Global Collaboration at Its Purest

How do teenagers with passion find and work with each other?

Posted Oct 27, 2017

When 13-year-old Ha My commented that she had to “find some staff,” her mother did a double take.

“Staff? Why do you need staff?”

Courtesy of Dam Thu Ha
Source: Courtesy of Dam Thu Ha

Every year, I happen to visit Hanoi, Vietnam, around Ha My's birthday, so we celebrate together with her family. This year, Ha My turned 14. Often she wants some special item from the U.S. One year it was a particular Lego model, another year it was Frozen movie dolls, and last year, it was books about gemstones. She informed me that Idaho and India are the only places in the world where you can find Star garnets. I’ve gotten used to learning new facts from a smart young person in Vietnam.

This year at dinner, I asked what she’s doing for fun. That’s when she told me about having to find “staff” for her latest project.

Ha My has been creating stop-motion and animation films for years and now she’s gotten serious. She and other teenagers (e.g., Adriana, Olivia, Kaeopailin, and Trang) create and draw characters, write scripts, and then direct and produce animation films.

“We want to be the youngest producers of an animation film in the world.”

Courtesy of Vuong Ha My
Source: Courtesy of Vuong Ha My

Her collaborators live in Norway and Sweden, Slovakia, and France. There’s even one in the U.S. They speak English as a common language, and seem to have a similar attitude about work, animation, and projects. They rotate who is the director based upon the project.

As Ha My explained, there’s a creative benefit to working with others. If you only work by yourself, she said, the characters and story may not be so well-developed. It is better when you work with other people because then you find the weak points and fix them. She’s already understanding the benefits of creative collaboration.

She and her collaborators discuss the characters, their challenges and how to develop them. The current film, for which Ha My is the director, is called Hey, it’s Melly and explores the lives of several multiracial warrior girls. The girls have no fear as they fight against evil.

The collaborators found each other via Instagram, discuss their projects via Skype, and seem quite careful about who they include in the project. Ha My explained that not everyone who wants to be involved in the project is accepted.

Courtesy of Vuong Ha My
Source: Courtesy of Vuong Ha My

I’m thrilled for Ha My and a bit terrified for American kids.

Ha My lives in a country where education is one of its major investments. Parents sacrifice time, money and energy to be sure their children have access to good schooling and encourage them to do well as a way to move forward in life. I’ve known that for a long time.

What I had also known, in theory at least, was that kids like Ha My are already global citizens. What I hadn’t seen in real time, though, is how that’s working.

As a team manager, she’s learning how to work remotely, across time zones. She’s learning how to understand multiple perspectives. And Ha My is learning how to collaborate with people from other cultures and countries to accomplish a goal they are passionate about. She tells me they live by Walt Disney’s inspirational quote:

"If you can dream it, you can do it."

Ha My and her crew can dream and do. Can the rest of us?