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.

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.

A new intern

New intern – new banitsa (traditional Bulgarian pastry) ;))
This is turning into something like a tradition at the Factory – especially when it comes to making our international interns feel at home.

In September 2016, Asta from Lithuania, one very charming creature, contacted us for the first time. She was our first international intern.
In January this year, while she was doing her university research, Frederic from Quebec, Canada found us and here she is. That’s how she decided to introduce herself: