Community development

Step Out of the Box: Open Your Mind for Difference


Who is behind this?

Pavlina Petrova

Vibrant Village Foundation (VVF)



Idea pitch

People of fragmented community in depopulated Brestovo in the poorest EU region will be challenged for common interactions, different perspectives, deliberate dialogue and to step in others’ shoes. Discussion club and international festival will be initiated and organized as space for community and civic engagement. Bulgarian and European celebrities and guests’ participation will support blossom of democracy, European values, empathy and humanity; and boost local development in a smart way.

Where will your project idea take place?

The project will take place in Brestovo Village, Lovech Municipality, Northwestern Bulgaria

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

There is huge regional disproportion in Bulgaria. The rural areas are facing vast depopulation. There is lack of adequate systemic policies toward the rural development. People in the countryside are left with two choices - to leave or to fight poverty on their own.
Brestovo is a village in the southern skirts of the Balkan mountain with all natural, climate, historic, etc. conditions to offer a decent life to its inhabitants. It is part of one of the fastest depopulating municipalities. More than 2500 people used to live in Brestovo, now they are about 120. In these tough circumstances the local community is highly defragmented in old people, proactive people, few businesses, people who would like to live in Brestovo but with future, group around the passive village manager.

Who are you doing it for?

The project aims at opening Brestovo to different perspective of development in any meanings - community, civil, cultural, social, etc. They project activities present stages for expressing different, stigmatized, polarized, excluded, marginalized, etc. opinion on national and international level.
Target groups – all local people
Beneficiaries - local and regional communities, NGOs, VVF, artists, national and EU changemakers
Audiences – local, regional, national audiences, NGO sector, cultural sector, artists, national and European actors of change.
We will include and use
- social media, TV, radio – we have very good connections
- well-known Bulgarian and EU key speakers/guests - politicians, economists, artists, actors of change, etc.

How do you plan to get there?

The community regeneration process requires multicomponent interventions with impact on personal and community level. The chosen methods complement each other. ‘Placecheck’; Open space; Institutional Engagement; Storytelling; The Learning, Evaluation and Planning toolkit; Deliberative Dialogue, etc are methods where people are intentionally brought together for community engagement and understanding across differences.
Project steps: reviving cohesive local community by classic community meetings and activities, creating a strong connection with the “outside” world, organizing a national discussion club and international festival in a less traditional way of engaging participants through “unconference” formats - PechaKucha, TED, art, installations, thematic brunches, open-air events, etc

What are the expected results?

In a year from now local people from а defragmented group will transform in a cohesive community with confidence to be:
- active part of the world
- open to new perspectives for proactive citizenship and community engagement
- connected to the EU values
The village will be:
- beautifully tidy with residents who remembered that caring for the common good is caring for themselves.
- be home to unique for Bulgaria events where famous people present polar opinions provoking reflection on important local, national, European and world topics.
The village will become attractive for many visitors that will lead to local social, cultural and economic life revival.
Brestovo will be a generator for further regional development - it will gradually expand activities in neighboring areas.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

The democratic processes and links have been severely damaged in Brestovo. Most of the people here have practically no horizon in front of them. They do not believe in the state, police, NGOs, their neighbors, EU, in anything.
Our idea is to rebuild the connections within the village community. Gradually we will involve almost all residents in different project activities.
Local people will be challenged to:
- work together for the village development
- make common democratic decisions
- go beyond their comfort zone by meeting new, different people, other points of view
- feel like an active citizens of Europe.
The community will be mobilized on local level, slowly the activities will upgrade to regional and national level to get finally to a festival as annual international event.

Why is this idea important to you?

VVF is a union of a large group of people caring for the wellbeing of people in Brestovo, ready to invest skills and time in VVF activities; proven professionals in different areas, well acquainted with the problems in Bulgaria.
Our depopulated village could be accepted as a burden for the traditional regional and social life at the moment, but in fact it is a “dormant asset” that might and should be awaken.
The project team was caught by the idea of a social innovation, reviving depopulating regions through a bottom-up initiative, aimed at building an active and long-term commitment to the local community problems.
We live here and would like to connect our future with thjis place, we are devoted to make our village vibrant thus to reawake the Sleeping Beauty Brestovo!

€ 55000,-

Total budget

€ 50000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Personal – 15 000 EUR
Travel and Accommodation – 15 000 EUR
Materials for social inclusion activities and visual arts – 21 000 EUR
Public Relations – 4 000 EUR

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

If you have past experience in activities in depopulated areas with high level of unemployment and poverty (average pension 100 EUR and monthly salary 300 EUR) we would love to hear about.
Your willingness to take part in our events
If you would like to cooperate within this or other ideas.



Anna Ganeva

Idea created on May 27, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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