CSIP’s CEO: Trailblazer for Social Entrepreneurship

Pham Kieu Oanh is the founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP), a pioneering organisation in social enterprise development in Vietnam. After nine years of operation, CSIP has assisted 121 enterprises, positively improved the quality of life for more than 221,000 people and directly created more than 3,112 jobs for the underprivileged.

The search for “true values”
Having graduated from university with a degree in philosophy, a subject with little apparent relation to business, it was thought that her career would be in books and research forever. However, there was an inner driving force that motivated the 25-year-old then to seek real values: “I was too young then, but I could fully imagine the difference between what I had learned with what I was doing and what was happening in real life,” she recounted in a book by Irene Ohler and Do Thuy Duong in 2016.
Quitting stable employment at a state agency – a top career choice in the 1990s, Oanh embarked on various positions at prestigious NGOs, studied her master degree in Australia and held an admirable position at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). But, her inner motivation had never faded away:

“I started to wonder whether I was bringing ‘real values’ to everyone? At UNICEF, you have the perfect environment, high pay and reputation, everything a common person wants in general. In a large system, you have to operate in it. The entrepreneurship blood inside my body did not allow me to do so,” excerpted from the book “Madam Trieu’s 21st Century Daughters” by Irene Ohler and Do Thuy Duong.

Pacesetter for social entrepreneurship
At that time, Oanh met Declan Ryan, founder of The One Foundation. The social businessman and millionaire introduced to Oanh social enterprise models which used business as a tool to solve urgent social and environmental issues. Greatly inspired by him, Oanh founded CSIP in 2008.

When CSIP was established, social enterprise was a novel concept in Vietnam although it was popular in many countries around the world. Together with CSIP, she diligently laid the first foundation stone for the development of social entrepreneurs and social enterprises in Vietnam. CSIP had supported many now-renowned social enterprises from its early days like Tòhe, Vietherb and Sapa O’chau.

We inspire, connect and empower every single individual and the whole community in order to tackle social and environmental issues through sustainable and creative business strategies.

CSIP mission statement

From an unknown ground-breaking idea, social enterprise has become a social movement. More and more people are talking about this business model, from policymakers, businesses and social organisations to young people who embrace entrepreneurial ideas. In 2014, social enterprise was added to the Law on Enterprises of Vietnam and became an officially recognised business model in the country.

As a member of the Social Enterprises Network and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, CSIP continues to pave the way for social enterprises in Vietnam to integrate into the general flow of social entrepreneurship in the region and in the world. In Vietnam, CSIP will hold an event honouring social enterprises in the country for the first time in 2017.

As a trendsetter, Pham Kieu Oanh has no signs of taking a rest. The search for ‘true values’ continues to motivate her to move forward.


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