All posts by Фабрика за Идеи


Through short-long interviews we are going to introduce you to every one of the mentors who gravitate to the Factory and fill its roots with liveliness and trust. They are not a part of our everyday team, but they join energy, experience and devotion during the formats of Baba Residence and Social Innovation Challenge and are available for the participants in them… well, all the time.

Meet Nato – Natanail Stefanov – an unicorn educator, a ‘professional volunteer’ and a true friend of the Factory since its establishment. He is also known in the LinkedIn society as Entrepreneurship Enthusiast & Social Change Maker and, until recently, as the Executive Manager of GEM Bulgaria.

photo – Elena Kolarova

Hello, Nato :) Please, introduce yourself through your values and personal activities that have made you who you are (and who you want to be).

To begin with, I must say my values define who I am better than my activities. I guess my activities reflect to a great extent the values I believe in.
– Faith. In God, in Bulgaria, in ourselves – as a factor for positive change.
– Love. I consider it the basic and most powerful positive change engine. There is no other force on earth that is bigger than love.
– Friendship. Because it is eternal.
– Devotion. To people and activities I love.
– Idealism. We need it in today’s dynamic, individualistic and materialistic world.
– Giving. I am very fond of the thought that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.
– Work. I love working! And I do so much of it? that I get accused of workaholism by some friends but I sure deny it! It is just that there are so many things to be done and I am constantly justifying myself that it is me they are waiting for. It is no joke – man has been created to invent and create. I think there is nothing better than finding meaning and satisfaction in what we do.
– Teaching. One of my hobbies as well as my vocation, which is hard to avoid. I love both formal and informal education! That is why I am also a part-time lecturer at the Sofia University, and a mentor at the Factory, and I offer help here and there, too = )
– Volunteering. I am often kidding that if it were possible, I would have become a professional volunteer. If there were no bills to pay, I would have totally devoted myself to volunteering. But since there are bills, I have devoted only a half of myself. ;)
Volunteering has given me a lot for all these years – I’ve gained priceless experience, I’ve met great people and I’ve been to incredible places. Thank you, volunteering!
– Mountain Hiking and Friendshiping. Another favourite way of spending my time is being with good friends, in nature, if possible.
– Learning (formal and informal). I love learning, mastering new skills and knowing that I am progressing. I try to learn by every situation and every person I get in touch with.

Tell us a little more about your professional self and what connected you at first with Ideas Factory.

My professional self is kidding that I have worked any kind of job at any place, since it took me a lot of time to realize what I want to devote to. But I have found my thing – enrepreneurship, in the broad sense of the word. In my view it is the best way to do what you love while progressing and making a living at the same time. Well, it is not quite easy and profitable all the time, but it is interesting, dynamic, challenging and there is always more to learn! What else would a young person nowadays need?!

It was exactly volunteering and teaching that connected me with the Factory for the first time. Around year 2011 I was conducting extracurricular activities on Fun Mathematics at School No13 near the Woman’s Market in Sofia… Then I met Sashka and Kolyo, then the rest of the people at the Factory. The rest is history, full of many nice memories and shared experiences.

What is the essence of the mentor role in our formats for you? What kind of civil processes is it able to facilitate?

Basically, the role of the mentor is to support and help with their knowledge, experience, contacts and way of thinking.

Mentorship may help people who create change and active citizen processes to reach further than they would have managed to on their own. I would say that a mentor is a friend and an adherent who offers practical and/or professional advice. It is essential that the mentor shares common values and goals with people they work with, so that the efforts are joint, and the end result is the best possible. If the mentor is more experienced or has a different competence, they may turn people’s attention to not that obvious details, thus reaching unconventional decisions and, respectively, innovative civil processes.

Which one of the Ideas Factory formats best suits you and why?

It’s two of them:

Baba Residence. This is a bridge between past, present and future. I love going back to my roots, I love intimacy with people, rural way of life, preservation of traditions! I would directly go back to living in a village! =)
Social Innovation Challenge. This is the one format that I have put most of my heart in during the years. I love it for solving problems in an unconventional way. Recently we talked with a friend of mine that we, as entrepreneurs, work for the business of solving problems and problems will always be there. Hence, there will always be work for us to do. The same goes for the Challenge…

Then, more specifically, which is the point of intersection between your professional/business activities and social impact?

The point of intersection with social impact is:
– I aim my professional activity to be in the closest possible touch with results having social impact. That is why I am interested in entrepreneurship – you are free to address to problems upon your choice.
– As far as possible, I try to share my professional experience and knowledge with people who have devoted all their time to social impact.
–Having professional competences, I volunteer for social causes.

