Catalysing social change in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: evaluating the LIN model of participatory community development

Catalysing social change in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: evaluating the LIN model of participatory... Abstract In communication for social change, a catalyst can play an important role in creating dialogue within the community, leading to collective actions and providing solutions for common problems. In urban communities of developing countries, this role is more essential because of the complexities of urban social issues and often the absence of traditional community structures. This research evaluated the LIN model of participatory community development in Ho Chi Minh City and demonstrates how urban NPOs have altered their self-perception from being ‘charity organizations’ to be a part of the community development process in HCMC as a result of LIN’s work. However, LIN’s catalyst model faces some challenges, particularly in applying Western concepts of community development and tenets of participatory social change in the Vietnamese context. As a result, a revised catalyst model of urban community development in Vietnam is suggested with three additional elements: leadership strategy for catalyst and NPOs, context understanding (local context and stakeholders’ characteristics) and impact evaluation framework based on the local context. Introduction Among developing countries, Vietnam has one of the fastest rates of urbanization in the world (World Bank, 2015). Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) has 7.95 million people, one of the largest cities in East Asia (World Bank, 2015). The city experiences a number of major social problems, so the need for social change catalysts in community development is particularly crucial. Local non-profit organizations (NPOs) are numerous in HCMC but only 18 local NPOs are formally registered and receive financial and capacity support from the government (Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Ho Chi Minh City, 2015). More than 200 non-registered NPOs operating in HCMC are working based on only their own resources and experience (LIN, 2016a). The informal and disorganized nature of NPO network potentially limits community development in this city. Thus, there is a strong need for catalysts to connect and support NPOs across the sector. Social change catalysts can play an important role in empowering people, helping them to confidently take ownership of their lives and gradually become critical change agents in their own communities (Figueroa et al., 2002). In communication for social change, a catalyst can be understood as an individual or organization that listens to community opinions, creates dialogue within the community and provides leadership to support collective actions to solve common problems (Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Figueroa et al., 2002; Komives and Wagner, 2012). Within participatory frameworks, community members need to work by themselves to create and maintain the sustainability of participation (Ife, 2002; Pawar, 2009). However, research suggests that although community self-determination is a sound principle, in community development settings, the practice can be difficult (Ife, 2002; Pawar, 2009) and ‘requires a major change of mindset’ from stakeholders (Ife, 2002, p. 101). Consequently, a catalyst in communication processes becomes important to bridge this capacity gap and empower community members to speak up and take action (Pawar, 2009; Komives and Wagner, 2012). LIN Centre for Community Development (LIN) was established in 2009 and plays a catalyst role in community development in HCMC. LIN’s name is the Vietnamese pronunciation of Link in English. In English, LIN stands for Listen – Inspire – Nurture (Doan, as cited in Schmit, 2015). With the slogan ‘Helping local people to meet local needs’, LIN works as a facilitator using participatory communication approaches to enable its key stakeholders – local NPOs. Three key strategic areas of LIN’s operations that form the focus of this mission are: NPO network facilitation, NPO capacity enhancement and community fund coordination for NPOs. This article provides an evaluation of LIN’s model of participatory community development as a catalyst in HCMC, offering a revised catalyst model for developing country urban community development. Literature review The catalyst’s role in community development and communication for social change As Figueroa et al. (2002) and Phillips and Pitman (2015) suggest, communication among community members is essential in community development process to remove boundaries to cooperation and create community dialogue focused on shared or mutually recognized issues. An important component in fostering community dialogue and cooperation is a social change catalyst (Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Figueroa et al., 2002; Komives and Wagner, 2012; Reardon, 2003; Pawar, 2009). Figueroa et al. (2002) list six potential catalysts in community development: internal stimulus, change agent, innovation, policies, technology and mass media. Among six potential catalysts, many scholars pay attention on the change agent, which can be an organization initiating the communication process in community settings (Gumucio-Dargon and Tufte, 2006; Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Komives and Wagner, 2012; Lennie and Tacchi, 2013; Pawar, 2009). Asroft and Agunga (as cited in Melkote and Steeves, 2001) state that the change agent ‘creates the situational and psychological conditions in which development benefactors and their intended beneficiaries can participate together in mutual co-equality in making development decisions’ (p. 360). Where grassroots organizations (GO) lack capacity to create social change, there will be a niche for communication professionals to act as facilitators to strengthen these capacities (Pawar, 2009). In urban settings, Ife (2002) and Pawar (2014) state that there are different challenges for a social change catalyst than in the rural settings. Even though residents often live in close proximity, people spend little time in their local neighbourhood, community structures are much weaker and social boundaries are often higher. Pawar (2014) argues that the transactional nature of urban relationships and the relative absence of traditional norms or community/authority structures mean support for innovative social change is more likely. Notwithstanding the barriers to urban community development and social change, it is likely that a catalyst approach can be successful in these settings, where community members potentially more open to innovations in addressing social issues and where community capacity, in terms of skills or financial resources, are concentrated. Much of the current research on the role of the catalyst in development focuses on introducing catalyst models or providing practical instruction to work as a change agent (Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Pawar, 2009). Research evaluating the impact of these approaches is limited. Among of them, the Integrated model of measuring the process of applying communication for social change and its outcomes of Figueroa et al. (2002) is the one providing a number of indicators through which to evaluate the catalyst role in social change, especially in communication perspective, as shown in Figure One below. Komives and Wagner (2012) provide another catalyst evaluation model named Social change model of leadership. These authors state that leadership (provided by a catalyst) exists as a relationship between a social change catalyst and stakeholders. Hence, the catalyst’s role needs to be evaluated from both sides: the catalyst itself and its impact on others. Although this research provides an informative method to evaluate a social change catalyst, its does not address the catalyst’s communication practices. Another evaluation approach related to the catalyst role is close to the leadership of community organizers and development workers, who are usually considered as change agents in the community (Gumucio-Dargon and Tufte, 2006; Hermann, 2007). In research exploring critical factors influencing the implementation of participatory communication in community development, Hermann (2007) separates factors into three groups: obstacles in contextual factors; difficulties from project-related factors; and conflicts among people-related factors. The approach development practitioners and researchers take to interact with local people will influence the local community’s decision of participation (Figures 1−6). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement (Figueroa et al., 2002, p. 38). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement (Figueroa et al., 2002, p. 38). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The social change catalyst model based on current LIN’s main activities.Source: Authors. Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The social change catalyst model based on current LIN’s main activities.Source: Authors. Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Evaluating LIN’s impact based on Figueroa et al.’s evaluation framework. [Social cohesion: the top priority; from leadership to collective self-efficacy: medium priority; social norms: lowest priority]. Source: Authors. Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Evaluating LIN’s impact based on Figueroa et al.’s evaluation framework. [Social cohesion: the top priority; from leadership to collective self-efficacy: medium priority; social norms: lowest priority]. Source: Authors. Figure 4 View largeDownload slide Suggested revised catalyst model for community development. Source: Authors adapted from Reardon (2003). Figure 4 View largeDownload slide Suggested revised catalyst model for community development. Source: Authors adapted from Reardon (2003). Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Key elements of a catalyst’s leadership strategy. Source: Authors. Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Key elements of a catalyst’s leadership strategy. Source: Authors. Figure 6 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement in Vietnamese context based on the integrated model of Figueroa et al. (2002) Source: Authors. Figure 6 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement in Vietnamese context based on the integrated model of Figueroa et al. (2002) Source: Authors. The catalyst role in communication for social change in Vietnam In Vietnam, some research suggests that the catalyst should be a leader from within the community, especially linked to or part of the local authorities (Hue et al., 2015; O. Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996; Nguyen, 2000). The reason is that the local authorities have a lot of power in relation to the community, given the authoritarian nature of Vietnamese governance. In addition, in Vietnamese culture, people have a particularly high respect for community leaders as Fathers or Mothers of the villages (Bui, 2016), which is a cultural value that continues to characterize urban social relations. As a result, local authorities are well-positioned to become catalysts, although state-led social change objectives and community objectives may not always be aligned (Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996). Other researchers emphasize the role of civil society organizations (CSOs), especially non-governmental organizations (NGOs), can play in Vietnamese social change (Bui, 2016; Le, Nguyen, and Pham, 2015b; Le, La, and Nguyen, 2015a). However, to date research has tended to focus on the role of international NGOs (INGOs) instead of on local organizations. Furthermore, research related to communication for social change in Vietnam tends to be focused on rural rather than urban contexts (Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996; Nguyen, Van de Fliert, and Nicetic, 2015). The reason is 66.9 percent of Vietnam’s population still lives in rural areas where developmental needs are highest (Le-Quang, 2014). As a result, most research funding (largely from government and INGOs) for community development is still used for issues of rural areas (JICA, 2016; Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996; Nguyen et al., 2015). Nevertheless, given the rapid speed of urbanization in Vietnam, especially in HCMC, there is a need for research related to urban issues. To date, urban studies usually concentrate on issues such as changes in government management, population, infrastructure, economics and living standards (Belgian Development Agency, 2014). There is almost no research that works directly on the role of social change catalysts in urban community development in HCMC and the research this paper is based on seeks to fill that gap. Methodology The evaluation of LIN’s impact on community development in HCMC is based on the Integrated model of measuring the process of applying the participatory communication approach and its outcomes, which was developed by Figueroa et al. (2002). This model employs seven outcome indicators, which are suitable to evaluate LIN’s impact: leadership, degree and equity of participation, information equity, collective self-efficacy, sense of ownership, social cohesion and social norms. In each indicator, there are dimensions followed by detailed questions that aim to measure the impact of participatory communication process. Our analysis works on three main strategic objectives of LIN: NPO network facilitation, NPO capacity enhancement and community fund coordination for NPOs. The research is based on ethnographic non-participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interview with LIN personnel and stakeholders and secondary data. During the data collection period, the leading researcher spent four weeks observing LIN’s communication activities and interaction with NPOs. The research involved 18 participants for in-depth semi-structured interviews, including eight LIN’s staff, nine NPOs representatives and three skilled volunteers. Findings LIN’s operations LIN’s key activities include NPO network facilitation, NPO capacity enhancement and community fund coordination for NPOs as the below figure. In network facilitation, the conditions for being LIN’s NPO partner are deliberately kept simple. In Vietnam, the non-profits are still a ‘sensitive’ politically sector since the government controls the process of NPOs establishment strictly. Most of NPOs in HCMC are not registered legally, which makes their work more challenging. LIN does not require NPOs to submit legal papers and just asks NPOs to provide evidences of three NOs (no profit, no politics and no religion). In capacity enhancement programmes, LIN works closely with skilled volunteers from various sectors to support NPOs directly in their specific needs. Other agency NPOs working with NPOs in HCMC only focus on providing social workers with training for specific social work skills under government support and they do not collaborate with the corporate sector. In community fund coordination, LIN is the only NPO in HCMC organizing such kind of fund activities. Narrow the Gap [NTG] was, at the time this research took place, the most significant programme of LIN, which connects and brings local resources together to support local NPOs in HCMC, demonstrating clearly the application of participatory community development approaches. LIN works as a facilitator for the grant, pulling together the participation of multiple stakeholders. According to LIN (2016a), ‘by engaging people with a shared vision, by pooling available resources and by investing together in projects that address local needs, a community fund helps make it easier and more rewarding for people to become more strategic with their giving’ (p. 1). As a result, by 2015, LIN had a wide NPO network with 187 local NPO partners in HCMC, 29 grants for NPOs valued nearly 105,000 USD and 468 matched volunteers with more than 7000 h (LIN, 2016a). From 2010 to 2014, LIN’s Annual Report (2016a) states that 90 percent of NPO partners were satisfied with LIN Programmes and Services and 98 percent of NPOs believe that LIN positively impacted on their practice. However, since the founder of LIN is an expat (American), her work was influenced by the Western approach of participation and community development on LIN’s work. This has created some challenges for LIN in its work in the Vietnamese context and until now, LIN’s working approach is still on the contextualizing process to maximize its impact in Vietnam. The need of a local NPO catalyst in communication for social change All NPO representatives described the value of LIN’s work as a community development catalyst. LIN has clearly played a leadership role in developing a new model of community development within HCMC, and one that is based on participation. As a result, LIN’s NPO network currently is the largest one in HCMC. Moreover, since LIN works closely with corporate sector and promotes skilled volunteering activities, NPOs as LIN’s partners have more opportunities to network outside the non-profit sector and create connections with donors and skilled volunteers. This collaboration enhances significantly NPOs’ capacities and resources. This case study also points out that a local NPO is a suitable catalyst for urban community development. In urban areas of Vietnam, NPOs rarely receive support from INGOs due to the international focus on rural underdevelopment and the fact that urban areas experience rapid economic growth. The impact of local authorities in urban setting is also lower than in rural areas. Thus, a local NPO can play an important role in catalysing social change. Among many local NPOs in HCMC, LIN has the most potential as a social change catalyst because it is the only NPO working as a development agency connecting and supporting NPOs in HCMC. In addition, LIN staff have both direct experience working with local NPOs and local companies and are networked across the community and business/corporate sector. These stakeholders trust LIN and they actively contribute to LIN’s work. For example, according to Narrow the Gap annual report (LIN, 2016b), the amount of money LIN received from the public for this community fund has increased from 15,000 USD in 2012 to 77,000 USD in 2016. Evaluating the LIN catalyst model on urban community development The data demonstrates that LIN is working as a local catalyst in community development in HCMC, and there is therefore a need to begin to evaluate its impact. According to Figueroa et al. (2002) framework and the findings, LIN’s catalyst role in community development in HCMC can be measured as below. Each criterion is supported by specific dimensions developed around detailed questions that aimed to measure the impact of the participatory communication process. The data collected was then analysed based on the questions and measure scale in the framework with three priorities as the top, medium and lowest for each criteria. In this research, high level is marked when over 80 percent of the framework elements achieved positive result. A medium level is achieved with a 50 percent positive result while a low level is marked by below 10–15 percent positive responses. Social cohesion The impact of social cohesion in LIN’s network is still weak. The NPO network is still one directional where NPOs link with LIN but not amongst themselves. This is contrasted with LIN’s expectation of creating a horizontal structure in a culture of sharing amongst NPOs. The loose relationship among NPOs is a long lasting issue caused by the specific socio-political context in Vietnam where the space of civil society is very narrow (Le et al., 2015). The government is suspicious of civil society networks, fearing the potential of opposition groups forming (Le et al., 2015). As a result, NPOs seldom take the initiative to collaborate. They are worried that this connection will harm their own relationship with the government, which can result in legal difficulties (Bui, 2016). Furthermore, many NPOs in Vietnam struggle to survive on short term grants, thus they have little cooperation capacity, or have difficulty reconciling different visions and issues (Le et al., 2015). For instance, local NPOs usually assume that INGOs implement useless projects because they do not understand the local needs, while INGOs consider local NPOs work unprofessionally without long-term vision. Leadership Based on the findings and indicators of leadership by Figueroa et al. (2002), LIN has achieved a medium level of leadership. The leadership comes from close relationship between LIN and NPOs which creates trust. LIN has created an open space for NPOs to have dialogue through peer sharing, half-day workshops, one on one advisory days and community fundraising activities. ‘When LIN works with us, the staff always encourages us to ask questions and exchange ideas with other NPOs’ (NPOrep). LIN’s main communication approach to NPOs is interpersonal communication (face-to-face, phone calling), which leads to strong relationships and which strengthens LIN’s leadership. This style of leadership reflects Vietnamese cultural norms, where leadership is considered as management of people rather than management of work and a relationship based on trust between the leader and stakeholders is particularly emphasized (Nguyen et al., 2009). NPOs perceive LIN’s network as a big family for all NPOs in HCMC. In the 2016 annual NPO partner survey (LIN, 2016a), 54 percent NPOs said that they would definitely recommend LIN to others. The main challenge of LIN’s leadership is NPOs still tend to depend on LIN instead of working by themselves. NPOs rarely take the initiative to look for and match with skilled volunteers. Thus, LIN unintentionally turns to be a dominant leader. This fact limits the initiative of NPOs in taking ownership of some of the processes required for sustainable practices and developing their own leadership capacity. Degree and equity of participation of NPOs in LIN When applying the findings on the integrated model of Figueroa et al. (2002), LIN appears to operate at a medium level in regards to the degree and equity of