Cape Town Fellowship Day 6 & Day 7 | May 31 & June 1 2018

Day 6 & 7

The 24-hour Design Challenge has begun! Fellows showed up early for first come first pick on break out session rooms. The challenge now is to time-crunch all the knowledge gained this week, and apply the tools to design a solution to an issue... with the twist of presenting it from the future!

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The teams were asked to apply a positive future framing speculative design to their solution. This framework pushed everyone beyond their traditional thought process on delivering a presentation and coming up with an idea. Using the Disruptive Design Method (DDM), the fellows went through an entire journey using systems mapping to find what issues they were collaboratively passionate about and points of intervention.

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As the breakout session walls transformed into systems mapping art – teams started to find the problem arenas. One team decided to tackle the fast fashion issue, another team was inspired to look at what makes thriving cities. Two teams, inspired by Sihle (one of our mentors) and his work with Quirky 30, researched on how to flip-the-script on the negative bias usually applied to gangs and prison.


Being at the CBD (central business district) made it easy for the teams to go on field trips being immersed in observational research to check and validate their ideas with the public and also talk with local team members about topics emerging from the rich content in the city. In between snacks were plentiful – we even had pancakes sent from the barakat tradition during Ramadan month! Teams then used the iterative process of DDM to come back with new information and perspectives to apply more systems mapping, landscaping, synthesizing and prototyping to build different solutions for their new insights. They worked late into the night, fueled by a surprise popcorn and ice-cream sundae bar the UnSchool team set up.

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Early next morning after some very much needed brain breakfast food (coconut chia banana cinnamon pudding for everyone!), the teams wrapped up the final details for their solutions in preparation for practice pitches with the UnSchool team and Leyla via the internet! During the one-and-one team presentations, Leyla shared her tips and tricks on how to engage and create evocative and thoughtful presentations. With some twists and positive constructive feedback, the teams had time to make some quick changes while working against the clock before their final presentations.

At the final Design Challenge hour, the fellows participated in a community review process. Everyone rotated to review the presentations based on Viability, Change Potential, and Community to represent a different lens to each idea.


The intense seventh day week ended with popping champagne bottles, sparkling water and flowers for our fellows who were fasting. Each team did an incredible job and were very creative in presentations format. The scores were so close, but rounding to the tenth left one final winner! The creative and engaging presentations involving hug exchanges, transporting fellows to New York, and achieved the purpose of creative positive future framing.


After feasting on beautiful and colorful lunch and singing happy birthday to Andy, one of our local team members, we transitioned into a final memory-recalling and reflective session on our insights, wishes and tools to take away. The entire group then ended with a final reflection circle to share final thoughts on the week.  The circle wrapped up with one of the fellows leading a call and response Kausar chant of ‘amandla’ (power) and the group responding ‘awethu’ (within) - a  reminder that the power is within us. With filled hearts and brains, we said our temporary good-byes... the fellows were already planning an after party to celebrate that we are all now part of the the UnSchool Alumni family!

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See you at the next UnSchool Change Makers Fellowship!

Cape Town Fellowship Day 5 | May 30 2018

Day 5

Day 5 quickly jumped into a knowledge-packed day!

As we finished our nourishing breakfast foods, Vuyisa Quabaka, co-founder of Uprise Africa, started his session with a mini networking-style intro by getting everyone in the group to share their professional projects and personal interests. Then Vuyisa continued the networking theme with his tips and tricks for the fellows to leverage their social networks (on and offline!) in an effective and intentional way. We quickly found out why he is one of the top 15 people to follow on social media as he is extremely well connected around the world! Vuyisa gave us the two perspectives on what it is like to be an entrepreneur looking for funding and how it is like to be an angel investor. He shared three different ways to answer the question - how to fund my project? 1) Peer 2 Peer (P2P) 2) Equity Crowdfunding 3) Initial Coin Offering & Bitcoin - which quickly became a hot-topic! The morning ended up with dividing into teams working on what makes an idea investible.


After re-charging with delicious plant-protein Happy Earth People pasta, we kept going with the next big topics: Life Cycle Thinking and Theory of Change. Emma explained the environmental impacts associated with each stage of a product’s life. Clearly deep in thought, the fellows worked through the different stages of products such as a sweater or shoes and we used mapping technique to look at where these products come from, what it takes to produce them, and how they get disposed.


Equipping the fellows for the final challenge, our digital session with Leyla led us all into the Disruptive Design Method (DDM),  and cognitive bias. Her high energy and enthusiasm was what everyone needed after a long day of intense brain activating. Learning with Leyla helped us all to tie together the wide range of framing tools and immersive experiences that we shared during the week.


Before the drum roll to present the final challenge, we had space for free writing reflecting on what new insights and new breakthroughs have happened in these intense few days. The fellows had their pens on a roll as they unlearned the impulse to self-censor and instead jot down their thoughts and streams of consciousness, well past the set activity time. 

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The day did eventually come to an end but the challenge was just getting started as the teams were given their brief for the 24-Hour Design Challenge. Everyone left the room excited and already brainstorming on how to tackle the challenge early tomorrow morning!

Cape Town Fellowship Day 4 | May 29 2018

Day 4

Day 4! Time flies when you’re learning how to unlearn at the Unschool!

Today was nothing short of incredible. After a quick and tasty breakfast, we’re back on ‘the bus for us’! Heading to somewhere unknown in true Unschool style, we find ourselves in Langa, the oldest township in Cape Town. Not knowing exactly where we are, we take our seats and are introduced to Sihle Tshabalala, the co-founder and CEO of Quirky30.

