Last week I joined around 20 other Global Jam organisers from around the world to take part in the 2017 Global Jam Camp and Global Jam Jam. The event, hosted by Chris and Daniel from Spaghetti Labs at the Impact Hub in Birmingham, was attended by jammers from LA, Warsaw, Bogota, Berlin, Washington DC, Leeds, Barcelona, Ljubljana, Dresden, Exeter, Nürnberg, Birmingham and not forgetting, Shrewsbury (that’s me).  

What is a Global Jam?

For the uninitiated, Global Jams are the same as a musical jam, except instead of musicians coming together to have a good time, challenge themselves, learn new skills, and meet new collaborators, it’s people interested in using a design-based approach to solve problems or create value. Jammers' interests might be personal, political, commercial, academic or social. There are three Global Jams every year - Global Service Jam, Global Sustainability Jam and Global Gov Jam. Each Jam lasts for 48 hours and brings together local people in order to collaborate, play, create, innovate and test new ideas around a common theme. Since the jamming began back in 2011, over 1200 jams have been hosted in more than 150 cities across 40 countries and have been attended by around 20,000 jammers worldwide. The Global Jam is  truly a global movement.

The Global Jam mantra is #DoingNotTalking. Jams provide the opportunity for teams to work through a whole design process in just 48 hours. Key to the whole thing is getting out and talking to people - jammers are encouraged to take to the street in order to undertake user research as well as user testing and prototyping. Jams are about showing, not telling; they don’t end with presentations, but prototypes. These are the design challenges that we worked on at the Shrewsbury Jams I co-hosted in 2016 - Global Service Jam 2016 and Global Sustainability Jam 2016.

What is Global Jam Camp & Global Jam Jam?

Jams are run by a non-profit volunteer lead network, who all share a common passion for growing the field of service design and customer experience. The Global Jam Camp and Global Jam Jam are opportunities to bring the organisers of local jams together in order to help improve the way Global Jams work. Participants started arriving in Birmingham from all around the World on Monday and for the next five days took part in Jam Camp. During the week participants got to know each other, shared ideas and started thinking about what they might want to explore at the Global Jam Jam being held at the weekend. I joined the campers on Wednesday and as part of the day we met with two inspirational local start-ups - Saima Razzaq has just opened up a floating ‘boatel’ in Birmingham Gas Street Basin, and Tom Peel has designed ‘OVERHEAR’, an app to introduce music lovers to great local music, promote local venues and support local producers. It was great sharing insights with Saima and Tom and making connections with local innovators. I also enjoyed learning from fellow jammers from different parts of the world - understanding more about the problems which affect them in their local communities and direct the focus of their local jams.


On Saturday and Sunday, more jammers arrived and the Global Jam Jam kicked off in earnest. On Saturday morning we set the agenda for the Jam, doing what service designers do; using post-it notes and dot voting (an activity Chris Sadler refers to as ‘dotmocracy’ - great name) to select the packages of work we would be getting stuck into. People decided to work on a range of themes including communicating the brand to grow the ‘membership’, designing what a minimum viable jam might look like, how to turn Global Jams into a legal entity and designing a new Global Jams landing page (WIP). I worked with a cool bunch of guys looking at what the minimum requirements would be to make a jam, a jam. Over the course of the weekend the team mapped out the constituent parts of a jam and prototyped a white labelled resource pack for jammers - so that if they did nothing else other than follow the pack, they could be assured that they had experienced a jam. The idea is that the minimal viable jam pack could then be used alongside other jam specific materials which would add context to specific jams (i.e. service, sustainability and gov). As jammers and hosts get more confident, the minimal viable jam pack becomes less relevant to them as they then use their experience to build on their jam approach and expand their toolkits.   

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(above) MVJ Group - Feeding back on Saturday evening

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(above) MVJ Group - Showing (not telling) on Sunday - #PrototypesNotPresentations


From a Global Jam facilitator’s point of view it's fantastic to take a group of people from a range of backgrounds on a design journey together. It’s nice to introduce a bunch of people who don't know each other on a Friday evening and see them generate loads of energy and test ideas over the course of a single weekend. Global Jams provide an opportunity for people to re-energise and share ideas around service design. They are a great opportunity to meet local people, and twin with jams from other parts of the World, and this is perhaps the most important point for me. You can do a lot in 48 hours by #DoingNotTalking, but in the same way as a musician doesn’t come to a jam to record an album, a service jam isn’t a start-up event; it isn’t designed to create a business or new service on Monday morning. Often, the impact from the jam isn’t found in the challenges or ideas that were worked on over the weekend, but more over in the legacy that it leaves behind in the form of new work that will be done in the coming months by individuals who attended the jam – be it back in their own organisations or as part of a new network or partnership that the jam helped to facilitate.

For me, this is the really exciting part of why I jam.


If you are interested in taking part in a jam in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK please drop me a line. Alternatively, if Shrewsbury is a little too far to travel, find out more about jams near you by following the link to the Global Jams landing page (WIP)




Photo Credits: Daniel, Lorna, Lisa and Adam