SBC101 case

The role of social entrepreneurship in tackling career disorientation in Vietnam: the case of SpiritUP

Nguyen Dao Huy Kha, Nguyen Dang Minh Hien, Phan Thuy Cao Duong, La Thi Kim Anh, Huynh Le My Huyen and Phan Anh Khoa


Guidance in career orientation has long been neglected within Vietnamese education. Adolescents and young adults in Vietnam are undergoing critical issues relating to career orientation, which renders them more likely to be socially and economically excluded and become vulnerable in the long run. This study examines the role of social entrepreneurship in tackling career disorientation among adolescents and young adults. The study highlights the methods of SpiritUP, a social enterprise that aims at improving the access to career guidance services for young people in Vietnam. In addition, the case illustrates the obstacles facing social entrepreneurs in Vietnam. If properly and innovatively applied, career guidance interventions can be considered a fundamental element for future labor force preparation and the country’s economic growth.

Key words: career guidance, career orientation, adolescents, young adults, students, youth, social entrepreneurship


Adolescence and early adulthood are extremely crucial stages of human development, where individuals transition from childhood to maturity and confront vital decisions critical to their future, particularly professional choices (Dyussenbayev, 2017; Papalia, Olds, and Feldman, 2007). The labor market and career environment are increasingly unpredictable (Chui, Li, and Ngo, 2022). Career confusion can be a challenging experience and can hinder the future success of young people (Mini, Christopher, and Janetius, 2020). Career orientation can play a fundamental role in strengthening individuals’ skills in managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions over a lifetime (UNICEF, 2022). According to Guez and Allen (2000), career orientation is the process whereby an individual is aided in the discovery, acceptance, and proper utilization of their abilities, skills, and interests according to their aspirations and values. Providing guidance can create a difference in career thinking. Practical career guidance promotes students to think critically about who they are and want to become and reflect on the relationships between their educational choices and future work life (Mann et al., 2020). In most countries, policymakers perceive career guidance services as valuable not only to individuals but to society as a whole (Watts, 2005). UNICEF (2022) maintains that in addition to ensuring knowledge and skills base to meet the challenges in the workplace for individuals, career orientation programs help to reduce mismatches between supply and demand for labor, which in turn diminishes unemployment and enhances labor mobility. Furthermore, those programs take into account social equity and social inclusion goals, in which marginalized and at-risk groups are reintegrated into education, training, employment, and labor market services (Hansen, 2006).


Social entrepreneurship

While social entrepreneurship is increasingly prevalent, what a social entrepreneur exactly is and does remains vague (Abu-Saifan, 2012). Martin and Osberg (2007) provide a rigorous definition of social entrepreneurship where the social entrepreneur is defined as someone who targets an unfortunate but stable equilibrium that leads to a neglected, marginalized segment of society; who addresses the situation under his or her inspiration, direct action, creativity, courage, and fortitude; and who ultimately contributes to the establishment of a new stable equilibrium where the permanent benefit for the targeted group and society is secured. Peredo and McLean (2006) summarize five characteristics of social entrepreneurs, including (1) aim at generating social value, (2) demonstrate a capacity to recognize and exploit opportunities to generate that value, (3) deploy innovation in the creation or distribution of social value, (4) demonstrate a willingness to accept an above-average degree of risk, and (5) are not discouraged by scarce assets in the pursuit of their social venture. Abu-Saifan (2012) systematically reviews literature related to the definition of social entrepreneurship and proposes that a social entrepreneur is a mission-driven individual who utilizes a set of entrepreneurial behaviors to deliver a social value to the underprivileged, all via an entity that is entrepreneurially oriented, financially independent, self-sufficient, and sustainable. Social entrepreneurship is determined by a variety of factors, such as cultural, institutional, and economic determinants, access to knowledge and financial strength, and entrepreneurial capability (Tien et al., 2019). Similar to the characteristics of traditional entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship operates on business principles and entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, such as management skills to ensure efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, to run a business and obtain its intended goals with innovation and risk-taking (Tam, Asamoah and Chan, 2021). However, unlike traditional entrepreneurship, economic value creation in the form of wealth generation is merely for the purpose of ensuring the sustainability of the social objectives of a business (Partzsch & Ziegler, 2011). Peredo and McLean (2006) highlight that it is the commitment to providing social value that distinguishes social entrepreneurship with other forms of entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship has been increasingly perceived to be one of the most significant mechanisms to facilitate the achievement of sustainable development goals (Lubberink, 2019). 


