I spent much of today attending an event promoting social entrepreneurship in the Mekong region.
Having written before about the entrepreneurial side to the Vietnamese, it was exciting to join discussions with government officials from all over the world, committed to promoting specific investments here, in a country steeped historically in entrepreneurship.
From street-vendors through to the young, aspiring Vietnamese diaspora – landing in Saigon from childhoods spent in California and Melbourne, to reclaim their roots, and to give back socially, responsibly, and commercially, to a country their parents and grand-parents will (in many cases) choose never to set foot in again – Vietnam is a nation with an imbued genetic impulse for the entrepreneurial.
As the event unfolded I also found myself glued to the international dialogues concerning the situation in Syria.
As I type this, the British Parliament is debating a nation’s dilemma surrounding possible military intervention there. I have not 1% of the expertise required to contribute to such a debate, save from the instinctive and calamitous gut-wrenching impulse to scream “no – have we learnt nothing from the past 10 years conflict in the Middle East?”
And then to next month, where I will be sat on a panel (a strange phrase I realize now when typed up and taken out of context) at a Corporate Social Responsibility event in Bangkok. As panelists we are being asked to discuss: “The role for business in development after the MDG’s expire in 2015”.
I have just this evening laid out some general thoughts about the topic of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) on the sister blog to this site – check it out here http://definitelymaybe.me/2013/08/29/the-mdgs-fit-for-purpose/ if you have the time, or need some sleeping materials later – and I veered, as is my way, towards a fairly positive reflection on how the MDGs have helped direct a global debate about important global issues, speaking more than ever to the need for global action.
“Well done you” – you might say.
I suppose this particular ‘after-thought’ post is a step back from the various experiences of my day today – cozily ensconced as I was for most it of within the flash trimmings of Saigon’s New World Hotel, with its well manicured lunch and networking – as there was much about my day which stands to me as a colossal juxtaposition of what is at once so fascinating and so galling with the world…
In front of me and my ironed shirt and best shoes this morning sat enthusiastic, brave and gutsy men and women who had laid their livelihoods and career hopes on the line, as they described how they had set up small start-ups and enterprises in Vietnam. Their highs and their lows, and the trials and tribulations thereafter.
The enterprises I heard described were each driven by a social mission, or by environmental integrity. My favourite of the day being a Cambodian based social enterprise called The Lucky Iron Fish Project http://luckyironfish.com/ which is tackling anemia deficiency through an innovative new product that gives off appropriate quantities of iron when used in different types of cooking.
These are enterprises which seek to engage new age investors who want their money to be put to work in a responsible way. In round terms, there is now a “value for money” concept being blown out to incorporate the social and the environmental. “What will the social return be on the back of my investment into this enterprise?” is the sustainable and impactful (two more buzz words) line of enquiry increasingly being asked.
But in the background, via news wires, and the furious internet surfing done at such events by delegates (myself included) who seem ever less interested and comfortable listening to someone speak (we must be simultaneously checking our text messages, and our emails)…in this background today, the politics of trade flows, UN treaties, chemical weaponry, and collateral damage of all descriptions – such things and more – dominated the headlines, and the collective consciousness of the world.
So much opportunity, humanity and thirst for development being presented by Vietnam’s entrepreneurs on the one hand. On the other: politics, bloodshed and destruction.
My support of MDG-type alliances remains unwavering, and I want to take my turn, in public next month, to articulate why that is.
The pursuit of a common good, of a more equal society, of humanitarianism, of peace, of innovation, and – absolutely and gloriously – of ENTERPRISE, in its purest and most life-enhancing guise, are powerful allies.
Indeed, they are the only ones that would get my vote.