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Hearing his story of how he dedicated his adult life to overcoming the odds of poverty, prison and violence gives us such a deep sense of inspiration that you can actually feel it in the air. You could quite honestly hear a pin drop as Sihle spoke words of wisdom about the importance of turning the negative into the positive, even in the face of adversity. The fellows are stunned by Sihle’s ‘3-D’ ethos of: dream different dreams. He explained how he was able to see marketable skill-sets in the most marginalised groups, for example; gang members and criminals as some of the most innovative entrepreneurs. This is a key component of his talk: finding opportunity where there seems to be only hopelessness. His life story has such resonance with the journey of a social innovator that our fellows can’t stop asking him questions. If only written words were enough to sum up the insights that Sihle shared with the group, but the hugs and gratitude spoke volumes!


Then we picked up the pace and sped right into a rapid prototyping session with the Quirky30 cohort to come up with quickfire solutions to local problems. We formed four big blended groups of Quirky30 and Unschool fellows alike and got talking about a range of issues that were local to Langa such as violence, agriculture, education, and unemployment (issues that affect us all around the world!). We got our heads together to start mapping out the problem arenas of each one issue. With some deep thinking, head scratching, and colourful scribbling, all four groups did a big collective brain dump which laid the foundation for building a prototype solution in 30 minutes - and with lots of conversation to spare! We heard some fantastic presentations of prototypes but it was the process that was the real learning piece here; synthesising the perspectives and experiences of people from all over the world to collaboratively create a seamless solution! It’s not always as easy as it looks and our groups did make it look pretty easy. Judging by the standard of the ideas, there was real genuine interest to make these prototyped ideas an entrepreneurial reality!

With all our brain juice squeezed out, it was certainly the moment for some yummy South African food which turned out to be a big hit! Thank you to Ciki Washington and her Langa-based catering.

Back on the bus again and it’s time to do some quick reflections on our way to the next destination because there’s never a minute to lose at the Unschool. We rocked up in the centre of Cape Town for our next learning-based adventure. Just this morning we were hearing from a digital programmer, youth worker, motivational speaker, community leader, and entrepreneur, all rolled into one amazing mentor, Sihle. Now we were waiting outside an architect’s office door  waiting to hear his take on how to unite social justice with innovation. Of course, it turns out that we were extremely privileged to have Mokena Makeka as our second mentor of the day. He talked so effortlessly about his career of building buildings with social change in mind. In fact, he blew our minds with the way he saw various socioeconomic patterns and trends shaping our world. Again, we were full of questions to ask him about his work. After a quick tour of his office space, Mokena showed us some of the most prestigious architectural projects that he had worked on and his thought process behind his creative design decisions - inspiring us to think about the ways we can unapologetically bring our authentic selves into our work! Next stop, we visited Cape Town Station where Mokena took us step by step through his creative process of architecturally designing it. We managed to squeeze in a quick sneak peek of the ‘informal market’ that can be found on the station’s rooftop with the mountains making the perfect backdrop to the hustle and bustle of all the market stalls selling all kinds of everything!

He talked so effortlessly about his career of building buildings with social change in mind. In fact, he blew our minds with the way he saw various socioeconomic patterns and trends shaping our world. Again, we were full of questions to ask him about his work. After a quick tour of his office space, Mokena showed us some of the most prestigious architectural projects that he had worked on and his thought process behind his creative design decisions - inspiring us to think about the ways we can unapologetically bring our authentic selves into our work! Next stop, we visited Cape Town Station where Mokena took us step by step through his creative process of architecturally designing it. We managed to squeeze in a quick sneak peek of the ‘informal market’ that can be found on the station’s rooftop with the mountains making the perfect backdrop to the hustle and bustle of all the market stalls selling all kinds of everything!


Finally we decided to walk to the V&A Waterfront and we were able to do some long overdue sunset sightseeing. At the Waterfront, Mokena our mentor continued giving us a tour of the Cape Town city that he knows and that he has played an active role in designing. It was great to have such open public space to run, play, and take lots of photos - the fellows unschooled all their schooling with childlike play, curiousity, and mischief. Finally, it came to wrapping up the day with a quick reflection on all the ways that we can continue to ‘flip the script’ (in true Unschool spirit) on the challenges, obstacles, and issues currently affecting our lives. This was a great way to end the day by thinking about all the ways that we might turn a weakness into a strength and a threat into an opportunity. Reframing is a really important skill that any social innovator needs to have in order to navigate the long road ahead of change-making.Time for some free time this evening and the fellows decided to go a see more of the city with some food in their belly. A great day full of absolutely mindblowing mentorship and teamwork!


Cape Town Fellowship Day 3 | May 28 2018

Day 3

Day 3 was kicked off with Naadiya Moosaje, who arrived with the tips, tricks, and wisdoms around her journey of social innovation. Any morning sleepiness that lingered in the air was swept away by Naadiya’s amazing storytelling of the trials and tribulations of being a female entrepreneur, in engineering, fashion and the restaurant industry.


She talked about the four types of capital that any entrepreneur needs to successfully start up a mission-driven enterprise, highlighting the importance of community and connection. The fellows had many questions about Naadiya’s experience as an agent of change and were inspired by her honesty and openness. After a quick break, the fellows were invited to address a social innovation challenge which involved picking a local issue from the news’ headlines, breaking down the problem, and then rapid prototyping the solution - all this under 30 minutes! The fellows had to let go of their inhibitions and perfectionism to get ideating, creating, testing! They formed three groups and pitched their 30 minute prototypes on challenging Islamophobia, taxi violence, and linking supporters with resources to those who want to take action. It was great to see what the teams could achieve in just half an hour of messy thoughts, scribbled diagrams, and cut and paste prototypes made out of recycled packaging waste. A great session to get the brain juices flowing for the day and there was still so much more to come...

