SDN Team
Author - SDN Team

Let’s take a look in the beginnings and developments of one of the biggest design thinking and service design events in the world – the Global Service Jam. We are happy to be part of this amazing event through the active participation of some of our national chapters: San Francisco, New York City, Chile and Finland.

“The Jam was an emotion, an experience, a space of play. How can you describe that in powerpoint slides?” thought Adam Lawrence, the co-initiator of the Global Service Jam, when asked to deliver a talk about the first Jam at the Service Design Global Conference (SDGC) on an Autumn day back in 2011 in San Francisco. 1

And indeed, every jammer – unless they have a Shakespearean way with words – finds it hard to describe the Jam. All superlatives come across as being trivial in comparison to the real experience. That day, Adam decided to live it up on the stage and, luckily, the video of his presentation still resides on the global web.

In the same way, the Jam was brought to life. One year earlier, at the SDGC in Berlin, again at the SDN Members’ Day, Adam and Markus Hormess spontaneously wrote up a flipchart with the idea and walked around, asking people to register their interest.2

Someone has kidnapped a little rubber chicken from the #GSJamScl. His name is Santiago, if you see him let us know. -- © Participa LAB
Someone has kidnapped a little rubber chicken from the #GSJamScl. His name is Santiago, if you see him let us know. © Participa LAB
Wham BAM first day of the Jam!
Wham BAM first day of the Jam! - © BarcelonaServiceJam

In 2011, the first Jam was planned for six locations. But the idea of a global event where people of various backgrounds voluntarily spend 48 hours co-designing new services that could potentially make the world a better place to live, strongly resonated on social media. They used Twitter as a recruiting tool. Eventually, over 1200 participants jammed in more than fifty cities all over the world. The event has been growing ever since. Soon sister events – the Global Sustainability Jam and Global GovJam – were introduced.

It is important to highlight that all Jams are based on non-profit volunteer activities organised by an informal network of service design enthusiasts. They have a staff of none and a budget of nearly nothing. 2 3

The stated intention of the event: “just 48 hours to change the world,” might appear pretentious to a lot of people. So what kind of change are we talking about? What can possibly be achieved in such short span of time? Francis, a jammer from Bangalore, shares his point of view under #thisiswhywejam hashtag on Twitter: “People come back saying two-and-a-half days, it’s this productive and fun, imagine a month! I think that’s a huge change of perception. That’s good enough change in the world.” Taking part in a jam, reveals that productivity could be attributed to creative energy that emerges from multidisciplinary teamwork. The Jam’s mantra was ‘doing not talking’ and the impossible deadlines were announced over and over again by the annoying squawking sound of a rubber chicken. 3 4

“For me”, Adam explains on the Jam’s Facebook page, “a rubber chicken is an invitation to play and a reminder that my responsibility is to my work, not to my ego. It’s also an instant first prototype of almost anything: it becomes the preliminary model and inspires me to try things out. Doing not talking….” He continues: “It’s great to see other jammers adopting the tool, but the most important thing is that the Jam has room for every style and approach. Some jammers feel comfortable in wigs and with toys, others prefer a smart suit and a smile. They are all jammers. A great Jam strikes a balance between having a seriously great time and doing a crazy amount of work.” 5

Group of jammers in Santiage
Group of jammers in Santiage - © Federico Thumm Bock

It is evident that the Jam is having a global impact. Every time it takes place, new friendships and collaborations are born all around the globe. Participants still feel inspired weeks after the Jam is over. One example of such inspiration was last year’s launch of the global movement Cyclehack, which strives to make the world more sustainable through reducing the barriers to cycling. 2

This past weekend, the fourth Global Service Jam took place in about 100 cities all around the globe. Again, teams were formed, ideas were developed, prototyped and tested and eventually shared with the world under a CreativeCommons agreement online.

Whether you participated in a Jam or not, take some time to check out this year’s projects. You never know, you might find one that could inspire your day!

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