IDEAS Insights Vietnam's emergent social enterprise sector - Page 7

The best insight into the social enterprise landscape of Vietnam today is provided by the challenges and successes of local enterprises themselves. What follows is a brief selection and examination of some of Vietnam’s best known, and most innovative, social ventures. Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts was launched in 1990, in Ho Chi Minh City. It describes itself as ‘an income generating and educational project for poor and disadvantaged women’, providing ‘employment and training as well as promoting self-reliance amongst disadvantaged families and ethnic minorities in Southern Vietnam’. They achieve this through acting as a trading agent for a wide network of 21 artisan producer groups (a network which MVH has formed). The MVH network consists of 1,101 artisans from different regions of Vietnam, of whom 70% are women. MVH will sell handicraft products like bags or cushions, made by the talented artisans of this network. The products made are environmentally-friendly and compliant with Fair Trade principles. The artisans are paid fair wages, at ‘two to three times the sector average salary’. [20] Annual turnover was $1.75 million in 2008, and domestic sales are only about 2% of the total. Profits, at around 10% of global turnover, are reinvested on behalf of the artisans, [21] with 20% ‘dedicated to training producers on product development, health, safety and environmental projects’. [22] Interestingly, MVH operates as a private company, a structure that confers more flexibility. In practise, the organisation behaves like an incubator, by supporting its producer network. The members of the network set their own prices. 5