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After another sumptuous spread prepared by the team, we were introduced to self-proclaimed water maverick and shit-stirrer, Bernelle Verster. The Cape Town Day Zero Water Crisis has been an ongoing topic around the world. With Bernelle’s vast experience as bio process engineer, she led us through as session on what the Cape is going through, seeking a deep understanding of the issue around water sensitivity. Many of the international fellows who weren’t as familiar with the practicalities of the drought were surprised to hear about tactics like water restriction devices on water meters that turn the water supply off once the daily allowance is depleted. Bernelle’s proposal is water-sensitive living, or as she calls it, being AquaSavvy.

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Unpacking this idea revealed more than just water supply and distribution but also overall water consciousness. After establishing and comparing the options, Bernelle appealed to the fellows to weigh in on her current project and debate the pros and cons of dry toilets vs flush toilets. We used a classic UnSchool game of Verbal Fight Club and embodied various perspectives and roles to work through her idea. She was generous enough to have us give rapid feedback in this fun and interactive debate style, and wrote about her experience at the UnSchool.

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Having collectively debated the dry vs flush toilet, the conversation transitioned into a discussion around the bigger issues at play, leading to the need for dry toilets and our ideas around sanitation. Saying goodbye to Bernelle, we then moved downstairs for a reflection session led by Camila, who asked us to reflect on the different ways we’ve been seeing the mentors use unique tactics and tools to navigate complex, challenging systems and make positive and measurable change in the world. With the sun breaking through the welcome rain, we invited the fellows to one last challenge for the day as they were sent off in small groups for dinner. We asked them to try their hand at designing an experience that would help transfer some of the knowledge they’ve learned up to this point to another group of people - peer to peer learning is an accessible and relatable way to engage communities, and we can’t always rely on the bigger system structures in the world. Sometimes you have to dive in there yourself! And with that, we sent them off into the sunset with an early morning ahead for Day 4.

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Cape Town Fellowship Day 2 | May 27 2018


We got straight into it this morning with the fresh-faced fellows bringing along their artefacts to share with the group over breakfast. The artefacts were precious treasures, trinkets and treats that meant something special or represented something important for each of our fellows; from peanut butter to an indigenous spekboom (bacon tree) plant. Coming together around the breakfast table, we realized just how small the world is and how much we can learn from each other.


There was excitement in the air as we were (virtually) introduced to Dr Leyla Acaroglu, via videoconference. We discussed systems-thinking and change-making before getting into groups to map out some of the social, industrial, and environmental systems that shape our world and our lives. Despite some hesitation, we really outdid ourselves in sticking to the task of creating messy, chaotic and beautiful systems maps in all their complexity. The brain-dump of our collective group’s systems-mapping squeezed out so much juice and the subsequent conversations that flowed really reflected a morning of deep thinking and reflection.


After a refreshing, wholesome, and colourful lunch prepared by the Unschool team (5* star reviews from the fellows!), we hopped onto a Golden Arrow bus also known as “the Bus for Us” which has been servicing the city for 157 years! We left the east precinct and ventured down the highway to meet one of our mentors, Emile YX “vannie Kaap se vlakte” (from the Cape Flats). Emile, who needs no introduction, had a big sense of self, sense of humour, and head of hair! He interestingly started by talking about how he had grown out his hair to its natural state as a part of his search for his identity as a person of colour in Cape Town, South Africa. It turns out that his huge afro matches his unapologetic vibrance and exuberant energy. Since then, Emile constantly found himself going to his creativity and artistry to work his way around the systems that don’t work for him. This has led him to leverage his unconventional teaching methods through hip-hop and dance. He dedicates his life to encouraging and developing youth by equipping them with the personal, practical, (and quite literally physical) tools to navigate social systems in a way that works for them. Emile drew us out of our comfort zones by getting us dancing in a pretty cosy circle – nothing quite like the B-boy’s breakdancing moves though but some fellows were close!


The next adventure had all the fellows curious and guessing where we were off to next. There’s no doubt that the unknown aspect of the Unschool itinerary is part and parcel of the un-learning process! Back on the ‘bus for us’, we headed to a different part of the city, as the sun was starting to set.

All around the world the holy month of Ramadaan is being observed by Muslims. This is a very significant month on the Islamic calendar and is always a special time in Cape Town as the communities are filled with the sharing spirit. Zayaan Khan and her family welcomed us into their family home to boeka (breaking of the fast). As tradition dictates, dates and water were laid out along with savoury treats, fruit, and tea. Zayaan invited us to share our intentions for the UnSchool fellowship with the group, while we rolled date balls. When the clock hit 17:50 it was time to break fast and from then for the entire evening, delicious platters kept arriving from the kitchen. Zayaan shared her story of her identity and how it feeds into the work she does with plants and indigenous food in the Cape. She shared how being aware of those living in the land (and oceans!) can be so replenishing for mind, body, and soul.  She also shared a few tips of harvesting plants from her surroundings to make the delicious tea we were enjoying.


The night ended with the fellows talking about what it takes to be a leader and the internal and external conflicts that arise from leading social change – and all of this reflection with very full heads and stomachs!  


Cape Town Fellowship Day 1 | May 26 2018


Hello from UnSchool Cape Town!

The 2018 Cape Town Fellowship!

The 2018 Cape Town Fellowship!

One legged stand in the  VOC gardens .

One legged stand in the VOC gardens.

The 9th UnSchool Fellowship has launched, and we’ve hit the ground running! We’re all getting to know each other ultra fast speed with a classic UnSchool one legged stand to learn each others names, and it is all systems go for a filled-to-the-brim week of brain-training, fun and change-making.

