Dr Pathik Pathak, University of Southampton, is giving speech 'Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education, a Journey: from Singular Models to Broad Principles'
Dr Pathik Pathak, University of Southampton, is giving speech 'Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education, a Journey: from Singular Models to Broad Principles'

'Social Enterprise in Vietnam: The Roles of Higher Education and Research Institutions” was the focus of discussion during a conference jointly organised by the British Council Vietnam and the Vietnam National Economic University (NEU) on Mar 16 and 17, 2015 within a longer term commitment of promoting Social Enterprises in Vietnam of the two partner organisations. 

The conference attracted more than 130 participants including academics, researchers, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and students. Through the keynote speeches from national and international speakers (Dr Pathik Pathak, University of Southampton; Dr Do Manh Quan, National Economics University and Dr Chandra Yanto, City University of Hongkong) and two panel discussions namely “Embedding Social Enterprise into Higher Education: experience and the way forward” and “Stakeholders Collaboration in Developing Social Enterprise”, participants were inspired with  the increased important role that universities play in promoting social innovation, social business and the development of Social enterprises in the UK, Hong Kong and Vietnam.  The event also witnessed the establishment of the Vietnam’s Scholars Network on Social Enterprise with strong commitment to undertake more research on and initiatives to embed d social entrepreneurship, social enterprises into higher education trainings. It is expected that with this initiative, Vietnamese students will be equipped with better understanding of social entrepreneurship, social enterprises and be ready to contribute sustainably to national social and economic development no matter what career paths they would follow.  

Click on the links below to read thoughts of Dr Pathik Pathak, University of Southampton and Dr Chandra Yanto, City University of Hong Kong.


Social entrepreneurship in Vietnam: the virtues of late adoption? (Dr Pathik Pathak, University of Southampton)

In any field there's always a thrill attached to early adoption. The truth, however, is that early adopters often make the biggest mistakes and being the first mover is not necessarily the best place to be. Think of middle-distance runners; those who set the early pace are not always those who finish strongest.

Vietnamese universities are certainly not among Asia's first to integrate social entrepreneurship into their activities. That's by no means a bad thing. In fact, the role of organisations such as the British Council, which has been doing a sterling job as an advocate, connector and champion of SE in Vietnam since 2009, can ensure that Vietnamese universities can take their status as late adopters and use it to their advantage by identifying universities models around the world and settling on those which are most appropriate to their needs.

Embedding social entrepreneurship in Vietnamese universities 

As the keynote speaker at a conference organised by the British Council and the National Economics University in Hanoi, it was hugely encouraging to see the appetite for social entrepreneurship among universities in Vietnam. Sometimes universities find themselves under isomorphic pressure to integrate social entrepreneurship; responding to sector trends rather than intrinsic motivations related to the research interests of staff, grass-roots student demand and an alignment between the mission and values of universities and social entrepreneurship. Over the two days of the conference it was clear that the universities involved here were motivated by a mix of mission and student demand. There was also a desire to improve the employability of students by using social entrepreneurship to boost both innovation and entrepreneurial skills.

Social enterprises in Hanoi

I also had the opportunity, through the British Council, and along with lecturers from NEU and Thai Nguyen universities, to visit three very different social enterprises. The first was KOTO, (Know One Teach One) one of two restaurants in Vietnam which supports an charitable foundation providing catering skills employment for marginalised youth. Modelled on Jamie Oliver’s 15, KOTO has grown at an astonishing rate since it started in 1999, even if its revenue streams struggle to keep up with the demands of its charitable arm.

The second was Sao Mai (Morning Star) a wonderful school to bring children with autism and other learning difficulties to the point where they can be integrated into mainstream schooling. Sao Mai has been running for 16 years under the leadership of the irrepressible Dr Lan, a qualified psychiatrist who has dedicated her professional life to addressing this particular problem. 

The third was Kym Viet, a start- up social enterprise run by physically disabled including the hearing impaired, who are stigmatised and underemployed in Vietnam (as in much of Asia).

Although the three ventures were incomparable in many ways, from their models, to their missions and their maturity, what struck me as a common theme was their commitment to quality. This was both heartening and remarkable, given the fact that some, such as Sao Mai and Kym Viet, are working under difficult conditions and with uncertainty (particularly in terms of staff retention). There was awareness among the entrepreneurs we met that social enterprises can't compete on branding alone. Equally, it was evident that this drive for quality drew from their dedication to their particular causes.

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Thoughts of Dr Chandra Yanto, City University of Hong Kong

This is my first experience in visiting Vietnam's higher education particularly as it relates to the development of social entrepreneurship education. It is also my first close encounter with the British Council in Vietnam. I found that British Council has been playing an important role as the catalyst in building awareness and interest in social entrepreneurship in Vietnam. This event is critical to spark a faster growth in the SE education in Vietnam, but also in proving opportunities for greater collaboration between the universities, social enterprises and the civil society in Vietnam. My participation in this two-day event in Hanoi was a pleasant and fulfilling one. The British Council organized the event in a professional manner and its capable staffs and leaders were very supportive. I would like to thank British Council colleagues and the British Ambassador for the warmth they extended to us during our stay and certainly the National Economics University for hosting the event. Not only did I find the talks, sharing and symposium useful but also a rewarding experience to meet new colleagues and friends. I wish the British Council and the National Economics University a greater success for many years to come in taking this initiative to the next level.