In October, the LIN Center for Community Development gathered 16 Vietnamese philanthropists in Ho Chi Minh City for a roundtable discussion on Emerging Trends in Philanthropy in Asia. Topics addressed during the roundtable included emerging trends, strategies for enhancing philanthropic practices in Vietnam and strengths and challenges of Vietnamese donors, with an attempt to compare those strategies with other parts of Asia and abroad.
A visiting guest, Dr. Victor Kuo of VK Global Advising and Kordant Philanthropy Advisors, former Evaluation Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and evaluation consultant at FSG Social Impact Advisors, contributed his experiences and observations regarding philanthropic practices in other parts of Asia, with a focus on China as well as the USA.
It was agreed that the number of examples and different approaches to philanthropy in Vietnam are growing while the focus continues to be placed on education and healthcare. Around the table, we acknowledged the lack of best practice sharing and examples of strategic philanthropy and community philanthropy taking place in Vietnam and other parts of Asia.
There was great discussion regarding the drivers of giving in Vietnam and whether affiliation, sector, impact and/or pragmatism play a key role. Although no consensus was reached, it was clear that the order in which a donor prioritizes these four drivers would guide their approach. Also considered was whether there was or should be a difference in how corporate social responsibility is implemented at large companies compared with small companies in Vietnam. Most agreed that large corporations tend to prioritize pragmatism and impact whereas the smaller, Vietnamese companies have more flexibility.
In discussing approaches to philanthropic giving in Asia, and whether strategic philanthropy is important, the issue came up as to whether philanthropy should be donor driven (top down) or beneficiary driven (bottom-up). This topic of debate recently received a great deal of attention when Peter Buffett (the son of Warren Buffett) wrote a 26 July, Op-Ed article for the New York Times on how the rich get charity wrong (“The Charitable-Industrial Complex”).
The debate helped to make clear the need for strategic philanthropy. Regardless of whether philanthropists decide to take a bottom-up or a top-down approach, we all have an obligation to measure, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the impact of our investments. It is not enough to just put money out there and assume that your investment will have the desired impact. We need to find out and share those results with the world, or at least with the community where we are working, if we hope to make any real impact.
About the Author
Ms. Dana R.H. Doan – Founder, Consultant and Advisory Board Member, LIN Center for Community Development. Formerly based in Chicago, Dana moved to Vietnam in 2002. At LIN she is responsible for strategic planning and organizational capacity development. Prior to setting up LIN, Dana worked with the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council & Education Forum (U.S.-ASEAN Business Council) focusing on international relations, economic development and public policy.