Cape Town hosted us with warm weather on Day One, after some cold and wet (but very welcomed!) winter weather experienced earlier in the week. Our local co-hosts, Thessa (UnSchool alumni from Sao Paolo) and Wisaal, put the city into context for us, providing us with historical and cultural insights as well as the practicalities regarding the water situation and how to navigate this situation as visitors to the city. The week is set to be thoughtful and provocative in this beautiful and complex region, stitched together with culturally-rich threads.

The sunshine was accommodating as we made our way to the District Six Museum. The museum was co-created and curated by the memories of those who were forcibly removed from their communities and sent to rebuild their homes and lives on the outskirts of the city. It was established as a two-week exhibition which has turned out to last for 22 years... and counting. Aunty Ruth, a former District Six resident and museum story-teller, shared her history around life in District Six and the immense trauma and challenges that she and thousands of other families experienced living through the system. We were all captivated by her legacy and the legacy of District Six - not forgetting the museum. Aunty Ruth’s jovial spirit and incredible story-telling really moved us as a group and provided great perspective.

Aunty Ruth and the Cape Town fellows sit on the memory map of the once vibrant and diverse community of District Six that was disrupted by apartheid.

Aunty Ruth and the Cape Town fellows sit on the memory map of the once vibrant and diverse community of District Six that was disrupted by apartheid.

Bonita, our guide for the museum, explains all the artifacts we see in this informal museum

Bonita, our guide for the museum, explains all the artifacts we see in this informal museum

The fellows get a rapid fire 20 seconds per slide to tell everyone about their work and life.

The fellows get a rapid fire 20 seconds per slide to tell everyone about their work and life.

The fellows and team brought the excitement along to the home base at The Craft and Design Institute, where we got to know one-another in three minute Pecha Kuchas. Nine 20-second slides to share with the group gave us all a more in-depth understanding of each other. We cheered those who ran out of time and encouraged those who found themselves strapped for words. The consensus was that speaking about yourself against the clock surely comes with its challenges!

After our first session with our lead educator Emma, and a historical walk lead by Wisaal and Thessa, we broke injera (Ethiopian bread) together. The tasty and wholesome dishes paired with some wine, water, or Ethiopian tea provided nourishment. The community meal was a great way to relax after an intense first day, to mingle amongst ourselves with our mouths full and our fingers busy. We know that the week ahead will be bombarded with knowledge, challenges, surprises and the anticipation, but we’re ready! The excitement is palpable as Day Two gets underway.

Meet the Cape Town Fellows!


The UnSchool's 9th Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program is happening on May 26th!



Meet the incredible #UNSCHOOLCAPETOWN cohort of creative rebels and change agents who will join us in CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA!



Neha is passionate about sustainability, textiles and design. After graduating, she worked in the fashion industry for a while. This firsthand experience in this second largest polluting industry changed her perspective completely. Neha started practicing and studying more about it to bring concrete change.


At the core, she believes in a multidisciplinary approach towards problem solving. Her current project ‘soot’ is an innovative colorant developed from industrial waste. The idea behind it was to explore and get inspired by the color sources around us instead of using regular chemicals. Neha loves organizing, traveling to unique and untouched places, experiencing new cultures & is fair believer in collaboration.


Sizwe’s interest and passion lies in informal settlement development in unison with community participation. Working for Development Action Group and Community Organization Resources Centre as a project coordinator in different kinds of small and big scale projects in informal settlement upgrading around the City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality has taught him a lot about working with community and project coordination.


He has learnt much more than just planning, project managing and drawing maps for these projects. His participatory working process was able to stitch the community back together and built capacity. His work experiences in City of Cape of Town Land Use Management department in the Khayelitsha area, to re-blocking project of Mshini wam and supporting building up of an Informal Settlements Network in the Stellenbosch area, to building grey water drainage channels in the Langrug Community in Franchhoek, makes Sizwe believe that joint responsibility and collaborative approaches of local communities, non-profit and corporate accountability, will contribute greatly towards sustainable development.


Zoë is a people person. She feels at home interacting with others and believes in putting this social skill to work. An environmental scientist by training, her role at the Cape Town branch of the engineering and infrastructure advisory firm, Aurecon, includes leading its Design to Innovate approach.


Her role is to foster collaboration between diverse thinkers toward adopting more user-centric approaches in infrastructure design. The significance of such co-created infrastructure? Less waste, more sustainability, and happier people. In her spare time, Zoë works as a trustee for the non-profit organization Great Girls, which mentors teenaged women from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them develop the skills required for either tertiary education or full time employment.


Tim digs the ocean; riding waves, swimming under waves, studying waves, as well as, modelling waves and coastal processes. Having graduated as a Coastal Engineer, being the Editor of the world's largest bodyboarding magazine and, recently, designing a floating coastal protection structure for his Masters thesis - Tim's interest in the sea is a common thread. He's a pragmatic problem solver and feels that sea level rise due to climate change is a preeminent challenge that needs action.


Tim enjoys learning about the challenges in delivering design solutions for cultures other than his own (fueled by time spent studying in France, New Zealand & Taiwan, and living in China & South Africa), and collaborating in multidisciplinary teams. He believes that not only do designers need to be able to solve problems, but they must be able to clearly communicate their findings and the path forward.

Tim feels there is a lot to be learnt, not to mention fun to be had, in getting your hands dirty, whether that is through site visits, prototyping or exploration in a fab/bio lab.


Johan (pronounced with a hard J) believes that under the right conditions, none are left out. He was born on the Caribbean island nation known as St. Vincent & the Grenadines, where he spent the first 15 years of his life. Currently, he lives in the US in upstate New York and works to promote sustainable community development.