How do you think we can contribute on a daily basis to our becoming a more united community here, in Bulgaria?

–Travelling by train. (Yes, I mean the good old beloved Bulgarian Railways ;) I love travelling by train because it is the place where I meet true Bulgaria – people whom I would not have the chance to get acquainted with at a business meeting or in the streets of Sofia. That is how I meet new people, I see what they are excited or worried about, and I become more empathetic.
–Talking to each other. Certainly, we should talk to each other in order to become more united. If we are staying together in a room, everyone staring at the screens of their electronic devices, it is not going to work that way for sure.
–Celebrating and making things together. It is scientifically proven that if people make things together and share common activities, these make them more united. That is what holidays and traditions are for.
–Thinking about others, not only about ourselves. It sounds plain and easy, but sometimes it turns out a little bit more difficult to put it in practice.

What is the meaning of ‘social change’ in your vocabulary? This word phrase becomes as if more and more devoid of human warmth and sounds more and more as a sly way of attaching a would-be universal meaning to a certain initiative. Would you replace it with a more suitable phrase?

I would rather focus not on the result but on the circumstances and the prerequisites for this change to take place. That is why I would replace the term with the following words: love, sincere care, empathy, selflessness (when needed), values, unity.

Baba Residence

What is Baba Residence?

“Baba Residence” is one of the innermost dreams- come-true of Ideas Factory. We connect urban youth and elderly from different villages across Bulgaria in an innovative socially entrepreneurial model which combines design thinking, ethnographic fieldwork skills and… the simple wisdom of a rural lifestyle – with a granny – for a period of 3 to 5 weeks!

We believe and proved in practice that, on one hand, those vibrant elderly, who we meet in the many-coloured Bulgarian villages, are able and want to bring forward traditions and cultural/ social practices that are about to become extinct. On the other hand, young urban people are open to learn from them and share knowledge and could contribute to reinstating the elderly from the villages as an active part of our society. In other words, you could have a granny/ a grandfather / a household with whom to share knowledge, skills and stories – one that could really find your daily help useful.

All the participants whose applications have been approved, firstly, go through an intense training on methods like human-centered design, social entrepreneurship and ethnographic fieldwork skills.

After their 1-month co-living with the elderly, the residents become a part of our Incubator for Baba-innovations. Then they can start working on individual or group social or cultural entrepreneurial ideas to help the villages and their dwellers – with the support of trust-worthy mentors!

Continue reading Baba Residence

TANDEM Europe II – Social Innovation

Tandem Europe is an international cultural collaboration programme that strengthens civil society in Europe and neighbouring regions. The overall focus of the collaboration is the developing of social innovation through an international cultural perspective.

During their Tandem year, cultural-social initiators from all over Europe kick-start a long-term collaboration with a partner from abroad. Together, they design and test new ideas by realising a pilot project for their own local communities.
Tandem offers the space to develop real and meaningful visions by prototyping project ideas and building on new cross-border working relations. It establishes peer-to-peer contacts that are based on mutual societal concerns and cultural and artistic interests.

In 2017/ 2018 edition of the programme Ideas Factory is a part of the organisational team. In October 2017 in Sofia we hosted the first meeting of the future tandem couples – Partner Forum. We cooked the right conditions for a series of interactive activities thanks to which the teams were able to match each other. Our main parteners in this journey are 4iS (Portugal) and This Is Comm’on (Greece).


In 2016 Yanina from Ideas Factory was a Tandem participant together with Marina Makgou from Ohi Pezoume (Greece). After a year-long collaboration of them two with the help of their organisations and local artists they developed a design-thinking based methodology for exploration. Submerge to it HERE!

COMPETENDO – facilitators’ handbooks

How to inspire personal, professional and societal development?

Together with our strategic project partners from MitOst e.V. (Germany), Working Between Cultures (Germany), SKORO (Poland) and Sudwind (Austria) we developed a collection of well-tried innovative approaches and methods by trainers for trainers, teachers and facilitators.
The visible fruit of our interaction are the educational series of Competendo handbooks which combine theoretical and practical knowledge of diverse local contexts when it comes to facilitating needed social change.
All the editions explore different wider topics such as holistic learning, creativity and social change, facilitation by steps etc. Competendo is also a useful guide for activists and professionals in formal- and non-formal education and in civil society – for everyone, advocating for the ideas of empowerment and active citizenship.

