Co-authored by Elizabeth Unruh
A wildly diverse, multi-disciplinary global design firm known for breakthrough ideas that create a better future for people.
LaceUp connects the initiative of individuals with the firm’s drive toward breakthrough ideas by awarding time and money for targeted exploration. Made up of three different “speeds” – Walk, Sprint, and Marathon – LaceUp mini-grants make available the necessary resources for independently driven ideation, collaboration, and habitual breakthrough thinking.
Last May, the two of us came together as two acquaintances from different studios to talk about how to help our peers respond to Little’s vision in a personal way. We had an inkling that there was passion toward breakthrough ideas in our midst, but we wondered whether the tools were available to turn the inspiration into reality. After some ideating, diagramming, and doodling, the idea for LaceUp was born.
Our first step was to gauge the actual interest of our peers across all five offices. We contacted a handful with the following two questions:
1.What’s missing from your workflow, our workspace, or the world outside our doors?
2. As a professional, what would you do if given the time to explore a topic or use your skills to make a contribution to our community?
The response? 24 unique ideas that ranged from deep research and analysis, to impassioned pro bono, to quick brainstorms that would bring any office alive. At that point we knew we had to act. With support from the Partners, we quickly pulled together the details of the program and launched it to the entire firm in the fall.
LaceUp is made up of 3 “speeds,” each designed for a different type and scale of project:
1. WALK: The goal of a Walk is a community solution (flexible time and money available) that allows us to simply use our time and skills to help others in a tangible way.
2. SPRINT: The goal of a Sprint is a quick topical ideation or activity (up to 20 hours and $100) that crosses backgrounds, disciplines and potentially offices.
3. MARATHON: The goal of a Marathon is essentially a research and design grant (up to 40 hours and $1000) that allows the applicant(s) to dig deeply in to a topic that aligns with Little’s vision and take some form of action that you wouldn’t normally have time for.
After the LaceUp launch, we juried 17 applications and equipped about 40 people with the time and money they needed see their explorations through. The completed projects were presented in March and we realized there was no going back. The work presented was too promising, too thought-provoking for us not to continue providing resources as applications rolled in. LaceUp had become a part of who we are as a firm because its purpose so resonates with our vision.
We are now on to Round 2 and are looking forward to seeing the completed projects at the end of June. In the meantime, though, check out some of the completed projects from Round 1 and some of the applications we accepted for the current round.