Building Vratsa Software community for developing digital industry and keeping youths in the region by training, startup support and awareness-raising
Started with Reach for Change –Bulgaria grant, Vratsa Software Community gained success because of the approach towards solving the problem with youth fluctuation in the region by building community, raising awareness and training students and adults with an opportunity to start a new job in the digital industry. Attracting the support of the local government, district administration and civil society organizations, the initiative become very popular among the wide public, which made VSC develop annual program with Coding courses( 9month trainings), Digital marketing, awareness-raising events- Code week, competitions, conferences; hackathons for students and adults; Attracting digital companies to open branches in Vratsa and the region and hire qualified young people, opening co-working space, networking, membership in BESCO, interaction with regional stakeholders and structuring Digital agenda for the district- Digital Hub, digital capability for services for startups, involving the local startup community in changing the mindsets and changing the policy for youths employment. VSC managed to attract stakeholders, experts, and the state administration and local government for a public discussion-Digitalization as an opportunity for growth of Vratsa district and proposed development a project "Vratsa-the digital center of the Northwest region of Bulgaria.
The yearly budget of the VSC is about 30 000 euro so far, with one coordinator at full time and several trainers and volunteers at part-time. The premises are provided by the Municipality of Vratsa, crowdfunding and grants from different programs can cover the needed resources for the activities.
Evidence of success
Over 30 people who completed a full course of training have started a job in the digital industry in Vratsa. Four companies opened offices in the city as VSC prepares qualified students and adults who can work for these companies. Each year more than 20 students participate in national IT events and competitions.
The local vocational tech school started specialty Computer sciences which is one of the most desired. The Municipality and district administration planning to open a Digital Hub
The first challenge was to make popular the idea for digital literacy and education.
Another challenge is to elaborate on a sustainable business plan. So far VSC was funded by Reach for Change social entrepreneurs program (2015), Google Raise Awards (2016) and America for Bulgaria Foundation (2017
Potential for learning or transfer
Holistic approach (awareness-raising, training, Interesting events, and competitions; partnership and networking, volunteering) could be applied everywhere depending on the local conditions and needs. The inspiration from the success of such an initiative in a small and underdeveloped region as Northwest Bulgaria could be motivating.
Building a community for digital literacy gave the opportunity to make a selection of talented and entrepreneurial youths and also to invest in the digital industry in the region is the value of the idea to support startups and work for a better entrepreneurial environment. Because building community is a premise for the growth of the business and enlargement of the opportunities for young people to stay and work for economic and regional development.