Artist Residency: Radical imagination for lively villages

Socially engaged artists are invited to join an 1-month artist residency in the vilages Deleyna and Sinagovtsi (Vidin, Bulgaria)

Ideas Factory is heading to the North-West once again (Baba Residence 2019 was in 3 villages in the Vidin region) with its third international art residency. This is the first time it will be held in villages! Below you can find detailed information about the stages and the deep meaning of this intergenerational and intercultural meeting, but if you feel ready to jump right into the application process, click HERE.

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<Radical imagination for lively villages>

Ideas Factory Association is pleased to announce an invitation for artists to participate in a 1-month artistic residency, which will be held in the villages of Deleina and Sinagovtsi (Vidin district) in Northwestern Bulgaria. The residency is part of the European Cultural Foundation’s endorsed cultural and social-entrepreneurial initiatives across Europe in the Democracy Needs Imagination program.

The problems that the residency will look for a solution to

The two villages are located in an area of ​​social, cultural and geographical periphery affected by contemporary political and economic processes. Poverty, depopulation, lack of quality access to culture and a broken link between generations are all part of the consequences of these processes. Therefore, the villages in the area need new approaches that incorporate creative imagination and the means of art as drivers for a beneficial change.

European democracy suffers from a syndrome of radicalized discontent resulting from the breakdown of healthy community ties and trust. We can respond to this by creating an occasion for a meeting between cities and villages, across generations, cultures and life experiences, which will spread messages across Europe of solidarity, empathy and understanding beyond the black and white perspective.

Residencies will provoke and create occasion for a new type of connection – to people and the place itself, but also vice versa – to the broader perspectives and networks that residents bring to these places. The topics and questions that guest artists will work on are: what can be radical artistic actions to defend a position, what can the art of overcoming the inequalities and injustices we see in contemporary society have to offer.


The residency will last for 1 month and will take place from 1 -30 June 2020. It will seek creative answers to the aforementioned problems of our time, paving the way from the periphery to the center and back.

10 artists, visionaries and activists from Bulgaria and other European countries will be accommodated in the homes of local people in the villages of Sinagovtsi and Deleyna. They will communicate with the local people, listen to their needs and stories and use the local community centers for their creative activities. At the end of the residency, during a community event, they will present their artistic projects that in participatory way response to the problems. The final exhibition presenting the artistic responses will be shown first in the villages, then in the regional town of Vidin and finally in Sofia.

Participants will be selected by an open call and interview. Their projects will be implemented, presented, published, exhibited and commented on in the next five months after the end of the residence.

Application and selection

This call is addressed to artists  from Europe (including non-EU countries), from any age and discipline (visual and digital arts, performing arts, music, literature, cinema, etc.) who focus their artistic research and production on socially engaged topics and practices.

The central point of this residency program is to provide a meeting space for different people and create a space for sharing and empathy. Therefore, any type of community-based, participatory and interactive artistic practices are welcome. Artists collaboration is strongly encouraged as well as local people engagement in any stage of the project research and production.

In order to apply, fill the application form HERE.

Application deadline: April 15, 2020.

The selection will be made by the Idea Factory team, program curator and external expert until 25 April 2020.

Half of the selected residents will be from EU Member States and those from outside the EU, and the other half will be Bulgarian and Balkan artists.

Residents will be provided free of charge:

– accommodation and food during their stay at the home of local people; – travel costs (up to 150 euro for EU countries and up to 55 euro for Bulgaria and Balkan countries)

– work space at local community centers.

They will have a small production budget for materials (up to 150 BGN) as use of local resources is strongly encouraged. Any kind of assistance from the curator and project team will be provided to the artists during the residency period.

The selected residents shall pay a participation fee of 100 euro for the whole period of the residency. Ideas Factory can offer two scholarships covering the participation fee for Balkan artists, who have strong will to participate but limited resources to do that. They will be selected based on their motivation to take part in the residency programme.

For more information and inquires:


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


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.


In time of crisis arises a special need of rethinking and reorganizing our environment in order to meet the social needs and deficits which are visible under the weakened system of governance. These social deficits can be filled and that is why the Ideas Factory started working on EMPATHEAST: Forum for Social Change and Open Education in Eastern Europe. The main objective of EMPATHEAST to firmly put Bulgaria and the Balkans on the world map of social innovation and social entrepreneurship. As a region which deals with a dysfunctional political, economic and social system on a daily basis, the Balkans are a unique ground where social innovation can solve old challenges in a new way.

For three days from November 1st until November 3rd EMPATHEAST will gather together leading lectors and practitioners in the field of social change in order to create a space in which we will learn from each other, experiment with creating new models and celebrate the availability of approaches such as Design Thinking and Art of Hosting in a non-conference format. During the Forum, Plovdiv will become the setting in which seemingly foreign subjects will be transformed into pleasant and accessible starting points for reflection. EMPATHEAST will challenge your creativity for social change through lectures, installations, games, concerts and performances, stimulating collective intelligence and systems thinking. It will demonstrate the meaning of “public visioning” (creating a shared vision) and will reflect on intuitive and empathic leadership, self-organizing civil systems, ethical finance, energy independence, human centered design.

EMPATHEAST is much more than an event. It’s a Place. Process. Game.

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!

Baba Residence 2017 final event

Baba Residence 2017 took place in Gotse Delchev region of Bulgaria. Young urban people with diverse background spent their dailyhood from 3rd until 25th of September in Lazhnitsa village. It is a flourishing village – with lively crafts, preserved folklore and a healthy desire of the local people to celebrate life together. Those hale community bonds are one of the most precious examples we all take in our hearts from this Residence.

After living for a month in Lazhnitsa village in the households of young and elderly couples, those 9 young people (“residents”) organized a final event to celebrate the time spent together and the hospitality they met!

As part of the celebration, the residents made a small hanging exhibition with photos of moments with local people. Another important feature of Lazhnitsa is that it is bursting with children ;)

A long-long table with local food specialties was organized by local people! And we all shared it.

A resident Mariya and a friend she made from the village

For the children, the residents organized two workshops. One of them was a competition-like stringing of tobacco leaves. Tobacco is one of the most widespread cultures in the region and the ability to string the leaves – needed.

The long-twisted “horo” dance is a part of every celebration of togetherness in the village. It goes until late night.

One of the beautiful things that will remind for Baba Residence in the village for a long time / birds painted by the resident Ralitsa <3


Have you heard about  “Dugout”  ?

The first Bulgarian grassroots civic online radio is already a fact and the Ideas Factory was happy to help it start! We stepped in with trainings and seminars which the Dugout team affectionately called “Journalistic workshop”. Our aim was to prepare the team of the radio for the quality and the technical specifics of the radio transmission because civic journalists have opinions, but often lack radio experience.

You can hear us too on the radio in the Ideas Factory’s radio slot – every Thursday from 4pm