A great example of partnership working, within and beyond the EU

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 The Devetaki Plateau Association (DPA) was established in 2008 as a not for profit legal entity, aiming to promote and develop the region for as an attractive centre for tourism, outdoor recreation and learning, with an overall holistic vision of improving the quality of life for the local community.

Throughout our trip we paid visits to many sites in larger towns, such as Troyan, Lovech, and Slievovo, which had been in receipt of EU funding although we learnt that much of the resources made available for the promotion of tourism found their way to the coastal regions of the Black Sea, and the ski resorts dotted throughout the country’s mountainous terrain.

To achieve their objectives and increase their capacity the DPA works with a number of NGO’s across the EU, learning from exchanges to similar regions across Europe to learn more about sustainable tourism, farming methods. Most notably:

Bulgarian Swiss Co-operation Programme

Building Bridges for Innovative Rural Development (BBIRD)

This involved working with AGRIDEA to learn about their experiences in similar matters in Switzerland

The main goal of this project was to reduce economic and social disparities between villages across the Devetaki Plateau and to better use the region’s valuable tourist, cultural and agricultural potential through improved civic co-operation and discussion.

America for Bulgaria Foundation

Vital Communities for Friendly Villages

This agency aims to unite “American optimism with Bulgarian potential” and has its roots in US aid programmes set up in 1989 to support the political and economic transition of former communist countries to free market system.

Support for the Devetaki Plateau Association was provided through the “Vital Communities for Friendly Villages” project, which sought to encourage the villagers of Devetaki Plateau to discuss ideas and develop and implement projects to make their villages “vital, friendly and attractive”. This also resulted in regional initiatives including the involvement of notable outdoor photographers to put on a traveling exhibition in 2013-14 to showcase the beauty of the region.

As Finance Manager at the Scottish Wildlife Trust I spend much of my time looking at the numbers behind our various business areas and portfolio of projects. With our projects especially, we see a growth in the number, size and scope of partnership arrangements. This is a very necessary arrangement given the ambition of mutual objectives and outcomes sought by the stakeholders involved, however, these are often within our own borders and no doubt facilitated by the size and influence that SWT, SNH, RSPB, and various agencies have. I found it particularly inspiring that the Devetaki Plateau Association, as a small collective, could reach beyond its own borders and the EU to find support for its mission in the Swiss & American agencies discussed earlier.

Although we can hardly compare the wealth of Scotland to that of Bulgaria, I can’t help but wonder whether the challenges we could all face from Brexit may see us reach out to partners beyond our own conservation neighbourhood.

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