AsiaLIFE and Oi Vietnam  join forces with the city’s food and beverage sector with a project to use small change to create big changes for the disadvantaged.

The power of harnessing consumer spending for good causes is not a new concept, but it is one that has been gaining attention of late as people become more comfortable with the idea of for-profit social organisations, rather than the traditional not-for-profit ventures.

There’s been an upsurge in socially-conscious community events in Ho Chi Minh City of late, with groups such as Saigon SOS hosting charity fundraisers, and craft beer companies making regular donations to community causes through charity beer fests and event sponsorship.

Often the outcome of these events is to raise awareness of the work that local NGOs and charities are doing, and to provide a much-appreciated financial injection to help them reach certain goals or, in some instances, just to continue with the work they are doing for the communities they support.

Yet the reality remains that while these fund-raising events can be a great opportunity to capture the power of community goodwill, they often provide little more than a short-term panacea to the continued objective of raising funds. Worse still, in some instances they cost more to hold than they raise.

The challenge of reaching financial sustainability for organisation operating in the social sphere remains an ongoing one, yet the number of organisations competing for an ever-shrinking pot of philanthropic donation and governmental support is increasing.

Social Enterprise

One solution to this ongoing funding challenge is the notion of a social enterprise, a business venture driven by a social or community cause which generates income from a product or service. However, although no longer reliant on the uncertainty of donations, most social businesses still struggle to persuade consumers to part with their money.

Setting out to meet this challenge is new social enterprise.

Small Change Big Changes is a new social enterprise that sets out to meet this challenge. Launching in late April 2018, Small Change hopes to harness the power of consumer spending in one of the city’s fastest growing sectors, the food and beverage industry. Funds will be raised through consumer support of existing businesses, with people spending their money where they would spend it anyway.

The idea is simple. F&B outlets will contribute a percentage of earnings to the fund. The amount they contribute will be small change, less than 1% of monthly revenue, and it will be possible for partner organisations to cap the amount they contribute. Nobody is asked to contribute more than they can afford, and partners will be able  to withdraw temporarily or permanently at any time.

In return for their monthly contributions, partner restaurants  will receive offline and online promotional support from Small Change founding media partners, AsiaLIFE and Oi Vietnam.

The value of the marketing support from the two publications is higher than the proposed contributions to ensure the restaurants get a fair exchange for their contributions.

It’s Time

“After more than ten years of AsiaLIFE in print and online, I though the environment was right for this initiative,” AsiaLIFE Director Jonny Edbrooke said. “Both AsiaLIFE and Oi have a great reach within the community and feel that if we can make a small change we have something sustainable.”

By using partner restaurants as a collection point, guests that visit and eat at participating venues are indirectly contributing to the fund through a small percentage of their spending. The more the community supports the partner restaurants, the larger the contribution to the fund and the greater the social impact the fund will have.

With a monthly revenue stream, the fund set up by Small Change will be used to create lasting and sustainable opportunities at a grassroot level, improving the lives of individuals or small groups. Sticking initially with the F&B sector, the first project will be the sponsorship of scholarship funding for trainee chefs at Streets International in Hoi An.

Itself a successful and innovative social enterprise, Streets International develops and operates sustainable programmes for street kids and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam, preparing vulnerable, orphaned or disenfranchised young people for rewarding careers in the hospitality industry. With a training platform that offers hands-on learning, observation and practice, course participants are equipped with the skills needed for work in the F&B and hospitality industry.

Set up in 2009, Streets offers a comprehensive 18-month programme of vocational hospitality and culinary training. Streets has a 100% track record to date, graduating more than 250 trainees, many of whom now have careers at five-star hotels and restaurants, and mostly hired within 60 days of graduating.

Once Small Change-sponsored trainees complete their programme it is hoped that partner restaurants will offer them employment in Ho Chi Minh City and support them as they embark on their new careers.

Future projects that Small Change supports are expected to include the development of low cost, high nutrition meal plans at orphanages and schools around the city.

The social enterprise would also like to provide seed funding for other start-up, high impact social business, perhaps chosen through a Dragon’s Den type scheme, where business ideas are pitched to potential investors.

As a community fund, Small Change welcomes cooperation from other groups as well as proposals for funding.

Life-changing Opportunities

“Working with Streets International is a no brainer for us,” said Oi Vietnam Director Jimmy Jimmy van der Kloet. “The benefit of getting culinary skills is obviously a very sustainable and life-changing skill for trainees and can create far reaching opportunities. As our initiative develops we are looking at other initiatives we can fund, especially those that will have a sustainable impact on the environment.”

Small Change will be launched on April 28 at a culinary event at Grain By Luke Nguyen, 71-75 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1. Four chefs from partner restaurants will showcase a four-course meal, with each chef responsible for a different course. All proceeds from the event will be placed in the fund.

For more information and tickets for the event:
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