British Council

Nguyen Phuong Hoa was clearly intrigued with the concepts of creative industry and cultural industry the British Council has unveiled in Vietnam since mid-2000. The Vice Director of the International Cooperation Department (ICD), Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MOCST) has since made positive contributions to the promotion of these concepts in Vietnam, underlined by the government’s recognition of the economic role of culture by approving the “Master plan for cultural industries in Vietnam by 2020 and vision to 2030”.

Nguyen Phuong Hoa said that one of the greatest successes in entering into a partnership with the British Council was introducing the concept of Creative industry/Cultural industry in Vietnam. 

Since 2005, the British Council has been sending specialists to Vietnam to work with the MOCST to hold roundtables on creative/ cultural industries under the auspices of the Creative Britain initiative. Hoa, then a young and energetic Youth Union officer of the ICD, MOCST felt she was ‘enlightened’ by the experience from the UK. She saw it as an opportunity to change the awareness of not just the leaders and policy-makers, but society on the role of culture. “Culture in Vietnam has been viewed as a realm of the mind, and many people often see the MOCST as simply about entertainment and spending money. The creative industry or cultural industry, on the other hand, pictures culture as a money-making business that is moving fast and contributing to the economy. Recent studies also indicate that cultural industries sometimes grow even two or three times faster than conventional industries.” 

Hoa also believes the creative/cultural industry notion was introduced in Vietnam at the right time. Nearly two decades after Đổi Mới, Vietnam has certain economic development foundations in place, as external relations expand and the country gains a specific foothold in the international arena. With a more open-minded outlook, a lot of skepticism and concerns have been removed and she felt lucky to be working in ICD so she can approach new things, as she clearly saw that MOCST could become a ‘leader’ for creative/cultural industry in Vietnam.

Almost overzealous about the concept, the young Youth Union official in a MOCST debating competition among youth leaders, chose creative/cultural industry in the UK as an inspiring story line. She wanted to dig deep and transform the role the MOCST had to play in society. And that is also one of the reasons Hoa later chose the UK for her Master’s degree, majoring Cultural Policy and Art management. 

A long-lasting process of change has evolved. The former specialist was appointed to division assistant manager, division head and Vice Director of ICD and Hoa now continues to make recommendations and collaborate with the British Council to send study missions of senior officials on creative/cultural industry to the UK and numerous in-country roundtables and workshops, as she believes changes should happen from the top-down, with growing awareness and capacity for departmental agencies. She has also energetically shared her creative/cultural industry knowledge with management, involved herself in the coordination and mobilisation of resources from the ministry and other relevant agencies to advocate for the government’s acceptance in developing the “Master plan for cultural industry in Vietnam by 2020 and vision to 2030”. As a result, the government approved the plan in 2016 and creative/ cultural industry was made official in Vietnam. “Over the past decade, from awareness to the release of formal directives, the British Council has been there with us all the way,” Hoa said.

“The strategy was most successful in broadening awareness, as the top leadership saw the role of culture in the developmental landscape. The policy, however, still remains on paper as specific funding or relevant action plans to generate changes are not yet in existence. As such, external support from such organisations as the British Council through specific programmes will be invaluable,” Hoa said. One of the case studies she highly values and supports is the British Council’s Creative Space Project. She believes that creative spaces are grounds to nurture, meet, share understandings and drive creation, and thus are indispensable for cultural industry. 

There is much to be done going forward and Hoa, the former young officer with a dream to transform the “role of the Ministry of Culture in society”, is confident that these great efforts will yield results.

“The British Council is a forerunner in introducing the concepts of creative industry and cultural industry in Vietnam.”