Jimmy Pham AM

Jimmy Pham AM

Founder and Global Ambassador of KOTO (Vietnam)

Jimmy Viet Tuan Pham emigrated with his mother and four older siblings from Vietnam in 1974, eventually settling in Australia in 1980. He studied at Hayton College (Sydney, Australia) and received his tourism management certificate in 1993. He has also undertaken coursework at the prestigious International Institute for Management Development (IMD) (Lausanne, Switzerland) in High Performance Leadership (HPL). Jimmy’s professional background in tourism and hospitality management brought him back to Vietnam operating a tour in 1996, where he witnessed the plight of at-risk youth on the streets of Hanoi.

From a sandwich stall manned by nine street youth in 1999, KOTO has grown into an internationally recognized and award-winning non-profit social enterprise providing a 24-month intensive vocational training program in life skills, English language and restaurant hospitality for at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. This is delivered through KOTO’s national training centre and campus in Hanoi and its training restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. KOTO has graduated nearly 700 trainees who form the extensive KOTO Alumni Association (KAA) and at any given time there are 150 trainees enrolled in the training program.

In 2006 Jimmy received the James Strong Outstanding Leadership Award (International Customer Service Professionals; Australia); in 2009 he was a finalist for the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year award, the same year he also participated at the World Economic Forum’s New Champions summit, the foremost global business leaders gathering in Asia. In 2011 Jimmy was again acknowledged by the World Economic Forum, this time as a Young Global Leader for his social enterprise work. KOTO has been featured in media such as BBC News, CNN News and The New York Times, as well as broadcast on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), VTV (Vietnam), Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (Switzerland), Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS; United States).

Jimmy is a member of the board of directors for the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP), a Vietnamese nongovernmental organization which mentors, incubates and funds social enterprises. Jimmy presented at the 2012 TEDx Mekong on the impact of social enterprises in Vietnam and has developed and led training programs with CSIP and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) on civil society development for future leaders.

Jimmy was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in January 2013, an honour acknowledging his significant service to the community, particularly with marginalized children and youth in Vietnam. KOTO was named finalist for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award and KOTO was awarded the inaugural UNICEF Vietnam Zero Award for Social Innovation for its work championing the rights of children and youth.

In 2016 KOTO became the first legally registered entity operating as a social enterprise in Vietnam after much-sought changes to the national Law on Enterprise. Jimmy was awarded the Overseas Applied Research Fellowship with the International Specialized Skills Institute (ISSI). In conjunction with the Vocational Development Centre (VDC), KOTO is also partnering in the Vocational Education Training (VET) sector under the Victorian State Department of Education (Australia) to promote and champion VET as a pathway to Vietnam’s socioeconomic development.

On March 29th 2017, Jimmy will be in Seoul, receiving the 2017 POSCO TJ Park Prize for Community Development & Philanthropy award for his significant contribution to disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.

KOTO stands for “Know One, Teach One” and underlies Jimmy’s philosophy. “To be successful means giving back,” he said. “KOTO instills in the kids the idea of participatory community and asks in return that each of the KOTO trainees does the same. It really is asking ourselves do we give someone a fish or do we teach them how to fish.”