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Empowering Ethnic Minority Students Through Social Entrepreneurship

In the weekend of July 11-12, Better Life Vietnam (BLV) in partnership with Thai Nguyen University of Agricultural and Forestry (TUAF)  has launched its new vocational training project Empowering Ethnic Minority Students Through Social Entrepreneurship. Participating in this eight-weekend-training project, thirty ethnic minority students will have the opportunity to learn about the rights of women, social entrepreneurship, startup, leadership skills as well as learning how to make quilling cards. This pilot group of students will be expected to act as the trainers who will train and organize for their villages to join social businesses in the long term.

Participating in this training program are thirty students from Thai Nguyen Agricultural and Forestry University, of whom, 80 % is from ethnic minority groups such as Tay, Nung, and San Chí. The TUAF is among few universities in the country to have high proportion of ethnic students coming from remote mountainous provinces with the ratio of nearly 60%. Those students often cope with more difficulties than other students during their university time as a result of language barrier and poverty situation. Most of the students participating in this program are at their first year. They were all very excited about joining the program of this type for the first time.

Students learnt about social entrepreneurship, startup and how to make a business plan and also had a chance to practice making a business plan for a social project in the first week of the training program. Giving the training are Ms Thinh Nguyen, the Founder of Better Life Vietnam, and Ms Duong Ly who is the Vice-Director of the Technology Incubation and Startup Support Center and also a lecturer at the TUAF. With the entrepreneurs's experiences together with the community development mindsets, the two trainers have taken turns to provide students with knowledge, theories and also practice of social entrepreneurship, startup and making a business plan. The two trainers have inspired the young students to start social businesses as a way to help their own communities.

The students were introduced to the definition of social entrepreneurship, successful social entrepreneurs, how to start a social enterprise and the challenges a social entrepreneur has to face among many other social entrepreneurship related knowledges.

During training sessions, mini games were used to help the students understand new concepts better. 

The students are also taught to create a simple business plan by using the business model canvas tool. In order to apply what they have learnt into practice, the trainers assigned the students to prepare a business plan for starting a social enterprise that sells handmade quilling cards made by disadvantaged groups. The exercise made all students very excited and actively participated in group discussions. The students were divided into five groups to work on this exercise.

In the end of the Business plan making session, each group of students had the chance to prepare their business plan to all participants. 

 In her final comment to the students after their presentations, Ms Thinh Nguyen said to the students: "I'm so impressed. The students of the TUAF, you girls, are so smart, energetic and full of passion for helping the underprivileged community. You girls applied well what your lecturer, Ms Duong, has taught you into making this business plan. I myself, as a social entrepreneur who has started a quilling card business to help disabled employees, have learnt from you guys through your team discussion and presentation. You girls have had so many creative ideas that I can actually use (of course with your permission 😀) and apply to my e-commerce, Coeurs De Papier. For example, the idea of having Vietnamese typical foods such as Bánh Mỳ as a subject for the card or providing training and job opportunities to the mother who have to look after their children at home as a way for them to earn an income. All these ideas are great and something that I and my team will consider to use. So, thank you girls for teaching me back!".

Ms Thinh Nguyen then shared with the students her real experiences of starting Coeurs De Papier, a social enterprise, as a way to sustain Better Life Vietnam while also support people with disabilities to earn an extra income. Her story of all the challenges she has to face while developing Better Life Vietnam and launching Coeurs De Papier, how she has overcome and currently dealt with the challenges has given the students a complete picture of social entrepreneurship.

The first training weekend was so successful that it has left the students with a bigger sense of responsibility toward society, the self-awareness of being social entrepreneurs who will help their community with their talent, enthusiasm and youth energy using all the business knowledges and tools which they have learnt from the training. The students were all looking forward to the second component of the training next weekend where they will learn about public speaking and how to make themselves confident in speaking in front of people.

We would like to thank to the Jeanne Sauve Foundation and the Thai Nguyen University of Agricultural and Forestry for supporting us to carry out this program.