Globally, close to 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities and close to 80% of diseases in developing countries are caused by unsafe water sources. The provision of clean water and adequate sanitation is a key factor in the reduction of sickness and poverty. The UN estimates that inadequate sanitation costs the world close to US$260 billion in economic losses and that every US$1 spent on sanitation brings a US$5.5 return by keeping people healthy and productive.

GIFT’s 46th Global Leaders Programme (GLP) included a field project in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Over twenty business executives took part in GIFT’s flagship two-week programme to apply their leadership skills towards resolving a pressing social issue: improving public health through handwashing with soap.

GIFT partnered with HappyTap company, a Vietnamese social enterprise spun off from WaterSHED NGO and committed to providing market-based solutions to widespread challenges associated to poor water and sanitation. The company’s flagship product – the Labobo – is a dedicated handwashing station that is affordable, portable and easy to use. Participants were tasked to provide HappyTap with strategic recommendations to support the large-scale sale and distribution of the handwashing device in Vietnam and the region.


99% of the 4 million new-born infants who die every year do so in the developing world. The vast majority of these deaths are the result of easily treatable diseases such as infant respiratory distress or jaundice. Unfortunately, the countries that are most in need of life saving neonatal equipment are also the countries least able to afford it.

Medical Technology Transfer and Services (MTTS) is a Vietnamese medical equipment manufacturer set up in 2003 to address this very problem. The social enterprise adapts Western medical technology for neonatal care by making the devices more affordable, adapted to local contexts and infrastructures, durable and easy-to-use. To date, most of MTTS’ sales have been channelled through NGO East Meets West’s (EMW) Breath of Life programme.

GIFT is pleased to have partnered with MTTS and EMW for its 35th Global Leaders Programme in Hong Kong and Hanoi, that brought together 22 participants from the civil, public and private sectors. The group made recommendations to MTTS to scale-up its business and to be less dependent on grants and donations by achieving financial sustainability. The proposal includes recommendations to expand the company’s operations outside of Vietnam, to move the base of production to the Philippines where manufacturing costs are lower, to revamp the sales and marketing strategy, and to strengthen MTTS’ strategic partnerships to support with business growth.                                  


In April 2012 GIFT conducted a customised action-learning programme in Hong Kong and Vietnam for 18 senior executives from the United States, Hong Kong and India. After spending one week in Hong Kong discussing the challenge and opportunities facing the rapidly changing Asian region, participants travelled to Ho Chi Minh City in south Vietnam to work on a real-world business case.

In Vietnam the group’s task was to propose recommendations for the East Meets West Foundation and Australia-based company F Cubed to pilot and commercialize Carocell™ solar water purifying technology throughout the country. Hosted by East Meets West, participants attended meetings with public and private sector stakeholders including the Vietnam Women’s Union and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and visited Carocell™ test sites in Tien Giang and Quang Nam provinces.     

About our partners:

East Meets West is a non-profit foundation with a clear vision to serve the poor and disadvantaged in Southeast and South Asia. It creates sustainable and catalytic solutions to difficult development problems and aims to transform the health, education and communities of disadvantaged people in the region by building partnerships, developing opportunities and creating community-based, long-term and scalable solutions with a significant and measurable impact on the beneficiaries.

F Cubed is an Australian-based global company dedicated to the conservation, production and processing of the world’s most critical resource, water. The company believes its new Carocell™ solar desalinating / purification technology is the most efficient and cost effective product of its kind, producing pure, clean drinking water on any scale from any water source.              


In Vietnam, $262 million per year of economic loss results from poor sanitation, a figure which includes costs of health care, productivity loss and premature death.  In Oct 2010, GIFT collaborated with International Development Enterprises (IDE) to write a plan for the production and sales of low-cost household hand washing devices in rural Vietnam. This was part of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) behaviour change initiative to promote handwashing with soap as a way to improve health and hygiene. During the field visit, participants worked closely with the Vietnam Women’s Union (WU), one of the largest and most influential government mass organisations in Vietnam. The programme research covers the current hygiene and sanitation conditions in rural Vietnam, the socio-economic importance of handwashing and why it is crucial for rural communities in developing countries to incorporate this as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The business plan proposed a social venture whereby members of the Women’s Union are involved in distributing the handwashing devices to rural families.  For a visual overview of the field visit please see the photo story and for a comprehensive review of the entire programme please refer to the round up.   If you have questions regarding any aspect of this programme please contact Eric Stryson on

The project is still ongoing through the joint efforts of Unilever Vietnam, IDE and WSP. The three parties have pledged to financially support the pilot phase of the product launch while the flagship product design schematics are being finalised by IDEO, an award-winning global design firm. Please click here for project update.                         


In partnership with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, GIFT worked with participants from the Senior Management Programme (SMP) on the first annual Global Leaders Module in July 2009. On the programme a group of senior government officials from Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Brunei and Botswana worked closelywith Lien Aid, a Singapore-based NGO, to tackle water and sanitation problems in healthcare in rural Vietnam. The SMP participants focused on devising solutions to deliver safe and affordable water to district level hospitals. With the case study of Bin Luc Hospital in Ha Nam Province, the participants proposed an innovative investment model within a public-private partnership framework that draws collective efforts from the local government, hospital management, community and NGOs.

The business plan formulates a blueprint that is applicable to district hospitals of similar settings across the country. For a visual overview of the field visit  please see the photo story and for a comprehensive review of the site visit please see the round up.