Marie-Luise Schega is passionate about using business tools for good. A graduate of the Executive Master of Arts, she's now carving out a career in the rapidly developing social enterprise field.
"Social enterprises are businesses that have socially and environmentally positive outcomes integrated into their business approach," Schega explains. "They sit between the traditional corporate and not-for-profit models."
She currently works as Fundraising and Communications Officer at the social enterprise Pollinate Energy. Pollinate Energy is devoted to improving the lives of families living in India's slum communities. The business has three staff in Melbourne, with the rest of the business based in India. Pollinate Energy's key product is a solar-powered light.
"We use solar to replace commonly used lamps running on kerosene," Schega says, "which is toxic, dangerous and expensive." The business is moving towards being entirely self-sustainable, reducing the need to rely on donors for support. "This means, once we reach breakeven point, we can move our focus to another area of the world that needs access to these products."
Schega tailored her Executive Master of Arts around her key interests. She took a class on social entrepreneurship, one on international policy-making and took electives from the Master of Environment degree.
"It's a cliché but it's true: you get out what you put in," she says. "You can design a good portion of the degree yourself and I really made the most of that opportunity. It's like a 'design your own journey' approach."
Her cohort was a mixture of professionals in fields as diverse as government, marketing, Not-For-Profits and the film and TV industries. Asked how they're all going now, she says that "Everybody's kicking ass! I'm still friends with a lot of them."
Schega combines her work with Pollinate Energy with the Centre for Sustainability Leadership, where she works as a Business Development Manager. The centre runs education programs for individuals, corporate and community-run organisations.
The social enterprise community in Australia is relatively small, which means that it isn't very hard to start networking.
"People are open to growing the network… you can really learn from everybody."
While networking is important, she notes that you have to back it up with real skills. She has a simple piece of advice for those wanting to enter the field.
"Couple theory with practice. Get out there!"
Self-care is very important. You can’t help your community, you can’t change the world, if you don’t take care of yourself.
Go out there and try! Internships or casual jobs are a good way of getting involved. Meet people: it’s a relatively small network, and people are quite open to growing (it). Couple theory with practice.
Learn more about the Executive Master of Arts program.