BlueLink Information Network
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BlueLink Information Network is a virtual network of Bulgarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in Sofia, Bulgaria, which offers a variety of Internet-based services for NGOs and others interested in issues related to the environment, natural resources and sustainable development. It focuses on three areas: access to information, co-operation between NGOs and other sectors, and access to the new technologies of information in order to support sustainable development, democracy and civil society. It is available in Bulgarian and English.
BlueLink is an established communications and exchange network of active environmental NGOs in Bulgaria. According to the 2010 State of Civil Society report of the Sofia-based Centre for the Study of Democracy BlueLink operates an inclusive electronic platform for civil society representation in state advisory committees and bodies, entitled E-Vote.
BlueLink is the Bulgarian member of the Association for Progressive Communications, an international network of organizations using the Internet and Information and Communication Technologies for social justice and development. Since 2005 BlueLink is one of the initiators of APC's IT for environmental sustainability initiative, currently known as Greening IT. According to APC, BlueLink hosted an international conference of APC members in Varna, Bulgaria. BlueLink handled the logistics for the 10-day summit, and organized a debate titled "Open Access for All" on 7 October 2005. About 50 representatives from the APC member organizations from 32 countries were present along with guest technology experts and environmental activists participating online from Bulgaria and the Balkan region.
According to the Regional Environmental Press Centre for South Eastern Europe, BlueLink started in 1998 as a joint project of environmental NGOs from different cities in Bulgaria. These included ECO-CLUB 2000, Centre for Environmental Information and Education of Sofia, the environmental club Terra of Blagoevgrad, Green Balkans of Sofia, the geo eco-club Academica of Veliko Tarnovo, Za Zemiata, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Preservation Society of Semperviva - Pernik and the Public Environmental Centre for Sustainable Development in Varna.
BlueLink has developed Information and Communication Technology projects for civil society in Bulgaria and in the Balkans. BlueLink’s work has been recognized by the UN project: the Aarhaus Clearinghouse for Environmental Democracy, the Stockholm Challenge awards and by the international network, APC.
In addition to developing ICT tools, BlueLink organizes training workshops for NGOs on the use of ICTs. BlueLink also promotes national, regional and international NGO cooperation by organizing or hosting conferences financed by various grants.
Around February 2005, the APCNews reported that BlueLink had "developed and published a Bulgarian language manual on the strategic use of the internet for civil society organisations (CSOs)." According to this report, the manual teaches CSOs "how to work effectively in electronic network, and how to improve and optimize significantly their work using ICTs." Its stated aim was to fill in the "gaps in the knowledge" of the CSOs on the opportunities that the electronic communication offers via internet, and to explore the options of their effective use in organizations' work. APCNews also said that the guide includes tips on how to communicate in mailing lists, how to build a useful and representative website, on-line activism, and more.
This manual is available only in Bulgarian and is used as a basic training material in BlueLink's trainings. It is based on the group's experience while educating NGO members how to improve their work and efficiency via the internet. It was written almost three years ago (as of 2007) and currently it has undergone some upgrades.
Milieu Kontakt Oost Europa says "Some of the NGO-networks (Ekomrezabih Bosnia and Herzegovina, StrawberryNet Romania and BlueLink Bulgaria) are rather active and disseminate environmental information, including information on the Aarhus Convention.)
In July 2009 BlueLink launched an online platform where citizens can file alerts of illegal logging in Bulgaria's forests, and announced trainings for volunteers, willing to use the system, Actualno.com reported .
BlueLink Information Network was founded in 1997 by social and environmental activists with the aim of improving the capabilities of the Bulgarian NGO sector through the use of Information and Communication Technologies. The BlueLink Pilot Project was started by ECO-CLUB 2000, a Bulgarian Environmental NGO, with the financial assistance of Milieukontakt Oost-Europa, a Dutch NGO which supports environmental sustainability in the countries of Europe and Asia. In April 1999, the Bulgarian NGO recognised BlueLink's as coordinator of the sector for electronic communications. This role was integrated into the “Final Declaration” of the National NGO Meeting.
Management and organization
BlueLink Information Network is a joint initiative of several Bulgarian environmental NGOs and concerned citizens, referred to as "BlueLink's Founders”. In its grassroots stage, the network was financially supported by the Dutch Foundation Milieukontakt Oost Europa.
BlueLink was registered as a foundation under Bulgaria’s Non-Profit Organizations Act in 1999. According to its charter, registered in the Sofia City Court, BlueLink is governed by an Executive Board appointed by the Council of the Founders – the supreme body of BlueLink. To fulfill its mission BlueLink receives grants from sponsor organizations in Bulgaria and abroad. BlueLink also receives donations from organizations, which make use of its services. BlueLink is operated by an Executive Board. The supreme body of BlueLink is the Council of the Founders made up of the eight NGOs and three individuals responsible for creating BlueLink.
The activities of BlueLink are implemented jointly by the network's founders, contracted network team members and voluntary contributors.
The advisory body of BlueLink has been called the "Advisory Council" since March 2009. It consists of all Founders or their representatives, members of prominent environmental NGOs, as well as individual activists.
Founders of this organisation were: Eco-club 2000; Centre for Environmental Information and Education, Sofia; Environmental Youth Club Terra, Blagoevgrad; Academica GeoEcoClub, Veliko Tarnovo; Balkani Wildlife Society, Sofia; environmental association Za Zemiata (For the Earth), Sofia; Bulgarian Biodiversity Preservation Society Semperviva, Pernik; Pavel Antonov, Vassil Beyazov and Willem Tjebbe Oostenbrink.
BlueLink Executive Board and Team
It currently (2012) comprises Natalia Dimitrova (Chair) from the Environmental Club Terra - Blagoevgrad; Pavel Antonov; Petko Tsvetkov from the Bulgarian Biodiversity Protection Foundation, and Andrey Ralev from the Balkani Wildlife Protection Association..