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Social Enterprise in Vietnam

Vietnam’s economy has radically transformed over the past few decades. Despite this, Vietnam continues to grapple with social challenges such as poverty, unequal access to public health and education and the need for environmental sustainability.

Social enterprises are businesses with a social mission, set up to address these challenges. In the past decade, interest in social enterprise and social entrepreneurship has grown significantly in Vietnam, not only among budding entrepreneurs, but also among non-governmental organisations, policy makers, funders and academics.

In 2014, social enterprise was officially recognised as a distinct type of organisation in Vietnam’s Enterprise Law. This was an important milestone, enabling the ecosystem to further develop with the support of a range of stakeholders.

Subsequently, new social enterprises have emerged and other organisations that were already pursuing a social enterprise model have embraced the concept and terminology. More intermediaries and networks have been founded; several universities have started social enterprise incubation programmes; and further new social enterprises have been established.

This study was commissioned by the British Council. The purpose of the study is to map the Vietnamese social enterprise landscape and to identify key opportunities and issues that need to be addressed to create a healthy and sustainable ecosystem for social enterprises to thrive.

This research is based on quantitative information obtained from a total of 142 survey respondents across Vietnam. This data is further supported by in-depth interviews and roundtable sessions with social entrepreneurs, government agencies, funders, support organisations and other key stakeholders.

We have found that the social enterprise sector in Vietnam is diverse, vibrant and growing. There is a new wave of start-up social enterprises in Vietnam. These are profitable businesses and optimistic about the future. They take diverse legal forms and work across a range of sectors across the country.

Most social enterprises in Vietnam are on a mission to create jobs. They are supporting disadvantaged people and are nurturing spaces for women and young people to take on leadership roles. Nearly half of social enterprise leaders are women, compared to 37 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) more widely.

Yet, like any other businesses, social enterprises do face barriers, and support is crucial to helping them overcome these. The government has developed significant policy steps to support SMEs in general and social enterprises in particular, but more work is needed, particularly on policy implementation. Social enterprises should be supported to make better use of existing policies, programmes, funding and incentives available to them. Meanwhile, other stakeholders can do more to help spread greater awareness and understanding of social enterprise across Vietnam more widely.

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