The next year, I was committed to going back, but this time as a volunteer organizer. I didn’t feel confident enough to be a mentor yet, so I helped with other logistics (there’s a lot going on in the background to make these events happen!). I saw some of the same people as the previous year, and strengthened some of the relationships that had fizzled out. Again, I had an amazing time and loved this community of people I spent just 1 weekend out of the year with, and a few rare sightings at other events.
The following year — you guessed it — I went back as a mentor! It felt like such an achievement, and I got so much support from the volunteer organizers. I really wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. There were so many awesome mentors that we had to co-mentor some teams, and that is when I was lucky to meet the amazing Natalie Kuhn. (If you’re reading this, you must know her since she’s one of the brains behind SDN NYC — I’m getting there.) Together, we led a super talented and creative team, and I felt an even stronger bond with this community. So did Natalie.
Now, if you know Natalie, you know that she’s someone who likes to take action, she’s a doer (almost to a fault). So a few weeks after the Jam, I got an email from Natalie saying she and Kathleen Chao — another mentor and amazing, action oriented individual— wanted to start a Service Design Meetup to keep the community alive throughout the year. Little did I know, these two women would spearhead this group and not only become great friends to me, but also true inspirations. Although there are plus or minus ten volunteer organizers (including myself) at any given time who offer to help, Natalie and Kathleen are our ringleaders.
These two are the kind of people who –
- Volunteer to wake up early on a Sunday to test run an upcoming event
- Coordinate and dress the SDN NYC volunteer team in safari gear to lead a group of eager Service Designers through a service safari at a local zoo
- Think deeply about each step of an event experience–including props, space flow, positioning of volunteers, handwritten thank you notes, and group photos of those who made the event possible–to make sure each session is organized to a T and as best as they can make it for the community
- Order bright red beanies with slices of pizza on them to help event participants identify mentors and volunteers for a rainy, pizza shop service safari–people had fun together assessing pizza services despite the weather!
- Think many, many steps ahead of us in hopes of making sure everyone has a good time, learns something and/or even makes a new friend
- Have organized over 35 events in the last two years, and have continued this effort with great consistency even during the pandemic