Final Conference

OCTOBER 2020

FINAL CONFERENCE FOR WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP UNDER THE “ERASMUS+” PROJECT ORGANIZED BY D. A. TSENOV ACADEMY OF ECONOMICS - SVISHTOV

On October 7, 2020 at 12 o’clock Bulgarian time in the meeting room “Rectorat” and the hall “Prof. Dinitar Barov” of D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics a final conference was held. It presented the results of the Project No. 2018-1-BG01-KA203-048016 “European Partnership for Social Inclusion and Creation of Skills for Women Entrepreneurship E-learning”, funded by the Erasmus+ program, Key Activity 2 – Cooperation for Innovation and Exchange of Good Practices in the Higher Education Sector. The deadline for implementation of the project activities is 1 September 2018 – 31 October 2020, and the amount of financing is 202 292 euros. The main goal of the project is to create an innovative platform for the exchange of experience and good practices in support of the development of women’s entrepreneurial skills, which will facilitate access to digital technologies in formal and non-formal education of disadvantaged students. The development of women’s entrepreneurial skills is expected to provide employment and economic growth in the regions of the partner organizations. The consortium of partners who implemented the project is: D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics – Svishtov – coordinator and beneficiary; EUROPEAN STRATEGIC PARTHNERSHIPS LTD. – partner from Great Britain; EUROFORM RFS – partner from Italy.

The scientific forum attracted over two hundred participants, sixty of whom joined online, and the event was broadcast live on the partners’ Facebook pages. Guests at the closing ceremony of the project were: Prof. Mariyana Bozhinova, PhD – Rector of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics; Prof. Lyubcho Varamezov, PhD – Vice-Rector “Education and Accreditation”; Prof. Polya Angelova, PhD – Vice-Rector “Research and Human Resources Development”; business representatives, governmental and non-governmental organizations; lecturers; PhD-students and students; the management teams of the partners; stakeholders.

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The final conference was opened by Assoc. Prof. Svetoslav Iliychovski, PhD – the Project Manager. He welcomed the participants in the conference and expressed his satisfaction with the opportunity to meet the business, the education and the local and national authorities which work together for the development of women’s entrepreneurship in Bulgaria and around the world. The Rector of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics Prof. Mariyana Bozhinova, PhD greeted the participants and expressed her satisfaction with the finalization of the large-scale project and the holding of final international conference. She highlighted the relevance of the topic and she also focused on entrepreneurship as a factor for the economic development. She added that in the context of gender equality in the present it is necessary to pay special attention to creating women’s entrepreneurial skills. After the implementation of the project, Prof. Bozhinova wished the generation of new ideas and opportunities for social inclusion of women in the field of entrepreneurship of the three partner countries.

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The results of the project were presented by the partners in the following sequence:
The moderator of European Strategic Partnerships Ltd. presented Intellectual Output 1 and 2 – Comparative analysis of the need for training on women’s entrepreneurship in the three partner countries and development of training methodology. The aim of the study is to make an assessment on the basis of empirical data between the demand and supply of skills for women’s entrepreneurship and digital skills from low-skilled labour in trade and logistics. The empirical results, analysed from the completed questionnaires from the target group (a total of 343 respondents in the three countries), highlighted a range of necessary knowledge, skills and competencies. The 90-page study can be made available to the interested parties.

The presenter from ESP Ltd. presented the methodological framework of the training technology and the developed modules – a manual of over 70 pages. The result of the hard work of the teams from the three countries is the writing of a “Women’s Entrepreneurship Training Manual” which is over 200 pages. After clarifying the main aspects of the training, the participants got acquainted with a short film about the pilot training in London in July 2019 – a training seminar, which was attended by 30 women from Bulgaria and Italy, with the main goal to acquire practical knowledge, skills and competencies in the field of entrepreneurship to help them start their own business in the future, as well as to improve their communication skills and interaction in an intercultural environment.

The Italian partner presented part of Intellectual Output 3 – Platform for sharing knowledge and good practices and a forum for exchanging ideas. The project website (www.women-entrepreneurship.eu) was presented by directly sharing the electronic content posted on it.

Attention was focused on the topics of interest to the target group in the forum of the site. The presentation of the training platform was made by Assoc. Prof. Marusya Smokova-Stefanova, PhD – presenter from the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, who emphasizes the individual attributes contained in the e-learning system to each of the modules.

