Dieu-Anh (Annie) Tran Reveals a Global Perspective on Social Impact

May 11, 2023 | | 0 Comments

Annie Tran

In this conversation with Annie Tran, a social entrepreneur from Vietnam, we delved into the fascinating world of social entrepreneurship, focusing on Vietnam and Columbus, Ohio. Annie is passionate about empowering social entrepreneurs and helping them positively impact their communities. Her extensive experience in social entrepreneurship and commitment to inspiring others to effect change through their work truly makes her a force to reckon with in this field.

The conversation began with Annie discussing the legal recognition of social enterprises in Vietnam. Unlike in the US where social enterprises are not legally recognized, social enterprises in Vietnam enjoy legal recognition and can receive funding from both investors and grants. This distinction in the legal frameworks around social entrepreneurship between the two countries paints an interesting picture of how the sector is viewed and supported globally.

Shifting the focus to Columbus, Annie shared her insights on the social entrepreneurship landscape in this part of the US. Unlike their Vietnamese counterparts, social entrepreneurs in Columbus aren’t solely driven by profit. Instead, they are propelled by compassion and collaboration, focusing more on sharing their personal stories and uplifting the quality of life in their communities.

Annie also offered her vision for the future of social enterprise in Vietnam. Central to her perspective is the role of community engagement and reflective practices, which can harness local resources and talents most effectively. She believes that leadership development, global action from local reflection, networking, engagement, and continuous growth are key components to nurture the growth of social enterprises.

For those interested in social entrepreneurship and cross-cultural perspectives on the topic, Annie’s experiences and insights into the social entrepreneurship scene in Vietnam and her observations of the scene in Columbus make for an illuminating listen.

Key takeaways from the conversation with Annie include:

  1. Understanding the legal recognition of social enterprises in Vietnam and how it contrasts with the US.
  2. A glimpse into the driving forces behind the social entrepreneurship movement in Columbus.
  3. An appreciation of how social entrepreneurship in Columbus is motivated by compassion and collaboration.
  4. Insight into Annie’s vision for the future of social enterprise in Vietnam, strongly emphasizing community engagement and reflection.

In essence, Annie Tran is a testament to social entrepreneurship’s power. Her passion for empowering others and positively impacting her community is truly inspiring. As social entrepreneurship continues to evolve across the globe, Annie’s insights provide a valuable perspective on the varying nuances and trajectories of this movement.

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:12] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business and increase their sustainability footprint. I'm your host, Adam Morris, and I'm so excited to have on my friend Annie Tran today. We met last summer when she was visiting Columbus from Vietnam, and we're gonna dive into this whole story and share her experience with social entrepreneurship.

So Annie, welcome on the podcast.

[00:00:41] Annie: Hi, Adam. I'm so excited to be here.

[00:00:44] Adam: Ah, me too. This has been a long time coming. Before we begin, can you share your full name in Vietnamese?

[00:00:52] Annie: My full name in Vietnamese yeah it's not easy for pronunciation for Western people.

[00:01:00] Adam: Great. And let's start with your trip to Ohio and how we met.

[00:01:05] Annie: Yeah. My journey to Columbus it is it's from a question in 10 years ago. After graduated from the university, I bring the question in my mind that, what's the model of the social intervention to narrow the gap and empower vulnerable communities?

Because I prefer to be doer and practicioner rather than listener only. So after two years working for a resource office. I start to support in an non-government organization in Vietnam and start my own social enterprise.

[00:01:48] Adam: What did that look like?

[00:01:50] Annie: I start my first source enterprise which sell the body love, ring and nature friendly cleaning solution for urban life time fly after a time of operating that social enterprise, I realized that there are many social entrepreneurs who are women injured facing too many challenges.

I asked myself how we could open models and how we can create more solution to promote the movement of social entreprenuership in Vietnam. In 2019 my professional path has formed to be a facilitator and be the coach in this field. And I have been expanding into the coaching and mentoring programs for women and George in Asia.

[00:02:49] Adam: Neat.

[00:02:50] Annie: I wish to be a companion of ethnic merit groups, women and who are vibrant, compassionate and growing, but they are lacking consultation from sustainable financing control and social impact measure ability. I try to support them with this journey to be social entrepreneurs. If I ask the journey, I have experience.

[00:03:18] Adam: What are some examples of what they look like?

