Vietnam Sensing Journey

Editor’s note: Vietnamese and Bhutanese participants of the Lab met in March for a sensing journey into hot spots of innovation in Vietnam. The group arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, and began by reflecting on their time together in Berlin. As with the sensing journeys in New York City and South Africa, participants began their time together by reflecting on two questions: (1) What are my takeaways from the Berlin session – what did I go in with, what did I take away? (2) What’s the real question (or questions) that are opening up for me now, given my overall journey and time in Berlin?

The group started with a visit to an airport farm and rooftop garden – examples of how Vietnamese civil society groups and entrepreneurs are re-capturing green space in urban environments.

Rooftop Garden

Rooftop Garden

Over the remaining four days, the group visited sites of innovation hosted by each of the Vietnamese Lab participants: XanhShop an example of social entrepreneurship started by Lab participant Hang Mai that sells organic products online; Hoi An, an organic farm run by Lab participant Giang’s NGO Action for the City to foster organic agriculture in Vietnam, along with Action for the City’s playgrounds and parks – efforts to reclaim public spaces; and finally, Peaceful Bamboo Family, an intentional community including children with disabilities, with organic garden and entrepreneurship projects. The Vietnamese Lab participants/ sensing journey hosts offered the reflections in the post below.

Organic City Garden

Organic City Garden

Dang Huong Giang founded Action for the City in 2006 to promote sustainable urban development. Giang has been an active advocate for civil society in Vietnam for the past decade as a senior trainer and consultant for the Center for Community Empowerment and as Education Program Manager for Catholic Relief Services.

Here is Giang reflecting on the sensing journey methodology:

Giang sent this reflection from the Vietnam sensing journey:

I came from Berlin with a conviction that it is important to create paradigm-shifting places, experiences or processes. Karma Kitchen is a paradigm shift place, where we experience the gift of generosity. Peaceful Bamboo Family in Hue, Vietnam is a paradigm-shift community, where youngsters with disabilities teach us how to live with dignity, love and care. Like little stars in the vast sky, these places touch the core of humanity and light a feeling of hope and beauty in our hearts.

During our weeklong sensing journey with friends from Vietnam and Bhutan, I saw young people who bring roof top gardens into the concrete jungle of big cities, craftsman who combine traditional knowledge and new technology to create bamboo bikes and no-energy bamboo loud speakers, organic farmers who are proud of farming in a country where farming is seen as backward, and students who build beautiful playgrounds to celebrate outdoor plays and creativity of kids living in the cities. These people, places and experiences show me that miracles are everywhere when we turn our attention to them. I came back home full of hope, new ideas, and new connections. The night sky is dark, but the stars are bright.

I have come up with few new ideas. One is to work with Tashi Wangchuk from Bhutan and craftsmen from Vietnam on an electric bamboo bikes. The other is to connect with Trinh from Peaceful Bamboo family to start youth leadership program with a focus on wellbeing and happiness.

Phan To Trinh is a Vietnamese educator and a social pioneer in the field of special education and social therapy. Trinh was instrumental in creating the first intentional community in Vietnam in social therapy: the Peaceful Bamboo Family. She is currently the co-director of this community and is also the coordinator of a ground breaking educational project bringing social and emotional skills to all the schools in Vietnam in collaboration with the Mind and Life Institute and the Eurasia Foundation.

Being instrumental in creating the first intentional community in social therapy in Vietnam: the Peaceful Bamboo Family, an eco-village that created the first bio dynamic garden in the country, inspired by the Camphill Movement and the Gross National Happiness development paradigm, I came to Berlin session with the questions about social innovations towards well-being for our community and for all.

Coming back home from Berlin session, I took with me an experience of the global networking, the encounter of innovators in all sectors. I encountered very inspiring experiences during the sensing journey. It gave me a great opportunity to see other projects in line with the Peaceful Bamboo Family and to see what is emerging as an alternative in my own country. Essential was the friendship that started to build up between us as a sensing journey, global lab group.

It brought me hope to build up the collaboration in the future with friends from Bhutan and Vietnam (for example, a prototyping idea for the electric bamboo bikes).

This journey showed me the wonderful projects from Giang: building up the 42 playgrounds close to nature, a model in Vietnam and organic farming in Hoi An in collaboration with the authorities and rooftop garden run by a young man from Xanhshop. It really surprised and encouraged me to see the engagement of the young generation in Vietnam in social entrepreneurship, and other work that is related to our own.

I suddenly realized we are not alone. We are facing similar challenges too. I can see the seed planted under the concrete road, and we all participate in watering this seed each one of us in his or her project, task, in order to allow it to grow and bloom where ever needed.

[At Peaceful Bamboo Family], we are building up a strong partnership with Giang and Hang Mai and we already envision several future projects for the young generation together. Together we can change the world!

May you all have joy, peace, harmony, compassion, love and happiness in every moment of your lives!

Hang Mai is the Founder and CEO of Xanh, which in Vietnamese means Green – Blue – Youth. Xanh consists of two main businesses: XanhBiz and XanhShop. XanhBiz is a consultancy that aims to help businesses make profit without damaging people and planet by providing tailor-made solutions that are feasible, viable and ultimately sustainable in the long term.

Here is Hang during our Berlin workshop:

I founded – a Social Enterprise in 2009 to practice Sustainable Development. When I heard about Gross National Happiness (GNH), I found it completely in line with Social Enterprise and Sustainable Development; therefore, I‘d like to apply GNH in my business.

After [the launch of the Lab] in Berlin, what I took away with me is the feeling of Synergy ‘I’m not alone in this upstream journey’.

The question for me now is ‘how to start measure GNH in our business and inspire others entrepreneurs to join our paradigm?’

The regional sensing journey was a great experience that helped me to understand activities of Trinh and Giang (the other two representatives of Vietnam in the Lab), understand their challenges and success, and to see problems that we are facing in Vietnam in a larger point of view.

During this sensing journey, the model of integrated special classes* in Thuận Thành school in Hue, Vietnam touched my heart the most.

There are 3 special classes for disable children integrated in a standard primary school. During the visit, I asked a question, “what makes your school different from other schools?’ The principal said “human relationships”. Children (including disabled ones) live together, eat together, and play together. They are learning how to share, to love, not to discriminate people with disabilities.

I see the connection of this model and ‘natural farming’ that we are practicing and promoting in Vietnam. Herbs are problems in most of the farms, but are the solution in Fukuoka’s farm (The One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka). Disabled children are problem in most of schools, but are a solution in this school: the solution for a more loving society.

The governance in Hoi An really surprised me. I realized that we still can do something with ‘governance in Vietnam’; although it’s tough but it’s not as hopeless as I have thought. And I’m more certain about the entry point I chose for a better Future – GNH in business.

Governance or civil society are 2 difficult entry points in Vietnam context, therefore, I chose business as an entry point. As an entrepreneur, I can define the vision, the goal for my enterprises, and I’m also the executor of what I have defined. I also see the opportunity to develop and growth more GNH entrepreneurs from my own team and suppliers. That’s what I call ‘dandelion business model’.

I want my enterprise, my supply chain to be more feminine, which means:

Nurturing instead of destroying
Giving instead of taking
Caring instead of fighting
Supporting instead of competing
Dialoguing instead of imposing

*This model has been implemented in Vietnam by Foundation et Association Eurasia since 2000

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