Unlocking Potential: Kylie's MBA Journey Towards Social Impact Leadership

Sitting around the table with her parents, aunties and uncles, Kylie Penehoe had an early introduction to the meaning of social impact, years before she had ever heard the term.

Listening to those conversations with her elders, the young Wonnarua and Wiradjuri woman understood there was a common thread running through them, centred around what her people needed, and what barriers were standing in the way of positive change.

Throughout her career, and now at the Centre for Social Impact UNSW where she is studying an MBAx (Social Impact) , Kylie has been driven by that innate sense of purpose and her desire to make a difference on a systemic scale.

“I think I had an early awakening, and then always gravitated to roles based around social responsibility,” she says. “My family have always worked in community organisations and been really strong advocates for their communities. Despite the oppression and social inequities throughout their lives, they've always been really strong change agents, and that’s something that’s been passed on to me.”

Kylie and her son Koda wearing Indigenous tshirts
Kylie and her son Koda showing their support for the 'Yes' campaign

With her deep commitment to social impact and a wealth of talent behind her, Kylie has been recognised with the Centre for Social Impact’s Board Scholarship for 2024.

" Studying for my MBA in Social Impact has been a dream of mine for a long time, but it never seemed feasible," she says.

“The generosity of this scholarship is a game-changer. As a mother of three and working part-time in a not-for-profit with minimal funding for professional development, this investment in my education eases the financial burden and allows me to focus on both my studies and family commitments.”

For Kylie, the significance of receiving a scholarship for her MBA extends far beyond mere financial relief.

"It's a sense of validation, a recognition of potential," Kylie reflects. "To have someone believe in you and your aspirations is incredibly empowering."


Kylie's journey towards advocacy was deeply influenced by her upbringing, rooted in a family of strong advocates for First Nations communities.

"My grandmother was a relentless advocate during the times of Mabo and land rights movements," she recalls. "Advocacy and social contribution are almost ingrained in our DNA."

Her career trajectory reflects this commitment to advocacy, from early experiences in government and private sectors to her current role as the executive manager for First Nations programs at AFL SportsReady .

"It's my role to look at our strategy, policies, and internal cultural competencies," Kylie explains. "Our mission is to empower young people, particularly from First Nations backgrounds, by providing them with opportunities beyond football. We focus on education, employment, and training, using sport as a springboard for social and economic empowerment."

Under Kylie's leadership, AFL SportsReady has made significant strides in supporting young people in their journey towards employment.

"We support approximately 500 First Nations young people, providing them with traineeship opportunities across Australia," she proudly explains. "Additionally, we offer study allowances to ensure financial support for those pursuing further education."

Kylie and her AFL SportsReady team sitting on the bleachers
Kylie with her colleagues at AFL SportsReady


But Kylie's commitment to social impact doesn't stop there. She has embarked on a personal quest to enhance her leadership capabilities through pursuing an MBA and learning from the Centre for Social Impact’s team.

For Kylie, the MBA isn't just about acquiring knowledge; it's about gaining tools and frameworks to drive social change effectively.

"I want to understand how to replicate successful social impact initiatives consistently," she explains. "What’s the recipe, how can we change the formula of what we’re doing to achieve greater impact? The MBA provides me with the opportunity to delve into systems thinking and scale-up strategies."

Through her MBA journey, Kylie hopes to enhance her ability to evaluate and improve AFL SportsReady programs.

"I want to ensure that our programs are not only running efficiently but also are culturally appropriate and impactful for our participants," she says.

Yet, Kylie's aspirations extend beyond her immediate role. She calls upon corporate entities and employers to be brave in challenging existing systems and processes to create more inclusive environments.

"We need more willingness to listen, adapt, and advocate for change," she says. "If we truly want to close the gap and create opportunities for First Nations people, we must be willing to challenge the status quo and embrace diversity."

Kylie's journey is a testament to the transformative potential of social impact leadership over generations. As she continues to navigate her path, she embodies the spirit of resilience, advocacy, and unwavering commitment to driving positive change in society. Through her actions and leadership, she helps pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Find out more about the MBAx (Social Impact) .