Johan’s goal for joining the Unschool learning community is to sharpen his strategic design toolkit. Ultimately, he'd like to design strategies for social change. During this fellowship, Johan hopes to laugh with and learn from as many interesting people as possible.


Saleemah is a Program Director for Madina Institute South Africa. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biochemistry and Physiology, followed by honors in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Cape Town. She also completed an advanced diploma in Business Project Management.


Saleemah is a bit of introvert, loves baking and reading, and has a keen interest in Islamic Spirituality. She is creative and organized, and enjoys playing Uno and drinking tea. She believes youth are not the future - they are the present, and that promoting, and living, messages of love, peace and tolerance is essential in our survival as human beings.

laya lakkaraju

Laya has lived her life through negation, so she doesn't have one thing that she cares about intensely. Rather, she deeply cares about many different things - human rights, health, science and innovation, the environment. Leya has a scientific approach to living, and loves questioning everything.


She received her degree in pharmaceutical sciences but very early on figured that she was not cut out to work in a corporate environment. She switched fields very quickly to public health, and currently she works on community-based chronic disease prevention programs. Laya is really interested in learning about systems thinking and disruption in the change making world and is ready to be part of a growing network of creative rebels. She wants to start her own non-profit and believes this fellowship experience will help her connect the dots.


Alyssa Burtt is an artist, a brand strategist, and May 2019 candidate for an MBA in Design Strategy at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. With a BFA in Visual Arts and a diploma in Graphic and Web Design, she started her first design consultancy in 2007, and has been an entrepreneur ever since.

Her current business, Brave Narrative, takes more of an archetypal branding and leadership focus, and she's excited to integrate all that she's learning in grad school to pivot and take her business to the next level. Also enrolled in a 4-year leadership program based on the principles of radical relating and personal responsibility, she is excited to bring together the intersections of her passions, from art, design and branding, to experience design, visionary leadership and social impact into her next entrepreneurial or career iteration.


Antonio is a strategic leader with a results-driven reputation. He’s an Operations Manager focusing on HR and people development at Year Up in Seattle, Washington. He leads with authenticity, purpose and integrity, combined with experience working directly with young professionals for over 10 years.


Antonio is a social justice warrior and wants to live in a world where we value each other for the thoughts we have, and that creates a more just society and not only the money in our pockets. Through his work in Washington, DC and the non-profit, City Year, he has realized the importance of authentic leadership. Knowing who he is and his place in the world has catapulted him to become an innovative people developer. Antonio is currently working on a personal project that documents the lives of black men in America, giving him and others the right to tell their own story their way.


Wafika was born in the Western Cape, in a township called Langa. At 21 years old, he is a web developer and a student who is currently studying at Quirky30. Wafika has also studied mechanics in the metal side.


Zimkhitha is a marketing graduate from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Currently a student at Quirky30 doing programming, she has gained inspiration from her CEO, Sihle Tshabalala, a self-taught coder, and her mentor, Nwabisa Masiko. Upon joining Quirky 30 she knew nothing about computers and their language. But now she can speak fairly fluently to a computer!



Tiahnah recently completed her studies at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa where she immersed herself in the alternative learning methodologies. Her time there broadened her understanding of sustainable development.  While studying, she worked for Living Lands as a Landscape Mobiliser where she facilitates dialogue on the landscapes by using Theory U principles as a way of connecting perspectives. Projects include working with informal residential areas on water and sanitation monitoring systems; being part of the team to assist provincial government in reviewing the Sustainable Water Management Plan; establishing awareness of indigenous leaders and threatened wetlands and; bridging landscape initiatives.


Her interest in understanding human behaviour in relation to sustainability has lead her on many personal journeys in looking for better alternatives to the status quo. She seeks to learn more about how spaces and environment have an influence over those who move through it – and so, aspires towards working with a team of people that want to design and build new living and working spaces that will help people’s everyday decisions be more truthful and direct.

Tiahnah recognises her role as a steward of the planet and also finds necessity in acknowledging the connections between environmental degradation and gender inequality. She is therefore, a proud TreeSister. To work towards further connecting people and planet, Tiahnah continues looking for ways and approaches that ignite a more authentic relationship between both.


Perris is an innovation strategist with a passion for using design to drive positive shifts in behavior and massive social change. She cut her teeth in big ad agencies and market research consultancies on Fortune 500 clients. Since then, she’s taken the principles she learned from the corporate world to make her dent in the universe: rebranding Greenpeace to radically grow its member base, developing a business model to make fertility treatments more accessible, and designing a social media site to connect female change agents around the world.

Today at fuseproject, she is a design consultant for Spring – an accelerator program supporting social enterprises in East Africa and South Asia that impact the lives of adolescent girls. Perris comes from a family of artists and views strategy as a creative act. She believes in the power of constraints, intuition, inclusive design, and diverse teams. When combined and applied in the right ways, anything is possible.


Faith Pienaar is a young South African passionate about building just and equitable communities. She is an alumnus of Stellenbosch University where she completed a degree in Viticulture and Oenology and post graduate studies in Marketing. She currently works as a Non-profit Management Fellow at the Accountability Lab and the Democracy Works Foundation, where she is the coordinator of the Integrity Idol South Africa campaign, Her experiences outside of the classroom have seen her committed to asking critical questions on the politics and integrity of transformation at South African universities.

Faith was involved in the first wave of the Fees Must Fall protest in 2015; a time that she describes as a difficult but necessary reimagining of South African society. Her activism is motivated by a deep sense of empathy and a commitment to the deepening of a democracy. Outside of her 9 to 5, Faith coordinates leadership development workshops for students in the post school environment across the country. She is a previous International Fellow for the Volunteering for International Professionals Program with the Ministry of Finance in Malaysia, a South African Washington International Program alumni and an Abe Bailey Fellow.

