This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

In episode 14 we visit the entrepreneur Hoàng Đức Minh who was selected by Forbes Vietnam as one of 30 under 30. We talk about his utopia of living in harmony with all his friends and doing nothing and how education could benefit from a using a variety of teaching approaches.

[atmo – We have no idea where we are going. So we could be on our way to get murdered right now. We are just going to a stranger’s house and the only reason we trust him is cause he is an activist.]

My name is Minh. I am 26, I am the founder of Wake It Up, a platform for the social activists.

Minh’s company Wake It Up is a start up in its early phases. It is a combination of crowd funding and a platform, which allows social and environmental activists to connect with supporters and sponsors. Minh has experienced some shortcomings of social media platforms. So his website does three things:

One: it counts active supporters

It’s not like Facebook, you can have like 60,000 people like your fan page, but you don’t know who are they, where are they from. It’s really hard. You have to pay the money just to reach the people who follow you on Facebook. So we think that we need a platform for social activists to connect with their participants.

Two: it allows easy communication between activists and their ‘likers’

…you propose a project online and you looking for a company to sponsor for the project.. they will sponsor based on the number who support the project.

And three it uses those numbers to connect projects with funders

The reason Minh got involved in social and environmental activism is not just about helping successful campaigns…

I don’t want to be a hero. I don’t think I can stand in front of the suffering of people around. The question about what is this world for, what is this program, this interview for, it’s hard to say. No one told you the real answer right. So you need to find one for yourself…

But for me, for fun is the most important thing first. It’s hard to be fun when people are crying around you.

Even as a child Minh’s idea of fun was a little more intense than that of his peers.

I always get bored very soon. For me I don’t find any meaning with playing alone and playing with the toys. I am really a social one, I need to talk, I need information and I need discussion. But no one talk to me at that time, and no one answer my question, why we need to die, why people married…

so little Minh found distraction…

My mum and my father they are scientists and they have a lot of books. My father teaching programming, I think I’m one of the first children that get access to the Internet.

Wanting to only do things that he has good reason for continued to his school days.

For a long time since I was very small I want to be free and I cannot put myself working on the homework. I know how to do it, why do I need to proof it to my teacher?

It’s not that Minh didn’t want to learn, he just doesn’t think that the current system is the way to go.

A good system is a combination of many systems, smaller systems. That people can moving around and choose the best one for them. And you have a space for more and more different kinds of methodology and approach.

So what would his ideal system look like?

I love talking so I just need a chance to talk. I am really happen when listening to other people when they talk. And I learn when people ask question, discussion more than exam.

He already has a plan…

We will have a school, like an orphan school, that we will adopt a lot of children around the world and the country that we can apply our methodology on education.

This vision fits with other things he is planning for the future

I think I will adopt children. I don’t want to create more humans for the world. When I die I don’t need to, I don’t want to care about anything that can survive in the world. The children already there, belong to the world and I just help the world to raise it.

…and as it takes a village to raise a child

I always want to have something like an island or a village on the mountain. When we have enough land for all the food and we can have a community that only music and love and art. I want to have enough house for all my friends, who want to stay that life with me.

But he is not sure whether his friends who would be his future village community agree with him.

You know most of my friends at this time they are still young, and they really love the party, they really love the city. No one think about life the you don’t have to work or just grow food like a farmer.

Minh has tried out the idea of village living. He has taken groups of young people on weeklong team building trips outside of the city.

No Wi-Fi, no electricity, nothing and they really enjoy it. We talk for the whole day and we just looking for the food on the beach, it’s really amazing times and people love that, but then when they think it’s about stay in that life forever it’s really crazy for them and they’re like ‘ah I love karaoke, I love Wi-Fi and the Internet’. So I think more than 80% of people have more than they need.

And does he think the issues people care about are related to wealth?

Even you have enough money or not you care about the environment, because it affects your life

And once you do care, what are the differences between awareness and action?

There is a big difference between when you like a dress and when you buy a dress

What makes a successful campaign one that gets people to not just like the dress, but BUY it too?

Maybe you can ask the same question why the Gangnam style is so popular? So what is the next song will be the viral song like Gangnam style? It’s maybe just a theory that no one can prove.

But he DOES have some tips for activists planning a campaign.

You need to get the emotion from people with good copy writing, with good image and good video and someone who is inspiring, some character that really make the people feeling sad and cry or happy, exciting or expected.

Minh has been involved in campaigns that are considered successful – like the one against cutting down trees in Hanoi. So we wanted to know what happens after the first likes, shares and donations. So all activists can do is…

… keep checking on the problem and keep pushing, but when the government doesn’t reply there are no way for them to do anything more than just keep sharing about the information.

And Minh is working on a project that does just that.

It’s a website called watchvietnam.net that we put all the scandal on a timeline and we put everything just up there so people know and aware that there is a problem there and it’s still not been solved. That people can keep updated about a scandal. Yeah this question has not been answered, for one month, for two months and if you not answer it will still be there.

Is he ever concerned about possible consequences of his work?

I never got in trouble. I know that there is a limit. Since I know the limit I am always in the border of the limit. And I always try to push the limit. And other people like me they are pushing the limit, because if there are many people crossing the border, that make the border become bigger.


This has been The Renovation Generation. Follow us on SoundCloud or subscribe to The Renovation Generation on iTunes, Stitcher or MixCloud to never miss an episode.

It is produced by Eliza Lomas and Fabiola Buchele, our production assistants are Trang Nghiem and Trang Ngo.

Jacques Smit is our photographer and the narration was done by me Trang Ngo.

An & Of Other Things production.

In episode 15 we will delve into the eerie world of popular fashion blogger and style icon Plaaastic who allowed us a glimpse behind her carefully curated online persona and talked to us about addiction and how she ended up working in Singapore’s fashion scene aged 15.

Be sure to listen!