RMIT alumnus finds his calling helping disadvantaged in India and Nepal

RMIT alumnus finds his calling helping disadvantaged in India and Nepal

Entrepreneurship graduate Luke Barbagallo found a way to use his degree and give back, pursuing a career with a social enterprise.

After studying business and entrepreneurship at RMIT, Luke Barbagallo wanted to use his skills for wider social impact but wasn’t sure how.

“I wanted to set a pathway towards coming to work, enjoying what I was doing, and knowing that my output would contribute to a wider impact,” Barbagallo said.

“RMIT had given me so many opportunities and instilled in me an analytical viewpoint, critical thinking and management skills, and taught me to interrogate ‘normal’ and finds ways to innovate."

It was during a trip to India that he came across Pollinate Group, a social enterprise taking an innovative approach by building resilience in disadvantaged communities, and in 2016 jumped at the opportunity to take on the Partnership and Programs Manager role.

Pollinate Group recruits, trains and supports women from disadvantaged backgrounds in India and Nepal to sell life changing products such as solar lamps, water filters and larger solar home systems to power cookstoves, solar fans and even mobile phones.

Barbagallo drives Pollinate Group’s Fellowship Program (from Melbourne), providing executives, professionals and students with opportunities to conduct product testing and community trials, demographic research, and needs assessments, which also helps Pollinate to rapidly prototype solutions.

“I love that I get to inspire others to make a difference by sharing the impact of female empowerment and creating positive opportunities in underprivileged communities,” he said.

“The RMIT program taught us to identify the challenge to address with a product or service, and I’m able to apply this thinking to help disadvantaged communities,” he said.

Barbagallo wanted a career that enabled him to use his entrepreneurial and business skills to give back.

Barbagallo has stayed connected to RMIT during his time at Pollinate Group, providing mentoring to current students and sourcing talent for projects.

“I’ve mentored students through the Fastrack Innovation Program and connected engineering and business programs with internships as part of the New Colombo Plan, which has seen several students participate in Pollinate’s Fellowship Program,” he said.

Inspired to dig deeper into the potential of his work at Pollinate Group, Barbagallo recently began a Master of Disaster, Design and Development degree at RMIT.

“I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which design builds community resilience and this degree explores how design can resolve complex global challenges, particularly with regards to community preparedness in the face of the increased frequency and intensity of climate change-influenced natural hazards,” he said.

“Global issues already inform how we work at Pollinate, with the increasingly potent and deadly heatwaves in India influencing the types and amounts of products that we distribute, with solar pedestal fans growing in sales volume every month.

“This degree will help me contribute to new areas and ways to help Pollinate be an effective community partner as the effects of climate change become even more devastating.”

Set to graduate in 2020, Barbagallo hopes to continue his studies and gain a PhD at RMIT, believing the university is a great fit for those looking to secure their future careers.

“Ultimately, the university has helped me leverage the skills I’ve learned for social impact and has informed the work I do today.”


Story: Alicia Olive 


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.