[00:03:21] Annie: For example one woman from mountainous area, and she's ethnic minority people. She belongs to ethnic minority group in Vietnam. She has compassion in a farming and she also. Realize that good education can support for children in mountain area. But there are many difficulties for her to learn about financial, learn about the business model, and learn the good way to operate her own business.

So when I, working for a program, that provide training costs for ethnic minority people is now focusing on woman group. I also learned from them and I could share to her that my experience in build my own business. How to market the products, how to share the story of the branding and how to deal with the problems of a human resource.

So that is a great typical example to support for the micro influencers in local communities

In the end of 2021, I applied for a program named Young South East Asia leadership initiative professional fellow program. The program followed by Obama. And then I got sponsor and support from US Development State to travel and we connected with an organization as a valuable exchange in my career path.

[00:05:08] Adam: I didn't realize it existed until you came over and it's amazing because it brings leaders from all over Southeast Asia to different cities in the us.

[00:05:19] Annie: yeah.

[00:05:20] Adam: and there's like different groups right there. They're, they have different focuses.

[00:05:25] Annie: Yeah. Got.

[00:05:27] Adam: so what focus did your group have?

[00:05:29] Annie: There are four teams in that program and my team is the economic empowerment. So the fellows in our team, they are maybe working for the incubation program. They working as a supporter for social entrepreneurs, or they are social enterpreneurs.

[00:05:50] Adam: And so you got connected with Emily at GiveBackHack and found your way to Columbus, Ohio.

[00:05:56] Annie: Yeah. It's it is my luckiness to be a fellow at GiveBackHack in Columbus. And with support from Emily and network of many organization and social enterprenuers in Ohio, I learn meaningful and eye opening experience. It's a surprising chance in my journey in Vietnam.

I am a founder of an incubation program, support for young people to develop their own social innovation in the early state within that program. Also the host of podcast theory. Two years ago when I started, I researched on Google and many podcast theory about this subject to get the reference trust to learn. And I found people helping people.

[00:06:52] Adam: That's so cool. I love that these things ripple out and we were able to connect down the road.

[00:06:58] Annie: Yeah, I was so impressive because of both quantity and quality and I've been admiring your passion and the consistent investment you contribute for this channel.

[00:07:16] Adam: Thank you. And hopefully it's reaching people all around the world in corners. I haven't even thought of

[00:07:22] Annie: So yeah to own audience are listening this podcast, I would like to say that I couldn't believe I can meet the in the real life the American host I found in the Google, and that's the one leaf far away in a distant of half of the earth.

[00:07:42] Adam: Yeah, and through a program that just magically placed you in Columbus, so I love it

[00:07:48] Annie: and then one thing I can tell how much inspiration you said to me is not only from the work, but also from the is still enthusiasm for social entrepreneurship activity in Ohio. I've observed from you side.

[00:08:07] Adam: Yeah. And I'm curious so you spent a month here and you got to see a bunch of different organizations you were involved in Give Back Hack, so you saw the whole event of people coming together and pitching ideas and launching new social enterprises. What were some things that you noticed about social entrepreneurship in Columbus that were different from Vietnam?

[00:08:30] Annie: I was very impressed with the spirit of social entrepreneurship from Columbus. And I learned from the re collborative impact from power, and compassion. From my experience in observation and listening in many meetings and activities with the GiveBackHack communities in Columbus. All of that working me about the motivation, insights of social entrepenuershiup that's not based on any outside force.

Oh, sorry, I need to bounce a bit because the children in the village is coming.

[00:09:10] Adam: I love this village. It's so beautiful.

[00:09:12] Annie: Yeah. My house, like the community house and children, when they of their school, they often come here.

[00:09:21] Adam: Oh, neat. And you're in the national park? Correct.

[00:09:25] Annie: Yeah. The house made from Bamboo?

[00:09:29] Adam: Oh, wow. Everything is so green.

[00:09:32] Annie: Yeah.

[00:09:35] Adam: And you're near the water too, right? There's a a river nearby.

[00:09:38] Annie: yes. In, in the front of the house, there is a river.

[00:09:42] Adam: I, I loved when you were here in Columbus and we started talking about meditation, and you were like, I have people over and we read this reading from service space, when you have your, sits at your house,

[00:09:54] Annie: Yes. I run like a awakining circle in my house. Last two year when I spent, all my time in this house some friends from other village come and we share together

[00:10:10] Adam: How did you discover that?

