Evaluating the impact of a social change catalyst on urban community development : a case study of LIN Center for Community Development in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Doan-Bau, Chau
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Master of International Communication
Unitec Institute of Technology
Papoutsaki, Evangelia
Dodson, Giles
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)
community development
communication models
urban communities
LIN Center for Community Development
non-profit organisations (NPO)
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Doan-Bau, C. (2017) Evaluating the impact of a social change catalyst on urban community development: A case study of LIN Center for Community Development in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. An unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of International Communication, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
In communication for social change, a catalyst (individual or organisation) plays an important role in creating dialogue within the community, leading to collective action and providing solutions for common problems. In urban communities of developing countries, this role is more essential because of the complexities in population and social issues. This research aimed to evaluate the impact of such a catalyst on urban community development in Ho Chi Minh city [HCMC], one of the largest cities in East Asia (World Bank, 2015) through the case study of LIN Center for Community Development (LIN is an acronym for „Listen, Inspire, Nurture‟). LIN‟s activities focus on enabling local non-profit organisations [NPOs] through different programmes, all of which engage a participatory communication approach. In evaluating LIN‟s work, this research project employed the „Integrated model for measuring social change processes and their outcomes‟ by Figueroa, Kincaid, Rani & Lewis (2002). Data was collected through ethnographic non-participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interviews and secondary data. This research shows that LIN is considered as a catalyst in the community development of HCMC. Due to LIN‟s work, NPOs have altered their self-perception from being „charity organisations‟, to being a part of the community development process in HCMC. NPOs are more confident in their own capacities and have more stable financial support. NPOs have also started collaborating with the corporate sector and the public. In the meantime, the corporate sector (skilled volunteers and donors) have developed a better understanding of the non-profit sector and have made stronger contributions to the development of NPOs in HCMC. Throughout the whole process, LIN applies the participatory communication approach through interpersonal communication, encouraging the dialogue among LIN‟s stakeholders in most of its activities. LIN also provides robust information to the community though social media, mass media and public events. However, LIN‟s catalyst role still faces challenges, particularly in applying Western concepts in the Vietnamese context. Firstly, LIN does not emphasise the importance of a leader‟s role for LIN staff and NPOs and the environment lacks understanding of what it means to be an independent leader due to the Marxist-Leninist foundations and Confucianism influence underlying Vietnamese society and politics. Secondly, LIN assumes that all NPOs understand the Western community development terms LIN brings to Vietnam (community fund, non-profit organisation and skilled volunteering), while there are still NPOs that do not understand these concepts correctly. Thirdly, due to barriers of power-distance in an Asian society such as Vietnam, it is difficult for all NPOs to achieve an equitable dialogue when working together. As a result, this research will contribute an emerging catalyst model for urban community development in Vietnam, which is suggested through three crucial elements: l) a leadership strategy for a catalyst and NPOs; 2) context understanding (local context and stakeholders‟ characteristics) and; 3) an impact evaluation framework based on the local context. These elements need to be taken into consideration in both interpersonal communication and media activities. When these elements are executed carefully, activities organised by the catalyst will be more effective, leading to the stakeholders‟ individual changes, who then become catalysts for their own communities and provide positive social change impact.
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