In our last update, we had selected 5 teams to join the UPSHIFT Incubator for 3 months. During incubation teams participated in additional training sessions, received a small seed fund to kick start their project, and ongoing mentorship. They also had the benefit of access to a network of supporters and periodic events through Viet Youth Entrepreneurs (VYE). All these factors combined to support these teams take their concept to reality.
THE INCUBATION PHASE (JAN 2016 – APR 2016 & DEMO DAY)
The incubation program started with VYE delivering 6 thematic training classes and organizing multiple focused coaching sessions for each team. Many teams integrated the lessons learned into their project and continued to implement their projects independently. At the end of incubation, all teams participated in a career development session and delivered their results at a Demo Day, which also provided the opportunity to meet with potential investors or organizations interested in their projects.
Hard Lessons Learned Through Experience
Successfully building a project up from an idea is never easy, especially for young people from difficult situations attempting to do it for the first time. Many of our participants underestimated the amount of effort and time their projects would take.
As Nguyen Minh Hai from Team 1 states:“Formerly, I thought that everything is simple. However, after 3 months of the incubation phase, I realized that life is not a dream. All things are so difficult and require more effort”
Faced with immense pressures and personal challenges, one team withdrew from the incubation (Team 3: Producing videos to teach sign languages on social media for public service providers and other parties of interest). Shortly after this happened another team made a request to withdraw when they felt unable to balance schoolwork and UPSHIFT work.
In light of this situation, the UPSHIFT team sat down with each team and their mentors to listen to their concerns and worked to resolve their concerns collaboratively. As a result, the four remaining teams, feeling reinvigorated, returned to their projects with fresh passion and purpose, bringing a positive impact for themselves and their communities.
Harvesting the Fruit of their Labor
Team 1: Developing a job search website for blind people
The job search site for the blind that Tuan Nguyen and his team had envisioned, is now being developed after 3 months and a lot of challenges. Not only did they have to expand their market research (they surveyed 80 visually impaired youth looking for work), they had to find ways to access employers that had jobs available for visually impaired youth and were continuously testing outreach content on their Facebook page (where they were able to help 7 youth find real jobs). After all the work they’ve done, they announced that they will officially launch jobforblind.com, the first website to find jobs for the visually impaired in Vietnam during December of 2016!.
The JobforBlind project from Team 1 also attracted the attention of the wider entrepreneurship community and they had the honor to present at the Innovation Roadshow at the US Consulate General of Ho Chi Minh City in front of Consul General Rena Bitter and Senior Economic Ambassador David Thorne, among others. Further they’ve recently received support from a local cinema to deliver a job fair for the visually impaired in late June 2016 together with team 2.
Team 2: Providing job search support and resume consulting services for the blind
This team wanted to build a consulting service to help the visually impaired find suitable jobs. However when they embarked on their journey, starting with a market research survey of 75 visually impaired people, the group realized that there were significant gaps in the needs and capacities of their target market.
Although the team was able to find jobs for two people, they had to change many things in their approach. By the later stages of incubation, the team was attempting to pivot towards skills training and coordinated activities with team 1 to optimize resources. As a result the job fair mentioned above was developed and promoted.
Team 4: Providing training courses for primary school children on respiratory health issues
In the early days of incubation, this team struggled to achieve their target of four Happy Respiration sessions. However after three months they surpassed original targets by surveying 70 primary school children and 40 parents on respiratory health awareness, and organizing seven training sessions in which 151 children participated enthusiastically.
Perhaps most importantly they’ve created curriculum that their mentor, who works at Save the Children Vietnam, has helped bring to the attention of health education at schools program, where it is now under consideration to be integrated into the larger project. Congrats team 4!
Team 5: Developing a training course to support people with disabilities to use public transportation
With six training sessions totaling of 107 students and more than 2,000 people reached through external communications, team 5 showed consistent motivation and drive to achieve their goals. They also established the WAVE club at Vietnam National University with the slogan “To spread love by action” and are planning to hold meetings every 2 months in the future. To support the club they working on a communications campaign including a video that shows how so many people can ‘feel the wave’ that starts with a small act of kindness!
UPSHIFT: More than a Workshop
Having met the participants during the first days of UPSHIFT, accompanying them through every step along the way of their projects, we organizers – along with their passionate mentors – were happy witnesses of the tremendous growth of the teams. They have achieved so much personal growth in just three months.
As an example we remember clearly when Team 4 would tell us time and again that they wanted to quit because the two team members could simply “not find any common means of communication with each other”. With the support of the UPSHIFT team and their mentor, the two team members gradually learned to share their concerns and work collaboratively, and since they are also sisters this development has also affected their lives in a much larger way as well. This type of personal growth is repeated, in different ways, across all of the teams.
We consider the personal development of our participants one of the success markers of UPSHIFT. With these positive indicators from the pilot UPSHIFT Workshop in Vietnam we are optimistic about the future of UPSHIFT and Social Impact in Vietnam.For the latest update on UPSHIFT, check out our website at upshift.vye.vn.
Written by Thu Tran (UPSHIFT Coordinator) and Dai Cao (UPSHIFT Supporter)
Edited by Brian Cotter (UNICEF Innovation Lab, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam)