The British Council and the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM) in Vietnam co-chaired a conference on Wednesday in cooperation with the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP) to release the first comprehensive report on social enterprises in Vietnam, calling on the country to implement more effective policies to promote the development of social enterprises.
This follows a preliminary report done in 2008 by CSIP, an organization that supports early-stage social entrepreneurs and mobilizes the participation of government, other enterprises, and community.
Dang Huy Dong, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, said the government understood the need to promote social enterprises alongside public and private sectors as the country faces pressing social issues and economic restructuring. In particular, a new middle-income status means decreased development aid for the country.
The report reveals the status of social enterprises in Vietnam, all of which have characteristics of prioritizing social objectives, operating on principles of the market, and reinvesting profits for expansion.
There is an estimated 200 social enterprises and several success cases highlighted. KOTO is a social enterprise established in 2009 that provides culinary training for street kids, and since 1990, Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts has been improving the lives of poor women and neglected children through training and employment.
Still, the number of social enterprises is small compared to a vulnerable population of 24 million, including those living with disability, HIV, and poverty.
CIEM economist Luu Minh Du pointed out visibility issues with social enterprises. Social Enterprises fill the gap left by government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations which rely heavily on development aid and donors and operate on limited terms. Yet they are often mistaken for charity programs.
The CSIP estimates that there are 165,000 entities in Vietnam that could be transformed into social enterprises and are currently operating as associations or volunteer and community programs.
CSIP director Pham Kieu Oanh also pointed to Thailand’s four-year strategy in 2010 to promote social enterprises, where lessons could be learned for building social enterprise development policies and creating formal training programs from those pioneered through social enterprises.
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