Student stories: Emilija’s trip to Un-School of Disruptive Design

Last year CoID student Emilija Veselova participated in an experimental learning initiative — Un-School of Disruptive Design in Mexico city. We interviewed Emilija about her experience and got some great advice on how to make the most of your extra-curricular activities and find the money to travel to the most interesting destinations. See the details below!

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Why did you decide to participate in the Un-School of Disruptive Design? / Why was the topic of disruptive design interesting for you?

I decided to apply and participate in the Un-School’s fellowship because I saw it as a great opportunity to develop myself. I did not know much, if anything, about disruptive design before I went there. However, I was very interested in the focus of the programme – sustainability, systems thinking, social innovation. Ultimately, I was drawn there because I felt it would be a great way for me to dive deeper into these topics and understand how I can become a social activist and innovator.

Even though quite a few months have passed I am still uncovering and understanding the things that we explored and learned about. I have a long reading and watching list waiting for me this summer.

How did you find the information about the Un-School?

I stumbled upon the Fellowship while browsing the web through my phone late at night. I don’t remember where, how or why. But I saved the link, and went back to it the next morning. I had not heard about the school or the programme before, but right away it seemed like a great opportunity for something new.

But if you want to find information about the upcoming fellowships, classes and programmes you can check the Un-Schools website:

Images by Emilija Veselova

Can you tell a bit more about the case you were working on?

During the fellowship we had a 36 hour design challenge. We, the fellows, were divided into four teams and got the assignment. Our aim was to develop a solution for a micro finance bank that operates in Mexico and a few other Latin American countries. The bank provides loans and financial services to people who are fully cut out of the other financial systems. These people are mostly poor, not well educated and seeking opportunities. For these people this bank is the only place that provides access to any kinds of loans.

However, not everything was jolly. In my opinion, the bank is creating a pyramid system that enriches the rich and keeps the poor at, how they phrase it, “the bottom of the pyramid”. During the 36 hours we had to come up with a solution that would disrupt the current practices of the bank. We needed to create solution stat effectively would take our people who have gotten into the cycles of micro loans.

How did you get the money to participate and travel?

There were two sources where I received funds from. Firstly, I got a full scholarship from the Un-School. This scholarship fully covered the 2500 USD participation fee, and allowed me to come in the first place. Later on I raised funds through a GoFundMe campaign. With a help of around 20 contributors I was able to collect all needed funds to cover the travel costs and additional expenses.

Images by Emilija Veselova

Are you planning to share the knowledge you gained in the Summer School with others?

I would be happy to share my knowledge with the rest of the Aalto community and other people who are interested. I am currently thinking of the ways in which this could be done. And hopefully I get to carry out my plan in the next academic year.

What was the most important thing you learned from this experience?

There have been many important learning and many shifts in perspectives during and after the fellowship. The key learning and realization for me is that there are many people in the world who share my world views, are passionate about social and sustainable innovation and are driven to make the world better.