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Updated: Student's Project Receives OpenIDEO Award

Updated March 16, 2016: Jaskeerat Bedi's 3C Fund project picked up the Intrigue Award at a recent OpenIDEO conference and will receive design support from IDEO.

Never underestimate the potential in a lingering idea.

That’s a take-away from Jaskeerat Bedi’s story on her submission to a recent OpenIDEO challenge exploring college affordability.

Her community scholarship concept – called the 3C Fund – began as an idea floated during a Cornell design-thinking workshop and, under her direction, is now one step closer to being realized: the 3C Fund was recently chosen as an OpenIDEO finalist.

The second-semester student in Cornell Information Science’s Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program was recognized by challenge organizers for her innovative thinking and human-centered approach with the 3C Fund. The cyclical, pay-it-forward scholarship fund covers tuition costs for select students, who then reinvest back into the fund once they’ve become professionals.

The challenge, sponsored by UBS and organized under OpenIDEO’s online, innovation platform, asked participants to reimagine the cost of college in the U.S. and how it’s paid for. More than 450 ideas were submitted.

As one of six finalists – the only student among them – Jaskeerat has been invited by the OpenIDEO community to present her idea at the convening conference in New York City on March 14. Under challenge terms, the winning project could be eligible for supporting sponsor funding, or UBS may implement it independently.

“When I began on this journey, I had no clue where it would lead me. I did not even expect that people would look at my idea,” she said. “However, slowly I started getting comments and questions on the idea, which I took seriously, and that urged me to think through its shortcomings and build it forward. The feedback I received – good or bad – was an opportunity and encouraged me to move forward.”

Jaskeerat studied product design as an undergrad at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India, and later completed her master’s studies in strategic design management at India’s National Institute of Design. Her mutual interests in design and social projects led to a fellowship at Design Impact, an Ohio-based non-profit firm that assists other non-profits with creative and strategic design support.

“Tech is such a game-changer,” she said. “Everyone is adopting it, and that’s what motivates me: to try to figure out how to bridge my design background with using technology for a larger social impact.”

Jaskeerat’s attention turned to college education and creating opportunities for deserving students during a design-thinking workshop at Cornell’s Johnson School. She and a group of fellow students brainstormed ideas for a more sustainable, community-investment approach to college payment. The group session ended, “but the idea kept lingering,” she recalled. “It seemed like something really exciting.”

So, she took the idea out of the classroom, sketched out some illustrations, drafted an idea that would become 3C Fund and pitched it on OpenIDEO, where online collaborators quickly chimed in with pointers and advice.

Credited for its community focus, the 3C Fund concept makes local schools key stakeholders in identifying and nominating talented students from any field to receive community funds. Once picked and enrolled in the program, students have their tuition costs paid in full, with the condition that costs must be paid back over a certain time period following graduation.

“It’s half inspired from my journey in trying to find financial assistance, because as a student, I wish someone could have invested in me,” she said. “There is a hole for students with potential to get scholarships.”

This semester, Jaskeerat is enrolled in the newly launched Digital Technology Immersion program, where her group of Information Science and Johnson School students are currently at work on a project for Verizon. She’s also working under Info Sci Professor Gilly Leshed on designing participatory workshops to explore technology use among people with reading disabilities. She credits the MPS program for challenging students to think beyond skills.

"Professors don’t just focus on teaching skills, like programming language. They also teach ethics, the human psychology behind it and the why,” she said. “It’s not just teaching you to be a good software engineer or UX designers. It’s developing the ideology and the thought-process on making responsible decisions.”

Louis DiPietro is the communications coordinator for Cornell Information Science.