It’s been a week since Leeds GovJam, part of Global GovJam, the 48-hour collaboration event designed to kick-start innovation through providing solutions to public sector challenges. That’s more than enough time to get back to ‘normal’, the every-day, and to reflect on what was learned this year. I’ve been volunteering for Leeds GovJam and Leeds Service Jam since 2014, helping run these remarkable events.
Being a jam helper has helped me learn loads about service design, design thinking and how small acts of creativity can create bigger change over time. So, what did I learn at Leeds GovJam 2016?
Here are some things from Leeds GovJam that stuck this time around…
- Dealing with ambiguity is a great thing to do. Each year the Jam launches with a secret theme upon which Jammers base their solutions to challenges facing the public sector. This year the theme involved an animation of circles. You can check it out here in the Global GovJam Secret Theme 2016 video. When dealing with ambiguity, it’s good to get going, as it says in the video, by ‘learning by doing’, ‘doing not talking’.
- Creating time and a safe space for fun matters. This is about building a bedrock of trust to do awesome things. In Leeds, we played rock-paper-scissors, and it was ace.
- It totally makes sense to think of the Jam as like a music jam, especially jazz, because improvisation and flow are key to unlocking its magic, bringing out the best in individuals and teams.
- ‘Make prototypes not presentations’ is an important mantra for jamming. Only by making it real, showing the thing, and testing and interacting with something can you get a proper sense of what works, and what doesn’t work.
- Being empathic and human-centred is at the heart of this stuff. Jams are great for learning how to start with people, their lives and needs, and how to wrap services around users. This means involving people early on and adopting a cycle of continual improvement, testing things, breaking things, and refining things over time.
- Despite loving digital stuff, there is something revitalising about real people working together in real life, making real things. Co-creating and trying out and new things, together, IRL.
- Jams do weird things with time and energy. Seriously, if you could bottle the spirit of the Jam it would be transformational for many organisations. Jams compress way more work into 48-hours than the standard 9-5 working week. Thing is, for many people, the spirit of the Jam is distinct from everyday life. This is part of GovJam’s appeal but it also highlights the challenges of embedding cultures of creativity and innovation in many organisations.
- With UK Jams in Birmingham and Leeds held this year during Volunteers Week, it’s worth noting that Global GovJam is run by volunteers on very little budget, which speaks volumes about the power of the Jam to create change.
- Jamming is great for learning more about yourself and about what it takes to work successfully with others.
- Volunteering at the Jam is an amazing experience from which you will get much more than you give. You learn new skills and techniques to take back to everyday life and work, and it’s great for meeting new people. To get involved check out the Global GovJam and Global Service Jam websites for Jams happening near you – or start one yourself.
In 2016 the Global GovJam ran in 32 cities and Leeds was home to the Global GovJam HQ team that make this happen annually. So, big THANKS to all the volunteers and to Jammers everywhere. Keep going! #YouAreTheJam