Marlene Welzl radiates with positive energy, kindness, and a true spirit. She is a key member of WGE! Gemeinsam Wohnen, an organisation that promotes and facilitates mixed generational housing in Vienna.
We chatted about what she loves about the Hub, what inspires her, and her love of Schwarzbrot.
How did you find out about Impact Hub Vienna?
Marlene: Actually, it’s a funny story, I’ve known about the Hub since the very beginning. 7 years ago, I was a student and a member of AIESEC which is the world’s largest non-profit, student-run organisation, and I attended a conference here at the Hub while it was being renovated. In fact, I’m actually in one of the pictures that’s hanging on the wall! It’s the photo where there’s a gathering of people sitting around and the photo is taken from behind so you can’t see anyone’s faces. I was sitting at the dining table the other day and was looking at the photo and had this sort of déjà vu and realised that it was me! I recognised my shoes!
I grew up in Linz which is in Upper Austria. I grew up in an inter-generational environment which has greatly influenced my desire to be a part of WGE! My grandmother, who I’m really close to, lived with us for a few years and she’s been such a huge influence on my life. I’m pretty sure that one of the main reasons I have a good and disciplined work ethic is because of her. She always set such a good example. I learned so much from her and she in turn got a lot of joy out of taking care of me and going with me to the playground–it kept her young and it kept her healthy. I really loved the time I spent with her when I was growing up and feel very lucky to have had that experience.
What do you love about Vienna? What’s your favourite spot?
I love the mixture between the city and the countryside. Don’t get me wrong, Vienna is a metropolis which I do enjoy but you can also take the tram and be in the woods where you can go for nice walks surrounded by nature. I guess I like how accessible the countryside is which is important for me because I grew up in Linz surrounded by nature. My favourite spot in Vienna is a glade on top of Pötzleinsdorfer Schloßpark. There’s a terrific view of Vienna and it’s a great place to take some time and think. I go there when I have a lot on my mind.
I’ve been involved with WGE! since almost the very first days of the organisation. I remember how I heard about WGE! very clearly. It was the day after I handed in my Master’s thesis during the summer. I was at an open-air swimming pool with a very good friend of mine when she told me about the idea for WGE! There was no doubt in my mind. I immediately loved the idea and wanted to be a part of it.
Why did you become a social entrepreneur?
I’ve always wanted a career where I would have a positive impact on society and social entrepreneurship allows you to do that. I like the independence that goes with it, how I need to be creative in solving problems, and the satisfaction of achieving goals that I know have social benefit.
What do you love about the Hub?
I like that the Hub is filled with like-minded people who are willing to support and help your project. I love the opportunity it offers me to improve my skills and to further develop WGE! I’ve also never left the Hub without having a fair amount of food for thought for my bike ride back home. You meet so many great people with so many different skills and talents and I love hearing all their different points of view.
What are some books or movies that have inspired you?
Stefan Zweig’s “Die Welt von Gestern” (The World of Yesterday). The book conveys an idea that I try to live by which is that you can’t just let things happen. You have to be the change you want to see.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It’s not just because the movie is so thoroughly enjoyable and a lot of fun, but there’s this quote by Oscar Wilde in it that’s perfect: “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”
“Little Miss Sunshine.” It’s hilarious and I love what it’s about: the most important thing is to pursue your dreams, whether you realise them or not.
“Toni Erdmann.” I guess I like comedy-dramas so this is another great one. Again, I love the message of the film: focus on the things you enjoy in life and don’t get distracted by fulfilling the expectations of others.
Do you get stressed? How do you cope with it? What do you do to relax?
I do get stressed. Everybody does so I’m no exception. To cope with stress I like to do physically active things so I go swimming. When I do anything physical like gardening or sports, it helps clear my mind because I don’t think about anything, I just focus on what I’m doing. I also like going to the movies as opposed to just watching a movie at home or on my computer. I like the atmosphere, the audience, the big screen.
Schwarzbrot. Especially from Upper Austria. It’s quite honestly one of the best things in the world.
What else are you up to?
I’m trying to develop some of my artistic skills. I absolutely can’t draw anything so I’m trying to learn how to draw. I’m also currently learning to play the piano. I’ve always wanted to learn, and I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time but it’s still kind of strange how it all came together actually. My grandmother had a piano that she no longer wanted and at the same time, my flatmate, who is studying to be a music teacher, was looking for a student. Perfect! Sign me up!