Cards for a Cause: A canvas of social change

By Shal Segar

Cards for a Cause is a social enterprise run by students, for students. By transforming the bland, grey canvas of a Myki card with a colourful sticker, Cards for a Cause is creating a story of social change - each purchase represents another person taking a stand against the inequalities persistent within the Victorian education system.

Robert Xu and Meghana Jonnalagadda are Bachelor of Commerce students, passionate about empowering students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Working with a team of 14 other like-minded changemakers, they lead Cards for a Cause, a social enterprise founded in 2019 as a project under the student club, Enactus Melbourne.

The Cards Family comprises student entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. “We’re united by a common belief that every single child deserves a chance at unlocking their full potential through the power of education.” Their purpose aligns with two of the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a global call to action which recognises that ending deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth.

Initially, 100% of the profits from Myki card sticker sales were directly channelled towards Myki passes for disadvantaged school students, achieving a revenue of $10k by 2020. Determined to maximise positive changes in the community, the Cards Family then worked on transforming their impact vision by identifying initiatives with measurable and tangible long-term outcomes. They began to shift their focus from material and financial support to holistic skill development for students.

Cards for a Cause now aims to set students on a lifelong journey of education by equipping them with a proactive mindset and transferable skills. Business profits are directed towards initiatives intended to inspire and empower disadvantaged high school students across Victoria to pursue educational and career opportunities.

“Growing up as a first-generation immigrant in regional Victoria, I’ve become acutely aware of the barriers that disadvantaged students face in accessing educational opportunities. At Cards, I am in a position to make a difference. Working alongside the supportive and talented Cards Family, I have the privilege of providing others with the opportunities that I didn’t have,” says Robert.

“The fact that 165,000 families in Victoria alone struggle to pay for their children’s public transport to school is shocking. At Cards, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to eliminate this figure and create long-term impact initiatives with a family of passionate students dedicated to closing the educational opportunity gap,” says Meghana.

Despite the challenges of the 2020/2021 financial year alone, Cards generated over $14,000 in revenue. The profit generated has enabled them to make a significant impact on the lives of over 100 students, across six disadvantaged high schools in metro and regional Victoria.

Although the entrepreneurial team are students themselves and see grades as important, they strongly believe that education extends far beyond what is learned in class, “We don't want to just develop good students. We want to develop well-rounded individuals with the ability to thrive in their future pursuits and the self-belief that they are capable of creating a positive impact within their community.”

This year, their flagship impact initiative, the Social Entrepreneurship Discovery Program brought together over 35 students from Access Melbourne schools for a three-day workshop to discover the world of social entrepreneurship. “Through the program, we wanted to help students develop their transferable skills, whether it be public speaking or working in a team.” Students were exposed to different aspects of social entrepreneurship; from defining an issue and ideating potential solutions to developing a business plan and pitching ideas to a judging panel. On the third day, groups developed and pitched business ideas, tackling at least one UN Sustainable Development Goal.

Received with equal enthusiasm is Cards for a Cause’s Learning for Life Mentorship Program, which provides year-long mentorship to 25 students from a partner school in Ballarat. These students are guided through their transition from secondary to tertiary education. “Through the program, our student mentors were able to facilitate their student’s personal and professional growth at workshops and weekly mentoring sessions.”

What’s in the cards for the future? The business is looking to increase its presence and impact. “We recognise that inequalities in education are a global issue. By 2025, we’re determined to expand our impact initiatives to at least 20 schools across the Asia-Pacific region.”

Interested in supporting Cards for a Cause? Connect with them via their website, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.