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Unveiling Opportunities: The Journey Through Comprehensive Research


Introducing UNITE HERE

UNITE HERE is a labor union that represents 300,000 working people across Canada and the United States. It is a powerhouse in the hospitality industry, whether that's in casinos, food services, hotels, and more. They’re continuously pushing the boundaries of what the labor movement can achieve. And with the use of collective power to enable people of all backgrounds, they’re able to achieve greater equality and opportunity for not just their own members, but for all people.

But how are they able to accomplish all these great things?

UNITE HERE operates much like the U.S. government, with an International Union supervising 44 Locals across North America. These Locals independently utilize a critical grant application process to initiate impactful campaigns.

By resource sharing and providing funding



In just 2022, the International Union distributed 139 grants, directly bolstering campaigns and changing lives.

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So essentially, if we are able to improve the current grant application process by just a little bit, that would lead to huge repercussions in the entire ecosystem of workers. We believe that our small effort can strengthen UNITE HERE's impact and help them better accomplish their mission of achieving greater equality and opportunity.


The Grant Workflow

Through our research we learnt about the steps of the current grant workflow and the people involved who work tirelessly to make this process happen.

 Journey of Grant 

Application Prepared

Project Directors & Local Leaders work on grant details and submit the Jotform applicationn.

Voting Process

21 Executive committee members vote on grants via email.






Term Established

Project Directors & Local Leaders discuss budget and goals for campaigns.

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Application Processing

Grant applications are processed and compiled into one spreadsheet. This is the most laborious part of the process.

Grant Received

Grants are processed by the Finance Department and sent out to Locals.


A lens through which we observed UNITE HERE members and their role in the grant process

Confidential Admin Assistant

"I work with a spreadsheet to compile, enter, and check grant information."


Executive Assistant

"I guide the grant process, allocating funds to campaigns, equipping our Locals for success."

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Local Leader

"I ensure timely and accurate grant submissions to keep our campaigns running smoothly."

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Local Admin

"I support Locals from preparing financials to managing office supplies."

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Project Directors

"I assist Locals by managing contracts, organizing campaigns, and overseeing grant approvals."

Current Painpoints

Our research identified the steps of the process, the people involved and the pain points that were being experienced.

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Example of inconsistent data entry format

1. Lack of Standardization

The application process involves close collaboration between Locals and the IU but lacks standardization in both procedures and data formats. Responsibility for form completion varies across Locals, creating challenges for newcomers and leading to inconsistent data representation. This lack of uniformity increases workload and complexity.

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Duplicate processes of data transfer

2. Tools/Software Don't Interact

Multiple tools like Jotform, spreadsheets, emails, phone calls, and Concur are useful individually but don't communicate with each other, causing repetitive data transfer and increasing workload due to their disjointed usage.


Grants only take up 5% of the total workload of UH

3. Stakeholders Underwater

Stakeholders are fundamentally busy; as a result the grant process is deprioritized and tasks are often delayed leading to the process taking significantly longer than expected. This is a constraint to keep in mind for design since both the International Union and Locals have limited time to spend on grant related tasks.


Research Insights

What we did...

20 Interviews & TLDRs

Quantitative Data Analysis

Affinity Diagramming


Storyboarding and

What we learnt...

A Collective Action Opportunity

Our research revealed that UNITE HERE has limited time for the grant process, with staff spending less than 10% of their time on it. Despite its importance, it often gets postponed, leading to delays. This scenario creates a collective action opportunity to better synchronize stakeholders. Reflecting UNITE HERE's ethos of collective action, which drives their campaigns and unifies thousands for workers’ rights, it inspired our key question...

How can UNITE HERE’s values of collective action be better embodied in the grant process?

Insight 1

Tightening Communication Loops

“They [Local Admin] asked me a bunch of questions and I sent a bunch of emails to IU to clarify..... then to my surprise, the Admin took all that and did all the applications within a couple of days.”

-- Project Director

A major obstacle in grant-related tasks is waiting for necessary information, as administrative staff can experience delays ranging from minutes to days for responses. Streamlining communication is essential for enhancing coordination in the grant process.

The repeating cycle of getting information for application

Insight 2

Enhancing Levels of Transparency

I don’t know what happens once I submit the jot form.... I just see the money deposited in the account.”

-- Local Admin

Transparency creates awareness of grants and campaigns across UNITE HERE members, encourages regularity and efficient completion of tasks, and promotes a healthier relationship between the International Union and Locals so that UNITE HERE as an organization has more robust internal bonding.

The process is currently opaque for both parties

Insight 3

Accurate Reporting of Funding

“ Since the pandemic, leadership has asked for [increased] level of detail... we need to be accountable and it's not just some, open-ended blank check.”

-- Project Director

We found that holding individuals accountable and providing transparency can lead to faster grant distribution and more effective campaigns. However, the current process of performance reporting was found to be too laborious, leading to a low submission rate and decreased effectiveness.

Scenario of Locals underspending grant (30% grants remaining would lead to an extra $630,000 to spend on more campaigns!)

Insight 1
Insight 2
Insight 3


Design Opportunities

Building on our insights, we envision a centralized system as the optimal solution. This system integrates all stakeholders, each with their specific roles in the grant process, into one platform. It offers a comprehensive instruction manual, making the onboarding process easier for new unions. Furthermore, by continuously monitoring each stage of the process, it provides real-time updates, enabling quicker decision-making and ultimately, accelerating the overall grant process.

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A Centralized System

that merges all opportunities

Tightening Communication Loops

Easily Communicate and Assign Tasks

The centralized system enables stakeholders to effortlessly communicate and assign tasks to one another within the platform. This streamlined approach ensures stakeholders receive the necessary information to efficiently complete their tasks.

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Enhancing Levels of Transparency

Clear visibility into the process

Each stakeholder gains clear visibility into the grant process on the centralized system, as the grant status is synchronized and updated promptly for all to see. This enhanced transparency empowers stakeholders to perform their tasks more effectively.

Accurate Reporting of Spending

Track funding accurately

The International Union can effortlessly track funding spent by locals using the visualization dashboard. This transparent view of budget usage fosters better future campaign planning and enhances accountability in the grant process.

We believe our solution of a centralized system will make the grant process more efficient, transparent, and accountable...


And eventually help UNITE HERE accomplish their mission of achieving greater equality and opportunity...

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