[00:10:11] Annie: One of my friends she travel a lot and she used to work in the US and I dunno how she know about ServiceSpace but she is a friend of Nippun and then after, sometime, she she joined ServiceSpace, she bring that model to Vietnam. And she said that philosophy in her network.

And then I met one from that network and was asked to join a circle and after experience that I start to ask more. And by time last two year when I start the training program about social entrepreneurship I'm thinking about the compassion and I asked the sister to share about the compassion in the values from service space.

And she also apply the entrepreneurship in the philosophy of that organization. And she good love to share about how how she realize the compassion in Social entrepreneurs experience the movement to marketing the products of social enterprise is set from the root cause of compassions.

[00:11:28] Adam: I love that whole approach. I met Nippun probably in 2006, a couple times in London when I lived over there. I always just love that approach of leading with compassion and connecting with people in a way of Hey, it's about what you're giving and about really showing up and building those connections.

As opposed to trying to get something for the world or just go out there to make money or something that is more materialistic. So I love being able to bring that philosophy into what I do as well. It's neat that that discovery came to you as well. Coming back to social entrepreneurship a bit I'd love to hear just a little bit one, like your reflection on social entrepreneurship in Columbus, but also what are some new things about social entrepreneurship in Vietnam that you do really well there?

[00:12:21] Annie: So yeah, at first I can, I think I should share about a bit context of social entreprenuership in Vietnam first. It's very different to the ecosystem in US. Why there are two main types in US for-profit business and non-profit organization source enterprise, just a term that companies can save.

But in Vietnam, source enterprise is recognized legally in enterprise law in comparison with many countries in the world. Vietnamese government don't provide any offer or tax benefits for social enteprise. I would like to say in the factor of funding and cash flows, in Vietnam non profit organization are able to get the donation and grant support from legal source business only to get investment from investor. Of course both require operational cashflow and tax report to the government. However, source enterprise is a kind of organization can be able to raise fund from both investors and grant from donors.

That is a kind of open door for the one who would like to substance in financial way. And also get support from other, so government encourage a new movement pursuit of price in public communication and international partnership.

[00:13:59] Adam: So if you're a social enterprise in Vietnam, like legally, you can get money both from grants and from investors.

[00:14:08] Annie: yeah,

[00:14:08] Adam: that's really neat. I like that.

[00:14:10] Annie: Yeah. Yeah. And when we compare with other countries some people said that it seemed not too much the support from government. However from the overview picture, I realize that when we start this movement, I think is the good encouragement from the government for one, who would like to risk to be social enterprise, very simple. Business just prepares a similar documents for normal enterprise in establishment and just add one more uh, commitment of the social responsibilities that state about what social impacts they would like to devote.

And regulation from enterprise law require social enterprise reinvest at least 51 percentage of profits for social mission.

[00:15:13] Adam: Neat. So legally you have to take 51% of your profits as a social enterprise and reinvest

[00:15:19] Annie: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:20] Adam: Oh, that's really cool. So it's actually laid down. I always think that's a really great guideline for a social enterprise.

[00:15:26] Annie: So far there's a new movement in Vietnam is that many nonprofit organization or civic society organization, they are transforming to be social enterprise. Because they would like to self sustain by financial profits and incomes through business activities. But they would like to continue the support from grant.

[00:15:52] Adam: Do you have some big examples of social enterprises in Vietnam?

[00:15:56] Annie: Yeah, there are many source enterprise in Vietnam right now. One example I can share is with the mission is a shared, playful spirit to own people, and they are working with autism's children and vulnerable disability children. And they really apreciate. And They are really the work act from autism and disability children. So they convert on the art products of autism to the real products such as a laptop case teachers clothes and decorat collecting items. And um, they, provide that products for the people as the kind of special artwork with reasonable price.

And then the profits from that social enterprise not only support from For autism in, support for the income of autism and children in disability and their family but also they build many class and uh, learning environment for children in disability to develop their own capacity, their own talents.

So at the same time, they gain profits from the customer and they support for the artwork, for the spirit, for the talents of autism and children in disability.

