1. The Vietnam Challenge Fund (VCF)
VCF of around US$ 3 million fund is designed to challenge the private sector to propose innovative new business models that engage and benefit the poor, on a replicable and sustainable basis. The VCF focused on agro-processing linkages with the poor.
The VCF received a total of 210 submissions in the first call' window. The 210 concept notes spanned all three challenges, from across all of Viet Nam, and a wide spectrum of projects. All the 21 short-listed submissions were identified on their fundamental merits. The average size of funding requested by the 21 short-listed projects was US$135,000, ranging from a maximum of US$250,000 to a minimum of US$14,000. In total, the Independent Assessment Panel (IAP) jointly agreed to recommend 12 projects to be funded from VCF, and rejected the remaining 6 short-listed projects.
Except 1 project that failed during negotiation, 11 projects were finally selected for VCF funding. The 11 contracted projects were cumulatively seeking around US$1.7 m in VCF funding. The aggregate value of the 11 selected projects amounted to US$6.7m, with the average size of funding requested ranging from around US$160,000, to a maximum of US$289,700. The 11 contracted projects were cumulatively seeking around US$1.7 m in VCF funding. However, 4 VCF grant projects were halted in 2011, after careful consideration.
These projects are expected to introduce new business models which can be scaled up and replicated. Based on surveys undertaken by the VCF team the impact assessment was derived for all 7 projects within the VCF portfolio of projects. It is important to note that the figures for incomes improved are in addition to the jobs created. These improvements in incomes are largely derived from additional income that households / farmers attached to the grantee projects have attained, since the projects commenced, as a function of improved sales volumes and/or sales prices. The factors driving those rises vary from project to project, and include: training provided, improved inputs, certifications of various kinds (eg. organic, FairTrade, GAP, etc.), improved quality, etc.
The overall impact of the VCF portfolio is that over 18,000 people have benefitted from improvements in their incomes. Furthermore an additional 2,160 new jobs have been created as a result of the VCF grantee interventions across the seven projects.
The VCF element of the M4P2 website was up-loaded, containing all the key materials for interested parties (see: www.markets4poor.org/vcf).
2. Policy Action Research Component (PARU)
The PARU funded the studies that trigger the improvement of the policies, particularly in labor market, in agriculture value chain and in PPP for infrastructure network.
The PARU aims to fund research on a competitive basis, leading to the adoption of market-oriented and pro-poor policy change. Grants from the US$ 525,000 fund were to be awarded to nine research institutes and credible stakeholder groupings to support relevant research in the three key thematic areas of M4P2. It focuses on unblocking the constraints that communities and businesses face when seeking to move people out of poverty. It aimed to link policy design with practical pilot experimentation, so as to develop better, demand-driven and more informed policies.
PARU has adopted an ambitious approach to research in Viet Nam based on three self-reinforcing pillars of identifying potentially accessible windows of policy opportunity, development of clear evidence based research, and then piloting the findings through activities at District or Province level. Four contracts with research institutions were signed with the overall cost of USD187,000. Four PARU projects for the first round were selected and were being delivered. The first round PARU project focused on improving policies aimed at agricultural contracting and especially amendments to Decree 80 and improving the technical vocational and education system in Viet Nam.
The second round of PARU aimed to build on the solid foundation developed and using the experience that has been gathered thus far in the first round to drive more change in other important areas.
The second round aimed at focusing on two further areas: improving maintenance of the rural road network using public community based partnerships to ensure that the poor have better access to market their goods and services; and improving skills development in the informal sector which to date has had little work being carried out but remains crucially important for the poor.
3. Capacity Building
The Capacity Building Component sought to facilitate the exchange and application of lessons across the various market development interventions, both within Viet Nam and abroad.
A Training Needs Assessment (TNA) was developed to administered all Provincial Departments of Planning at the end 2009. It was agreed with PMU that the priority for capacity development will be within MPI at the headquarters and Provincial level, as well as other key government ministries such as MARD during the early phases of the project, as the success of the project and the longer term use of the approach ultimately depends upon this. Subsequently the training was envisaged to be identified for other stakeholders, particularly those in the private sector.
The purpose of the TNA includes two basic elements: (i) to provide a comprehensive analysis of the current capabilities of the managers and staff of MPI, and other relevant Ministries at the Provincial level to provide support to the various components; and (i) to define and meet the training needs that have been identified. The latter element involves developing a comprehensive training plan including a set of activities, identifying ready-made courses that staff could be enrolled for, or where necessary designing in-house training courses supporting project implementation, undertaking workshops and seminars, and monitoring and evaluating the outcomes from the training.
Solid improvement in Capacity building component had been made with refinement of training material which also integrates with the results of PARU component. 12 workshops to disseminate the M4P concept and its outcomes to relevant central and provincial government officials were conducted throughout the country. The refinement of the materials was based on the experience gained delivering the training course. It reflects experiences gained from the implementation of VCF and results emerging from the PARU components. The discussion of real-life issues at the training courses with participation of various provincial government officials and business associations help enrich the content of training courses as well as facilitate the discussion on the research findings. This initiative helps leverage the effectiveness of assistance and was highly appreciated the trainees.
4. Dissemination Activities
Dissemination Strategy has been developed and circulated to all parties for implementation.
A series of dissemination activities, as laid out in the dissemination strategy including workshops with participation of Government Officials, DPs and Business Associations to disseminate the business model for seven VCF projects and the policy changes proposed for improving "agriculture value chain" and "vocational training" under PARU studies were organized.
A press tour and a documentary film to disseminate the project outcomes, additional value, lessons learned, best practice models will be conducted.
TA was extended till 30 June 2012 to help deliver the VCF projects, and conduct the second round of PARU with studies focusing on improving PPP in rural road maintenance, and improving the relevance of the informal training/apprenticeship system.
The TA was physically completed on 30 June 2012 and financially closed on 30 October 2012.
The TA Completion Report is being finalised and will be circulated to the Board by end July 2013.