participation in community development. LIN retains an open policy in regards to its NPO network membership, with low barriers to NPOs joining their network. This distinguishes LIN from other community development agencies, which typically require government registration for the organizations they work with, which can be bureaucratic and difficult for grassroots NPOs. Moreover, LIN tries to apply the participatory communication approach to work in all its activities with stakeholders, for example, creating open spaces for NPOs to share their ideas and being flexible to change based on NPOs’ feedback, in contrast to an atmosphere of state oversight. However, not all NPOs work actively with LIN. LIN provides the same services for all NPOs, regardless of their different needs. Another barrier of NPOs’ participation is applying the Western participation approach into the Vietnamese context. According to Doan (2005, as cited in Han et al., 2016), under the Confucian paradigm, young people are taught to respect elders and those with higher status in the family or social hierarchy, with everyone willing to live and work for the harmony and benefit of the community. It is deeply different from the Western community concept which encourages the voices of individuals with social issues. Information equity LIN’s work provides evidence of medium performance in regards to information equity. Within its network, LIN is an active communicator, providing various information resources for NPOs. Consequently, most of NPOs’ representatives said that they find LIN’s news sources are informative and that the free flow of information from LIN to NPOs is strong. However, their awareness or correct knowledge about key issues and LIN’s programmes is still limited. The researchers observed that LIN’ stakeholders often misunderstand LIN’s messages. This might be due to the fact that new Western concepts related to community development that LIN introduced to Vietnamese NPOs are often little explained. Conceptual misunderstandings affect LIN’s work negatively, especially in relation to the Narrow the Gap community fund, which is one of LIN’s central initiatives. NPOs have had difficulty understanding why they are judged by the public instead of experts and the reason for doing promotional activities to the public. It has not been made sufficiently clear to them that by directly raising public awareness on local issues and efforts by local NPOs in addressing them, the support from the public for non-profit sector may be beneficial to them, i.e. changing perceptions about the NPO sector. Consequently, some NPOs do not apply for this grant anymore. Another important reason is that LIN’s language style is influenced by the corporate sector which is not often properly understood by the NPOs. As the corporate sector is one of LIN’s principal stakeholders, LIN staff usually apply a professional business language style to communicate with this sector. LIN’s adoption of straightforward and condensed international business language means that some of its communication with local NPOs is inappropriate or alienating. Collective self-efficacy According to the findings and Figueroa et al. (2002)'s integration model, LIN’s work meets the medium level of collective self-efficacy indicator. This refers to the confidence and belief that a community can take actions and solve problems together (Figueroa et al., 2002, Komives and Wagner, 2012). In this research, most of LIN’s stakeholders believe communication with LIN is of high quality. The researchers observed that NPOs are confident to share their thoughts about social issues with other NPOs, skilled volunteers and LIN staff. They also frequently propose new projects and are open to get feedback from others. Some NPOs said that they have become more confident in themselves and in some cases their expanded conception of their work has led to engaging with the corporate sector in order to enhance their projects’ quality (NPOreps). Nevertheless, there is a loose connection among NPOs (as mentioned in the Social cohesion). They still have a low self-awareness about their own rights and have a low confidence in their ability to collaborate and raise the voice of non-profit sector about social issues. Sense of ownership The research shows that different levels of NPO participation lead to different levels of NPOs’ sense of ownership. LIN’s NPOs partners are separated into three groups with different levels of ownership: well-established organizations, new-established organizations and organizations under the support of INGOs or government. Group one is aware of the LIN benefits and have a strong sense of ownership as well as commitment to contribute to LIN’s work (NPOreps). Based on their interaction with LIN, group two has a medium sense of ownership. These NPOs whilst they recognize their membership benefits, they are still too preoccupied with building their own network and activities. Apart from those programmes designed specifically for newly established NPOs and grant competitions, these organizations rarely attend LIN’s activities and do not understand LIN’s operations properly (NPOreps). The third group rarely participates in LIN’s activities and it does not feel that they have a close relationship with LIN (NPOreps). In short, based on their developmental stage, NPOs will have different sense of ownership in their activities when working with the catalyst. Social norms Evidence from this case study indicates that LIN has successfully turned the terms of ‘non-profit organization’ and ‘skilled volunteer’ into recognized and then accepted as social norms, particularly in the circle of LIN’s stakeholders. Before LIN was established, local NPOs were perceived as charity organizations (cơ sở từ thiện), social welfare organizations (cơ sở bảo trợ xã hội) or NGOs (tổ chức phi chính phủ). Currently, these organizations have started naming themselves as ‘non-profit organizations’ (tổ chức phi lợi nhuận). Skilled volunteers, donors and public are now familiar with this term and understand the non-profit sector more clearly. Besides, LIN staff and stakeholders indicated that since working with LIN, their understanding of the ‘skilled volunteer’ term has developed better. ‘The trust of the public on NPOs is important. It can come from many different ways and one of them is using the simple names to create a neutral and correct understanding about non-profit sector’ (LIN staff). The successful introduction of these norms could be attributed to Vietnam’s high-context communication (Hue et al., 2015). People are more easily persuaded by the use of the descriptive norm (norms formed based on the observation of role models) rather than the injunctive norm (tell people what they should or should not do in a specific circumstance) (Hue et al., 2015). From the findings, there are three shared underlying issues. The first one is the vertical leadership from LIN to NPOs, which makes NPOs link with LIN but not amongst themselves. The loose relationship among NPOs is a long lasting issue caused by the specific socio-political context in Vietnam. The Vietnamese political system has been built on a Marxist–Leninist foundation, where the space of civil society is narrow and there is no support from the government for the non-profit sector because of fearing the potential of opposition groups forming (Le et al., 2015). Moreover, most Vietnamese people assume that they just need to obey the instruction of a leader without questioning it or offering feedback, and that the leader will fully support them throughout their whole lives (Le et al., 2015). The second issue is obstacles in the application of the Western participation approach and community development concepts into the Vietnamese context. In Vietnam, under the Confucian paradigm, there is a generation gap between well-established NPOs (with older leaders) and newly established NPOs (with younger leaders) (Han et al., 2016; Coe, 2015). This causes a negative impact on the participatory process, premised on Western-styled ideas of democracy, in which individualism rather than community and conflict rather than consensus are the central elements (Waisbord, 2001). In addition, LIN’ stakeholders often misunderstand LIN’s community development concepts due to lack of locally contextualized explanation. Last but not least is the lack of impact evaluation to strengthen the catalyst’s working operation with NPOs. This has resulted in LIN providing the same services for all NPOs, regardless of their different needs. A number of NPOs indicated that the reason they do not seek LIN services is less to do with their quality and more with the fact they do not meet their needs (NPOreps). Discussion Based on the above analysis, there are three crucial elements required in creating an emerging social change catalyst model in relation to NPOs in urban community development, especially in Vietnam: leadership strategy for the catalyst and NPOs, context understanding and suitable impact evaluation framework based on local context in the whole communication process. These elements should be applied on working with the catalyst’s stakeholders through both interpersonal communication and media activities. Below is the suggested revised catalyst model for urban areas based on LIN’s model and indications supported from evidence of this research. Key elements In this model, the following key elements can support a catalyst to enhance effective community dialogue and collective actions for its stakeholders, especially NPOs. A. Leadership strategy The centrality of power is a key idea in thinking and practicing communication for development and social change (Waisbord, 2005). Thus, it is essential that a catalyst identifies its leading position as well as empowers the stakeholders’ leadership. It is crucial for a catalyst to enhance its self-efficacy (recognizing issues that need to change and believe that it can be a leader to make a change). This in its turn can powerfully inspire the collective self-efficacy (Komives and Wagner, 2012). It usually happens that a catalyst does not want to emphasize its leadership position because it conflicts with the participatory ethos that LIN promotes. As LIN’s founder states, ‘We [LIN] do not want NPOs think that we are leader or we decide all programmes related to them. Thus, we never state LIN is a leader and always encourage NPOs to increase their sense of ownership in community development’. However, various studies (Figueroa et al., 2002; Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Hermann, 2007) and evidence from this research show that in a developing country, where most of NPOs are at a grassroots level, it is difficult for people to take community development initiatives. They need to have a catalyst at the beginning of the social change process to raise awareness about social issues and support them in implementing solutions. A catalyst-leader in this process does not mean dominating NPOs in all activities, but rather focusing on instructing NPOs in initial steps and gradually transferring the community power to local NPOs. In the Vietnamese context, where