“Midwife” of Vietnam’s Social Business Community

Being one of the first people who introduced the concept of “Social Business Community” to Vietnam, Pham Kieu Oanh - the founder and Managing Director of the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP) has been honorably named on the list of 20 most influential women in Vietnam by Forbes Vietnam  for her outstanding contributions to the formation and development of the social business community in Vietnam.

When Pham Kieu Oanh was working for some social and non-governmental organisations, she thoroughly understood the important role of enterprises in the community, especially solving social issues, such as helping street children and vulnerable groups and protecting women against trafficking. Without the support from social organisations, the state would hardly address these issues.

While participating in a project on preventing trafficking of women and children which was funded by her friend, an Irish businessman, Oanh shared many issues in Vietnam with this friend and what she had done but found it not enough so she wanted to find out a more effective and sustainable way. Understanding what Oanh needed, her friend introduced her to social business models which were new to her at that time.

Pham Kieu Oanh, Founder of CSIP, is regarded as
the “midwife” of Vietnam’s social business community. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang/VNP

Pham Kieu Oanh (far left) hosts a symposium on
“Social Enterprises – An Innovative Approach for Vietnam Civil Society Organisations”. Photo: File

Pham Kieu Oanh (first left) speaks at the Social Investment Forum 2013.

She attends a seminar of social enterprises.

The founder of CSIP shares her experiences in building the net of social enterprises.

Pham Kieu Oanh talks with her colleagues about social enterprises that CSIP has supported. Photo: Thanh Giang/VNP

With the help of her friend, she had opportunities to visit some social enterprises in Ireland and she was impressed and completely convinced of their sustainable, effective, proactive and creative way which basically repair shortcomings of social organisations – passive, limited capital and creativeness and instability. From these models, Oanh learned that a social business model is established with an ultimate goal to solve one or more social or environmental problems rather than to maximise profits for owners or investors.

Oanh said that prior to the time she brought the concept of social business to Vietnam, there existed some economic models operating similarly to social businesses. These were non-profit businesses and their trade was a way and a mode to help or support social issues. Therefore, when the concept of social business was introduced to Vietnam, it helped these existing organisations to be called by the right names and promote the establishment and development of the social business community in Vietnam.

Today, her desire has partly materialised with the social business community in Vietnam of more than 200 social enterprises together with thousands of social organisations which are operating for social goals.

The centre invested 630,548 dollars for 52 social enterprises, including 446,858 dollars of score capital. The social businesses also mobilised 2,630,000 dollars as fixed capital thanks to their business models. It means that every one dollar invested by CSIP, four dollars will be created by social businesses.

Apart from social enterprises which find themselves feasible business solutions to address social issues, CSIP has expanded its support-receiving objects, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) to develop social business branches with a stable target to continually pursue the mission through business initiatives and financial stability. It also supported inclusive businesses which operate a model combining business activities and social objectives such as bringing benefits to the vulnerable community and the poor via creating jobs, providing products and services, solving the failure of social businesses which were founded by the locals in poor and difficult localities to meet the local demands or make indigenous products more valuable, contributing to the improvement of the livelihood and sustainable development in localities.

Pham Kieu Oanh with her partners and volunteers at a meeting themed “CSIP and friends”. Photo: File

Pham Kieu Oanh (second right) is honoured thanks to her contributions to the community. Photo: File

She on behalf of CSIP receives the NGO Vietnam Award 2014.

Besides supporting social businesses, Oanh has actively lobbied to put the social business into law, specifically the revised Law on Enterprise in 2014 which includes articles and terms of social business. Besides her work as a Managing Director of CSIP, Oanh is the co-founder of the Asian Social Business Network, a member of the Asian Charity Association and the founder of Vietnam’s Social Business Club.

Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Tran Thanh Giang & Files