Someone told me once that your professional life only make sense when you look back on it. Though I may be only 10 years in, I find this to be very much the case for my fledgling career. My key areas of interest are ethics, economics and the places of intersection between these two seemingly disparate disciplines. I’m obsessed by why we do what we do, why we often do what is easy rather than what is good, and how we can begin to do things better. I want to explore how macro forces impact on our personal lives, and how our individual values shape the systems that govern us. I want to encourage others to be active participants in their own decision making. And I want to actually do things that go against the common belief that business and ethics cannot coexist.
My inclination has always been to try and make sense of things, and I’ve played with a bunch of different roles and approaches to try and get right to the core of it. My professional background is as a community strategist – bringing people together around a central issue, initiative or organisation using a mix of traditional communications (public relations, marketing, and events) and digital communications (social media, video, community management strategies). Alongside this though, I’m a writer and researcher and I’ve had my work published in a diverse range of print and online publications.
I spent several years embedded in the local fashion industry, developing a reputation as a thought leader for ethics and sustainability in the sector. I assembled an online community of more than 600 people working in fashion, who are working on initiatives or businesses focused on sustainability. I carved out a niche for myself in the industry, acting as an advisor, speaker, lecturer and project contractor to key industry groups (the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia, Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, RMIT University, The Spirit of the Black Dress, Melbourne Bike Fest, Melbourne Tweed Ride, The City of Melbourne, Melbourne School of Fashion, the Clothing Exchange, Kangan Institute). Even now, more than 18 months after I made the decision to leave the sector, I’m often approached to mentor and advise businesses and individuals still working through the complexities of the sector.
My work in the fashion industry allowed me to gain a strong understanding of a complex system, and a preliminary idea of how global economic systems create positive and/or negative outcomes for huge number of people around the world. My decision to leave the sector came from the realisation that the fashion sector is just a microcosm of the larger economic system. I left in search of bigger leverage points.
Right now, I’m really interested in how economics intersects with philosophy, social and cultural theory, and politics, and how it has emerged as the dominant theoretical framework for human systems. I’m acutely aware that where Law might have once been the discipline that governed us, the flow of capital through international markets now serves that a more important role as the law struggles to keep up and effectively regulate.
I fundamentally believe that the field of economics is at a very interesting junction point, and that consumer awareness (facilitated by digital communication) is forcing business and government to change they way they administer economic policy so that it serves the people as a global collective, rather than a privileged few. I am inspired by a business sector that is focusing on new approaches that hold collective benefit as the highest priority (shared value, Benefit Corporations, completely transparent reporting). I believe that active consumers can have a positive impact, but I also think that consumption isn’t going to solve our biggest problems – this is where strategic, practical and ambitious changes will play a role. I’m frustrated by a global political structure that is completely inadequate when it comes to solving the complex problems we’ve created. I’m intrigued by the fact that what we now call “economic theory” was once considered to have more in common with philosophy, than its current perceived companions “finance” and “business”. I firmly believe that our biggest challenges will be solved by people who understand that creativity and strategic thinking are not opposed but complementary. (And that’s why I followed my Bachelor of Arts (French) with a Commerce Masters, and a Graduate Diploma of Economics, and it’s also why I looked for different kinds of training that don’t play to this false dichotomy with the likes of Centre for Sustainability Leadership Fellowship Program and the RMIT Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program.)
At 28, my long term professional goal is to use a mix of economics, philosophy and social theory to answer questions that are important to all of us, and to do so in a way that engages those who might not typically be interested in the big questions. I’d like to combine my skills in communications, digital and community strategy to bring cross-disciplinary academic research to the masses, and to find creative ways to engage and interact with the public around these big ideas.
For me, the final piece of the puzzle is our ability to take a global perspective. I believe it is all too easy for us to forget that our incredibly fortunate position also comes with the responsibility to improve the lot of those we’ve stepped over to get here. I know that we have much more to learn from the areas of the world who haven’t built their social, political and economic structures on models that have a finite lifespan. I am passionate about economic justice, and I see global equality as the next major civil rights struggle we will face, and I sincerely hope it is one with will win.
I want to combine my progressive views with academic diligence and in a way that is still engaging and palatable to those with no economics education. My professional role models are people like Michael J. Sandel, Jeffrey Sachs, Stephen Fry – people who use a mix of skills and disciplines to engage the public in discussions about big things – the moral failings of markets, the opportunities and limitations of foreign aid, the role and importance of language, respectively.