Covid-19 has transformed the way we live and work, increasing people and organisations’ awareness about social inequalities and environmental disasters humans have created. However, with Covid-19 strict lockdown and social distancing restrictions, the economy and businesses in Vietnam have been strongly impacted, from production and operations to sales & marketing, putting employees at the frontline to minimise the impact of Covid, while having to transit to a 100% remote work culture. Studies show that this transition is a major challenge for leaders, with more than 70% of them sharing that adaption to managing, engaging, and motivating their employees remotely. Moreover, vulnerable populations, especially informal workers, are in a critical financial position.

From those observations, after discussing and consulting with some partners, Schoolab designed and launched the Covid Impact Lab. Covid Impact Lab is a 6-week digital collective learning experience towards sustainable & inclusive innovation. Companies work hand-in-hand with top local university students, entrepreneurs, and designers to find impact-driven solutions for their key business challenges and the well-being of the community.

By participating in the Covid Impact Lab program, organisations achieve fruitful results for their businesses and the community they work with. The positive impact is generated by developing new ideas in a short period of time to solve business challenges through the fresh understanding of consumers & the lens of top students.

Schoolab’s mission is to enable and facilitate the participants’ collaboration process by coaching the practice of human-centered design and lean startup. That way, Schoolab increases knowledge accessibility and offers the skill-set that the local talent teams will need to maintain and grow their new initiatives.

This program is launched in the middle of the Covid-19 series. Therefore, Schoolab will allocate 12% of all revenue to the Covid Impact Fund to support vulnerable populations who need immediate support, such as:

  • Students who will have access to a part-time professional compensated learning experience
  • Informal sector workers and other vulnerable populations who are in critical financial positions.

We are thrilled to receive significant interest and engagement from innovation business partners, including Vero, Refill, TonToTon, The Incubation Network, and CCI France Vietnam; and the support of experts from Circular Economy and Waste Management and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) expert Ms. My. With their experiences and expertise in the fields, the partners shared the real challenges they have been facing and provided support to the talent groups in overcoming them.

The Covid Impact Lab was funded by The Incubation Network (for 8 projects), Vero (for 1 project), and CCIFV (for 1project). Students don’t need to pay any fee and they each receive a subsidy of $50 after completing the program. 

Showing a great passion for personal development and high motivation for innovation committed to a better social impact, 27 young talents from 16 universities and 17 majors were selected to participate in the Covid Impact Lab program. Throughout the 6-week journey, the teams received the coaching of 9 experts, knowledge sharing from 15 professionals, and the facilitation of the Schoolab team. 

The student groups have also experienced a digital program with 500 online Design Thinking & Lean Startup modules completed on Inject  – Schoolab’s learning and innovation project management platform. On this learning platform, the students can benefit from Design Thinking tutorials, collaborative exercises, and templates to evaluate the methodology adoption and project progress; numerous masterclasses from experts on related topics; concrete feedback on Design Thinking from entrepreneurs; instant message and project newsfeed to maintain the participants’ engagement throughout the program. 

Besides, the students have conducted more than 25 interviews with informal workers, refill consumers, residents, experts, and other stakeholders to support their learning journey along with attending workshops in Circular Economy and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) organized by our experts.

Hard work pays off. The Covid-19 Impact Lab Demo Day was organized with great success on Thursday, December 16th, 2021, with 9 solutions to pitch. The young innovators showcased the remarkable progress they made with their new human-centered design skills to address issues related to plastic pollution and social inclusion. 

  • To improve the work conditions and incentives of female informal waste workers in order to increase the high and low-value plastic waste collection rates,
  • Team Bánh Mì created the project “Give Your Love Workshop Series” – an innovative workshop to raise awareness about health among female informal waste workers.
  • Team Bún Chả introduced the project “TonToTon Health Management system” – a healthcare tracking system for female informal plastic waste collectors.
  • To empower the vulnerable coastal community in managing their waste segregation & collection system,
  • Team Cháo Lòng pitched the project “ Trash Free Ocean” – a trash-free ocean waste segregation bin.
  • Team Gỏi Cuốn introduced the project “Phu Quoc Plastic Art Gallery” – to build a partnership between the Plastic Art Gallery in Phu Quoc and an e-commerce model to sell waste arts.
  • To attract environmentally-concerned consumers in Ho Chi Minh City into trying refill services,
  • Team Cơm Tấm created the project “Automatic Refill Vending Machine” – a multiply refill auto-machine available in several HCMC districts with convenience stores. 
  • Team Phở with the project “Today I Refill” – a refill activation campaign to try service for universities’ students
  • To create an engaging cross-country initiative for Vero’s regional teams, Team Vero pitched the project “Innovation Advisory Board”, creating a positive impact for a cause while fitting with their busy agendas.
  • To establish a lean setup and operation process in order to easily scale up with female collaborators to create more jobs and income for them,
  • Team Hủ Tíu introduced the project “Smart Refill Shelf for Grocery Store” – a refill collaboration with groceries stores. 
  • Team Bánh Xèo with the project “Refill App” – an application for refill service with genuine container and delivery service. 

We were honored to have the experts and partners be part of the jury board. 

  • Christina Ameln, Sustainability Strategist & Advisor @ Purple IVY I AVPN I Sustainable Vietnam
  • Nhan Nguyen, Founder @ Refill
  • Mae Catibog, Sustainability Compliance & Marketing @ TonToTon
  • Raphael Lachkar, COO @ Vero
  • Kim Le, Co-Founder @ CL2B
  • Quentin Frécon, Country Manager @ Schoolab Asia

The program left behind many positive impacts, including 2400kg of low-value plastic collected and recycled, $1350 fundraising to support vulnerable & marginalized populations, and $1350 allowances for our young innovators, thanks to TonToTon & LIN Center for Community Development.

We also received positive comments from partners and students:

  • Raphael Lachkar: Thank you, Schoolab and team! What a great event, packed with creativity and positive thinking!
  • Nhan Nguyen – RMIT & Refill: Thank you Schoolab, for this great event! Keep building for sustainability!
  • TonToTon, Mae Catibog: BIG CONGRATULATIONS to the students and Schoolab for this meaningful initiative
  • Christina Ameln I Sustainability Strategist & Advisor: Amazing presentations, we want to learn more about the projects. Thank you again Schoolab for the opportunity!
  • Student: I believe that creative design industries need more initiatives like this one. And Design Thinking should be more supported and promoted in Vietnam as it will be beneficial for businesses and the community to jointly solve problems in sustainable and creative ways.