Celebrating the Nike Design with Grind Challenge Top Ideas

Exploring five innovative ideas with the potential to help create a more circular world

The future demands a transition to a circular economy—a world in which materials can be used and reused at their highest potential. In 2018, Nike and OpenIDEO came together to launch the Nike Design with Grind Challenge asking innovators to partner with us in answering the question:

How might we create a waste-free, circular future by designing everyday products using Nike Grind materials?

Over 500 teams from around the world joined the Challenge, and after months of concept development, prototyping and iteration, we are excited to announce our Design with Grind Challenge Top Ideas Winners. Please join us in congratulating these teams on their hard work and dedication to a circular future—we know this is just the beginning.

TOP IDEA GRAND PRIZE

YOGO

Combining Nike's beautiful recycled materials with YOGO's trusted brand and innovative product pipeline is the perfect way to showcase an attractive circular product stream, and advance a successful recycled product offering that raises the bar in the yoga industry. Yoga practitioners are predominantly athletic, and environmentally-conscious, hungry for practical innovation, and possibly the perfect customers to support a shift to more sustainable materials.

"Yoga practitioners are predominantly athletic, and environmentally-conscious, hungry for practical innovation, and possibly the perfect customers to support a shift to more sustainable materials." 
         — JESSICA THOMPSON, YOGO TEAM

TOP IDEA WINNERS

InShape Mattress

The InShape Mattress is a versatile, comfortable cushioning system developed specifically for the needs of children with Rett Syndrome. The Milan-based team paired makers with physical therapists who were inspired to make a more adaptable, affordable and environmentally-friendly therapeutic mattress.

This team was inspired by the idea that creativity can "close the circle" and transform the output of a process into input for something new, proof of how much design thinking can do.

This stands as a great example of how reusing and recycling doesn't mean to compromise on the value of the product: “using the Nike Grind for InShape Mat, is not a fall back, it's an improvement.”

"This stand as a great example of how reusing and recycling doesn't mean to compromise on the value of the product: using the Nike Grind for InShape Mat, is not a fall back, it's an improvement." 
         — INSHAPE MATTRESS TEAM

Circular Cities

Imaging how circular cities might look, feel and operate in the future made this six-member team come to life. Their solution utilized Nike Grind as a core ingredient in traffic-calming devices, which aim to make cities safer for pedestrians and cyclists, ultimately encouraging a shift towards more eco-friendly transportation. This team felt that participating was a no-brainier, and found the experience to be a fun, collaborative and rewarding experience.

"The OpenIDEO / Nike Grind Challenge provided an exciting opportunity to test a design philosophy that, we as a group, shared mutual interest in making a reality."
         — CIRCULAR CITIES TEAM

PDD Climbing Holds

PDD Kicks has created rubber granulate indoor climbing holds. The holds have proven successful in multiple iterations testing different grip types and shapes. This product design duo were inspired by both footwear design and rock climbing when they joined the Design with Grind Challenge. 

"Rapid consumption has always been a impression of footwear industry, I thought it would be a exciting challenge to change that impression through design and Nike grind is the perfect material and also great medium to spread the way of thinking sustainability."
         — TUO LEI, PDD KICKS TEAM

Stuffed

Stuffed developed a way to reform Nike Grind Rubber Granulate into an eco-friendly composite material that can be used as an alternative to plastic, and implemented this innovation into a sleekly designed set of furniture. Inspired by the Challenge to design sustainably and with circularity in mind, the team tested numerous versions of Nike Grind material for furniture and came up with both structural and cushioning applications. 

"It’s exciting to try and work towards a more healthy innovative future with companies that are so well established and innovating within their industries." 
         — STUFFED TEAM

There’s never been more momentum for change. As millions of young people flood the streets around the globe to demand urgent climate action, cities and social entrepreneurs have taken matters into their own hands. Feeling this rising bottom-up pressure, governments, corporations, and multilateral organizations, like the UN, are accelerating their efforts to address massive global issues. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have provided a clear framework for action, and they’re helping align more actors than ever in the systems change we need.

OpenIDEO’s leaders, Jason Rissman and Luisa Covaria, spent the week diving into events and conversations, and came back to our team (and now you, our community) with three main themes they wanted to share as we work together to build a better world:

1. Ownership.

Since kicking off the Climate Strike a year ago, 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg has been extraordinarily influential in striking up fierce conversations around climate change and inspiring millions of young people to start taking action. She delivered an unforgettable message at the UN Climate Action Summit, telling world leaders: 

"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you." 

