‘Truly inspiring’: Collaboration between Vinted and ECIU University highlights the importance of diversity in teams

University | 2024-05-29

A thriving unicorn company that aims to empower more climate-friendly fashion behaviors. A challenge offered to ECIU University – protecting the environment by making second-hand the first choice. Students from all over Europe ready to take on it.

Now, participants share their impressions from the challenge – and how the partnership between learners from ECIU University member institutions and the online marketplace visionary Vinted has put a spotlight on the power of collaboration.

Changing the fashion game

From carbon emissions to textile waste, the fashion industry is well known for its negative environmental impact – and that’s exactly where Vinted steps in.

Founded in Lithuania in 2008, it went from a small startup to one of the leading C2C online marketplaces in Europe and the first Lithuanian company to achieve unicorn status. Vinted set an ambitious goal of making second-hand the first choice – by helping people buy and sell second-hand items via their platform.

Inga Stasiulaitienė, associate professor at KTU’s Environmental Technology Department
Inga Stasiulaitienė, associate professor at KTU’s Environmental Technology Department

As the company was pursuing sustainability in the fashion industry and making a big step towards a circular fashion economy, there were still challenges to address. For example, how do we make second-hand everyone’s first choice?

ECIU University was ready to help. Created in 2019, an alliance of fourteen universities has been the first to unite learners, teachers, researchers and businesses to work on real-life problems. As companies and organisations suggested their challenges via the ECIU University platform, international and multidisciplinary teams would be formed to offer possible solutions – with learners bringing their unique perspectives to the table.

A unique experience

The ‘second-hand – first choice’ challenge, introduced by Vinted and hosted by Kaunas University of Technology, kicked off in October 2023, asking the participants several crucial questions. How do we change the negative perception of second-hand clothing? How do we improve customers’ experience in a way that makes them prioritize second-hand?

Vinted was represented by its Future Careers Team which oversaw the challenge, guiding the participants and giving feedback.

Meanwhile, working on the solutions, were students from different countries, universities and backgrounds – from social sciences to engineering. All of them, however, were united by a desire to be part of the change.

‘I have a soft spot for everything second-hand and environmentally friendly consumption which made me very interested in the challenge,’ shares Mikaela Fox, a business and economics student from Linköping University. ‘I was also aware of Vinted but had never used their platform before, which made me even more curious.’

The team came up with two solutions – one suggested enhancing the user experience on the platform by exploring AI potential while another focused on user retention and growing the consumer base through tools like the built-in environmental sustainability meter. And while conducting the surveys, designing the solutions and giving the final presentations were no easy tasks, teamwork between the learners and the company didn’t just make it possible – but made it stand out.

‘It was a great, unique experience,’ Mikaela notes. ‘I learnt a lot and felt like our project was useful and thought-provoking for Vinted as well.’

‘They were very supportive and helpful – it almost feels like our team was a part of Vinted and their development department.’

‘The students took feedback on board and elevated their proposal to the next level in a short amount of time,’ adds Vinted’s Future Careers representative Goda Lesevičiūtė. ‘It was truly inspiring to witness the transformation from the initial draft to the final presentation.’

Opening the door for new opportunities

When it comes to ECIU University challenges, many imagine the outcome as simply a solution to a problem, but the truth is that challenges can be much more than that. The outcomes are often diverse – varying from an actual solution to a starting point for a discussion and a journey of its own.

It’s all about connecting, embracing new perspectives, and opening doors for future collaborations.

Inga Stasiulaitienė, associate professor at KTU’s Environmental Technology Department and the teamcher who oversaw the ‘second hand – the first choice’ challenge, says collaborations like this benefit all the participants. For learners, it’s a chance to get out of their comfort zone, develop new skills and build connections by working on real-life problems and in diverse teams. For companies – a fresh perspective and new opportunities that often lead to the most unexpected results.

‘With students so motivated and lots of discussions held, some really innovative and inspiring ideas can be introduced,’ Inga explains,

And working together in diverse teams, where different mindsets and perspectives meet, truly makes this experience stand out, both Vinted and learners say.

‘I enjoyed working with other people from all around Europe, with different academic backgrounds and expertise,’ says Mikaela. ‘I have learned so much from my teammates and the challenge itself, and I know this will prove valuable in the future.’

‘The challenge showcased the power of diversity in teams and the impact of mentorship on early career development,’ Goda adds.

Mikaela Fox
Mikaela Fox

‘We are proud to have been part of such a positive and collaborative initiative, and we look forward to more opportunities to engage with the next generation of talent.’