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Transforming the Wish Journey

Creating resiliency and agency in kids

Wish Family satisfaction
Example app screen or experience mapping artifact

Make-A-Wish wanted to create a bigger impact for wish kids, building on clinical studies that showed wishes could increase resiliency in wish kids.


A new Wish Journey delivery model that redesigned the wish experience.


97% of wish families give high satisfaction ratings and/or report increased agency in their child through the wish experience.

Make-A-Wish partnered with Highland to map the experiences of wish kids and their families and better understand the differences in experience that led to different outcomes and levels of satisfaction among wish families. Then, they invited us to help design a wish journey experience to help facilitate resilience and agency in wish kids. Finally, they asked us to create a mobile app design and a digital strategy to help chapters use better digital tools to bring their mission to life.

Make-A-Wish wanted to create a bigger impact for wish kids

But the 35-year-old organization felt stuck. In order to grant more life-changing wishes for critically ill children and their families, they knew something needed to change. They wanted to deliver more impactful wishes than ever before, and knew they needed to deeply engage Make-A-Wish families, volunteers, and staff in order to do it.

“The customer journey mapping process gave us the ability to visually see the work that we do and to validate the things that we know, believe, or assume to be true. The ability to take a step back and look at where we do well and where we have room for improvement was invaluable and re-energizing.” Dina Thatchet, Referral Outreach Manager at Make-A-Wish Illinois

Mapping the wish family experience

We worked with our local Make-A-Wish chapter to map the wish family experience. In just six weeks, we led chapter staff through a series of interactive in-person workshops, stakeholder interviews, and a group mapping exercise. The research and mapping illuminated where positive and less-positive experiences diverged, the critical points in the overall experience, and how a more impactful experience could be designed. Our insights led to the creation of new roles, newly designed experiences in the early stages of the wish journey, and whole new forms of staff and volunteer involvement in the journey.

Designing and prototyping a digital hub for families

Through our journey mapping work, we discovered that wish families often had many points of contact with the volunteers and staff who were working on their wish, including emails, phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages. These fragmented channels created a lot of work for staff and volunteers, high variability in the experience of families, and a lot of work for everyone to sort through all of the logistical and relational messages going back and forth. We created a design for a Make-A-Wish application that would streamline communication for wish families, giving them one less thing to worry about.

Translating the new wish journey into a digital strategy

Using our wish kid journey as a starting place, we created a digital strategy for the entire Make-A-Wish organization. We interviewed staff across the country to better understand the challenges and limitations of their current digital infrastructure. We mapped how each tool played a part in delivering impactful wish experiences, and helped create a roadmap for a digital infrastructure capable of delivering the kind of experiences Make-A-Wish exists to create.

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