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Open the Circle and the social impact achieved in 2021 with Scaling Readiness Programme

Two organizations were supported by the Scaling Readiness Programme in 2021: Vratsa Software Community in Vratsa and the Social Teahouse in Varna. The program was financed by ING’s Community Investment Fund and the ING Sofia Branch to expand the impact of social entrepreneurship in Bulgaria and help more people improve their professional skills and ensure employability.

The supported organizations received funding and mentorship that helped them develop their business plan further and work on a strategy for a sustainable expansion of their business endeavors.

Vratsa Software Community and The Social Teahouse worked with mentors from ING, who voluntarily provided their expertise, especially matched with the organization’s needs, identified in an earlier phase of the programme.

Read more below about  their specific achievements.

Vratsa Software Community – ready to expand its work and provide even more career opportunities for the people of Northwestern Bulgaria

ING mentor: Silviya Simova - Cross-Model Business Analyst, ING Amsterdam

The team of Vratsa Software Community worked with experts from Reach for Change, their mentor from ING Bank – Silviya Simova and external profiled specialists; their collective effort aimed to prepare the organization for an expansion over the next few years so that it could continue its support for people living in one of the poorest regions in Bulgaria and the EU, allowing them to remain fully functional members of society and active citizens.

Within the Scaling Readiness Program, Vratsa Software Community realized a programming course with 64 participants in Montana, and a software testing course with 29 participants. 12 applicants graduated the organization’s QA program, and 9 people from Vratsa got their qualification as programmers. Further 88 people from the region participated in the other programs run by Vratsa Software Community.

Watch the video about Vratsa Software Community

The Social Teahouse opens in Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo

ING mentor: Manuela Petkova, Transaction Services Sales Specialist, ING Sofia

Within the program, the Social Teahouse developed its strategy for a sustainable expansion over a several-year period and will open its places in two more big cities in Bulgaria – Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo. Thus the organization will be able to reach out to even more young people from vulnerable groups, providing opportunities for a career, as well as mentorship for making them feel fully functional members of society, and helping them develop their talents and their professional skills.

During its participation in the Scaling Readiness Program the Social Teahouse provided support to 49 young people from vulnerable groups through creating job opportunities and mentorship and thus it helped them break the circle of social exclusion.

Both organizations will continue their work and expand their activities and the next few years. The ambition and involvement of ING Bank and Reach for Change Bulgaria will remain the same – they will provide support for the organization after the end of the Program too, working together to reduce the number of people at the risk of poverty and social exclusion in Bulgaria and to create a better social environment in regions with the most explicit economic and social needs.

Watch the video about The Social Teahouse.

Open the Circle

Open the Circle is a cross-sector coalition, founded jointly by ING and Reach for Change Bulgaria. 32.5% of the population of Bulgaria lived at risk of poverty and social exclusion, even before the Coronavirus outbreak. This is the highest percentage among all members of the European Union. Led by our desire to change these statistics, we established Open the Circle – a project aiming to empower innovators to develop their sustainable solutions for social inclusion. The project is supported financially by the global ING fund, established to help communities build back better by supporting projects in areas such as financial health, sustainable employment and digital skills.

Read more at Open The Circle