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After the coffee break, with organized catering, Assoc. Prof. Marusya Smokova-Stefanova, PhD continued with the presentation of the latest Intellectual Output 4 – Testing and Development of Media Content. The purpose of it is to test the operation of the system, detect errors and problems and assess the satisfaction of participants with work of the modules. The target group for testing covers 150 people – 50 from each partner country. The actual number of participants tested varied for the different modules from 159 to 186. Following an analysis of the summarized results of the survey, it was concluded that the level of satisfaction of the participants with the electronic content of the modules is very high.

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The floor was given to the representatives of the target group from Bulgaria (students from the specialty “Trade Economics”) and from Italy. Yanitsa Nikolova from D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and Julia Conti from Euroform RFS shared their impression of the training in London. They highlighted the good organization, the preparation of appropriate interactive electronic materials and the cultural program prepared by the English partner. The ladies re-experienced the visit of the United Kingdom and stressed its importance in broadening the cultural worldview and increasing personal self-confidence.

Gergana Doininska from D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and Greta Buffalo from Italy shared their impressions during the testing of the electronic content in the modules included in the Learning Platform. They emphasized the opportunity to get acquainted with the way of working in a virtual environment. The intuitive organization of the project site and the modules, as well as the gradual enrichment and diversification of the educational content in them, were highlighted as a leading indicator of the quality of educational content.

Maya Aleksieva from D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics expressed great satisfaction with her participation in the project and stressed that she went through the training in London, the first phase of testing the teaching materials in the Platform and the examination through the case studies. Her personal opinion is that the recourses are very well selected, accessible and interesting to apply in practice; each of the modules builds on the previous one, revealing the semantic connection between them; the case studies contribute to clarifying its weaknesses identified after completing the entrepreneurial skills assessment questionnaire. Ms. Aleksieva has gained confidence to generate her own ideas and did not hide her hope that in the future this will affect her entrepreneurial attitudes when starting her own business.

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In the final phase of the event, prominent stakeholders and active women entrepreneurs presented their views on the development of women’s entrepreneurship. Desislava Nikolova, founder of Motoreta Group (the first Bulgarian company producing electric scooters under its own brand), took part as a guest lecturer at the Academy of Economics. Ms. Nikolova read a lecture on “The role of women in green technologies”. She welcomed the project team to take on the challenge of researching and supporting the development of women’s entrepreneurship in Bulgaria by broadening the participants’ worldview through e-learning. The lecturer from Italy, Giovanna Giordano, is the CEO and founder of "Escamotages", an independent consulting firm that works and facilitates business in developing IT strategies and focuses on IT training for the general public. She is the author of three books, including “Women’s computer science. Unknown stories of women who changed the world” – as was the subject of her lecture. Lecturers from the United Kingdom were Julia Stark and Dr. Yvonne Thompson, who both read a joint lecture on “RESILIENCE”. Julia Stark is a former investment banker, international TEDx speaker, author and passionate serial entrepreneur. She is the founder of FAB Academy, a business academy for women, president of the European Women’s Association, a member of the executive board of Wintrade Gloibal, connecting world leaders and managers, creating a positive impact worldwide. She works with some of the biggest brands, such as: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Deloitte, Cargill etc. Dr. Yvonne Thompson, CBE, FRSA, is a British business leader and International public speaker who is founding member of radio station Choice FM, music editor of Root magazine, managing director of marketing and PR company ASAP Communications, president of the European Federation of business owners of black women, now transformed into a global network of entrepreneurs for women WinTrade. The ladies emphasized the global trends among women to express their desire to start their own business and develop entrepreneurial activity. The creation of sustainable cooperation between women and various organizations through the Internet is the basis for the development of women’s entrepreneurship in the context of the crisis caused by COVID-19.

The discussion opened a number of issues, most of which were related to the possibilities for establishing contacts and networks for cooperation both at the local level and at the international level in order to further disseminate the results of the project.

The final conference lasted 4 hours and at16.00 Bulgarian time it was closed by Assoc. Prof. Svetoslav Iliychovski, PhD, who thanked all participants. He emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation between educational institutions and business in order to support the development of women’s entrepreneurship in Bulgaria and worldwide. He thanked the partners from ESP Ltd. UK and Euroform RFS Italy for the fruitful collaboration and the successful work done, as well as to the experts and the management team from the Academy of Economics. Assoc. Prof. Iliychovski, PhD, noted that without the efforts of all parties the activities and tasks of the project could not be completed successfully. He wished all participants good health, success and new meetings.