RMIT Vietnam NewsStudents and NGO help rural youth make the most of social media

Students and NGO help rural youth make the most of social media

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 17:07

A group of RMIT Vietnam Professional Communication students from Hanoi have worked with NGO ChildFund Australia to help teenagers in rural areas of Hoa Binh province better understand social media.

As part of the Professional Communication Capstone Studio course, the students partner with an organisation to propose communication solutions to social issues, environmental issues or new businesses in Vietnam, which contribute to the sustainable development of local communities.

This semester, the students had a chance to work with ChildFund Australia in Vietnam to develop a strategy and execution plan targeting youth aged 11 to 24 to raise awareness and build knowledge about the potential pitfalls, as well as the upsides, of using social media.

Professional Communication Lecturer Nguyen Thi Hong Phuong said the assignment was designed to give students a chance to develop a communication campaign that was part of a larger project.

“They need to understand their clients' organisational values and approaches, and also have the technical knowledge relating to the issues they are working on,” she said.

“That required them to utilise the knowledge and skills they learnt from different courses in public relations, advertising and contextual analysis.”

The students began by conducting field research in Kim Boi, Hoa Binh province, to gather insights into how young people are using social media.  For many of the students, this was the first time they ventured to such a rural area, and there was some trepidation among the group.

“I was quite nervous before going there,” said Professional Communication student Nguyen Phuong Linh. “But in the end, we collected lots of helpful data for the project.”

During the one-day trip, the students interviewed individuals in their target audience and met the local authorities of the two communes. One of the students, Vu Hai Nam said: “The most difficult problem was trying to dig up as much information as possible as not all people in the field were willing to share their thoughts and opinions in meetings.”

Professional Communication students conducted in-depth group interviews in Kim Boi, Hoa Binh.

However, they did find the teens enthusiastically embrace social media, following trends and using it as a medium to express themselves. Conversely, they also found that the teens had little understanding of the risks of over exposure or cyber bullying.

With the results collected from the trip, the students worked together to develop a 12-month communication plan to pitch to representatives from ChildFund.

The students proposed the creation of a Facebook page as a peer-to-peer communication platform to facilitate the expression of young people’s voices and their participation in the local community. The proposal emphasised administration of the page by local youth, and capacity building for this administration group.  

The students also developed print materials, billboards, community theatre, and online video/photo competitions, all of which used the language of youth.

The team went to Hoa Binh to conduct in-depth research and interviews.

ChildFund project officer Tran Van Tu, who is based in Hoa Binh, said he was impressed by the amount of insight the students were able to gather in only a single day. “In such a short time, the students could obtain excellent knowledge about the social media habits of teenagers in the area.”

“I can see potential applications in every campaign proposal. It’s indeed beyond my expectation,” he said.

Story: Pham Kieu Trang