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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Million-dollar initiative helps businesses address social, gendered impacts of Covid

The Saigon Times

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HCMC – An initiative worth CAD3.1 million (US$2.44 million) was launched on November 22 to enhance the resilience of social impact businesses (SIBs) and contribute to reducing the impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

The project, “Leveraging Vietnam’s Social Impact Business Ecosystem in Response to Covid-19”, or ISEE-COVID project, is being jointly implemented by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Embassy of Canada in Vietnam for three years.

It is mainly funded by Global Affairs Canada and some correspondent funds from the UNDP and the Government of Vietnam.

ISEE-COVID will apply an ecosystem approach to tackle the inter-connected and systemic challenges that SIBs face. It will improve the capacity of SIBs, build the capacity of and coordination between SIB intermediaries and strengthen government policy-making capacities to enable SIBs.

According to the UNDP, SIBs are social enterprises, social impact start-ups, inclusive businesses and cooperatives where most members are vulnerable. 

A recent study co-conducted by UNDP showed that 99% of SIBs employ female staff, while 74% have people from marginalized groups in their workforce. A typical SIB is micro-sized in personnel and revenue, and 41% of SIBs’ leaders are female.

Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam Deborah Paul said SIBs provide incredible value to the vulnerable communities in Vietnam in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and also contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development. 

 “Our shared ambition is to improve the effectiveness of SIBs, especially those led by women, as a means to address the social and gendered impacts of Covid-19 as well as strengthen the SIB regulatory environment to enhance their social and environmental contributions in the communities they serve,” she said.

The project prioritizes support to SIBs in four key industries heavily impacted by Covid-19, namely sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, education and health. These are also areas with a large female workforce and many SIBs offering innovative solutions dedicated to reducing poverty rates among women and girls.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Tran Duy Dong said, “With the commitment to always be at the forefront of innovation and reform, and at the same time, ensure effective social protection work to leave no one behind, the Ministry of Planning and Investment has implemented many practical programs and activities to support vulnerable groups.”

The ministry highly appreciated the partnership and support from the Government of Canada and the UNDP in launching the ISEE-COVID project, which will improve the capacity of SIBs, thus helping vulnerable groups including women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

It will also build capacity and foster coordination among the intermediaries to support social impact businesses and strengthen the capacity of state agencies in policy formulation and implementation, creating favorable conditions for the development of the businesses.

The new project is expected to support 300 SIBs with seed funding and market access, thus creating potentially 9,000 jobs for vulnerable people. 

Ninety SIBs will benefit from revenue increases and develop plans to cope with Covid-19 and future shocks, while five SIBs will have business plans that integrate gender, environment and climate change.

Meanwhile, at least four gender-responsive policies will be developed or revised and an impact business network of at least 100 members established. The network would support an impact measurement and management system pilot for five to 10 SIBs.

UNDP Resident Representative Caitlin Wiesen highlighted the timeliness of the project in supporting vulnerable groups and businesses in overcoming the prolonged and damaging impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. She emphasized the crucial role of the private sector, especially social impact businesses, in recovering and building forward better.

“I strongly believe that the shared development vision, the commitment of an innovation-enabling government, combined with the creativity and innovations of social impact business ecosystem stakeholders will strengthen the resilience and accelerate the development of SIBs in Vietnam. This, in turn, is foundational to leaving no one behind and achieving the sustainable development goals,” she said.

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