its-kind Advocacy Academy officially opened in Bulgaria. The project is a joint venture of the Center for Information, Democracy and Citizenship (CIDC) at AUBG and the Bulgarian Entrepreneurial Association (BESCO). The funder of the initiative, which aims to empower democratic dialogue, is the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE – Washington DC).

The opening event took place at a co-working venue in the village of Beli Iskar, near the town of Samokov, where the inaugural cohort of 30 participants received a warm welcome on behalf of AUBG’s President Dr. Margee Ensign and CIDC’s Executive Director, Dr. Jacob Jacob.

“Advocacy is a part of democracy that we do not talk about enough. We do not teach people how to do it effectively; how we bring people together with common goals and common values, and how they advocate for those,” President Ensign said. Further, she elaborated on the importance of working together with policymakers to ensure that the most effective policies are enacted.

President Ensign also expressed her hopes for the participants to build their own community. “I believe we will look back on today as a real turning point because the participants in this Academy do want to work together for the common good. They do want to make sure that democracy is solidified and inclusive, and especially the voices of the vulnerable are included,” she highlighted.

By fostering collaboration and empowering active participation, we can create a more vibrant and engaged democratic society, said Dr. Jacob. He also spoke highly about the participants in the first cohort of the Advocacy Academy. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the quality and diversity of our first cohort. Together, we will work towards ensuring that democracy is not just a noun, but a verb – a call to action for every one of us,” he said.

Dr. Jacob expressed his confidence that the Advocacy Academy would equip the participants with the tools and knowledge they need to effectively advocate for the causes they believe in.

Dobromir Ivanov and Nedyalko Dervenkov, CEOs of BESCO, and Jeffrey Lightfoot, Program Director, Europe at CIPE, also addressed the attendees. “This program narrows the gap between the real problem solvers and the problem and its scaling,” Dervenkov said.

He also stressed the importance of building a network of the program’s graduates. “I think the future lies within the alumni association of the Academy. I expect a very strong, sustainable, and large alumni organization that will really create the fundamentals of the advocacy industry in Bulgaria,” Dervenkov elaborated.

His colleague, Dobromir Ivanov, also emphasized the crucial role of the Advocacy Academy graduates. In his words, the goal for the next ten years would be to have hundreds of individuals from the local business, government, and institutions connected and unified in their ideas on how to change the environment.

What Makes the Advocacy Academy Unique?

The Advocacy Academy organized by the CIDC and BESCO is a singular attempt to bridge the existing gaps between the government, civil society, and business by promoting open, democratic, and effective dialogue for sustainable changes. The Academy will equip aspiring changemakers with the skills, tools, and knowledge to advocate for diverse causes in Bulgaria and the European Union.

The project has emerged as a natural response to growing trends in Bulgarian grassroots activism and public efforts to address a variety of political, social, and environmental challenges. However, its organizers are keen to cross borders and grow the project beyond Bulgaria to promote democratic dialogue and strengthen societies across the region in the future.

The program’s curriculum has been developed under the guidance of Prof. Jean Crombois from AUBG and Prof. Katia Hristova-Valtcheva from the New Bulgarian University. Both faculty members have significant research and practical track records in the field of advocacy.

Who Are the Participants?

The official opening of the Advocacy Academy on April 20 gave the start to a two-day retreat for the participants. Over the weekend, they worked together to solve complex tasks and partake in joint initiatives to get to know each other better and build trust among themselves.

The members of the Academy’s first cohort include business leaders and entrepreneurs, current and former government officials, and NGO representatives. The participants’ diverse backgrounds, expertise, and skills will contribute to a rich, productive, and vibrant learning environment.

By Despina Koleva,

Director of Projects and Partnerships, CIDC