Bringing Vance's vision to life – PBA – Pro Bono Australia


 Forgot password?  |  Sign up
Stay informed with Australia’s number 1 resource for the social sector.
Plus: Sign up today and receive a FREE copy of our Executive Webinar: Government Relations for Not for Profits – A Tactical Approach.

Get the social sector’s most essential news coverage, including news highlights, opinion pieces and features to keep you up-to-date with Australia’s most valuable sector.
Get news covering the latest innovations in local and international for-good business practices.
Get purpose-driven roles delivered straight to your inbox. Accompanied by the latest careers news, including Changemakers and who’s moving where in the sector, you’ll never be out of touch with career developments within the sector.
Get notifications on the latest webinar topics, as well as other Pro Bono Australia professional development resources.

By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to Pro Bono Australia’s terms and conditions.
By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to Pro Bono Australia’s terms and conditions.
Click the ‘X’ OR press ‘Esc’ to close

Contributor | 28 September 2021 at 7:00 am

Dr Vance Gledhill AM is a visionary philanthropist who is revolutionising the role individuals can play in tackling global challenges like poverty.  
Five years ago, Dr Vance Gledhill AM, a retired computer scientist and academic, had an idea while on a trip to Vietnam. This idea has since helped thousands of people out of poverty, created an award-winning model for social enterprise, and inspired transformative investment from governments, corporates and other philanthropists.  
In 2014, Dr Gledhill visited Vietnam’s north-west Hoa Binh province – a remote, mountainous area with a high proportion of ethnic minority groups. Hoa Binh’s population is almost entirely dependent on agriculture and around 50 per cent of people are illiterate.  
Dr Gledhill learned that several communities had been displaced from the fertile lowlands of Hoa Binh to make way for a hydro-electric dam. Their traditional farming practices were ill-suited to the more rugged upland terrain and many now struggled to meet their daily needs. 
However, Hoa Binh offers some of the most magnificent scenery in Vietnam. From the lush rice paddies to the stunning limestone karsts, Dr Gledhill, a keen hiker, was impressed by the region’s natural beauty. On that trip, the seed of an idea was planted. 
Guided by Action on Poverty (AOP), Dr Gledhill built on his own experiences with eco-tourism to develop a model for community-based tourism (CBT). This is an ethical and sustainable model for tourism, owned and managed by local communities themselves. 
Supported by Dr Gledhill, AOP helped three villages in Hoa Binh trial the CBT model. The project offered low-interest loans to help local families start businesses, such as homestays and kayak rental services. The project also offered training in hospitality, English and food preparation, and supported the development of local art and performance groups showcasing traditional music and dance. 
Dr Gledhill went far beyond most philanthropists’ involvement with an NGO. Along with contributing multi-year grants to the project, he took a self-funded study trip through the region, provided feedback on the design of the CBT model and participated in crucial meetings with Vietnamese authorities.
Dr Gledhill came up with the idea to develop a model for community-based tourism while on a trip to Vietnam. Photo supplied by Action on Poverty.
In 2015, Dr Gledhill joined AOP for a trial trek between the three participating villages, providing many businesses with their first paying customers.
“You do not have to be a large corporate or state to support,” Dr Gledhill said. “Simply someone who wants to help.”
Since the trial, the CBT project in Hoa Binh has attracted over 20,000 visitors (more than 7,000 international) and generated $450,000 in revenue, directly benefiting over 6,000 people. Profits are also reinvested in the community for local development projects, such as road upgrades. 
Brayden Howie, CEO of Action on Poverty, said Dr Gledhill is always modest and states that it is AOP, and especially its dedicated Vietnamese team, that deserves the credit. 
“However, without Dr Gledhill’s vision and his many contributions, the project would not be enjoying the success it is today,” Howie said.
“Our partnership with Dr Gledhill is a model of how philanthropists and NGOs can work together to achieve things neither of us could do on our own.”
Dr Gledhill’s model has given ambitious people like Nhat and Quy the life-changing opportunity to run their own business. 
Nhat and Quy have been operating their business for almost three years and earn an extra $670 per month. Photo supplied by Action on Poverty.
Nhat and Quy live in Sung village and belong to the Dao ethnic minority group. Before joining the CBT project, this husband-and-wife team relied on agriculture to get by, but struggled to earn enough to care for their elderly parents and send their two children to school. Nhat considered moving to the city to find work, but worried about leaving his family behind.
With a small loan, Nhat and Quy upgraded their home into a homestay. They added some new facilities for international guests, such as Western bathrooms, while retaining the traditional touches that give the home its history and character. Since launching their business in 2018, they have received wonderful feedback from customers, who love experiencing life in a traditional Dao village and exploring the nearby mountains, caves and forests.
Nhat and Quy have now been operating their business for almost three years and earn an extra $670 per month, which guarantees good living conditions for the whole family and covers the children’s school fees. 
“Thanks to the CBT project, my family can introduce our culture and lifestyle to visitors,” Nhat said. 
“I never imagined serving international visitors one day. The income from tourism also helps me afford a higher quality of life for three generations of my family without me moving to the city.”
With a small loan, Nhat and Quy upgraded their home into a homestay. Photo supplied by Action on Poverty.
CBT in Hoa Binh is now a registered social enterprise and won the ASEAN CBT Award in 2019 for its outstanding product. 
While the model has been affected by COVID-19, business owners have pivoted swiftly towards the domestic market, for example, by hosting writing camps and trail runs that draw visitors from the city. 
AOP has also attracted additional funding from governments, corporates and private foundations to scale up the project in six more districts, helping thousands more people on their journey out of poverty. None of this would have been possible without Dr Gledhill’s vision, passion and generosity.
For more information on how AOP can support your organisation’s mission, visit
Contributor  |  @ProBonoNews
Tags : Action on Poverty, community-based tourism, Dr Vance Gledhill AM, philanthropist, Sponsored,
Luke Michael
Monday, 13th September 2021 at 5:08 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
Saturday, 12th June 2021 at 8:00 am
Nikki Stefanoff
Wednesday, 5th May 2021 at 4:35 pm
Wendy Williams
Wednesday, 17th February 2021 at 6:45 pm
Get purpose-driven news, careers and resources delivered straight to your inbox.
Contact us
Follow us
News, careers and resources for the common good
In the spirit of reconciliation Pro Bono Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.