[00:17:36] Adam: Neat. I love that. I think that's so cool when you have a model that is taking somebody who has, barriers in education. Quite often people who have autism just struggle in the school environment, but also struggle in a working environment because they have a different way of processing what's going on. when when they have a company that can support them in that and help them realize their potential, then they can really grow and thrive which is so exciting. So I love that example. Thanks.

[00:18:07] Annie: Yeah, come back to the question, how to compare the context, how to compare the characteristic of social enterprise in Vietnam with with the one in us, because I keep in mind the question, what is the force for social enterprise in each country? In the country many people looking for the beneficiary, for benefits support from outside and they often looking for like tax reduction or something like that in compared with other country shop as uh, uk. So I also, bring that message to us. But it was I I was surprising that in US that there is no support in the tax in the, in the term regulation for social enterprise.

And yeah, companies can save by themself what they do for social goods and then they keep the social missions and benifits through the commercial means, right?

[00:19:15] Adam: Yeah it's crazy that in the US there's no protection for social enterprises.

I don't know if a lot of people know this, but state by state there's different laws about what somebody could do. In Ohio, there's no law that says a for-profit business can be a social enterprise.

So if you are a for-profit company and you are a public company, meaning that you have stock that's traded. You can't put your social mission ahead of your financial obligations, right? So your shareholders can sue you for not maximizing your profit. If you're a social enterprise and you're saying, Hey, I'm not gonna make more money, I'm gonna make more impact, which is really crazy.

It seems to me that if you want to be a social enterprise, you should have that protection and you should have that government support. So US is behind in that regard, I think.

[00:20:11] Annie: But yeah, actually I gain another perspective, from that issues when I start to work with I bring that question and talk with discuss with Emily and again, from her acknowledgement that she says that people do not expect benefits or support from outside people in Ohio doing social enterprise.

And actually it's the motivation insides is not by from any outside force. Not based from any pushing forward from government or someone outside their own business. And from my experience with many business there with you with . Open Door Arts Studio, Rela, Pawson Project, Freedom a la Cart,. Yeah, a lot of social enterprise. I learned that you are looking for sharing your own story rather than the recognization from other. You are doing for social good because of the mission. Columbus social entrepreneurs I met, committed strongly for social and they dedicated with the health head and hand for that. Not not because of the pushing of force from outside.

[00:21:38] Adam: I love the social enterprises in town where they started, not because they wanted to build a business, but because they were trying to solve something in their community. And like Jonathan over at Franklinton Cycleworks was like this, like he started just helping people in the community repair their bikes and it turned into this kind of pseudo bike shop where people could bring in their bikes and repair it.

And then he grew because there was just so much demand for people to do that. so a lot of social enterprises are like that, where it's like people care and they're connecting with other people in their community and something grows naturally out of it. So I love those solutions where it's not about I wanna start a business and make lots of money.

It's more like I wanna lift up the quality of life around me and something organically grows from that.

[00:22:29] Annie: Yeah. It's slowly, the journey to moving forward with With that motivation, with that passion may slow, but very strong and very sure to be support for the communities and will bring more acknowledgement from the community.

So that's my first learning from Columbus community. I learned a lot about the compassion, about the motivation of social entreprenuers there. People keep the compassion in the heart and try to rely that into the real activities to support for the communities in very small action.

And when we stand in overview I can see all small action in local can create the whole picture, like the powerful impacts for the committees.

[00:23:36] Adam: And I think that's a very powerful point that quite often the actions that you take in your local community ripple out into the world in so many different ways. And that's how we create change and make a better world.

[00:23:51] Annie: The second lesson I learned from there is about the collaboration. In some ways working at GiveBackHack, I have chance to look back the, their impacts on alumni for seven years. And I also done a research about the visit board GiveBackHack in events as well as Tyler training service of from community.

And one of my most special impressions in that the biggest impact event of every year are always run by contribution of volunteerism from organizers and mentors. That is impossible in other countries, and I think it's may not may not exist in other states in US.

[00:24:44] Adam: That's a good question. In the US there's a lot of community to organizations and people that just volunteer, but that's a US thing. I think

[00:24:52] Annie: Oh yeah. In our country is that is impossible. Because for the big event we also get the support from some volunteers, but the key human resource and key to organize a big event always need to. Need to pay for the cash flow.

And another thing I also learned from GiveBackHack if that they always willing to provide the sharing the consultation for social innovators and also it's make like a same pattern with the thing they learn from other and they contribute to other, with the passion to support for the community people in their willing to work together and support for each other, to dedicate what they nurtures persistently four years. And the meaningful contribution, a foundation to encourage people to get involved in the mainstream.

