Innovation Station vol.3 took a ‘Leap into the Unknown” and dived into the ocean of social entrepreneurship on February 17-19, 2023. The weekend challenge organized by the Better Community Club (BCC) gave the opportunity for Generation Z (aged between 17 and 25) to get in touch with NGO representatives and help them solve some of the most problematic cases in our society.
“Innovation Station aims to combine and unite people with different backgrounds and skills,” said the BCC president Petar Nedev. “The connections participants made are going to last them for a lifetime, and the experts that will assist them will provide them with valuable experience. I believe that only when we are united under common goals, we are able to make our society and planet better.”
Twelve NGOs presented cases for social causes they were working on to the participating teams. The students, on their part, had 48 hours to research the case and come up with a strategy for implementation. The organizations this year were:
- Khan Academy
- Bulgaria Alzheimer
- WWF Bulgaria
- Fulbright Bulgaria
- Foundation “Joy”
- Single Step
- The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award
- Four Paws
- Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation
- Active Bulgarian Society
An interesting fact is that students stay connected to the cause even after the event. For instance, one of the permanent organizations at the challenge, Foundation “Joy”, gained attention on national level with the help of the AUBG students who worked on the case and won 4th place in the “Change” initiative by Nova Broadcasting Group.
- First Place
The AUBG students Arina Agayeva, Klelia Loka, Yana Slavcheva and Thong Ngyuyen won the first place with their project case provided by Bulgarian Biodiversity Founfation.
- Second Place
The high school students from CHEG “Ivan Apostolov” in Sofia — Anton Velichkov, Katrin Ivanova, Dara Peneva and Elitza Nancheva, won the second place with their project on the case provided by Fulbright Bulgaria.
- Third Place
The AUBG student Vasko Pohlupkov teamed up with the high school students Yoana Chekova and Maglen Georgireva to work on the case provided by the Association AMYH and won the third place.
The club advisors – professor Bernaciak and professor Van Mensel helped the competition get international recognition. ” We have financial support from the European Commission and we have internationally recognized non-govermenral organizations on board and coming to the campus in person,” said the former BCC president Desislava Stamova. “We are very thankful to our wonderful club advisors as without their help the preparation for the competition would have been harder.”
Professor Van Mensel said that to her this event would always be more than a competition — an initiative that helped many more young people to become aware of important topics and issues affecting the society and the planet, and be much better prepared to tackle them one day.
“I am so grateful and filled with joy,” Van Mensel said. “The fact that the organizing students, the participants from AUBG and from high schools from around the country, the mentors and the NGOs could have been anywhere else this weekend, could have been enjoying the awesome weather, could have been doing anything else, but they were all there, giving their hearts and minds to making our lives better!”
Some of the sponsors of the event were the national-wide companies like Magic Outdoors, Future Values, REDVERTEX, Devin, Siteground, PWC, as well as the local businesses Akropol, Groshe, Quicky Burger, Gyros Molly.
The Better Community Club board gave a glimpse of the driving force behind the organization of the Innovation Station challenge.
“Innovation station is not only a great collaborative competition with an amazing cause, but it is also an event that brings civically engaged young people together,” said BCC Treasurer Zheliana Borisova.
“I believe that by bringing such young and bright people together we can lay the foundations for them to make a change in their societies. During the organization of the event we were able to learn more about the problem out society faces and how we can help to solve it.”
“Whenever I think about Innovation Station, I associate it with different bright colors,” said BCC Vice President Vyara Pavlova. “The colors represent the various people that come together to think and work on making the future brighter. This event is so special to me because it challenges and inspires people’s creativity and consciousness to come up with effective solutions to so many different social issues.
“Innovation station is not only a great collaborative competition with an amazing cause, but it is also an event that brings civically engaged young people together,” said BCC Vice President Ivan Karadzhov. “I believe that by bringing such young and bright people together we can lay the foundations for them to make a change in their societies. They can become the change we all need.”