This project was conducted under the New Colombo Mobility Program, a signature initiative of the Australian Government, which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

The program's members talking with Vietnamese children

The Australian students had conducted conversations with Vietnamese entrepreneurs and other stakeholders, meetings with industry professionals, and with organizations supporting social enterprises in Vietnam. Their jobs were “reviewing local markets, researching best practice internationally and locally, and adapting business models to fit with the unique Vietnamese business environment and contexts.” said Dr Linh Nguyen, Director of the Entrepreneurship Development Network Asia Vietnam.

Many social entrepreneurs engaging in the program appreciated the students’ work as they have helped the ventures to better their business and social performance. For example, Thanh Nguyen, the owner of Thanh Nguyen joint stock company and hair salon reflected “We are very lucky to participate in this program three times. Each year, my business faced new challenges and the students always came up with very innovative, practical and accessible solutions to help me sort out my organization’s issues and enhance both my financial and social outcomes”.

Hai Doan, the founder of Kids Needs Books added: “The students gained a lot of insights into our business and their recommendation is really useful to us. It is the right time for us to implement these strategies and we will apply them step by step ” This research project is a part of the Remote and Rural Enterprise (RARE) program, USYD’s community engaged learning program which focuses on bringing practical and accessible recommendations, on the basis of rigorous academic research, market relevant data and enterprises’ information.” Students in this program share their skills, expertise and time with the ventures, while learning to manage uncertainties, multiple stakeholder demands, as well as the human, social, economic, and cultural factors influencing the business’ sustainable growth”, said Dr Jarrod Ormiston, an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney and Assistant Professor in Social Entrepreneurship.

Reflecting on the experience from a student’s perspective, Emerald Williamson shared “I have really loved the fully immersive and hands on experience of the program. It is challenging but always exciting and rewarding. I have learnt so much about working with social enterprises and other stakeholders as well as and about Vietnamese culture. This is by far the best subject I have done and will be an invaluable experience that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my learning career.”

This is the fourth time the program has been held in Vietnam, under the close collaboration between the USYD and VNU-UEB. In addition to cultivating students’ understanding of the challenges and impact of social entrepreneurship, this program enhances students’ analysis and communication skills, promoting cultural competence as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills. Over the last four years, the program has facilitated 40 VNU-UEB students working on 20 projects with social enterprises in Vietnam.

In 2018, more than 13,000 Australian students will take part in New Colombo Plan mobility projects in 35 locations across the Indo-Pacific.

Ms Rachel Ingwersen, the First Secretary of Australian Embassy thanked social enterprises and VNU-UEB for providing Australian students to conduct this special action research project. She believed the insights and understanding as well as the new friendships that Australian and Vietnamese students have established through such meaningful projects will benefit the bilateral relations between our two countries for a long time.

In 2018, more than 13,000 Australian students will take part in New Colombo Plan mobility projects in 35 locations across the Indo-Pacific. That includes 784 students will take part in 30 projects in Vietnam ranging from Human Welfare Studies and Services to Urban Design and Regional Planning. The New Colombo Plan is helping the next generation of Australian leaders learn more about the region by supporting students to study and undertake work placements in the Indo-Pacific.

Reported by Viet Anh-Hoang Bac