COOP Champions

Huyen Nguyen Thi, ILO Country Office for Viet Nam in Hanoi

COOP Champions features ILO colleagues from around the world working on cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises. It highlights their contributions, and shares highlights of their experiences, current work, and future aspirations.

News | 19 May 2017
Ms Huyen Nguyen Thi, Projector Coordinator, ILO Viet Nam
Ms Huyen Nguyen Thi holds a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Study (IHEID) in Geneva. After graduating IHEID, she started working on issues related to local economic development, pro-poor tourism, informal employment and vocational training for rural workers. Currently Huyen is based in Hanoi, working for the ILO Country Office for Viet Nam as a project coordinator. She continues to be interested in rural development and its relation to cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises.

Huyen has worked with cooperatives for local economic development for over ten years. During her seven years at the ILO Viet Nam Country Office as the coordinator of different projects, she collaborated closely the Viet Nam Cooperative Alliance (VCA), a key ILO partner for many of those projects. With a membership of 17,000 cooperatives and small enterprises nation-wide, the VCA is one of the two representative organizations of employers at the ILO.

Cooperatives exist across a wide range of sectors in Viet Nam. For instance, they play important roles in developing pro-poor tourism value chains beneficial for communities to join forces and provide services and products not only for the economic and social benefit but also for the preservation of the local culture. To test the effectiveness of the cooperative model, ILO Viet Nam supported community-based tourism villages to organize as cooperatives, to improve their capacity to work with other business partners. This model turned out to be successful and paved the way for community-based tourism development around in Viet Nam with the establishment of a Viet Nam Community-Based Tourism Network, of which Huyen is a co-founder.

When ILO Viet Nam works with cooperatives, one of the biggest challenges is around internal governance. The managers of cooperatives, especially agricultural cooperatives, are often not skilled in management of cooperatives even though they may be very pro-active in advancing the cooperative and their members’ needs. To tackle this challenge, the ILO, in collaboration with the VCA and Agriterra, have adapted My.Coop training package into the Vietnamese language and context. After a successful training of trainers in February 2017, the package is now ready for roll out across the country. Huyen says, “My.Coop has been received as a precious training package for the managers of cooperatives as there had been no good training package for them before. Therefore the VCA and its provincial chapters are keen to introduce My.Coop to their members”.

Huyen and her colleagues also supported the revision of the Vietnamese Cooperative Law in 2012 which contained many changes for cooperatives to operate more effectively as autonomous and independent enterprises. They have also been involved in the follow-up implementation of the Cooperative Law to see what needed to be revised in the following five years.

Huyen believes that new cooperatives will emerge and develop rapidly in the country. Existing cooperatives will also continue to play significant roles in different sectors while also transforming themselves to better adapt to the changing realities in the world of work. Currently in Viet Nam, workers in the informal economy account for more than half of the total working population, being even higher in rural areas. Huyen sees the role of cooperatives particularly relevant for supporting the formalization of these informal economy workers. Meanwhile, she also sees the challenges for Vietnamese cooperatives in their competiveness and capacity to connect with markets effectively. She hopes Vietnamese cooperatives would also open up to collaborate with cooperatives in other countries for further development and independence from export companies.