The Revolutionary Community: Vietnam’s Pride and Joy

Vietnam_Party_Committee_Leader.jpgI can still see the roadway at 6:00 AM, lined with people on bicycles and motorbikes, each carrying enormous bags on their shoulders, tethered to a long stick. The bags are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, all healthy and large. An agricultural land for centuries was waking to another day, and along the roads, people were starting to spread out their goods. Surprisingly, wood-fired, small grills were already cooking sizzling meats and foods. (At 6:00 AM, I thought? Hmmmm. I could still taste the delicious cooked meat and beer from my late-night meal only a few hours before!) Life was springing up, and everywhere there was movement and calm amidst the chaotic bustling. Around this morning glory of human awakening in Asia’s youngest country, something else was being planned for them, although I am sure few were fully aware of what it was or what it was designed to deliver.

I was. Because that is why I was there. But when launched, it will deliver to those on the bicycles and scooters more customers, or perhaps an opportunity to sell their small farms and finally to enjoy financial security. For their kids, however, it will be an entirely new game. It will hopefully bring about an economic change as profound as the wave of immigration that washed onto the shores of New York harbor in another time. Except this “migration” will be home-grown, if all goes according to plan. It will bring the kids from Singapore and California BACK HOME to be part of the quickly-rising middle class.

This was the Vietnam I was honored to have observed in December. ICF will be a part of it.

Binh_Duong_2016_(Central_Committee_Chairman___LAZ).jpgAmong the themes and stories worth noting when you get to the ICF Summit in New York next week will be the story of Vietnam’s aspiring new Intelligent Community, Binh Duong. A delegation from this new city of one million, which is being developed in accordance with ICF principles and our six Indicators, will be in attendance. They will also tell their story for the very first time.
The delegation from Binh Duong will be watching the Top7 closely and paying very close to attention to our Conversations with them. I personally love the folks from Binh Duong because they are kind, friendly and intensely thirsty for knowledge. They get advocacy and are proud to talk about the project and their goal of reaching the ICF’s Smart21 list ASAP!

Many of these young “technocrats” (I call them patriots) left lives in France and other parts of the world to come home and rebuild their nation with a blueprint for a new economy. It is a roll of the dice, an experiment. But the Vietnamese, as colonial powers and China have learned, are nothing but adaptable. They can do this.

So I invited Dr. Viet-Long Nguyen and Eindhoven’s International Projects Office co-director, Joost Helms, to give this year’s “Revolutionary Community” keynote address on June 7th in Staten Island. If you aren’t aware of this project, or are interested in Vietnam’s future, I invite you to attend the Summit

Background on my visit to Binh Duong is at

It is a good bet that the first Intelligent Community in Vietnam will likely sprout from the green earth near the city Americans still may recall as Saigon. For centuries, this has been an agricultural belt. But many farms are being bought by the state-owned agency, Becamex, which is driving this project. Becamex seems to me to be a reasonably well-run agency for a big, socialistic bureaucratic enterprise. Interestingly, I was told that Becamex will make an IPO next year, part of Vietnam’s continuing evolution toward a modern state. A communist government state-owned enterprise making an IPO? What’s next? An accelerator? A more open society? A better life??

Developing Intelligent Communities and going from “smart to intelligent” is part of their plan. So is embracing the “Triple Helix” approach, where local government, the academic community and the private sector work in harmony. This is a concept that that the Dutch have perfected. So, it is fitting that Binh Duong is advancing with the assistance of 2011 Intelligent Community of the Year Eindhoven and the city’s International Program Office. In a big development during my time there, Phillips had located an R&D facility in the area as part of the new city’s development.

This is a serious effort to make Binh Duong the hub of a new direction in the long, often tortuous history of a great people. In many ways, it is no different that Dublin, Ohio being the hub of an “Intelligent Ohio” initiative, or the Toronto Waterfront being the driving force for Toronto’s rapid ascendance. Both projects employ ICF’s method.

A new university is already in place there. It will soon open an accelerator designed to harness the entrepreneurship of a very young Vietnamese culture, an enlightened local government and a state-owned enterprise populated with young disciples of the Intelligent Community movement. This looked to me like the right mixture for a very smart stew.

Oh? Did I say “smart stew”? I’m sorry. I meant Intelligent Stew. That is the only kind of stew that the Vietnamese plan to serve. As with most communities at the outset, the concentration is mostly on technology. But the Eindhoven mentorship will hopefully steer the leadership toward achieving a higher level of economic output based on knowledge work.

When I was there, part of my role was to join them to publicly announce the “triple helix” approach and to celebrate it with a conference specifically designed to promote an understanding of it.

So, the goal for Binh Duong, Vietnam, as it is with the Top7 they will be networking with and learning from, is to become a standard bearer of the ICF concept, and to have an Intelligent Community in Vietnam, with more to follow.

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.
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