Jill Thorne

Jill is a management consultant at Via-Ability with a focus on organization sustainability through the development of individual abilities and organizational capability. Via-Ability works with diverse perspectives in support of innovative decision making, strategy and systems development at all levels within organizations. Jill is values-driven, people-orientated and highly competent in systems thinking and leadership, strategic decision making and organizational development. She has high levels of personal integrity and is innovative, creative, and analytical with strengths in strategic and normative management. She is dedicated to service leadership, likes to works with small teams and makes interesting, productive things happen.


Jill has a demonstrated history of working in the oil, non-profit and academic research industries. She is skilled in using systems thinking to support organizational viability through building personal abilities and organizational capabilities. Jill supports development and learning though one-on-one mentoring and coaching, facilitation of group workshops and lean-in circles of learning. As a servant leader and is committed to empathy, trust, listening, collaboration and integrity, she is focused on communication and building communities with high levels of productive engagement by all stakeholders in the development of innovative, strategic responses to challenges and long-term sustainability.


Kausar works as renewable energy consultant primarily involved with solar and wind energy projects. She enjoys working in the energy field and is looking to broaden and develop her skills further.  It has become increasingly important for her to use her career as a tool to address the challenges we face in our current environment. Kausar has a keen interest in the circular economy and city resilience, and is passionate about inspiring the next generation through mentorship and education.


Apply for a creative residency retreat on the CO Project Farm in Portugal

Did you know that we are restoring a farm in Portugal into our rural campus for UnSchool programs, retreats and all things creative change-making? This year as we set up the main space, we are running small cretaive residency retreats. You can apply now for a 3, 5 or 7 day creative residnecy on the farm!


Mumbai Days 6 & 7 November 16 & 17, 2017

DAY 6 & 7


The Design Challenge Day is here! Every Unschool Fellowship involves a unique design challenge that requires the fellows to participation in a time-crunched challenge where they apply the knowledge they gained throughout the week. In line with the themes we’ve explored this week, they worked with their group to choose a problem arena encountered during the week that they were passionate about diving into.

Team 1 decided to look at dispelling culturally influenced myths around menstruation, Team 2 chose to address the issue of fast fashion, Team 3 explored fostering curiosity, and Team 4 addressed closing communication gaps between generations.

unschool thinking differently

The teams were asked to look at the issues through the week’s overarching theme of collaborative community engagement for positive social and environmental change. With the offer of a possibility to present at the DIF Festival the following week, the fellows had extra motivation to dig deep and present an idea with substance and potential real world impact.

leyla mentoring

The challenge day witnessed our fellows excitedly getting more deeply immersed into systems mapping, observational research, landscaping, synthesizing, prototyping and documenting. They drew from all the resources at hand, even going out into the public and interviewing people on the street and UnSchool team members about all manner of topics. They worked late into the night, fueled by samosas and Pao Bhaji, a Mumbai speciality.

unschool thinking

The next morning, the fellows grabbed some breakfast and finalized their sketches, taking turns practicing their pitches with Leyla. In these practice sessions, Leyla shared her tactic knowledge on how to create engaging and evocative presentations that help share your vision with the audience. She helped the quieter of our community find their voices and the nervous ones see the excitement in their time on stage. 

unschool presenting

To draw on the inclusive, collaborative and diverse themes of the week, the judging panel took the shape of a peer review format. Seats were assigned to represent Community Stakeholders, Social Impact Feasibility, and The Environment, with each fellow offered the opportunity to rotate seats and view the presentations through each of the lenses.

peer feedback unschool style

The intense week of collaboratively engaged initiatives provided inspiration and support, as each team did an incredible job with their ideas. The scoring was close - in one case only 1% difference! - and a final winner was selected. With such close scores, however, we were all the appreciative recipients of hearing about positively impactful projects with both heart and substance.

day 7 announ.jpg

The fellowship week thus came to an end with the popping of a giant bottle of bubbles, music, delicious dumplings, and handmade gifts passed around, along with hugs and a few happy tears. Cohost Myrthe transitioned us into a final group session as the fellows reflected on big learning revelations, needs & wishes, and most memorable moments. The entire group then turned inward with an X map activity to identify how to move forward on their personal projects from here.

reflection unschool

In the final moments, we gathered in a circle to offer thank yous, gratitude, love, availability for collaborations and acknowledgments of the week’s impact on each of us. Leyla and the team also offered themselves up as peer mentors if any of the fellows wanted help moving forward with their challenge projects. With inspired hearts, we drew out the goodbyes (or see-you-laters) for as long as possible and finally parted ways - now all part of the UnSchool Alumni family.

day 7 umoong.jpg

See you at the next UnSchool creative change-making adventure!

Mumbai Day 5 | Nov 15, 2017


day 5 wheel.jpg

Day 5 kicked off with a breakfast-of-champions panel led by Leyla and Emma, and accompanied by three incredibly inspiring local change-makers:

  • Perses (Envision,  Earthsoul india and Converging World) develops multiple projects to fight climate change and create positive environmental interventions at a macro level. Among many things, he has developed compostable plastics, is prototyping a Graphene battery for electric cars, a spray that re-nourishes the organisms in the ocean and a program that involves re-foresting Tamil Nadu via wind farm investment.

  • Nishi works with Akaar Innovations, a hybrid social enterprise with 2 main initiatives - one which makes affordable compostable sanitary napkins in micro factories run by and for women, and an education arm that increases hygiene awareness, dismantles taboos, and normalizes menstruation (#FreedomFromShame).

