More than 400 students, industry experts and advisors from around the world congregated at RMIT Vietnam’s Saigon South campus to facilitate, brainstorm and share ideas on innovation in Ho Chi Minh City.
The two-day program, City Challenge, involved RMIT students from Vietnam and Australia, and from partner schools in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, as well as students from other countries. The students worked with industry partners to explore innovative solutions around sustainability, transport and city improvements.
Hong Kong Arts School student Brian Smeets described Asia as “growing and expanding in a way that you don’t see often”, and was excited to be a part of the innovation movement in HCMC. Currently completing a Master of Fine Art, Mr Smeets said he wanted to come to Vietnam to see how people experienced life and how they “interacted with the landscape”.
“The Vietnamese students were so interested in improving their city. They really have a drive to succeed in a way that you don’t see in a lot of other places. It was inspiring,” he said.
“The rapid development of different ideas – that’s something I’ve never done in such a fast-paced setting. That process was really interesting. I enjoyed just working with other people to do that and hearing their ideas.”
RMIT Director of Global Entities & Experiences Gerard Shanahan said City Challenge was designed to build leadership skills and resilience, and to offer students a global experience.
“We have a hugely diverse population of students across our campuses in Asia and Australia, and we recognise that students need good leadership skills that will prepare them for life and work in a globalised world,” Mr Shanahan said.
“It’s really important to us that students are given the opportunity to develop a global perspective, but also give them some of the skills to be able to deal with cultures, issues and perspectives that are different to their own.”
City Challenge participants spent the first day of the two-day program investigating the challenges of innovation – a topic that was set for them by Saigon Innovation Hub – by visiting industry experts, listening to guest speakers and witnessing industry practices first hand.
Students discussed the possibilities of innovation in Ho Chi Minh City on the second day in small diverse groups, before presenting their ideas to a panel of experts to choose an overall winner. The winning idea will be supported to become a reality in Ho Chi Minh City.
International Business student from the Singapore Institute of Management, Maria Nicole Xin Xan said it was Ho Chi Minh City’s international reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship that appealed to her most when she applied to participate in City Challenge.
“I believe in having as many opportunities as you can, and learning as many different perspectives as you can. When you are in a group, there are a lot more different perspectives, and that inspires innovation. When you have a lot more of different views, it’s easier to see the good points and the bad points and decide how viable that option can be,” she said.
“The trips and master classes are quite interesting and have opened something new that I haven’t considered before.
“When you leave your home country, you get to see so much more. If I really want to understand other cultures, I need to go to other countries.”
Participating industry experts included representatives from leading innovators like Saigon Innovation Hub, The LIN Center for Community Development, Vietnam Clean and Green, CNCF Vietnam Children’s Foundation, Suntory Pepsico, AVIVA, IKEA Group and Connecty.
Students will now also be invited to complete Be CQ Ready, a free online course designed by RMIT to grow cultural intelligence (CQ) skills.
City Challenge is hosted by RMIT University in partnership with international leadership development not-for-profit Common Purpose, and is part of the University’s Global Leadership Experience programs. It will be followed by a similar event in Singapore in November.
Story: Lisa Humphries