Social Business Start-up: From Initiative to Reality

10:46:29 AM | 8/27/2014

This is the topic of a seminar recently organised by the French-Vietnamese Centre for Management Education (CFVG) in collaboration with the French Cultural Centre (L'Espace), British Council, and the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP) in Hanoi. The seminar provides experience in social business development.
Real story
Tohe is a social enterprise with a mission to bring disadvantaged children a playground of creative art activities and unique opportunities to experience and learn. Their works are selected, designed and used as decorative elements in the Lifestyle products branded Tohe and distributed in Vietnam and international markets. A portion of profits are used to further expand creative classroom programmes and scholarship programmes for the gifted. Tohe also wishes to provide children with career options in creative fields if they are capable, because creative industries generate significant economic value and are becoming a new trend of the world economy (creative economy). is developed and operated by the Di Chung Corporation, a social enterprise established to orient the use of technology to help address some of the serious problems of society, including problems of traffic jams and urban pollution. focuses on developing technologies to support people sharing transportation on the online and mobile platform. This solution helps people share the vacant position on their vehicles, which will save travel costs while reducing the number of vehicles circulating on the roads, thus limiting traffic congestion and reducing air pollution. community was developed with a vision to build a new carpool culture in Vietnam in the next 3-5 years.
These are typical social enterprises which have reaped initial success in Vietnam. This is not a new business model in the world and even in Vietnam, however, the social enterprise model is still rather vague and not getting the attention of many people.
Opportunities to develop initiatives in doing business
Social enterprise model is an opportunity to develop initiatives into doing business. However, “how to develop ideas and to build a social enterprise? What conditions for success? How to mobilise resources, support and invest?” are the concern of many new businesses.
According to experts at the seminar, in the past three decades, the social enterprise movement has grown across national borders and become a social movement globally. According to the statistical analysis, social enterprises are active in all regions of the world from Western Europe, North America, Australia and Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia. The UK is home to the oldest social enterprises and the most developing social enterprise movement today. UK currently holds a leadership position in social enterprise movement worldwide. According to figures quoted extensively, as of 2005, there were 55,000 social enterprises in the UK, who earned £27 billion, contributing £8.4 billion a year to the GDP, employing 475,000 workers and 300,000 volunteers, accounting for 5 percent of the total number of employees in the business sector.
The social enterprise is a very new concept in Vietnam, although at the present time the country has at least 200 organisations which are said to be operating under the social enterprise model and one of the pioneers of social enterprises is KOTO restaurant in Hanoi established in 1999.
According to research, social enterprises are characterised as being in operation; putting social goals on top, redistributing profits; having social ownership and serving the needs of the bottom pyramid (BoP) group. The other features of the social enterprise are initiatives from the grassroots, being open, and linked to the individual roles of social enterprises; social entrepreneurs and employees are doing social work. On the other hand, the social enterprise is the model nicely integrates both form and content of the two models of traditional enterprise and NGO, taking business as the main field of activity, but not for profit, and addressing specific social problems.
Clearly, social enterprise models engage actively in the implementation of social objectives. It is time this new business model should receive more attention from government, business, civil society and investors (individuals and organisations).
Quynh Chi