  • Nimish has developed a clothing and accessory brand, Shift, that makes beautiful artisanal products with a range of sustainable and traditional materials, end of line fabrics, and smart cutting to minimize waste. Remnants left over from cutting are turned into blankets, while fibers left over from blankets are turned into paper. Nimish works with regional artisans from all over India who operate their own small home productions to both support and grow craft traditions while working towards a circular production system.

day 5 panel

After a short snack and coffee break, Sonia Manchanda from Spread took the fellows on a dream catching journey. Sonia has developed a methodology, Dream:In, that maps dreams, moving away from immediate needs towards expanding possibilities. She feels strongly that by looking beyond immediate needs, we look to create something that actually fulfills deeper needs and takes the future into account. Working towards your own dreams and connecting to other people's dreams is part of her approach to creating systems that provide equitable opportunities. She aims to sensitize society, to catalyze solutions and to demonstrate results by mobilizing talent and resources.

day 5 dream session

The fellows went on to uncover each other’s dreams, putting the Dream:In tool into practice. The tool probed us to dig further towards our underlying social impact dreams. Captured on video, the dreams were shared over a wholesome lunch of pasta, vegetables, salads and dips cooked by the UnSchool Team.

day 5 dream session

Inspired and activated we kicked off our last session with our mentor, Dagny, who asked the fellows to reflect on the experiences of the previous day in 10 words. Tangential word clusters came out of this exercise and included community, connection, chaos, inspiration and learning. The various word clusters brought to light how the same experiences impact each individual differently. This exploration of the plurality of experience triggered the fellows to delve into deeper thoughts on perspectives and possibilities.

day 5 unschool mumbai

Dagny advanced this self-reflective session to a structured reflection on the impact of the individual projects that the fellows are working on in their lives. They were mentored to dig deep about the impact of their projects on the environment through the UN Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA). This 20 minute exercise enabled each participant to create connections in their work, through the lens of sustainability. To round out the session, the fellows heard about Dagny’s project Vessel - stainless steel mugs based on a library system where subscribers pick up and drop off their mugs at convenient participating coffee shops - a disruptive solution to the environmental issue of paper cups.

day 5 dagny session

To bring together the themes of the day, our co-host Myrthe asked the fellows to write a letter to their future selves (which she will mail them one year from today!). She invited them to write in the context of having achieved their social impact dreams, and how this fellowship had contributed to that process --- a memento of their Unschool-ing experience. Reading their own letters one year from now will offer them deeper insights on their growth post Unschool, the struggles they had to overcome to achieve their positive impact dreams, and the sweet spots along the way. Reminding ourselves of the roots of where we started is an inspirational light to motivate further progress.

day 5 reflection session

Setting the stage for the final fellowship challenge, Leyla led the fellows through an interactive session on the Disruptive Design Method (DDM), recounting the experiences throughout the week and exploring the DDM approaches of Mining, Landscaping & Building.

ddm reflection with leyla

Then with activated brains, the fellows participated in a fun mini-quest designed by our local producer, Priyam. The quest: a hunt for glass, wood, fabric and metal treasures. Contained within the hidden treasures was key information about the challenge teams. Embracing the gamified tactic, the teams found each other and began to identify their problem arena for the final challenge that will culminate the fellowship week. That’s it for Day 5. #UnSchoolMB needs to rest up and recharge those brain cells for the upcoming 24 Hour Design Challenge.

Mumbai Day 4 | Nov 14, 2017

unschool mumbai


An action-packed day in the field meant an early 7am start for #UnSchoolMB. As the last fellow sneaked in the back of our awesome BEST bus in an attempt to avoid the (often rather embarrassing) consequences of breaking the don’t-be-late-rule, we headed out for a series of experiences.

unschool mumbai

En route, Leyla and co-host, Sri, led a feedback session reflecting on the mini-gamification challenge from the night before. We were entertained as we talked through all the motivations and game mechanics that were drawn upon to create the gamified experiences, while balancing ourselves on the moving bus. Designing games that make change is not as easy as you think it might be, and the fellows helped to dissect the ways in which games can have a positive learning experience.

unschool mumbai

At the peak of the morning city bustle, we arrived at Mumbai Dhobi Ghat: The World’s Largest Open-Air Washerman Colony and were met by our insightful guides, Suraj, Hitesh and Jatin from Reality Tours & Travels. Before leaving the bus, Leyla took the fellows through ways of respectfully engaging with people in their own community, while seeking to gain insights and understanding. With open minds, we followed the local experts from Reality Tours (an ethical tour company that hires local guides and donates 80% of their profits to educational initiatives in Mumbai's slums) into the Dhobi Ghat.

unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai
washerman mumbai

Home to over 7,000 washermen (or Dhobis), the dhobis clean, scrub, bleach and iron (with an iron heated by coals!) an estimated one million items a day. Their clients include hotels, clubs, caterers, garment retailers and neighborhood laundries. Traditionally, the washing has always been done in concrete washing basins, however in recent years, some wealthier Dhobis have invested in large washing and drying machines, halving the colony’s population. Further automatization is expected, and concern for the subsequent reduction in jobs is a big concern throughout the community.


