GreenID - Green Innovation and Development Centre is the leading civil society actor in the ongoing energy transition in Vietnam. flowful meets… talks with Executive Director Nguy Thi Khanh at the Southeast Asian energy symposium in Bangkok. Impressed by the regional platform, we talk about the power of bringing people and information together and how to create a holistic alliance for a renewable powered Vietnam. Read the full interview here.
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- Civil society
- social just energy transition
- renewable energy
- fossil free
- coal generation
- empowering people
- local value creation
- energy access
- clean water access
- 100% renewables
- environmental education
- Southeast Asia
- VSEA - Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance
Information about GreenID Vietnam - Green Innovation and Development Centre:
Music is by Andrew Healy:
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Read the full interview here:
Today, flowful meets… Nguy Thi Khanh, who is the founder of GreenID, a Vietnamese NGO that is promotes a green development. Flowful has a very special relationship to Khanh and GreenID as Lars is supporting the organization for more than 3 years now.
Khanh started GreenID in 2011 with the aim to deliver a sustainable energy development in Vietnam and the Mekong region. In the last 7 years, GreenID became the leading Vietnamese civil society actor and is not only active in Vietnam but also in the region of Southeast Asia.
What impressed me and Lars from the very beginning is the holistic approach of GreenID. They work on a local, national and regional level; they demonstrate successful practices, provide evidence and create a dialogue/network. GreenID is active in 3 topics: Green Growth, Sustainable Energy and Clean Air and Water. But what stands over all is to hear every single voice of the country’s people and to leave no one behind in Vietnam’s rapid development.
Khanh: We see that energy has a huge impact on economics but also the environment and society. There was very little effort from the civil society to work in this field. That is the reason why I started GreenID.
GreenID established in 2011. We have 4 people who came together and formed the organization. What we expected and what we committed on when we set up GreenID is that we want to contribute to a sustainable development of the nation; based on the wide use of green solution. That is the reason why it has the name green. But we also well understand that we cannot achieve sustainable development without changing the governance of environment. It requires a lot of effort for the application of technologies at the same time with inclusive participation of the people. We are not only looking at the governance but also at the technology side and the stakeholder participation. We develop the strategy and work on specific teams. The first priority GreenID focusses on is supporting a sustainable energy development. The second theme we are working on is strengthening water and air governance and last but not least it is green solutions for communities. We see this three fields are interconnected and influencing each other. It is important to support sustainability for the communities and the nation.
We’ve started with 4 people in 2011 and now our team is 20 permanents. At the same time we also receive interns from different universities in Vietnam and around the world, and we see that we also play a role as a green hub or supporter for new generations to inspire them to think about the solution for the nation. We corporate with many national and international experts to bring the knowledge, to help to solve the problem.
Back in the days of the founding of GreenID, a sustainable development wasn’t on Vietnam’s agenda at all. Vietnam went through a high economic growth which led to an increasing demand of energy and electricity.
Khanh: We see that the rapid economic development over the last 2 decades helped Vietnam to reduce poverty, however, it also led to many negative impacts on the environment and the social issue. We see new challenges coming that are requiring a more comprehensive approach. We are a group working by combining both, the updated information and the experience of internationals but also working on the ground. The combination of these two things will help our people to be updated, to adapt and to find the way to solve our own problems. At the same time there are many NGOs and groups but they work very specific on technical issues or for some groups they just work on governance. But we seek to help the community. To overcome the challenges it needs a group that has the skills to combine; that is the reason why GreenID is exists. We also see that at national level we have to be able to address all the challenges we are facing. It needs a group that has a comprehensive and integrated approach that combines both the demonstration, action, and solution in the community, analysis and also to connect the people with the decision makers.
Khanh has around 20 years of experience in the development sector. In 1990, she started working with ethnic minority women, youths, farmers but she also got active in environmental protection. One can definitely say that Khanh basically devoted all her time to help Vietnam’s people and the environment.
With GreenID, Khanh decided to use her community expertise to work on energy access and energy poverty. By now, GreenID is working all over Vietnam to support a sustainable community development.