leadership is expected by those with a status position, it is also essential that a catalyst pays attention on creating opportunities for NPOs to learn and practice their own leadership. These activities include reconnoitering a tiered NPOs system, supporting NPOs to learn to lead change and enhancing NPOs collaboration. In community development, there is a need for NPOs to be categorized into different groups based on their individual characteristics. These characteristics can be identified from analysing in depth the annual NPOs survey results, observing LIN staff and in-depth interviews with NPOs’ representatives. Furthermore, supporting them to learn how to develop their own leadership is a necessary part of the catalyst’s work in community development (Komives and Wagner, 2012). This point usually is missed out in most community projects in Vietnam, including LIN. The main reason is that Vietnamese people are not familiar with ‘becoming’ leaders in their community. Often leadership is considered a social responsibility belonging to ‘others’, particularly of status, and not to themselves (Hue et al., 2015; Le et al., 2015; Han et al., 2016). This causes many difficulties for community projects, which call for the active participation of stakeholders. Therefore, it is essential that a catalyst helps NPOs become aware of the importance of being independent, having social responsibility and learning how to lead change. Furthermore, peer collaboration is one of the major elements in the participatory social change process (Komives and Wagner, 2012; Osteen, 2003). According to Osteen (2003), meaningful collaboration means enhancing the sense of ownership and encouraging their partnership to work together, transforming from ‘somebody needs to’ to ‘I need to’ and ‘we need to’. Therefore, in Vietnam, a catalyst is recommended to provide spaces for networking that can gradually create opportunities for NPOs working in the same field to develop dialogue that can result in working together through shared projects. B. Context understanding Cultural factors have a strong influence on implementing the participatory communication approach (Servaes and Makikhao, 2005; Waisbord, 2005). In this case study, especially the Narrow The Gap programme, there are obstacles in engaging stakeholders in community fund activities since the Western community fund concept, which involves raising funds directly from the community and not having to rely on big sponsors or donors, is new in the Vietnamese context. In order to create sustainable impact, a catalyst needs to deeply understand the community and its socio-cultural and political context. The catalyst needs to join more frequently local community activities, engage in deeper conversations with local people and their stakeholders (NPOs, skilled volunteers and donors) as well as work closely with local journalists to keep them updated on social issues and changes in the local communities. This understanding should be used in modifying and localizing exogenous concepts into the local context with specific examples in the Vietnamese context. In addition, a catalyst should understand the characteristics of its stakeholders (corporate sector and non-profit sector) and apply them on both writing and oral communication. For example, according to Vasquez (2013) and Nickerson (2013), the style of corporate language is concise and condensed because being straightforward and simple are particularly valued in business. In contrast, Shupac (2012) points out that the language style used in the non-profit sector should be more community-oriented by using an inspiring, passionate, friendly and caring language style. C. Impact evaluation framework in local context According to this research, a social change catalyst in Vietnam can adapt the Figueroa et al. (2002) model to evaluate its impact. Additionally, there is a need of applying different levels by focusing on each indicator to maximize the potential of this evaluation framework based on the three underlying issues: lack of strong internal and external leadership, lack of understanding of local context and no evaluation framework for operation process with stakeholders. The table below provides the emerging from this research sub-indicators that can complement the existing ones from Figueora et al. model within the Vietnamese context. Communication approaches between a catalyst and its stakeholders In communication for social change, communication is a goal of development since the dialogic capacity of communities is frequently a principle aim in any community process (Cadiz, 2005; Waisbord, 2005). Based on this research and several studies, to achieve both goal and tool roles, interpersonal communication and media activities need to be applied in a contextualized manner (Waisbord, 2005). Firstly, interpersonal communication is still the most effective way to connect people in a community, diffuse new ideas and implement the participatory communication approach (Cadiz, 2005; Servaes and Malikhao, 2005; Waisbord, 2005). In this research, both NPOs and skilled volunteers point out their need of face-to-face communication with LIN staff since LIN’s activities when guided by direct communication always receive positive feedback from stakeholders. Alongside with interpersonal communication, the advantages of media (both mainstream and online) activities in urban areas cannot be ignored due to its access to large population of users and its strength in raising awareness in large groups. Vietnam is the fastest Internet growing country in Asia, with the highest growth rates in the world (Cimigo, 2011). There is evidence that young leaders of newly established NPOs and young skilled volunteers usually receive information about LIN through social media channels. The research of Le et al. (2015) points out that most people working in newly established organizations in the non-profit sector are around 20–35 years old, familiar with working online and create many vibrant community activities in the social media. Therefore, information through social media has a higher opportunity of reaching directly this group. Mass media are also potential communication resources for a catalyst. There are 857 official news organizations including print newspaper (199), online newspaper (105) and radio–television (67) in Vietnam (Tran, 2017). If a catalyst works well with mass media, it can reach more NPOs seeking to join a network to enhance their capacities, as well the public, skilled volunteers and donors, who can provide strong supports for catalyst and NPOs. Conclusion Evidence from the research shows that LIN is considered as a catalyst by HCMC’s community development sector. NPOs trust LIN and have developed a strong connection with its network and programmes. LIN has contributed to the improvement of the NPOs’ quality in its network by network facilitation, capacity enhancement, community fund coordination, as well as new social norms popularizing in urban community development. All these activities indicate a strong impact on NPOs both internally and externally. However, challenges of LIN model include the dependence of NPOs on a catalyst as an organization providing endless free services for them; the misunderstanding in communication due to differences in cultural context and the lack of a strategic evaluation framework in local context. As a result, in the emerging catalyst model for urban community development in a developing country like Vietnam, three following new crucial elements need to be taken into consideration by a catalyst: developing a leadership strategy for both catalyst’s staff and NPOs, understanding context and implementing the impact evaluation framework based on local context. Interpersonal communication and multimedia activities are highly recommended to use through this process. 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( 2015a) Advocacy and advocacy strategies of non-governmental organisation in Vietnam , Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE) and Center for Education Promotion and Empowerment of Women (CEPEW), Hanoi, Vietnam. Le, B., Nguyen, N. and Pham, T. ( 2015b) Benchmark Assessment of Civil Society Space in Vietnam , Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE), Hanoi, Vietnam. Lennie, J. and Tacchi, J. ( 2013) Evaluating Communication for Development, a Framework for Social Change , Routledge, New York, NY. Le-Quang, K. ( 2014). Evaluating the application of a behaviour change model in a community development project in a rural ethnic minority community in Vietnam: A case study of Plan International’s early childhood care and development project in Lam Vy commune, Dinh Hoa district, Thai Nguyen province (unpublished master dissertation). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. LIN Center for Community Development. 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( 2003) Communication for Social Change Working Paper Series Talking Cure: A Case Study in Communication for Social Change a Troubled City Puts its Trust in Civic Dialogue and Community Based Decision Making , The Rockefeller Foundation and Communication for Social Change Consortium, New York, NY. Rodríguez, L., Preston, T. and Dolberg, F. ( 1996) Participatory rural development: experience in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages in Central Vietnam, Livestock Research for Rural Development , 8 ( 2). http://lrrd.cipav.org.co/lrrd8/2/lylian1t.htm Schmit, J. ( 2015) How can you help add value when you give or volunteer. The Watchful Wanderer, accessed at: http://www.watchfulwanderer.com/ Servaes, J. and Malikhao, P. ( 2005) Participatory communication: a new paradigm?., in Hemer, O. and Tufte, T., eds, Media and Global Change: Rethinking Communication for Development , Buenos Aires: Nordicom; CLACSO, Göteborg, Sweden, pp. 91– 105. Shupac, J. ( 2012, December 6). Do you speak nonprofit? A primer on sector buzzwords and jargon. The Charity Village . Retrieved from: https://charityvillage.com Tran, L. ( 2017) Journalism is facing to big challenges. Sai Gon Giai Phong, accessed at: http://sggp.org.vn. Vásquez, F. ( 2013) Differences between Academic and Business Writing, Glob Bus Lang , 18 ( 8), 1896– 1906. Waisbord, S. ( 2005) Five key ideas: coincidences and challenges in development communication, in Hemer, O. and Tufte, T., eds, Media and Global Change: Rethinking Communication for Development , Buenos Aires: Nordicom; CLACSO, Göteborg, Sweden, pp. 77– 91. Waisbord, S. ( 2001) Family tree of theories, methodologies and strategies in development communication , The Rockefeller Foundation, Washington, D.C, http://www.comminit.com/global/content/family-tree-theories-methodologies-and-strategies-development-communication-convergences.. Retrieved from. World Bank ( 2015) East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth (Vol. 2). World Bank Report series 93877, Washington, DC. Author notes Chau Doan-Bao is a master candidate at the Communication Studies Department, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Her research focuses on communication for development and social change, intercultural communication and news literacy. She is particularly interested in exploring the contextualizing of development communication in developing countries in South East Asia, especially Vietnam. Evangelia Papoutsaki is an associate professor in Communication Studies at Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand. Research interests include social change communication, development communication and community and participatory media. She has an extensive research experience in the Asia-Pacific region. Evangelia is the Editor in Chief of Unitec’s ePress. Giles Dodson is a senior lecturer in Communication Studies at Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand. Research interests include political and communication, social change communication and environmental communication. Giles is the Deputy Editor of Unitec’s ePress, a Board member of ANZCA and member of the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Community Development Journal Oxford University Press