Manoeuvring between the washing cubicles, fast-spinning tumble dryers, and endless lines of drying garments (in a unique clothespin-free way), we observed a tight-knit community that works and lives in tight spaces. In this incredibly complex city within a city, temples, kitchens, sleeping areas, shops and services blend together in a highly tolerant and interconnected space.

unschool mumbai

Next we were hosted by Dharavi Diary, founded by Nawneet Ranjan and guided by a mission to empower Mumbai youth, especially girls and women, living on the fringes of urban & rural lower income communities. Through STEAM learning, storytelling and skill-building, they quickly develop skills to become innovative leaders.

unschool mumbai

We were welcomed by their warm and hospitable students, who guided us through Dharavi (Asia’s second largest slum) showing us several of the hundreds of waste recycling micro-businesses that receive thousands of tons of used plastic, paper, metals and other materials every month to break down and resell. We witnessed ‘jugaad’ in action (the Hindi word describing hacks and workarounds to find flexible solutions), along with the incredible amount of material that we consume, and then have to deal with on a daily basis.

unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai

After a locally prepared lunch with the students, served on plates made of leaves, we created mixed groups of UnSchool fellows and Dharavi Diary students to explore the contrasts, challenges and opportunities that we engaged with during the day.

unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai

The groups delved into some of the complex realities faced by the people who live in Dharavi, using a systems thinking approach. Together, we explored environmental issues, education, gender inequality, women in leadership, social work and adventure. New insights and beautifully articulated, creative, possible solutions were presented by the groups as they collaborated to gain a deeper understanding of the social and environmental complexities surrounding us. The afternoon session filled us with awe, humility and hope, as we hugged goodbye (for now), and traded contact information with our new Dharavi Diary friends.

systems mapping at unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai
unschool mumbai

Day 4 of #UnSchoolMB was full of new perspectives, fresh insights, and a whirlwind of emotions. We were tired and reflective as we made our way through the ever-present Mumbai traffic… until an impromptu dance party got us jumping around the aisles of the BEST bus as we wove our way through the evening light.

Mumbai Day 3 | Nov 13, 2017

unschool mumbai

Day 3 kicked off with a question-filled breakfast where fellows found a small card on their plates and were asked to chat with others around the key question. Zubin Sharma, our mentor for the morning, had planted these prompts as food for thought and a great introduction to his morning session.

unschool mumbai purpose

Zubin started off by sharing his personal journey from growing up in upstate New York to living and running Project Potential in Bihar (in eastern India). His personal story of discovering his purpose and passion provided the foundation for his session on exploring and understanding our own individual purpose on why we do what we do. He asked the group to pair off and ask each other 5 key questions: Who am I? What do I do? Who do I do it for/with? What do they need? How do they change as a result?


Then the fellows quickly developed a purpose statement in 10 words or less, and shared them back further distilling their vision for their personal change-making career. Zubin shared some magic tips to power them up:

  1. Use the silence

  2. Speak every word

  3. Make sure everyone is with you

Kindness, passion, transition, action and sustainability were all recurring themes in the purpose statements shared by the fellows. Constructive feedback loops within the group increased the strength and conviction behind these statements, making them extremely powerful and convincing.

zubin sharma at the unschool

We then continued to bring our personal stories into a public narrative, to find new ways of framing the stories that engage and activate others. Zubin’s session ended with a reflection on how to tell human stories with dignity and respect, and how personal experiences form the base of powerful stories.

The conversations continued through lunch, a tasty and colourful spread of vegan Indian food made locally by a magician of a chef (she uses no oil, and we could not figure out how she added so much flavour!). Fully charged, we ran through a spontaneous mini workshop with Leyla, who built on the morning session and provided tools to create our own theories of change.

taxi fabric presenting at UnSchool Mumbai

The afternoon sessions kicked off with a visit from Madhuvanti, Design Director of Taxi Fabric, who shared her story as a textile and product designer creating collaboration opportunities for artists. Her organization matches taxi drivers and local artists together to design the interior of taxis with fabrics that tell stories about the city. We learned about their business model, methods, and had thoughtful conversations about culturally influenced branding.


Dagny Tucker at UnSchool Mumbai social LCA

Then it was time for afternoon chai and a ridiculously funny game of biscuit toss that filled the space with laughter and energy as we tried to toss cookie pieces into each other’s mouths. The afternoon progressed into a deep-dive workshop with mentor Dagny Tucker, CEO and founder of Vessel, where we dissected cultural norms, structural violence, the impacts of industrialization, and were given tools to identify leverage points for intervention.


Dagny led the group into the root cause of un-sustainability, connecting it to the industrial revolution and the deep-seated need for conspicuous consumption. We discussed opportunities through social life cycle assessment, and she offered thought-provoking examples of the social and environmental impacts of everyday things like shoes and hand sanitizer.  

dagny Tucker at unschool mumbai

The next session, led by co-host Sri, started off with the fellows asking uncomfortable questions to other. This was an experience designed to demonstrate the sensitivities of social research, and to ponder how as researchers we can be less intrusive, more empathic and ethical in how we get to the needed insights. Human beings don’t always do what they say they do, and researchers need to find ways of identifying the actual rather than conceived data. Sri shared some interesting case studies from her work as a Behavior Architect and then introduced the topic of gamification in anticipation for a fun challenge that would be offered later in the evening.

Sri presenting on gamification

At this point, the group was extremely cognitively stimulated (and maybe a little overloaded!), so we stepped outside where our other co-host, Myrthe, facilitated a reflection session. She focused on constructing the various components discussed during the day and the emotion felt around it. The nature of the session, augmented with the outside space, brought back all the warmth, energy and joy - just enough for Leyla to challenge them to a challenge! ;) Yes! The day was not over yet as the fellows accepted Leyla’s challenge to create a gamified experience in an allocated local neighborhood, in two hours.


The group was split up into smaller groups and each provided with a specific area on the map, a few fun limitations (like only one person in the group can talk, no transport can be used, etc), and various budgets. This was to enable the fellows to apply their learnings on research, systems thinking and gamification to design an experience.

The two hours flew by and each group eagerly shared the bones of their ‘game plan’, to be discussed in more detail on... Day 4 of #UnSchoolMB.