“Elevator Pitch” on Zero Interest Microfinance
May 23, 2014
During our work, we had the opportunity to do an “elevator pitch” on zero interest microfinance at ERC institute of Vietnam. The elevator pitch includes a potential internship program between ZiMB and ERC. Click on the picture below to play the video and let us know what you think…
CIEM on Economic Reform and CSR in Vietnam
May 15, 2014
We had the rare opportunity to meet two of Vietnam’s most distinguished economists: Dr. Nguyen Dinh Cung who is the current president of the Central Institute of Economic Management (CIEM) and Dr. Le Dang Doanh who was the former president of CIEM.
CIEM is regarded the leading national economic think tank in the country, and our meeting focused on Vietnam’s economic reform and development along with the development and practice of CSR in Vietnam.
Dr. Doanh provided empirical evidence of a Vietnam that, on the one hand, has maintained a growing trend of its economy in recent years, but that there also plenty of macroeconomic problems such as state owned enterprises having accumulated sources of macroeconomic instability on the other. While the World Bank is optimistic that Vietnam will be able to escape the so-called ‘middle income trap,’ Dr. Doanh is more skeptical about such prospect — unless institutional reform promotes an inclusive democratic regime to increase public involvement of politics.
Meanwhile, Dr. Cung shared with us a survey conducted by CIEM on CSR in Vietnam. The survey found that multinational corporations are responsible for a large proportion of CSR programs in Vietnam, while medium or small business are weak in this field. To change this status quo, one possible way is to start with the state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Through law and regulation, SOEs could be required to have CSR programs and, over time, could collaborate with both foreign companies and local SMEs on enhancing corporate engagement with society.
Potential Collaboration with Pacific Links Foundation
Pacific Links is a Vietnamese NGO with the aim of promoting high-quality early childhood education in rural areas by supporting schools building and providing teacher training workshops.
During a visit to a pre-school in Vinh Long for 3 to 5 years old children that Pacific Links helped built in 2013, we had the opportunity to meet with the founder of Pacific Links, local officials, and the pre-school’s teachers.
Noticing that the wages of public school teachers in Vietnam are quite low, pre-school teachers in Vinh Long are facing various income problems and pressure on both themselves and their families. In addition, the rural pre-schools are under the shortage of teachers, where the ratio of teacher and students is 1:30. Here, Pacific Links’ proposal focuses on utilizing ZiMB‘s loans for its pre-school teachers, so as to expand their agricultural business at home which improves their financial income.
Through our conversations with the pre-school teachers, many will use the loans to improve rice growing along with purchase of pigs and chickens, while the younger college teachers will use the loans for further study in university. For Pacific Links, cooperation with ZiMB would generate sustainable and greater income for pre-school teachers, encouraging them to provide service in the rural areas so that the children can benefit from experienced and dedicated teachers.
Meeting VinaCapital Foundation
During our work in Vietnam, we were very fortunate to have met the CEO of VinaCapital Group and Chairman of the Board of VinaCapital Foundation: Don Lam. Mr Lam spoke to us not only about VinaCapital Foundation which is well-known for its life-saving heart operations for financially disadvantaged children, but also the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Vietnam.
Having an academic background in both commerce and politics, Don Lam emphasized to us the importance of both creating a successful business and knowing the politics of encouraging others to practice CSR. For example, given that local Vietnamese companies are behind in this field, VinaCapital Foundation has an incentive program, matching each dollar that a local company donates to good causes.
In addition, as a leading player in social impact investment, Don Lam invited us to share our ZiMB project with VinaCapital Foundation. He showed interest in our social business model, and have asked us to send him our proposal.
ZiMB Handmade Soap
As members of ZiMB from City University of Hong Kong, we have developed a socially responsible product, ZiMB Handmade Soap, whose profits will go towards zero interest loans in Vietnam.
ZiMB Handmade Soap consists of only natural ingredients of which are beneficial for skin care and are better for the environment. The soap is made by a trusted producer in Hong Kong.
On April 27, we spent a day at Saigon Flea Market in District 7 (Vietnam), marketing our product as a healthy alternative to commercial soap and whose profits will provide financial access to Vietnamese working poor. In fact, we were well received and also met a hotel’s owner who was interested in purchasing our handmade soap for her hotel’s bathrooms.
All in all, we believe that integrating a social business model is pertinent for sustainability and capacity building for any social enterprises or non-government organizations.
Summer 2013 Trip
August 19, 2013
This summer we took the opportunity to work with Vietnamese farmers in Dalat, living in tents along with planting, picking, and cooking vegetables from the farm garden. In addition, we use coffee beans in the area to develop our ZiMBean coffee. All profits from the ZiMBean coffee goes to our zero interest loans.
Making the World Flat
ZiM’s philosophy is to promote global citizenship and student involvement in a world where no one is too far away to help. We have been able to do this by partnering with social enterprises, such as KOTO-Vietnam whose non-for-profit restaurants train street kids for a career in four-to-five star restaurants. In June, we did a social awareness fundraiser at KOTO-Saigon restaurant, generating over $1000 in order to lend to street kid graduates from KOTO training program. In fact, we were on CNNiReport. Below is a video of the social awareness party where young people working in Vietnam’s non-profit sector along with Bauer students participated in a singing contest.
The study abroad trip was awesome! Every day was a new experience! Aside from the busy work that consisted of constant meetings with potential sponsors and partners for the organization, here’s a refreshing video roll of the fun adventures!