There’s a new urgency and commitment to addressing the climate emergency, and it’s translating into actors at all levels—from individual young people to national governments—starting to take more ownership. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, “We have been losing the race against the climate crisis. But the world is waking up. Pressure is building. Momentum is growing. And—action by action—the tide is turning.”

Countries have moved past negotiation and toward ownership, showing up with their own commitments in unison with this year’s theme for UNGA: "Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action, and inclusion." During the week, 77 countries committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and 139 banks—representing a third of the industry—signed up to align with the Paris agreement objectives. The UN member states also adopted a landmark declaration on universal health coverage. These are just a few of many examples of stakeholders proactively bringing forward their solutions. 

HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THIS

Sharing his observations from listening to diverse groups of Americans this past year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the audience that he saw a “tremendous urgency and a tremendous spirit of do-it-yourself … a deep sense that it had to become a matter of personal responsibility right down to the local level.” Echoing his statement, we’re proud of OpenIDEO's globally connected innovators for taking initiative and developing a sense of ownership around local problems. They’re tackling issues related to food waste, people on the move, education, public health, circular economy, and so much more, with dedication and ingenuity.

As we move forward, how might open innovation be a conduit for increased ownership and visibility into the work different stakeholders are taking on? How might the work of so many of the incredible innovators in the OpenIDEO community inspire leaders to develop a mindset around design and prototyping in the work they are owning?

2. Technology

"We will have wonderful machines and dumb people if we don't invest more in education,” cautioned musician and entrepreneur, will.i.am, during a World Economic Forum panel focused on the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—or the multiple technological revolutions that are transforming the way we live and work—to meet global development goals.

“It’s not about connectivity—it’s about access,” noted Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance at the UN Foundation. “How do we provide access to 50% of the world not connected to the internet? SMS and voice won’t do it. How do we create content and opportunities that are relevant?”

It's crucial that no one is left behind. While technological innovation is surely part of the answer, uneven access and unequal digital skills will lead to adverse effects. For tech to improve lives in a responsible and even way, and to avoid even greater increases in inequity, we'll need new models of targeted education, responsive innovation, and real cooperation between economic, political, and social systems.

HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THIS

Tech needs to facilitate inclusion in addressing societal problems, by involving those who are most proximate to the problems that well-intentioned new technologies are aiming to solve. We believe that collaborative thinking leads to greater innovation, and that including the voices of those with lived experiences will generate even stronger solutions. Open innovation is in its infancy, and we’re excited to help it advance to better surface and support the social innovators our future needs.

3. Collaboration

Today’s problems are interconnected, and only through systems change can we hope to make real progress. This will require more cross-sector collaboration than ever, but first, we need to improve how these collaborations are created and sustained. It’s time to introduce new models of collaboration that distribute leadership and allow all sectors to pitch in.

The SDGs have provided a powerful framework for what needs to get done, and some of the biggest players in the public and private spheres are putting their heads together to unlock the resources necessary to meet them. During UNGA, Google and the UN launched a partnership to develop real-time maps on weather patterns and SDG development activity, while the Gates Foundation and the World Bank announced a multi-million dollar commitment to support small-scale food producers in the face of mounting climate impacts.

Public-private partnerships are a necessary ingredient, as are new collaboration models that offer participants more shared ownership and flexibility.

The road to healthy collaboration is fraught with challenges, from getting past cultural differences to agreeing to common goals to making the long-term commitments needed for systemic change. Making collaborations work is hard work -- it takes empathy, grit, and a real understanding that it’s the key to sustained progress.

HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THIS

We’re excited for open innovation to provide a unique opportunity to rally diverse stakeholders and together explore new possibilities. By providing shared learning opportunities, clear timelines and processes, along with compelling incentives, open innovation holds the potential to mitigate against these common obstacles and to quicken the pace at which solutions are being developed by scaling the design process globally. Direct competitors collaborating in a pre-competitive space to address environmental challenges is a promising sign, but we need to go further. We all need to adopt an experimental mindset as a collective and work to continuously improve our ability to collaborate.

The NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, which culminated in a pitch event at UNGA, was one such collaboration, with leading brands, industry experts, and innovators coming together to eliminate single-use food packaging waste by developing a more sustainable cup. 

It is incredible to be in a room where you can feel a community reach a turning point. This year at UNGA we felt that shift tangibly across fields and sectors. We look forward to a year of collaborations with our partners and community that reflect this movement. 





















Get Involved

Receive updates about the Nike Design with Grind Challenge and OpenIDEO Circular initiatives here.