Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (DISH) was founded in 2006 with the goal to be a strong partner in the City’s effort to end homelessness in San Francisco. DISH provides housing for over 500 tenants across 7 locations in the city. The organization has over 70 employees, majority of whom are janitorial staff responsible for the daily maintenance and administration of the properties. 

The goal of the project was to promote organizational health and employee happiness at a time when the organization was facing operational challenges due to an untimely loss of a number of their janitorial staff members. The project resulted in a redesign of their employee onboarding system with a focus on peer coaching, a welcome kit, and a list of recommendations that focused on communication, motivation and feedback.


Design Researcher, Workshop Facilitator, Service Designer 


Organizational Strategy, Process Design




During the initial phase of the project, our team took a deep into DISH's organizational systems and process. We reviewed over 30 documents, including employee surveys, organizational charts and job descriptions, and conducted over 15 contextual interview to better understand points that had not been in addressed. In addition, we visited the facilities where these employees worked everyday, and shadowed them on-site to identify needs that were harder to find.

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Throughout the discovery process, we followed an approach of 'appreciative inquiry' or uncovering the positive core of the organization. We found that though there were struggles, the organization was highly values driven and acted as a family, These traits inspired the rest of our design process.


Having accumalated a wealth of information about the organization and employees, we summarized our research and outlined some key successes and challenges. We shared our findings and outlined some key opportunity areas around improving communication, motivation, and developing the potential for growth within the organization. Based on our insights, we narrowed our direction to focus the next phase of ideation and development. 


At the start of the design phase, we invited a number of team members across various levels of the organization to participate in imagining systems that could solve for the identified challenges. A host of ideas, such as new training programs, communication and reward systems emerged from the session.

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The recurring theme during conversations was the need for support in early days of employment at the organization. Supervisors, managers and janitorial staff reinforced that laying a strong and well-crafted foundation would allow employees to perform better and help them navigate the complex environments within which they were working.

the big idea

After synthesizing our findings from the co-creation workshop, we realised that their was a clear oppurtunity to build a solid foundation for employees through the creation of a cohesive onboarding experience that focuses on the family value that DISH excels at. The system was to support culture, communication and employee morale at DISH, and was divided into three phases: foundation, evolution and growth.

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Finally, we delivered our holistic recommendations to DISH, including improvements to the application process and the introduction of a peer mentoring program. We also produced a set of tangible assets, including a welcome kit for new employees, and visual representations of the job description, maps, mission and values to replace the lengthy documents employees were to go through. An implementation plan was crafted to consider how the redesigned onboarding system would be carried out, with current employees and management leading the way in prototyping and refining the new solution before rolling it out for incoming employees. 

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