Catalysing social change in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: evaluating the LIN model of participatory community development

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Abstract In communication for social change, a catalyst can play an important role in creating dialogue within the community, leading to collective actions and providing solutions for common problems. In urban communities of developing countries, this role is more essential because of the complexities of urban social issues and often the absence of traditional community structures. This research evaluated the LIN model of participatory community development in Ho Chi Minh City and demonstrates how urban NPOs have altered their self-perception from being ‘charity organizations’ to be a part of the community development process in HCMC as a result of LIN’s work. However, LIN’s catalyst model faces some challenges, particularly in applying Western concepts of community development and tenets of participatory social change in the Vietnamese context. As a result, a revised catalyst model of urban community development in Vietnam is suggested with three additional elements: leadership strategy for catalyst and NPOs, context understanding (local context and stakeholders’ characteristics) and impact evaluation framework based on the local context. Introduction Among developing countries, Vietnam has one of the fastest rates of urbanization in the world (World Bank, 2015). Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) has 7.95 million people, one of the largest cities in East Asia (World Bank, 2015). The city experiences a number of major social problems, so the need for social change catalysts in community development is particularly crucial. Local non-profit organizations (NPOs) are numerous in HCMC but only 18 local NPOs are formally registered and receive financial and capacity support from the government (Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Ho Chi Minh City, 2015). More than 200 non-registered NPOs operating in HCMC are working based on only their own resources and experience (LIN, 2016a). The informal and disorganized nature of NPO network potentially limits community development in this city. Thus, there is a strong need for catalysts to connect and support NPOs across the sector. Social change catalysts can play an important role in empowering people, helping them to confidently take ownership of their lives and gradually become critical change agents in their own communities (Figueroa et al., 2002). In communication for social change, a catalyst can be understood as an individual or organization that listens to community opinions, creates dialogue within the community and provides leadership to support collective actions to solve common problems (Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Figueroa et al., 2002; Komives and Wagner, 2012). Within participatory frameworks, community members need to work by themselves to create and maintain the sustainability of participation (Ife, 2002; Pawar, 2009). However, research suggests that although community self-determination is a sound principle, in community development settings, the practice can be difficult (Ife, 2002; Pawar, 2009) and ‘requires a major change of mindset’ from stakeholders (Ife, 2002, p. 101). Consequently, a catalyst in communication processes becomes important to bridge this capacity gap and empower community members to speak up and take action (Pawar, 2009; Komives and Wagner, 2012). LIN Centre for Community Development (LIN) was established in 2009 and plays a catalyst role in community development in HCMC. LIN’s name is the Vietnamese pronunciation of Link in English. In English, LIN stands for Listen – Inspire – Nurture (Doan, as cited in Schmit, 2015). With the slogan ‘Helping local people to meet local needs’, LIN works as a facilitator using participatory communication approaches to enable its key stakeholders – local NPOs. Three key strategic areas of LIN’s operations that form the focus of this mission are: NPO network facilitation, NPO capacity enhancement and community fund coordination for NPOs. This article provides an evaluation of LIN’s model of participatory community development as a catalyst in HCMC, offering a revised catalyst model for developing country urban community development. Literature review The catalyst’s role in community development and communication for social change As Figueroa et al. (2002) and Phillips and Pitman (2015) suggest, communication among community members is essential in community development process to remove boundaries to cooperation and create community dialogue focused on shared or mutually recognized issues. An important component in fostering community dialogue and cooperation is a social change catalyst (Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Figueroa et al., 2002; Komives and Wagner, 2012; Reardon, 2003; Pawar, 2009). Figueroa et al. (2002) list six potential catalysts in community development: internal stimulus, change agent, innovation, policies, technology and mass media. Among six potential catalysts, many scholars pay attention on the change agent, which can be an organization initiating the communication process in community settings (Gumucio-Dargon and Tufte, 2006; Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Komives and Wagner, 2012; Lennie and Tacchi, 2013; Pawar, 2009). Asroft and Agunga (as cited in Melkote and Steeves, 2001) state that the change agent ‘creates the situational and psychological conditions in which development benefactors and their intended beneficiaries can participate together in mutual co-equality in making development decisions’ (p. 360). Where grassroots organizations (GO) lack capacity to create social change, there will be a niche for communication professionals to act as facilitators to strengthen these capacities (Pawar, 2009). In urban settings, Ife (2002) and Pawar (2014) state that there are different challenges for a social change catalyst than in the rural settings. Even though residents often live in close proximity, people spend little time in their local neighbourhood, community structures are much weaker and social boundaries are often higher. Pawar (2014) argues that the transactional nature of urban relationships and the relative absence of traditional norms or community/authority structures mean support for innovative social change is more likely. Notwithstanding the barriers to urban community development and social change, it is likely that a catalyst approach can be successful in these settings, where community members potentially more open to innovations in addressing social issues and where community capacity, in terms of skills or financial resources, are concentrated. Much of the current research on the role of the catalyst in development focuses on introducing catalyst models or providing practical instruction to work as a change agent (Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Pawar, 2009). Research evaluating the impact of these approaches is limited. Among of them, the Integrated model of measuring the process of applying communication for social change and its outcomes of Figueroa et al. (2002) is the one providing a number of indicators through which to evaluate the catalyst role in social change, especially in communication perspective, as shown in Figure One below. Komives and Wagner (2012) provide another catalyst evaluation model named Social change model of leadership. These authors state that leadership (provided by a catalyst) exists as a relationship between a social change catalyst and stakeholders. Hence, the catalyst’s role needs to be evaluated from both sides: the catalyst itself and its impact on others. Although this research provides an informative method to evaluate a social change catalyst, its does not address the catalyst’s communication practices. Another evaluation approach related to the catalyst role is close to the leadership of community organizers and development workers, who are usually considered as change agents in the community (Gumucio-Dargon and Tufte, 2006; Hermann, 2007). In research exploring critical factors influencing the implementation of participatory communication in community development, Hermann (2007) separates factors into three groups: obstacles in contextual factors; difficulties from project-related factors; and conflicts among people-related factors. The approach development practitioners and researchers take to interact with local people will influence the local community’s decision of participation (Figures 1−6). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement (Figueroa et al., 2002, p. 38). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement (Figueroa et al., 2002, p. 38). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The social change catalyst model based on current LIN’s main activities.Source: Authors. Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The social change catalyst model based on current LIN’s main activities.Source: Authors. Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Evaluating LIN’s impact based on Figueroa et al.’s evaluation framework. [Social cohesion: the top priority; from leadership to collective self-efficacy: medium priority; social norms: lowest priority]. Source: Authors. Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Evaluating LIN’s impact based on Figueroa et al.’s evaluation framework. [Social cohesion: the top priority; from leadership to collective self-efficacy: medium priority; social norms: lowest priority]. Source: Authors. Figure 4 View largeDownload slide Suggested revised catalyst model for community development. Source: Authors adapted from Reardon (2003). Figure 4 View largeDownload slide Suggested revised catalyst model for community development. Source: Authors adapted from Reardon (2003). Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Key elements of a catalyst’s leadership strategy. Source: Authors. Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Key elements of a catalyst’s leadership strategy. Source: Authors. Figure 6 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement in Vietnamese context based on the integrated model of Figueroa et al. (2002) Source: Authors. Figure 6 View largeDownload slide List of social change outcome indicators and dimensions for measurement in Vietnamese context based on the integrated model of Figueroa et al. (2002) Source: Authors. The catalyst role in communication for social change in Vietnam In Vietnam, some research suggests that the catalyst should be a leader from within the community, especially linked to or part of the local authorities (Hue et al., 2015; O. Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996; Nguyen, 2000). The reason is that the local authorities have a lot of power in relation to the community, given the authoritarian nature of Vietnamese governance. In addition, in Vietnamese culture, people have a particularly high respect for community leaders as Fathers or Mothers of the villages (Bui, 2016), which is a cultural value that continues to characterize urban social relations. As a result, local authorities are well-positioned to become catalysts, although state-led social change objectives and community objectives may not always be aligned (Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996). Other researchers emphasize the role of civil society organizations (CSOs), especially non-governmental organizations (NGOs), can play in Vietnamese social change (Bui, 2016; Le, Nguyen, and Pham, 2015b; Le, La, and Nguyen, 2015a). However, to date research has tended to focus on the role of international NGOs (INGOs) instead of on local organizations. Furthermore, research related to communication for social change in Vietnam tends to be focused on rural rather than urban contexts (Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996; Nguyen, Van de Fliert, and Nicetic, 2015). The reason is 66.9 percent of Vietnam’s population still lives in rural areas where developmental needs are highest (Le-Quang, 2014). As a result, most research funding (largely from government and INGOs) for community development is still used for issues of rural areas (JICA, 2016; Rodríguez, Preston, Dolberg, 1996; Nguyen et al., 2015). Nevertheless, given the rapid speed of urbanization in Vietnam, especially in HCMC, there is a need for research related to urban issues. To date, urban studies usually concentrate on issues such as changes in government management, population, infrastructure, economics and living standards (Belgian Development Agency, 2014). There is almost no research that works directly on the role of social change catalysts in urban community development in HCMC and the research this paper is based on seeks to fill that gap. Methodology The evaluation of LIN’s impact on community development in HCMC is based on the Integrated model of measuring the process of applying the participatory communication approach and its outcomes, which was developed by Figueroa et al. (2002). This model employs seven outcome indicators, which are suitable to evaluate LIN’s impact: leadership, degree and equity of participation, information equity, collective self-efficacy, sense of ownership, social cohesion and social norms. In each indicator, there are dimensions followed by detailed questions that aim to measure the impact of participatory communication process. Our analysis works on three main strategic objectives of LIN: NPO network facilitation, NPO capacity enhancement and community fund coordination for NPOs. The research is based on ethnographic non-participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interview with LIN personnel and stakeholders and secondary data. During the data collection period, the leading researcher spent four weeks observing LIN’s communication activities and interaction with NPOs. The research involved 18 participants for in-depth semi-structured interviews, including eight LIN’s staff, nine NPOs representatives and three skilled volunteers. Findings LIN’s operations LIN’s key activities include NPO network facilitation, NPO capacity enhancement and community fund coordination for NPOs as the below figure. In network facilitation, the conditions for being LIN’s NPO partner are deliberately kept simple. In Vietnam, the non-profits are still a ‘sensitive’ politically sector since the government controls the process of NPOs establishment strictly. Most of NPOs in HCMC are not registered legally, which makes their work more challenging. LIN does not require NPOs to submit legal papers and just asks NPOs to provide evidences of three NOs (no profit, no politics and no religion). In capacity enhancement programmes, LIN works closely with skilled volunteers from various sectors to support NPOs directly in their specific needs. Other agency NPOs working with NPOs in HCMC only focus on providing social workers with training for specific social work skills under government support and they do not collaborate with the corporate sector. In community fund coordination, LIN is the only NPO in HCMC organizing such kind of fund activities. Narrow the Gap [NTG] was, at the time this research took place, the most significant programme of LIN, which connects and brings local resources together to support local NPOs in HCMC, demonstrating clearly the application of participatory community development approaches. LIN works as a facilitator for the grant, pulling together the participation of multiple stakeholders. According to LIN (2016a), ‘by engaging people with a shared vision, by pooling available resources and by investing together in projects that address local needs, a community fund helps make it easier and more rewarding for people to become more strategic with their giving’ (p. 1). As a result, by 2015, LIN had a wide NPO network with 187 local NPO partners in HCMC, 29 grants for NPOs valued nearly 105,000 USD and 468 matched volunteers with more than 7000 h (LIN, 2016a). From 2010 to 2014, LIN’s Annual Report (2016a) states that 90 percent of NPO partners were satisfied with LIN Programmes and Services and 98 percent of NPOs believe that LIN positively impacted on their practice. However, since the founder of LIN is an expat (American), her work was influenced by the Western approach of participation and community development on LIN’s work. This has created some challenges for LIN in its work in the Vietnamese context and until now, LIN’s working approach is still on the contextualizing process to maximize its impact in Vietnam. The need of a local NPO catalyst in communication for social change All NPO representatives described the value of LIN’s work as a community development catalyst. LIN has clearly played a leadership role in developing a new model of community development within HCMC, and one that is based on participation. As a result, LIN’s NPO network currently is the largest one in HCMC. Moreover, since LIN works closely with corporate sector and promotes skilled volunteering activities, NPOs as LIN’s partners have more opportunities to network outside the non-profit sector and create connections with donors and skilled volunteers. This collaboration enhances significantly NPOs’ capacities and resources. This case study also points out that a local NPO is a suitable catalyst for urban community development. In urban areas of Vietnam, NPOs rarely receive support from INGOs due to the international focus on rural underdevelopment and the fact that urban areas experience rapid economic growth. The impact of local authorities in urban setting is also lower than in rural areas. Thus, a local NPO can play an important role in catalysing social change. Among many local NPOs in HCMC, LIN has the most potential as a social change catalyst because it is the only NPO working as a development agency connecting and supporting NPOs in HCMC. In addition, LIN staff have both direct experience working with local NPOs and local companies and are networked across the community and business/corporate sector. These stakeholders trust LIN and they actively contribute to LIN’s work. For example, according to Narrow the Gap annual report (LIN, 2016b), the amount of money LIN received from the public for this community fund has increased from 15,000 USD in 2012 to 77,000 USD in 2016. Evaluating the LIN catalyst model on urban community development The data demonstrates that LIN is working as a local catalyst in community development in HCMC, and there is therefore a need to begin to evaluate its impact. According to Figueroa et al. (2002) framework and the findings, LIN’s catalyst role in community development in HCMC can be measured as below. Each criterion is supported by specific dimensions developed around detailed questions that aimed to measure the impact of the participatory communication process. The data collected was then analysed based on the questions and measure scale in the framework with three priorities as the top, medium and lowest for each criteria. In this research, high level is marked when over 80 percent of the framework elements achieved positive result. A medium level is achieved with a 50 percent positive result while a low level is marked by below 10–15 percent positive responses. Social cohesion The impact of social cohesion in LIN’s network is still weak. The NPO network is still one directional where NPOs link with LIN but not amongst themselves. This is contrasted with LIN’s expectation of creating a horizontal structure in a culture of sharing amongst NPOs. The loose relationship among NPOs is a long lasting issue caused by the specific socio-political context in Vietnam where the space of civil society is very narrow (Le et al., 2015). The government is suspicious of civil society networks, fearing the potential of opposition groups forming (Le et al., 2015). As a result, NPOs seldom take the initiative to collaborate. They are worried that this connection will harm their own relationship with the government, which can result in legal difficulties (Bui, 2016). Furthermore, many NPOs in Vietnam struggle to survive on short term grants, thus they have little cooperation capacity, or have difficulty reconciling different visions and issues (Le et al., 2015). For instance, local NPOs usually assume that INGOs implement useless projects because they do not understand the local needs, while INGOs consider local NPOs work unprofessionally without long-term vision. Leadership Based on the findings and indicators of leadership by Figueroa et al. (2002), LIN has achieved a medium level of leadership. The leadership comes from close relationship between LIN and NPOs which creates trust. LIN has created an open space for NPOs to have dialogue through peer sharing, half-day workshops, one on one advisory days and community fundraising activities. ‘When LIN works with us, the staff always encourages us to ask questions and exchange ideas with other NPOs’ (NPOrep). LIN’s main communication approach to NPOs is interpersonal communication (face-to-face, phone calling), which leads to strong relationships and which strengthens LIN’s leadership. This style of leadership reflects Vietnamese cultural norms, where leadership is considered as management of people rather than management