Solidarity Bulgaria is a discussion network of citizens believing in the values of freedom, solidarity and justice. The initiative promotes discussions on important social issues, ranging from poverty to social security to housing. The Group is active in social & environmental issues as well as standards of living. The aim is to empower civil society and restore solidarity through active discussions, public initiatives, drafting of legal changes and elaboration of position papers.
Photo courtesy of Solidarity Bulgaria
Holding Organisation: Association "Solidarity Bulgaria" Status: NGO Financing: Membership fees People involved in the project: "Solidarity Bulgaria" exists in two forms: Facebook discussion group - with about 600 members; and the Association - with 20 members. Public Partners: State institutions, local authorities, trade-unions and NGOs. Private Partners: No Creation Date: March 17th, 2010 Sources & Links: www.solidbul.eu; e-mail: solidarnabulgaria à gmail.com Contact Persons: Ivo Hristov, Initiator & driver, e-mail: ivohrist à gmail.com
All initiatives and public awareness campaigns conducted by SB have, as a common denominator, to tackle the social disparities and support the most vulnerable groups. WB is a platform for the empowerment of citizens through active participation. Currently, two concrete initiatives have been selected for their relevancy: a) social housing policy & b) Proposals for amendment and supplement to the Act for Guaranteed Receivables of Workers and Employees in Case of Insolvency of the Employer.
The local context
The highly fragmented and individualised Bulgarian society needs deliberate actions for the restoration of social links. Initiatives that help citizens to regain the state are urgently needed. At present, SB has two particular initiatives:
- Social housing policy: across the country, the liquidation of old social housing and corrupt practices is transforming today's municipal housing policy into a business for powerful individuals and moving it away from its social function. Meanwhile, many European countries are pursuing active social housing policies that contain working solutions relaing to the Bulgarian issues.
- Employees' rights: there is the necessity to ensure that workers/victims of bankruptcy receive their due claims, a factor that the current Bulgarian legislation does not guarantee effectively. A fund to meet the needs of workers made redundant exists but it is not functioning properly since approximately 57% of the expenses incurred are used for the maintenance of the fund rather than cover unpaid wages.
The starting point
SB started as a conceptual community on Facebook in 2009. In 2010, the most active core of the Facebook community registered the association with the same name. Even today, volunteer work is the key driver of the activities in the group. We start different initiatives according to the most urgent problems in Bulgarian society.
How does it work
SB operates in three different forms: a community on Facebook, an NGO and a website. Facebook is a platform for debate and information campaigns; the NGO is a laboratory for elaborating demands and drafting project proposals; and the website is a media vector of the association, which, incidentally, incorporates a large number of professional journalists with visibility in the mainstream media.
Concerning the rights of employees, we have presented proposals for amendments and supplements to the Act for Guaranteed Receivables of Workers and Employees in Case of Insolvency of the Employer - aimed at the the release of existing, non-functioning funds of over BGN 200 million to meet the needs of workers made redundant.
Concerning social housing, we review and analyse social housing policy standards in Bulgaria and recommend a range of solutions taken from other European countries.
Participation and governance
SB operates in accordance with its statutes: the Facebook group is closed and managed by administrators, as is the website. Participation in the activities of the group is voluntary. It is a place for open debate and a mechanism for coordinating the activities of its members. The Facebook discussion group has already more than 600 members.
Added value of the project
It is difficult to assess the impact of the multiple campaigns and daily debates on countless social issues. It is quite certain that some of them are making people more aware of issues relating to poverty, equality, access to education, quality of life by ensuring ecological environment, etc. As for the social housing policy project, its effect would be significant since those in need account for several tens of thousands of citizens. The same holds true should we succeed in the adoption of the proposals for an amendment and supplement to the Act for Guaranteed Receivables of Workers and Employees in Case of Insolvency of the Employer.
Administrative complexities of project funding strongly hinders any voluntary initiative in Bulgaria. The main problem for the overall activities of SB is financing.
The pressure to protect employees' rights will continue together with trade-unions, media and other stakeholders. For the social housing policy we insist that the problem be recognised by local and national authorities in order that adequate measures be taken. SB has already proved its efficacy even in the absence of funding. It concentrates a wealth of expertise and resources, giving us reason to believe that the problem of funding can be solved. The established Bank of Competence and Bank of Time (voluntary work) guarantee that the activities will continue.
Proposals for change
A simplification of procedures and documentation to apply for project funding is necessary. The current situation feeds administrative and consultation businesses but hinders genuine civil initiatives.
Other valuable projects
While impoverishment in the EU has existed previously, the onset of the global crisis escalated poverty levels in Bulgaria to such an extent that the social divide (in particular the middle class) almost disappeared. The growing impoverishment and daily struggle for survival led to alienation in our society. The well-off citizens have little insight into the lives of their poorer fellow citizens and the lower middle class has no time, energy and patience to engage with the problems of poverty, which in fact follow them every day.