Learning Beyond Classroom Walls: Initiating A Social Business Project as A Student

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Mugni on her graduation day in 2021. Source: Personal documentation
Mugni on her graduation day in 2021. Source: Personal documentation

Studying abroad not only offers an academic experience, but also many interesting experiences to explore. This is exactly what Mugni Bustari (a Master of Education graduate from Monash University, Australia) have experienced. In this article, Mugni shared her experience competing on an social business plan competition during her Master’s degree. 

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Beginning my journey in Australia

G’day mate!

It’s me, Mugni Bustari. Usually, my friends call me Mugni, and my family call me Ni. I am a Minangese from Agam Regency, West Sumatra, and so many friends of mine call me “Uni” which means “older sister.” I am the first child who continues my study to higher education. After graduating from SMAN 1 Bukittinggi, I continued my study at Universitas Negeri Padang with a major in Physics Education. In 2019, I got a golden ticket from LPDP Scholarship and flew to Australia to pursue a Master of Education in Expert Teaching Practice at the Faculty of Education, Monash University.

Before I started my Master’s degree, I actually tended to doubt my ability to study abroad. However, my bachelor lecturer’s advice erased my hesitation. She believed that I had the potential for obtaining a master’s degree, and I should give it a try. Then, I started looking for information about studying abroad. As I was busy compiling information about tips and tricks to study abroad, I almost forgot to answer “the big why,” the ultimate reason I should continue my education abroad. After doing some self-reflection and identifying my strengths, I realised that I love teaching and educating the young generation. I really wanted to be a good teacher for my future students. I realised that pursuing a Master’s degree would help me to achieve my aspiration.

Furthermore, I decided to choose Australia as my study destination because Australia is one of the developed countries with a mixing pot of cultures. The diverse population makes Australia a friendly country for international students. Hence, I do not have to be worried about being treated exclusively due to my distinctive identity as a Muslim woman. Also, I was very excited with the curriculum offered at the Faculty of Education, as it provides exciting courses such as Challenging Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, Deepening Education and Sustainability, Technology and Education Key Issues and Debates, and Expertise in Teaching. As I have expected before, all those units are essential and bring many benefits for me either as an academic or practitioner in the education field.

Studying at Monash University

For the first time in my life, I was obligated to read academic journals and write critical essays with a thousand words. I was so lucky that I had free access to books and articles that I needed during my study, and I got support from the librarian to guide me in academic writing. Besides, I got the opportunity to practice and improve my confidence and public speaking by presenting my assignment in front of the class with diverse students observing me.

When studying at Monash, I had both individual and group tasks every week. The variety of tasks makes us engage actively in learning activities, and the learning culture is fascinating because Monash University provides blended learning for us as adult learners. Also, the learning materials are clearly integrated into the Learning Management System (LMS) managed by Monash University, which can be accessed easily. One of my favourite units during my postgraduate journey is Deepening Education and Sustainability. In this unit, we discussed environmental issues and how education plays an essential role as a game-changer to solve the problem.

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Mugni attending Deepening Education and Sustainability course. Source: Personal documentation.

During the pandemic, we implemented online learning via Zoom for the last two semesters. Even though we learned through Zoom during this pandemic, our lecturers still taught us energetically, which positively influenced the students. I witnessed that most students in my class were actively involved in online activities. Our lecture prepared pre-class and post-class activities, such as summary, poster presentation, and audiovisual materials, to ensure the students’ engagement. Despite the abrupt change to online learning, I did not experience a challenging situation since the classes were still interactive and fun. 

Participating in a Social Business Plan Competition

At Monash University, I also had a chance to explore my potential by participating in a social business plan competition held by Socio-Economic Engagement and Development (SEED) Monash. SEED is a student-led university club that aims to empower students to create meaningful social impact. In this competition, my team and I proposed a social enterprise idea called TASKU. TASKU is a social enterprise that aims to solve plastic pollution in the ocean by selling reusable shopping bags with attractive designs from orphans. Then, the profit of TASKU will be shared to support the education program, which is managed by Rang Mudo Palito Pendidikan, an NGO run by youths that is concerned about giving positive impacts to the orphans in Padang city, Indonesia.

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Presenting TASKU idea on a business plan competition at Monash University (2019). Souce: Personal documentation.

