Yoko Youssouf is one of the young veterans of the coworking scene in Saigon. She is the leading face of Xuân, a for-purpose organization that empowers the forgotten children of Vietnam, victims of poverty. With a new program just launched, we sat down to talk to Yoko about her experience working from Saigon’s cafes and coworking spaces.
Growing Xuân from the Coworking Scene
Xuân was formed back in 1993, the vision of Dr. Chanh Tran Tien to help disadvantaged children. The organisation has constantly looked for new opportunities to help to build bright futures, right from its first project helping street children in Da Nang. Xuân remains a flexible organisation, and the coworking scene of Saigon has been a great environment to plan and build new programs.
“Working without an office is really easy here in Saigon, especially if you’ve got a project that is relatively independent. As a young woman, new to Vietnam, it was great to easily get out of home and away from the backpacker locations, and immediately get in touch with people in the business and creative communities. Nest Cafe was an early favourite of mine: such a nice space to work.”
Xuân got a lucky break shortly after when it secured a small vacant office from a large company. Unfortunately, several months later the company had grown and needed the space back. Yoko began a deeper search of the coworking spaces in Saigon.
“I went to so many places! Dreamplex, Circo, BigWork, Work Saigon and a whole range of cafes. Upstairs at Vintage Emporium stands out in my mind."
Of course, there were some challenges. Few of the coworking spaces at the time offered daily pricing, so trialling a location was difficult. Yoko would often stay at a place for a month and then move on.
“It was an interesting experience: great fun and so much better than being in a normal corporate office. I suppose the idea of community is something that most of the coworking spaces could work on. I’m still a little curious: in all my time, I don’t think I met another small For Purpose organisation. Making these connections would have been valuable."
Xuân had grown during this time, and the new team really needed a designated space to work from. Yoko settled on Big Work for a private office: the space was light and bright and located right in the heart of the downtown area of Saigon. Big Work had been very welcoming, even offering to support Xuân due to their good work in the community.
Whats next for Xuân?
Yoko and the team have been in Big Work for six months now and have continued to grow.
"We’ve got a fantastic new ambassador, Trang La, and we just launch WASH, a new program to reshape children’s learning environments and transform their lives. We bring water and toilets to schools in remote and poor areas of Vietnam. It’s really needed, and it changes everything!"
Information for the WASH program has just gone live. If you’re interested in supporting Xuân, you can make a donation. Yoko is also thinking about the next stage for the team, which will require a larger space that they can really make their own!
Do you have a story for us about a company, project or organization that has grown in the coworking spaces and cafe's of Saigon? Get in touch!