Khanh: We introduced a new approach named local energy planning. We use this tool to help local people to increase their awareness and understanding about their challenge, about their resources and about their energy issue. We provide them with information; we facilitate their discussions and support a core team that is based in the commune to become the hub of community knowledge of sustainable energy solutions. We help them to plan their energy use in a way that it helps them to solve the local environmental problem and at the same time helps them to save money and create some new jobs for local people and also to provide the basic service related to water, energy and waste. It is a holistic package, including both capacity building and also technology transfer assistance, and inspiration.
Me and Lars lived in Vietnam for three years which was way too short to get a full insight of the country’s and the people’s culture but sometimes the current situation in Vietnam reminded me of my childhood in Germany when people just weren’t really aware of the environmental impact of… for example littering. I am wondering, what is it that has to be changed in the people’s mindset?
Khanh: Firstly, the concept of using the common goods needs to be changed. People recently have a good care about their own family, they keep their family clean but they don’t care not much about the ambient environment or the environment around. A lot of evidence shows that the change and the surrounding around your house have a direct impact to your house and your family. So I think the first thing is to change the mindset of the citizen about the common good. The second thing is to lead the mindset change to action and change and people need to care about how they can contribute to improve the environment and society.
I think that we need to start the environmental education earlier and start with the kindergarten. That is the most effective way: to change the mindset. At the same time the voice and also the opinion of the citizens needs to be listened by the decision makers. Just looking at the citizen side and see if everyone improves understanding and action will lead to a movement. And then again it will affect the whole society but I see that it needs the coordination and effort from several focal points or champions to connect the different dots and help to facilitate the movement in the right way.
GreenID aims to become a constructive partner for Vietnam in the energy transition process. But more than that, Khanh has the vision of establishing a community that runs on 100% renewables to be able to show that such a thing is possible in Vietnam.
Khanh: This idea came from my study tour in Germany, even before I started GreenID. When I saw that many villages in Germany, they have different conditions, but they start their plan with 100% renewable and it brings a lot of benefits for them in terms of economy, like prosperity. Just experiencing this let me think how this model can be implemented in Vietnam. And then, when I see that the local energy planning is a tool to start the process, I tried it and step by step and gradually we try. I see that in one community the concept of 100% renewable may be translated in a different way. One thing is about energy generation and another way is about energy use. I see that there are communities that have very huge energy resources, primary resources. If we can turn or convert the power or the energy, the capacity might be over their total use, like in Germany. One community generate like 5 times higher than they need. In Vietnam, I see the model from two views. In terms of generation, I see that community people can have a lot of opportunities. They can generate energy from the waste; they can generate energy from solar. There are a lot of solutions that have been demonstrated and that are commercially available
But this is not the only vision that Khanh has in mind for her country.
Khanh: For the long run, I dream that we become a green hub for the young people and for everyone who is keen to contribute for the sustainable and green development of our people and our nation to come and work together.
I think we cannot wait to see the change. For the change in different sectors we can see when people increase the awareness about the issue it leads to change in the behavior and attitude. In my experiences, when we see the awareness of young people on the environment, we see the change. 5 years ago, environmental is just the favor of the environmentalist. And no other people cared about this. But recently, with the heavy accidents and also the number of environmental catastrophes, people recognize. And even more, we see young groups that are so active in initiating and doing their own activity to protect the environment.
In Hanoi, there are many groups, they call for action to reduce air pollution and also there are groups that go and collect the trash and waste, educate the kids about how to classify the waste into different types and how to recycle it. This also demonstrate when they see when Formosa caused the disaster for the sea and a lot for the people a lot of people just raise their voice, their concern by accident. This is an evidence of strengthening and also that is a change. Nowadays, the media plays a bigger role in the society. It helps to inform for the public and decision maker and create the pressure among the society for change. It needs a lot of work to strengthen the understanding among different stakeholders, especially the state agency about the role of civil society groups.
Recently we see that the government has more attention to the contribution to the civil society. When we send out letters to address our concern on the river issue, or on the dumping, or on the dam, or pollution by coal, we get a reply from the government. As GreenID, we are active on the Mekong Delta issue, and we got the invitation from the government office to attend the conference organized by the government. That is some evidence to show how the change happens.
And for a civil society actor this definitely isn’t a common practice in Vietnam! GreenID even was heard when they recommended to stop building more coal-fired power plants to the government.
Khanh: In March 2016, Vietnam cut down 20,000 MW of coal. That is a big change, that we see that our voice has a contribution too. The second thing is that we also contribute with the other effort to increase the understanding of the public about the value of renewable solutions. So we are doing both, analyses and policy recommendations but at the same time we increase the public awareness and demonstrate the solutions
We really convince the people by our action to prove that when we do renewables we can have the vulnerable group to improve their energy access in an effective investment. We do both, we not only criticize but we always come up with the analysis of the strategy of the policy. What are the shortcomings and how can we overcome with offering a solution.
That is what makes GreenID’s approach unique: different to other NGOs or civil society organisations, GreenID does a lot of researches to prove their opinion and then comes up with recommendations and solutions. Working with different groups of people helps GreenID a lot to bring the message to everyone.
Khanh: At the beginning it will be very hard for local people to understand it. But we learn that learning by doing is the most effective way in Vietnam. So we have to start the communication work at the beginning, but we cannot achieve without a solution. Because visible things are the things that change their mind, change the attitude and change the action; that is the reason why we always have to come up with solution implementation at the end of our local energy planning. When the solution is in place the people experience it what it costs, what are the benefits and then they can invest later. That is the way we do.
And we are always challenging ourselves by jumping into new challenges. We also prove and bring in the constructive recommendations and solutions. But I see what also make us different is that we work with various stakeholders and we have a principle that we accept mistakes to develop. That helps us to have an open mind and also gives us the opportunity to further develop.
In the topic of air pollution, we also raised the concern as the first civil society group in Vietnam and we attracted public attention and now we are very happy to see that we have many other groups that also started working on it and the topic has been discussed within different ministries
Every time I meet Khanh I am more and more impressed by the power of this woman and the strong will and commitment to really change the conditions in Vietnam. And on top of this, Khanh is a wonderful and inspiring mother for 3 kids.
Khanh: I commit to GreenID and now every day I see my young colleagues that are keen to work. So they inspire me too! And because I see we, our nation, still have a lot of challenges and we see that we have some capacity to address it. That is the reason why we keep continuing. And I myself see that I have value for the society so that is the reason why it keeps me motivated.
I am a lucky person, because I have a very strong support from the family. My husband understands my work very well and he supports me whenever I need it, regarding time and even technology. My kids they also show how happy they are when they see when I was in television, or my name was quoted in the newspaper. It seems that they are proud of me. I know that I have to sacrifice... because this work needs a lot of time. If I have time I can play with them and support them but we never gain everything. Balancing life is most challenging for me. For me the coming time with strengthening the team and with the new program director, I will spend more time with management, strengthen support for the team leader, and then spend time with the kids.
Thank you Khanh for being so honest and for sharing all this insights! For me, you are truly the epitome of woman power and a huge inspiration! GreenID’s theory of change is also very inspiring.
The organization wants to create a sustainable future for Vietnam’s citizens and the people of Southeast Asia by focusing on the benefits of renewables and the social justice component in the ongoing energy transition. GreenID raises awareness, empowers local communities and citizens and functions as a voice for the grassroot level to ensure that no one is left behind.
At the moment, Vietnam doesn’t really use its potential for renewables and the local communities, citizens and also the nation are not fully aware of the benefits. Even more, they don’t see the destructive and negative impacts of coal-powered generation yet.
GreenID brings this information to the people to build up a national and holistic alliance that pushes for a region that is powered by renewables. By bringing every interest group on the table, GreenID connects voices from local to regional level while showing models of success, providing analytic researches and trainings. This brings up a network of multipliers, local ambassadors and knowledge hubs of renewable energy and sustainable living.
We are curious where GreenID’s and Vietnam’s path will lead to and definitely keep you updated! If you wanna know more about GreenID’s work check out their website greenidvietnam.org.vn and follow them on facebook and twitter. Their annual report will be published within the next weeks too!
You can find all links in the show notes below and on our website www.flowful.org. If you like what we do please share this episode, our website or whatever! Oh, and we’re also on Instagram and twitter!
Music is by beautiful soul Andrew Healy.
Thanks for listening! Be flowful!