Last weekend I had a blast volunteering at Leeds Service Jam, held at the brilliant ODI Leeds. Leeds Service Jam is a part of Global Service Jam, an annual collaboration event that connects thousands of folk through the web and a common purpose.
How does service jam work?
So, what is the purpose and how does it work? Well, it goes a little something like this: the global theme is kept secret until each jam starts. As the theme is revealed at jams in different time zones it creates a wave of activity around the world – see #GSJam. You then have 48 hours to problem-solve through service design (i.e. to make something useful and human-centred). Jam principles highlight stuff like learning by doing and making prototypes, not presentations. As a result, service jams are great for anyone wanting to explore subjects like design thinking, creativity and teamwork.
The introductory video announcing the global theme was shown in Leeds on the Friday night before kickoff. The theme was a process diagram for how to create an origami fortune teller thing. Jammers started scratching their heads and we held the first of several Skype sessions to see how our jam ‘twin’ Copenhagen was progressing. We pulled out the Post-its, sharpened our Sharpies and started sharing ideas. Four teams were formed and Leeds Service Jam began…
An incredible amount of work in just 48 hours
Fuelled by coffee, cake and cracking tunes, the collaboration and co-creation continued over Saturday and Sunday. There was a great spirit of teamwork. Everyone had different backgrounds and skills and everyone helped each other out. Problems were defined, enabling each team’s service to be better designed. Teams were encouraged to ‘get out of the building’, to test concepts and get feedback. Ideas became prototypes that were tested, iterated, refined. As the weekend drew to a close, jammers uploaded stacks of stuff to the Global Service Jam website and did a show and tell. Really, an incredible amount of work was done in just 48 hours…
A safe space to try out new things
People spend good money on books and classes to learn about service design, creativity and innovation, but jams give you real life experience of all these things and a whole lot more. It’s like jazz but different.
Despite working to a tight deadline, jams are playful, a safe space to try out new things. People have fun. They dress up and get down to music. They have a laugh, sharing and improvising. They may even get involved in a jam meme. Jams are also not-for-profit. Organisers are all volunteers and people freely give up their weekends to take part. This creates an infectious energy and a sense of purpose and connectedness, which is something to think about as networks and collaboration become ever more important to the way we all work and live.
So big thanks to Leeds host, Matt Edgar, and everyone who made this happen!