Marketing & sustainable fashion: Inside my Future17 experience | Top Universities

Marketing & sustainable fashion: Inside my Future17 experience

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated December 7, 2023 Updated December 7, 2023

Rowan Holloway-Stephens is studying an undergraduate degree in geography at the University of Exeter. 

Below, he shares with us his experience of being involved with Future17’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) challenge.  

Future17 is a consortia set up by QS and the University of Exeter that includes such universities as: CUHK, University of Sao Paulo, Stellenbosch University, the University of Auckland, Arizona State University, UCL, and others. 

Future17 students are first introduced with some training before the programme begins. This induction ensures that the students use the same vocabulary throughout the eight-week course. There is a wide range of topics covered, including project management, design thinking, and intercultural communication. 

Why I volunteered for Future17 

I saw Future17 advertised, and I thought it would be an interesting way to give something positive to the world. I found that a lot of my modules were very essay-based, and, although I found them interesting, I wasn’t really contributing much. Future17 seemed like a great way to put the knowledge I was learning into making a difference. 

My Future17 project 

I had no experience with working with a company but I was excited to learn and I was placed with a really great group of people - three people from South Africans and one from Brazil so it was great to have a mix of international students and gain different perspectives around a problem.  

We did some training in the beginning where we trained for three-four weeks before the course started. That was really great to build up my basic skills.  

Our challenge was to take the company’s product – a new dye created from tea waste. They’d had success with the dye in the European market but hadn’t yet launched in the US. So, our task was to find a way to successfully launch it in the US.  

We all worked as a team and we all had slightly different skills from different academic backgrounds. I study geography and I worked with a couple of business students and so we all pulled together to find a solution.      

We created a roadmap to entering the US and that involved looking at the brand itself and their platforms, looking at legalities around launching and competitors in the US for companies in sustainable and natural dyes and brand partnerships. That’s the area I led on.  

We also looked at sustainability targets. A lot of brands were looking at making their dying processes more sustainable, so that was a clear area where there was an opportunity to partner. We also looked at organisations working to make the fashion industry more sustainable, to see if they could help with finding partnerships. 

We then compiled a report of all our findings and recommendations and presented our work to the partner and he was impressed with what we came up with.  

Working in a group remotely from different places was a real learning curve.  

Personal development 

The major skill I developed was communication, and especially communicating across different time zones and with international communication which I wouldn’t have experienced on my modules. Also, it taught me organisation and the importance of being organised in a group project to ensure everything is more seamless.  

Since I completed the programme, I did a green consultancy project with the University of Exeter and I was able to apply a lot of the skills I’d learnt there to the new project and I would have really struggled to have done that project successfully without the skills and experience I had on the Future17 programme. 

I also was able to develop skills related to being proactive, being able to bring a team together as well as project management skills.  

Advice for future volunteers 

I think you need to be proactive and ready for a full-on experience. You have to be present and keep momentum going. It’s a group project so making yourself available and putting in the effort is important. 

Everyone has different backgrounds and you need to understand that coming in with an open mind will help make new ideas.  

Have fun. It’s a really rewarding experience and liberating because you’re given a lot more responsibility than you otherwise might be.  

I would never have considered sustainable fashion but now I see how broad the opportunities can be and it might be something I look into. 

This article was originally published in December 2023 .

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