The second meeting of Alternative B took place in the city of Smolyan, Bulgaria. During a week, young entrepreneurs got together to discuss ideas about how to bring about meaningful social change and share the necessary skills to allow them to carry them through.
The week long workshop received young people from sending organizations in Bulgaria, Denmark, the U.K., and Latvia; as usual, Crossing Borders was the organization to bring more diversity to the people, with participants from Portugal, Greece, Syria, and Poland. We started to get to know each other through a variety of ice-breakers and team-building activities, focused on our cultural backgrounds, personalities, and skills. These were organized and developed by all the participants, as one of the aspects of the week was actually to learn how to conduct a successful workshop.
After making promises and compromises for the week, we were made to think about what we could bring to the table, and also what we wanted to learn during the course, which resulted in two days of workshops put together in short-notice, where each team shared valuable information and tips on how to be successful in different areas. Apart from the ‘how to make a workshop’ workshop, we had the opportunity to learn about story-telling, feature writing, crowdfunding, pitching, management, and much more. Then, the following days, we had the opportunity of putting our newly learned skills to practice in real world scenarios: Tatyana, a young entrepreneur from Bulgaria about to start her second business – mattresses with amber – has presented her project and asked us how to pitch the idea to the market, and how to properly convey the benefits of the product, which included thinking about a visibility and implementation strategy in Bulgaria. Afterwards, we had the pleasure of receiving Dave Davies to talk to us about their wonderful project, the Happy Hippie Hostel; situated in a remote area of Bulgaria close to the Greek border, the hostel was build practically from scratch and with little resources with the help of volunteers. The founders had an unsuccessful venture at Indiegogo, to try to attract funding to push through the necessary papers to make the place a legal sleep-in, and it was up to us to give them advice regarding how to improve their strategy to ensure that the necessary funds will be available when needed.
We also had time to relax in our beautiful surroundings. Hiking to the mountains was a wonderful team building activity in which we truly felt connected with nature and were energized for the final days of the course. The mood change after this trip was visible, as after our reflexion – which was carried on in groups after every work’s day – everyone mentioned how they felt more pumped and with more ideas than ever, proving once again that our surroundings can have a drastic influence on us.
The course ended with a social action in Smolyan’s city center, where participants gave out free hugs and engaged with the local community through dance and exercise in order to talk to them about the benefits of social entrepreneurship. We ended the week like friends and partners, and with the certainty that a long-lasting international network had been built.