Company: Powell Tate.
Location: The District.
Employees: 150 locally; 2,400 worldwide for parent Weber Shandwick.
Last October, Alex Bledsoe traveled to Rio de Janeiro to photograph the transformation taking place as Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Bledsoe is not a photojournalist, and yet her employer helped foot the bill for her trip.
At District-based communications firm Powell Tate, staffers can apply to participate in what’s known as the No Boundaries program. Once or twice a year, employees are invited to make a presentation about an idea they have for pursuing a personal passion. The company’s culture committee selects a winner by secret ballot, judging applicants by the creativity of their presentation and idea, as well as whether the idea includes inspirational and enrichment elements. The winner receives a $1,000 stipend and five extra days of paid time off to bring the plan to life.
Staffers are encouraged to make their pitch presentations creative. Bledsoe, for example, enlisted the help of friends from around the world to make her case in many languages. Via video, she teed up endorsements from people speaking English, Arabic, German and Ojibwe, the language of the American Indian tribe of the same name.
While she was on her trip, Bledsoe said she met many people who asked her how she came to travel to Brazil.
“I explained the program, and everyone was just stunned that a company would do something like that,” Bledsoe said.
Other No Boundaries winners include Chris Svetlik, who traveled to Mexico to find the perfect taco. He told the story of his travels through interactive mapping and photography. Chip Weiskotten, a loyal Boston University basketball fan, visited Puerto Rico to document the team’s participation in a tournament.
“We’re always trying to look for fun and unique ways to get people out there and inspired,” said Katie Kunec Gjerulff, the leader of the No Boundaries program.