About this session
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), essential economic and social well-being drivers in cities, have been disproportionately affected and have become more vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, SMEs in cities are also often closely related to the cities’ identity and culture, where they are under pressure to innovate while also keeping their tradition. The 12th Cities on the Frontline session of 2022, focuses on the importance of strengthening SMEs in cities beyond surviving the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for both the local economy and a resilient future in the context of the partnership with Citi Foundation on the Catalyzing City Resilience Solutions program.
Guilherme Johnston, Head of Global Partnership, Connected Places Catapult (CPC) started the session by expressing his view on SMEs as the backbone of economies that are able to generate jobs and bring innovation to address the resilience challenges. However, even when SMEs are vital communities, they are also vulnerable to external shocks, including the ones caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical to support them in recovering from the pandemic and bringing back the economy. Guilherme emphasized the importance of understanding the city ecosystem comprehensively and its enablers to address city challenges instead of jumping into a particular technology as a solution, as it is not always the answer. CPC identified a place-based innovation hub as one of the key enablers to helping local economic recovery. The innovation place approach is a programmatic innovation that removes market barriers to innovation for the benefit of SMEs, academic innovators, government, and industry. As an example, CPC has worked with the City of Bangalore, India for an “Innovating for Clean Air” project, which aims to transform a central street into a clean air street. The innovation place approach was piloted by inviting various city stakeholders, including academics and SMEs to bring innovation and to collaborate in addressing the lack of clean air in the city. In some sense, the approach builds the capacity of SMEs by encouraging them to have more active involvement in building the local economy.
To understand the city’s challenges, we were accompanied by Mr. Nguyen Trong Thanh, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Da Nang City, and Ms. Kieu Thi Kinh, Founder of Building Up Sustainability Center, who took the floor to share a challenge of Nam O Fish Sauce Coastal Community In Da Nang City. Mr. Thanh started by providing a context of Da Nang City as a coastal city in central Vietnam with a strategic position as an economic spearhead. The city has a long history of the Nam O community for fishery and fish sauce traditional manufacture. However, there are some challenges, such as the community struggling due to climate change that caused marine resource decline, the end product (traditional fish sauce) cannot compete with factories’ fish sauce; also, the cultural and historical value of the traditional industry is eroded due to the young generation does not have the interest to continue the industry. Ms. Kinh expressed the urgency to strengthen the collaboration between various stakeholders to support the Nam O community. Through the CCRS program, a collaboration between the city and SMEs is encouraged to develop proposed solutions for creating a greener industry for Nam O fish sauce, including improving the quality of fish sauce that meets the market standard and developing the marketing and pricing strategy.
Following that presentation, Ms. Prangchai Sunvittayagul, International Affairs Office, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Ms. Kanjanee Buddhimedhee, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi illustrated how the Bang Mod community in Bangkok is adapting through community tourism. Bang Mod is facing a massive transformation from agriculture to tourism because of the degradation of land quality due to climate change, as well as urbanization. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the community issue that is struggling with new business. The Bangkok team has just completed the resilient assessment that resulted in the importance of having the innovation place to improve livelihood, with a strong consideration of blue-green culture as the community identity.
All speakers closed the session by discussing the importance of documenting the lesson learned from the program and how it can be replicated and upscaled to other areas.
Head of Global Partnership, Connected Places Catapult (CPC)
“We know the SMEs are key to develop these kinds of activities and engagement because, in most countries, SMEs are the ones that generate more jobs and are also the ones that really bring innovation into addressing resilience and other related challenges.”
Guilherme Johnston‘s Presentation
Mr. Nguyen Trong Thanh
Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Da Nang City and Ms. Kieu Thi Kinh, Founder of Building Up Sustainability Center
Ms. Kieu Thi Kinh
Founder of Building Up Sustainability Center instead of to Mr. Nguyen Trong Thanh, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Da Nang City
“The city (Da Nang) is really interested in Nam O fish sauce because this is the only unique village to continue the traditional craft of Vietnam and fish sauce is a kind of popular dish taste in Vietnam.”
Mr. Nguyen Trong Thanh and Ms. Kieu Thi Kinh‘s Presentation
Ms. Prangchai Sunvittayagul
International Affairs Office, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Ms. Kanjanee Buddhimedhee, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi
“Some people have moved out to look for new opportunities. However, after the change there are still some people in the area who still love and cherish the community, who still want to stay in the area and they try to adapt themselves to survive through community tourism.”
King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi