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Lessons from Morgan Koegel

Updated: Oct 16, 2018

By Naomi Smith (Team Member at Project Lantern)

“I owe it back to the world to be better, and do better”

No matter how many times I listen to the Morgan Koegel episode there always is something new that I can learn. Koegel’s passion completely captured my attention for an hour. Her insights forced me to reconsider career pathways and misconceptions I had about working in the non-for-profit sector.

Morgan Koegel was the CEO of One Girl. A charity which partners with local organisations in

Sierra Leone and Uganda to: provide scholarships for girls to continue their education, fund

projects to improve school facilities, and support girls in starting their own businesses. Recently, you may have seen One Girl’s ‘Give Up Your gifts’ campaign appear on your Facebook feed. Or you may have participated in their ‘Do It In A Dress’ campaign during high school or at university.

At the centre of these successful charity was Koegel – a young, some would say inexperienced, twenty-five-year-old. There is nothing about her journey which, as she would put it, endorses “the done thing.” Her success is a result of rejecting traditional career pathways in favour of something you truly care about. The phrase ‘Do what you love’ may sound too idealistic for everyone except your old school career guidance officer, but Koegel is a testament to that mantra especially when it comes to social impact.

Koegel talks about getting caught up in following traditional career pathways while at Law

School. Like everyone else she applied for all the top tier firms, believing in a narrow view of

success. She describes finding herself sitting, “high-up in an office in Collins street,” and

thinking, “this is not what I imagined for myself.” As an economics student surrounded by

second year internship fervour this was a timely message that forced me to refocus.

It is easy to lose sight of what we care about because we are sold a specific narrative of what

success looks like at University. A career in social impact can be daunting as it is not something that universities market or encourage. When it comes to taking risks, backing yourself, your capabilities, and your passions is key. In applying for the CEO position at One Girl Koegel was one of the youngest candidates, but this did not make her experiences irrelevant. Her age was a strength as One Girl’s main donors are females aged between fifteen and twenty-five years. For many of us, if our age or capabilities are not a barrier, we think it’s not feasible to pursue a career in social impact. Koegel describes many friends whose plan was to work in the corporate sector and then go do the thing they love. Or people believing that if they are not hurting anyone then it does not matter. Those justifications ignore the damage that our privileged life styles have on the rest of the world. Koegel makes the excellent point that if everyone lived a developed lifestyle we would need more than one planet;

“You didn’t start at a net neutral position, if you’re living a developed lifestyle, you owe it back to the world”

This moral obligation perspective that Koegel gives is difficult to swallow. In the developed world we are not held accountable for how our lifestyles negatively affect others. Although confronting her perspective makes sense. As a privileged individual I am profiting off the poverty of others and because of this I have an obligation to give back. Contributing back to society is not just a ‘nice’ thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

People listen to podcasts for different reasons - for relaxation, pleasure, and information. But

many people listen to podcasts because they challenge conventional ways of thinking and

acting. Rarely do I listen to a podcast and immediately feel that I need to re-listen to that

episode because I could still learn so much more, but that is exactly how I felt after listening to Morgan Koegel’s story.

You can listen to our full interview with Morgan Koegel below and the rest of our Lantern podcast here.

Note: This article was written for and originally published in the Melbourne Microfinacne Intiative's 2018 Impact Review which you can read in full here.

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