of work and a relationship based on trust between the leader and stakeholders is particularly emphasized (Nguyen et al., 2009). NPOs perceive LIN’s network as a big family for all NPOs in HCMC. In the 2016 annual NPO partner survey (LIN, 2016a), 54 percent NPOs said that they would definitely recommend LIN to others. The main challenge of LIN’s leadership is NPOs still tend to depend on LIN instead of working by themselves. NPOs rarely take the initiative to look for and match with skilled volunteers. Thus, LIN unintentionally turns to be a dominant leader. This fact limits the initiative of NPOs in taking ownership of some of the processes required for sustainable practices and developing their own leadership capacity. Degree and equity of participation of NPOs in LIN When applying the findings on the integrated model of Figueroa et al. (2002), LIN appears to operate at a medium level in regards to the degree and equity of participation in community development. LIN retains an open policy in regards to its NPO network membership, with low barriers to NPOs joining their network. This distinguishes LIN from other community development agencies, which typically require government registration for the organizations they work with, which can be bureaucratic and difficult for grassroots NPOs. Moreover, LIN tries to apply the participatory communication approach to work in all its activities with stakeholders, for example, creating open spaces for NPOs to share their ideas and being flexible to change based on NPOs’ feedback, in contrast to an atmosphere of state oversight. However, not all NPOs work actively with LIN. LIN provides the same services for all NPOs, regardless of their different needs. Another barrier of NPOs’ participation is applying the Western participation approach into the Vietnamese context. According to Doan (2005, as cited in Han et al., 2016), under the Confucian paradigm, young people are taught to respect elders and those with higher status in the family or social hierarchy, with everyone willing to live and work for the harmony and benefit of the community. It is deeply different from the Western community concept which encourages the voices of individuals with social issues. Information equity LIN’s work provides evidence of medium performance in regards to information equity. Within its network, LIN is an active communicator, providing various information resources for NPOs. Consequently, most of NPOs’ representatives said that they find LIN’s news sources are informative and that the free flow of information from LIN to NPOs is strong. However, their awareness or correct knowledge about key issues and LIN’s programmes is still limited. The researchers observed that LIN’ stakeholders often misunderstand LIN’s messages. This might be due to the fact that new Western concepts related to community development that LIN introduced to Vietnamese NPOs are often little explained. Conceptual misunderstandings affect LIN’s work negatively, especially in relation to the Narrow the Gap community fund, which is one of LIN’s central initiatives. NPOs have had difficulty understanding why they are judged by the public instead of experts and the reason for doing promotional activities to the public. It has not been made sufficiently clear to them that by directly raising public awareness on local issues and efforts by local NPOs in addressing them, the support from the public for non-profit sector may be beneficial to them, i.e. changing perceptions about the NPO sector. Consequently, some NPOs do not apply for this grant anymore. Another important reason is that LIN’s language style is influenced by the corporate sector which is not often properly understood by the NPOs. As the corporate sector is one of LIN’s principal stakeholders, LIN staff usually apply a professional business language style to communicate with this sector. LIN’s adoption of straightforward and condensed international business language means that some of its communication with local NPOs is inappropriate or alienating. Collective self-efficacy According to the findings and Figueroa et al. (2002)'s integration model, LIN’s work meets the medium level of collective self-efficacy indicator. This refers to the confidence and belief that a community can take actions and solve problems together (Figueroa et al., 2002, Komives and Wagner, 2012). In this research, most of LIN’s stakeholders believe communication with LIN is of high quality. The researchers observed that NPOs are confident to share their thoughts about social issues with other NPOs, skilled volunteers and LIN staff. They also frequently propose new projects and are open to get feedback from others. Some NPOs said that they have become more confident in themselves and in some cases their expanded conception of their work has led to engaging with the corporate sector in order to enhance their projects’ quality (NPOreps). Nevertheless, there is a loose connection among NPOs (as mentioned in the Social cohesion). They still have a low self-awareness about their own rights and have a low confidence in their ability to collaborate and raise the voice of non-profit sector about social issues. Sense of ownership The research shows that different levels of NPO participation lead to different levels of NPOs’ sense of ownership. LIN’s NPOs partners are separated into three groups with different levels of ownership: well-established organizations, new-established organizations and organizations under the support of INGOs or government. Group one is aware of the LIN benefits and have a strong sense of ownership as well as commitment to contribute to LIN’s work (NPOreps). Based on their interaction with LIN, group two has a medium sense of ownership. These NPOs whilst they recognize their membership benefits, they are still too preoccupied with building their own network and activities. Apart from those programmes designed specifically for newly established NPOs and grant competitions, these organizations rarely attend LIN’s activities and do not understand LIN’s operations properly (NPOreps). The third group rarely participates in LIN’s activities and it does not feel that they have a close relationship with LIN (NPOreps). In short, based on their developmental stage, NPOs will have different sense of ownership in their activities when working with the catalyst. Social norms Evidence from this case study indicates that LIN has successfully turned the terms of ‘non-profit organization’ and ‘skilled volunteer’ into recognized and then accepted as social norms, particularly in the circle of LIN’s stakeholders. Before LIN was established, local NPOs were perceived as charity organizations (cơ sở từ thiện), social welfare organizations (cơ sở bảo trợ xã hội) or NGOs (tổ chức phi chính phủ). Currently, these organizations have started naming themselves as ‘non-profit organizations’ (tổ chức phi lợi nhuận). Skilled volunteers, donors and public are now familiar with this term and understand the non-profit sector more clearly. Besides, LIN staff and stakeholders indicated that since working with LIN, their understanding of the ‘skilled volunteer’ term has developed better. ‘The trust of the public on NPOs is important. It can come from many different ways and one of them is using the simple names to create a neutral and correct understanding about non-profit sector’ (LIN staff). The successful introduction of these norms could be attributed to Vietnam’s high-context communication (Hue et al., 2015). People are more easily persuaded by the use of the descriptive norm (norms formed based on the observation of role models) rather than the injunctive norm (tell people what they should or should not do in a specific circumstance) (Hue et al., 2015). From the findings, there are three shared underlying issues. The first one is the vertical leadership from LIN to NPOs, which makes NPOs link with LIN but not amongst themselves. The loose relationship among NPOs is a long lasting issue caused by the specific socio-political context in Vietnam. The Vietnamese political system has been built on a Marxist–Leninist foundation, where the space of civil society is narrow and there is no support from the government for the non-profit sector because of fearing the potential of opposition groups forming (Le et al., 2015). Moreover, most Vietnamese people assume that they just need to obey the instruction of a leader without questioning it or offering feedback, and that the leader will fully support them throughout their whole lives (Le et al., 2015). The second issue is obstacles in the application of the Western participation approach and community development concepts into the Vietnamese context. In Vietnam, under the Confucian paradigm, there is a generation gap between well-established NPOs (with older leaders) and newly established NPOs (with younger leaders) (Han et al., 2016; Coe, 2015). This causes a negative impact on the participatory process, premised on Western-styled ideas of democracy, in which individualism rather than community and conflict rather than consensus are the central elements (Waisbord, 2001). In addition, LIN’ stakeholders often misunderstand LIN’s community development concepts due to lack of locally contextualized explanation. Last but not least is the lack of impact evaluation to strengthen the catalyst’s working operation with NPOs. This has resulted in LIN providing the same services for all NPOs, regardless of their different needs. A number of NPOs indicated that the reason they do not seek LIN services is less to do with their quality and more with the fact they do not meet their needs (NPOreps). Discussion Based on the above analysis, there are three crucial elements required in creating an emerging social change catalyst model in relation to NPOs in urban community development, especially in Vietnam: leadership strategy for the catalyst and NPOs, context understanding and suitable impact evaluation framework based on local context in the whole communication process. These elements should be applied on working with the catalyst’s stakeholders through both interpersonal communication and media activities. Below is the suggested revised catalyst model for urban areas based on LIN’s model and indications supported from evidence of this research. Key elements In this model, the following key elements can support a catalyst to enhance effective community dialogue and collective actions for its stakeholders, especially NPOs. A. Leadership strategy The centrality of power is a key idea in thinking and practicing communication for development and social change (Waisbord, 2005). Thus, it is essential that a catalyst identifies its leading position as well as empowers the stakeholders’ leadership. It is crucial for a catalyst to enhance its self-efficacy (recognizing issues that need to change and believe that it can be a leader to make a change). This in its turn can powerfully inspire the collective self-efficacy (Komives and Wagner, 2012). It usually happens that a catalyst does not want to emphasize its leadership position because it conflicts with the participatory ethos that LIN