The structure and content of the last Creativity & Social Change Handbook was mainly a responsibility of Ideas Factory.

All the handbooks and other educational materials are available for free at


Cochanging the world

The changemakers hunting duo Andrea and Anna from Exchange the world visited in March 2017 for an inspiring deep talk about our values and how we sow them through our formats :)

We thank them heartfully for listening, exchanging and cochanhging!

Changemaker Course | How to change the world?

You want to take action but you don’t know how to change the world? Get inspired by Changemakers from all over the world. Join our Changemaker Course.

Peace Factoring :)

Project „Peace Factory” was a common initiative of 8 international organizations from: Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania. Our project gathered 20 youth workers and 2 experienced trainers according to theirs’ work among stress management, mind-fullness, conflict resolutions, in Poronin (Poland) between 4th and 13th of September 2017.

In an non formal environment we directly influenced participants with experiencing and reflecting on stress management activities. During 10 days participants developed habits based on the concept of mindfulness. We especially emphasized theirs’ experience among applied drama, theatre of oppressed, yoga activities and morning meditation sessions. Moreover we will encouraged them to use concepts of active listening and non violent communication in their free time activities, so they will not only get familiar with the concept and practical use and implementation of mentioned during sessions but also, which is even more desirable – experience its positive impact „here and now”, in non formal environment. The most important element according to our project is a common contribution. Participants were working in international groups among creation of new tools and activities, that after the main activities would be able to re-frame and use in theirs’ local communities.

Our first Baba Residence team-building!

What can happen if you mix together 70 young people from an advertising agency with a few old ladies in their own village? A marvellous team-building, but one that includes “building” of a relationship with the local grannies from the village too ;)

The “delicious” results include: traditional winter food supplies cooked together, renewed community spaces, new signs at local eco-trails and an abundant celebration of this authentic interaction!

Thank you, Publicis One Bulgaria, for trusting us!

A new Executive Director

Just like each organic creation, The factory goes through many natural changes and adaptations.
Yanina, one of the founders of Ideas Factory and visible from most of the public apperances of the association, is withdrawing for a while due to a beautiful pregnancy!
She’s passing on the torch temporarily to another devoted socially-responsible visionary.
If you ready to dive in a deep and broad changemaking enterprise in a very responsible position, if you have managing skills and you really cherish playfulness and creativity as changemaking instruments, join us!

НПО – Executive director of Ideas Factory / Фабрика за идеи

All applications will be treated as strictly confidential. Only short-listed applicants will be contacted. About us Ideas Factory is an inspiring hub for social innovations – incubating change and serving the communities we work with by building the capacity in a new generation of social innovators.

Baba Residence 2017

For the past 2 years Baba Residence has been our answer to the problem of depopulation of Bulgarian villages and the gradual loss of their cultural heritage. It’s where generations open-heartedly meet, where villages and cities come together in the search of a beneficial common ground between the community, the local culture, and of course, you.

By taking part in the program Baba Residence 2017, participants make the decision to engage in a 7-month long challenge, only a month of which is field work in a village in the Gotse Delchev region.
Every single day of this month they will be diving into the everyday and emotional needs of the village and their hosts. They will learn about and document the remaining bits of folklore and use the observations and their social-entrepreneurial mindset to develop their own (or a group) idea, which would help the village.
The participants will themselves answer what the village needs in order to blossom again while getting to know the ones who make up its folklore – the local people.

This year the month of field work will take place in a village in the Gotse Delchev region from 31st August to 25th September.

We become a part of the organisation of next Tandem Europe!


HURRAY (in tandem)! Officially, we’re now part of the organisational team of the next round of the international programme for creative interaction between cultural managers and activists from whole Europe Tandem Europe! We’re in it together with 4iS (Aveiro) and This Is Comm’on (Athens).
This year the focus is shifting towards developing a social innovation, based on the cultural exploration of the community/ environment of the participants’ countries.

Our responsibility as co-organizers is the first event from the programme – a Partner forum in October 2017 (10-15), during which all the candidate-tandemians will meet for the first time. The forum will submerge them during 5 intense days into many interactions, a world cafe, games and field work. The purpose – all of them (around 100 people) will form the desired two-country tandems. They will work as such during one who year and will develop a product/ initiative/ event etc., which could be an instrument for overcoming certain community problem.

The application for the programme is open from 15th of May until 30th of June! Let there be Tandems!
More about Tandem Europe and the ways you can get involved, find here -> HERE!