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Not many people understand how important partnerships are for us. I’m grateful you took this angle. It shows that you have a deep understanding of our organizational structure.

It’s not a question of whether to implement this partnership initiative, we just have to find the right staff, intern or someone. We definitely want to start this!

Elena Lopez

Community Program Manager at LA Kitchen

The Challenge

LA Kitchen fights food waste by reclaiming healthy, imperfect produce that are prepared by volunteers. Facing a recently down-sized staff, they looked to OpenIDEO Los Angeles for ways to maximize their volunteer impact.

Our original prompt was – “How might we engage volunteers to promote LA Kitchen, it’s products and volunteering?”


My Role

I joined OpenIDEO LA as an ideation leader, leading teams in prototyping and testing with Bryan Chiao, an empathy leader.

We saw the opportunity to increase volunteer involvement and revenue by designing scalable partnership programs.

  • Increase volunteer hours, food saved, and value of LAK as a partner
  • Increase guest chefs involvement and networking opportunities for Empower trainees
  • Increase revenue, brand exposure, and purchases of their vegetable and fruit chips

Understand & Define

OpenIDEO had an initial team volunteer in-person, interview stakeholders, create personas, and map out “How-might-we” prompts.

LA Kitchen was unique in that it could accomodate large groups of volunteers, yet most groups did not return after their volunteering event. Even for individual volunteers, only about 5-7 people were consistent in coming back.



From our team brainstorm, we generated over 40 methods of encouraging volunteers to promote LAK.

I initially hypothesized that:

  • if we increase the number of motivated individual volunteers,
  • and gamified their experience with intrinsic incentives (such as tracking & displaying their impact),
  • LAK could free up resources spent on recruiting new, one-time volunteers and focus on other matters.

After voting, we plotted our top ideas on a matrix of low to high impact vs cost to implement. We decided to take the Impact Tracker and Gift Shop idea into the prototyping phase.

Prototype & Test

I created a high-fidelity prototype of the Impact Tracker and Bryan put together several design comps for the Gift Shop experience.

We then printed out the prototypes to test at another volunteer event.

Key findings, after speaking with returning and new volunteers:

  • people were more interested in socializing than in impact tracking
  • networking was important for group volunteers
  • most were willing to return if they went with other people
  • groups had 1 point person who was communicating with LAK
  • group volunteers did not have an account on LAK’s CRM

The main call-to-action at the end of the volunteering experience, was to come back again.


The Pivot

From there, we saw the opportunity to leverage the group problem into an advantage. Bryan & I decided to pivot our prompt to – “How might we partner with groups to promote LA Kitchen?”

We drafted out a “set menu” that would funnel organizations to the program where they could provide the most value.

Imagine a group goes to a new restaurant – most don’t know what they want.

Then they see a set menu. There are choices and it feels customized.


The group is happy and it helps the restaurant be efficient in their meal prep. Our objective is to make partnerships as easy and customizable as that.

Draft of how the partnerships would work.

Final Prototypes

I prototyped out the landing page and paired it with a journey map of a volunteer coordinator to show the new touchpoints.

It was important that the partnerships did not differ wildly from existing events, because LA Kitchen needed to maximize their current resources.

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