promotes. As LIN’s founder states, ‘We [LIN] do not want NPOs think that we are leader or we decide all programmes related to them. Thus, we never state LIN is a leader and always encourage NPOs to increase their sense of ownership in community development’. However, various studies (Figueroa et al., 2002; Melkote and Steeves, 2001; Hermann, 2007) and evidence from this research show that in a developing country, where most of NPOs are at a grassroots level, it is difficult for people to take community development initiatives. They need to have a catalyst at the beginning of the social change process to raise awareness about social issues and support them in implementing solutions. A catalyst-leader in this process does not mean dominating NPOs in all activities, but rather focusing on instructing NPOs in initial steps and gradually transferring the community power to local NPOs. In the Vietnamese context, where leadership is expected by those with a status position, it is also essential that a catalyst pays attention on creating opportunities for NPOs to learn and practice their own leadership. These activities include reconnoitering a tiered NPOs system, supporting NPOs to learn to lead change and enhancing NPOs collaboration. In community development, there is a need for NPOs to be categorized into different groups based on their individual characteristics. These characteristics can be identified from analysing in depth the annual NPOs survey results, observing LIN staff and in-depth interviews with NPOs’ representatives. Furthermore, supporting them to learn how to develop their own leadership is a necessary part of the catalyst’s work in community development (Komives and Wagner, 2012). This point usually is missed out in most community projects in Vietnam, including LIN. The main reason is that Vietnamese people are not familiar with ‘becoming’ leaders in their community. Often leadership is considered a social responsibility belonging to ‘others’, particularly of status, and not to themselves (Hue et al., 2015; Le et al., 2015; Han et al., 2016). This causes many difficulties for community projects, which call for the active participation of stakeholders. Therefore, it is essential that a catalyst helps NPOs become aware of the importance of being independent, having social responsibility and learning how to lead change. Furthermore, peer collaboration is one of the major elements in the participatory social change process (Komives and Wagner, 2012; Osteen, 2003). According to Osteen (2003), meaningful collaboration means enhancing the sense of ownership and encouraging their partnership to work together, transforming from ‘somebody needs to’ to ‘I need to’ and ‘we need to’. Therefore, in Vietnam, a catalyst is recommended to provide spaces for networking that can gradually create opportunities for NPOs working in the same field to develop dialogue that can result in working together through shared projects. B. Context understanding Cultural factors have a strong influence on implementing the participatory communication approach (Servaes and Makikhao, 2005; Waisbord, 2005). In this case study, especially the Narrow The Gap programme, there are obstacles in engaging stakeholders in community fund activities since the Western community fund concept, which involves raising funds directly from the community and not having to rely on big sponsors or donors, is new in the Vietnamese context. In order to create sustainable impact, a catalyst needs to deeply understand the community and its socio-cultural and political context. The catalyst needs to join more frequently local community activities, engage in deeper conversations with local people and their stakeholders (NPOs, skilled volunteers and donors) as well as work closely with local journalists to keep them updated on social issues and changes in the local communities. This understanding should be used in modifying and localizing exogenous concepts into the local context with specific examples in the Vietnamese context. In addition, a catalyst should understand the characteristics of its stakeholders (corporate sector and non-profit sector) and apply them on both writing and oral communication. For example, according to Vasquez (2013) and Nickerson (2013), the style of corporate language is concise and condensed because being straightforward and simple are particularly valued in business. In contrast, Shupac (2012) points out that the language style used in the non-profit sector should be more community-oriented by using an inspiring, passionate, friendly and caring language style. C. Impact evaluation framework in local context According to this research, a social change catalyst in Vietnam can adapt the Figueroa et al. (2002) model to evaluate its impact. Additionally, there is a need of applying different levels by focusing on each indicator to maximize the potential of this evaluation framework based on the three underlying issues: lack of strong internal and external leadership, lack of understanding of local context and no evaluation framework for operation process with stakeholders. The table below provides the emerging from this research sub-indicators that can complement the existing ones from Figueora et al. model within the Vietnamese context. Communication approaches between a catalyst and its stakeholders In communication for social change, communication is a goal of development since the dialogic capacity of communities is frequently a principle aim in any community process (Cadiz, 2005; Waisbord, 2005). Based on this research and several studies, to achieve both goal and tool roles, interpersonal communication and media activities need to be applied in a contextualized manner (Waisbord, 2005). Firstly, interpersonal communication is still the most effective way to connect people in a community, diffuse new ideas and implement the participatory communication approach (Cadiz, 2005; Servaes and Malikhao, 2005; Waisbord, 2005). In this research, both NPOs and skilled volunteers point out their need of face-to-face communication with LIN staff since LIN’s activities when guided by direct communication always receive positive feedback from stakeholders. Alongside with interpersonal communication, the advantages of media (both mainstream and online) activities in urban areas cannot be ignored due to its access to large population of users and its strength in raising awareness in large groups. Vietnam is the fastest Internet growing country in Asia, with the highest growth rates in the world (Cimigo, 2011). There is evidence that young leaders of newly established NPOs and young skilled volunteers usually receive information about LIN through social media channels. The research of Le et al. (2015) points out that most people working in newly established organizations in the non-profit sector are around 20–35 years old, familiar with working online and create many vibrant community activities in the social media. Therefore, information through social media has a higher opportunity of reaching directly this group. Mass media are also potential communication resources for a catalyst. There are 857 official news organizations including print newspaper (199), online newspaper (105) and radio–television (67) in Vietnam (Tran, 2017). If a catalyst works well with mass media, it can reach more NPOs seeking to join a network to enhance their capacities, as well the public, skilled volunteers and donors, who can provide strong supports for catalyst and NPOs. Conclusion Evidence from the research shows that LIN is considered as a catalyst by HCMC’s community development sector. NPOs trust LIN and have developed a strong connection with its network and programmes. LIN has contributed to the improvement of the NPOs’ quality in its network by network facilitation, capacity enhancement, community fund coordination, as well as new social norms popularizing in urban community development. All these activities indicate a strong impact on NPOs both internally and externally. However, challenges of LIN model include the dependence of NPOs on a catalyst as an organization providing endless free services for them; the misunderstanding in communication due to differences in cultural context and the lack of a strategic evaluation framework in local context. As a result, in the emerging catalyst model for urban community development in a developing country like Vietnam, three following new crucial elements need to be taken into consideration by a catalyst: developing a leadership strategy for both catalyst’s staff and NPOs, understanding context and implementing the impact evaluation framework based on local context. Interpersonal communication and multimedia activities are highly recommended to use through this process. 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A primer on sector buzzwords and jargon. The Charity Village . Retrieved from: https://charityvillage.com Tran, L. ( 2017) Journalism is facing to big challenges. Sai Gon Giai Phong, accessed at: http://sggp.org.vn. Vásquez, F. ( 2013) Differences between Academic and Business Writing, Glob Bus Lang , 18 ( 8), 1896– 1906. Waisbord, S. ( 2005) Five key ideas: coincidences and challenges in development communication, in Hemer, O. and Tufte, T., eds, Media and Global Change: Rethinking Communication for Development , Buenos Aires: Nordicom; CLACSO, Göteborg, Sweden, pp. 77– 91. Waisbord, S. ( 2001) Family tree of theories, methodologies and strategies in development communication , The Rockefeller Foundation, Washington, D.C, http://www.comminit.com/global/content/family-tree-theories-methodologies-and-strategies-development-communication-convergences.. Retrieved from. World Bank ( 2015) East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth (Vol. 2). World Bank Report series 93877, Washington, DC. Author notes Chau Doan-Bao is a master candidate at the Communication Studies Department, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Her research focuses on communication for development and social change, intercultural communication and news literacy. She is particularly interested in exploring the contextualizing of development communication in developing countries in South East Asia, especially Vietnam. Evangelia Papoutsaki is an associate professor in Communication Studies at Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand. Research interests include social change communication, development communication and community and participatory media. She has an extensive research experience in the Asia-Pacific region. Evangelia is the Editor in Chief of Unitec’s ePress. Giles Dodson is a senior lecturer in Communication Studies at Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand. Research interests include political and communication, social change communication and environmental communication. Giles is the Deputy Editor of Unitec’s ePress, a Board member of ANZCA and member of the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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Community Development JournalOxford University Press

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