The idea of establishing TASKU was inspired by my favorite course at Monash University, Deepening Education and Sustainability. This course emphasises the importance of connecting education with sustainable development. We live in an endangered situation, exemplified by forest fires, increasing carbon footprints, abnormally low rainfall in several places, and global warming. My lecturer emphasised the critical role of education to incorporate environmental issues in the curriculum to increase future generations’ awareness. I found this course interesting as it relates to Indonesia’s position as the world’s second-largest waste-generating country  (Phelan et al., 2020). Also, according to my own observation, I found that much trash is not appropriately managed in my hometown. On the other hand, I believe that a well-managed area, especially in my hometown, could attract tourists.

Moreover, TASKU offers a unique value as the design was inspired by orphans from Mentawai, a rural area located on the western coast of Sumatra. Although we believe that these children have potential, unfortunately, we found gaps in their learning experience at school. They did not have many extracurricular options and also a comprehensive environmental lesson. To overcome this issue, we combined the idea of escalating the students’ creativity, specifically in drawing, with environmental lessons such as 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle). We asked the children to draw clean natural scenery according to their imagination. Then, we digitised their drawing as a design material for our product, an eco-friendly bag to reduce the use of plastic waste.

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A sample of TASKU products. Source: Personal documentation.

I felt so grateful to be a part of the SEED Monash competition, as it made me feel the sense of exploring social entrepreneurship as a new world, which is a different area from my major as an education student. After submitting our idea, we were invited to an incubator program to learn about social impact, value product, branding, prototype, business canvas model, business analysis, and pitching. After an eight-week incubator program with many social business experts, we presented our social enterprise TASKU on the pitch night. The pitch night was memorable because I stood in front of adjudicators, investors, and foreign fellows. We were feeling nervous, but we kept trying to do our best. Finally, the hard work paid off, and we became The Runner up in this reputable competition. 

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Winning the second place at the competition. Source: Personal documentation.

There are some essential points that I learned from this competition. First of all, we have to be more sensitive to the problems around us. With our expertise and background knowledge, we will be able to contribute to solving the issues. Second, I remember that, in developing a social enterprise, I cannot do it alone. The role of a mentor is crucial because they can give you suggestions to sharpen and polish your business idea. Third, I figured out the importance of elaborating your business through storytelling. A good story can influence people to be aware of the issues you want to solve through your product or service. Lastly, when you are eager to learn, the universe will help you to succeed. 

Bring the Lessons Home

In conclusion, studying abroad has opened my eyes to the fact that education is a complex yet exciting issue. Studying abroad also motivates me to participate in achieving equal education for children. I firmly believe that I should not waste the knowledge I have gained in Australia, and I must share it as much as possible. After finishing my postgraduate study in Australia, I  decided to support the goal of Rang Mudo Palito Pendidikan. Now, I am in charge of designing and conducting education programs for the underprivileged group orphans in the City of Padang, West Sumatra.

Furthermore, I incorporate social business TASKU into the program to ensure the sustainability of our education program. We launched our first product on June 15, 2021. TASKU products can be purchased online through our social media, in the online marketplace, and the offline store at  Sari Anggrek Book Store Padang. The profits from TASKU are now used to support the educational program managed by Rang Mudo Palito Pendidikan. 

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A group picture with the children at Rang Mudo Palito Pendidikan’s project. Source: Personal documentation

Under the Rang Mudo Palito Pendidikan, TASKU has evolved its position as a social enterprise addressing three problems: plastic waste pollution, education inequality, and small medium enterprise. Currently, we are helping  40 orphans, and two local small medium enterprises in Padang. Interestingly, our project received positive feedback from the government of West Sumatra, as our value aligns with  the local government’s program to reduce waste. “We appreciate the youths who are concerned about environmental and education issues,” said Ibu Hj. Harneli Bahar, Head of the Family Welfare Development Program, West Sumatra Province.

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Presenting TASKU Indonesia to the local government. Source: Personal documentation.

Although our project is still in the beginning stage, I am happy to say that what we are doing now may contribute to a better world. Indeed it is not gonna be so easy, but I believe that we’ll grow step by step. Wish us luck!

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Profil Mugni Bustari: Lahir di Bukittinggi, Sumatera Barat dengan masa kecil yang bahagia di awal tahun 90an. Seusai mendapatkan gelar Master’s dari the Monash University di tahun 2020, Mugni aktif mengelola NGO Rang Mudo Palito Pendidikan, sebuah pusat pembelajaran pemuda yang digerakkan oleh sukarelawan yang bekerja di bidang pendidikan khusus untuk anak-anak panti asuhan  di kota Padang. Ilmu pengetahuan yang dia peroleh selama studi di Australia diimplementasikan pada saat mendesain program edukasi untuk anak-anak panti asuhan dan juga pengembangan sosial bisnisnya yaitu TASKU Indonesia.

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