Social entrepreneurship landscape and the Problem of career disorientation in Vietnam

Social entrepreneurship is a recently emerged form of entrepreneurship in Vietnam (Do, 2022). Since 2010, the ‘social enterprise’ concept has become increasingly prevalent among entrepreneurs, policymakers, and social media, which was vastly associated with establishing specialized support organizations such as the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (Le & Ratten, 2021). According to Le and Ratten (2021), among the most marked achievements in the development of social enterprises in Vietnam is the official recognition of the concept as a legal entity at the Vietnamese Law on Enterprises 68/2014/QH13 in 2014 and Decree No. 96/2015/ND-CP. While commercial entrepreneurship is continually expanding at an accelerated rate, which reflects people’s inner entrepreneurial spirit, robust economic growth potential, and appealing business opportunities in the HCMC megacity, social entrepreneurship in remote areas of the Mekong Delta requires further improvement and investment for sustainable development and to fulfill its mission to close the civilization gap between HCMC megacity and Mekong Delta and to contribute to the ongoing process of formation of a role model of regional agglomeration in Southern Vietnam (Anh et al., 2022). Furthermore, social enterprises remain a young sector in Vietnam, leading to difficulties and challenges facing social enterprises (Do, 2022). According to British Council (2012), there remains limited awareness of social enterprises in Vietnam, in which among a wide range of stakeholders, from ordinary people and the mass media, social enterprises’ approach as well as their role in Vietnam’s economy and society have been poorly understood, leading to the skepticism related to the nature and purpose of social enterprises. In addition, there is a lack of capital and limited capability in accessing financial resources among social enterprises in Vietnam due to the fact that they are in their early days, primarily established from individual ideas that have a social mission, so their initial capital is predominantly self-investment of the founders in a small scale, and have a typical character of not for profit, operating in a high-risk market, with low return on investment rate and are unattractive to commercial investors (British Council, 2012). Moreover, as most social enterprises in Vietnam are young organizations, they need to improve their management capability, particularly in combining skills for managing business activities and social missions to create sustainable social impact (British Council, 2012). There are also challenges related to human resources, such as low quality of human resources, lack of stability, low labor productivity, a more significant investment for personnel than average, difficulty in looking for qualified staff for social enterprises, and especially, heavy dependence on social entrepreneurs (British Council, 2012). 


There needs to be more access to career guidance and counseling services in Vietnam. According to data from the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training, there are only about 1,100 career guidance and counseling centers in the country, serving a population of over 96 million people. This limited access to career guidance and counseling services can leave students feeling lost and unsure about their career paths. In addition, young people in Vietnam need more exposure to diverse career options, in which many students in Vietnam may need to be made aware of the range of career options available to them. According to a survey conducted by the British Council, only 36% of Vietnamese students are conscious of the range of career options available to them. This lack of exposure can hinder students from exploring their interests and pursuing fulfilling careers.


Social Entrepreneurship and career guidance intervention

Social enterprises have been increasingly vital regarding the provision and organization of career guidance activities, given their innovation and knowledge of current and future labor market trends (British Council, 2012). Including social enterprises in the counseling process provides numerous implications for training, specialization, and accreditation (Amundson, 2006). Career intervention programs broadly consist of skill assessment, career information and education, career talks, job shadowing, preparation for job application, short course training, and capacity building for student counselors (British Council, 2012). Nevertheless, some programs include participation fees, preventing access for the most marginalized groups of young people (British Council, 2012). 


The case of SpiritUP

Following our discussion of social entrepreneurship about career guidance intervention, this section illustrates the case of SpiritUP, a social solution designed to support the personal development journey of young people aged 12-22 in Vietnam. By providing young people with the right resources and support, SpiritUP aims to bring success to those individuals and positively impact society as a whole.


Our mission is focused on three key pillars: counseling, career guidance, and professional and social skills development. We offer a range of resources in each of these areas tailored to young people’s unique needs. Our counseling services provide a safe and supportive space for young people to discuss their issues and challenges and receive guidance and support from experienced professionals. We also offer career guidance to help young people identify their strengths and interests and explore potential career paths. Our professional and social skills development platforms provide opportunities for young people to learn new skills, build their confidence, and develop their social networks.

In addition to these key pillars, we create “edutaining” products designed to engage and inform young people. These educational and entertaining products provide young people a fun and engaging way to learn about essential topics.

Finally, we provide a supportive community where young people can connect and share their perspectives. By creating a safe and supportive space for young people to connect and support each other, we can help them navigate the challenges of adolescence and early adulthood with greater confidence and resilience.



Career disorientation may pose negative and long-term consequences for the future of adolescents and young people. Thus, access to career guidance programs is critically important. Within the paradigm of social entrepreneurship, SpiritUP plays a crucial role in bridging the gap in career guidance services in Vietnam. Through our career guidance services, young people identify their strengths and interests and explore potential career paths, learn new skills, build their confidence, and develop their social networks. Thus, educational needs related to career path of youths in the community are being met. In broad terms, SpiritUP is empowering the youth in Vietnam to navigate the challenges of adolescence and early adulthood with greater confidence and resilience.

As these activities are in line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, SpiritUP contributes significantly to driving positive changes to the youth’s life and to society as a whole. 



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