[00:26:04] Adam: I love that and I never really thought about it, but that's the philosophy of Service Space, right? That the idea that, hey, you just focus on giving and contributing to somebody else, and as their cup fills up, then they'll start giving as well, and it brings so many people in and it energizes us when we're not trying to get something from the world, but we're just showing up to, to share what we have with others.

[00:26:32] Annie: Yeah, that organizations that individual not only make a powerful impact on their own mission, but also inspire community will be on their responsibility,

[00:26:46] Adam: Now bringing it back to you, what's your vision for how social enterprise should develop in Vietnam?

[00:26:54] Annie: Oh, that's ambitious question.

[00:27:00] Adam: I like a big question.

[00:27:02] Annie: Yeah.

[00:27:03] Adam: Very ambitious.

[00:27:05] Annie: Looking in the macro picture, I think there are many difficulties in our developing economy that challenging not only for social enterprise but for own types startups. There are still some barriers in our investment. We are in the southeast of impact investors and philanthropists and foundation who prioritized for social impacts rather than cash profits.

And also the quantities of organizations which are support for social enterprise in our ecosystem, not a balance and diverse as the ecosystem in US and in Ohio. I hope that no longer the movement of the impact investment come to Vietnam soon and there will be more partnerships among nations.

So that is the thing in. In macro view. From my perspective I have to say that I keep the journey in the humble way to support for engineers with the powerful impact, rather than do something too big. How I can say I would like to appreciate the journey to be the companion for social entrepreneurs.

And my ambition is working as a independent consultants working with organization who wish lift up the ecosystem of social entreprenuers in our area. The thing looking for based on four components. The first one is uh, leadership development. And the leadership uh, should be like the leadership of changing because the situation and transformation of the world now is very unpredicted. I would like to be strengthened the competencies in the community, action leadership and management in the in the trending way.

[00:29:23] Adam: I like that.

[00:29:24] Annie: The second key philosophy is the the thing I would like to ask is the thing that I call global action from the local reflection, on practical orientation and approach should be. When should we get reflection from the local community? And when we start the solution, we can uh, separate it we can spread it in a action plan for people around the world and encourage people join with the action plans together.

[00:30:05] Adam: To really work lo with your local community and involve them in making decisions

[00:30:12] Annie: yeah. And the third thing I'm thinking about the networking and engagement. I suppose that the community service so to engage a community from our outside and get the uh, valuable benefits from each other when we uh, across the different community together we can learn from the difference thing and we can realize key values in each areas easy to strengthen the network and empower for each other in the partnership together.

[00:30:55] Adam: Love that.

[00:30:57] Annie: And finally that this thing, quite very ambitious for me. I call it a continuous growth. And then when we decide for an action plan or any solution to address the challenge in communities, we should appreciate it consistently, and do it in the long term. Even every year or every period of time, we just went a little bit impact.

But when we do it for a long journey we can contribute along the way the development of communities.

[00:31:43] Adam: I always think one of the best things I'm always doing is working on myself, but applying that to an organization and just have an organization continue to work on itself and develop over time is how it will grow. I love it. This has been fantastic. I've enjoyed talking to you so much.

And we covered a lot just from your own journey starting your enterprise and then getting involved and helping other women, social entrepreneurs. And then that experience of coming to Columbus and just seeing how things are different on both sides, between Vietnam and Columbus, Ohio, and being able to compare those.

So it's been so much fun.

[00:32:24] Annie: Yeah, but I still, I'm not I'm not a perfect person and I still sometimes stop, I feel like oh my God, the thing I can do just a little bit and my capacity to make it stronger make Impacts from my worker to be bigger in communities is not easy.

[00:32:48] Adam: I think you're gonna look back at some point, and you're gonna be really impressed at everything that you've accomplished and all the connections that you've built. This is really cool, and I can't wait to come visit you in Vietnam, so we have to figure that out.

[00:33:04] Annie: Thank you so much.

[00:33:06] Adam: Yeah. Thank you too, and if you've been listening, thank you so much for listening.

[00:33:13] Annie: Oh, thank you so much audience for very patient to listen my story.

[00:33:20] Adam: I love it. It's a great story to share. .

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