Why I will jam again

My experience at Barcelona GovJam

Last June I took part in the Barcelona GovJam. I couldn’t join the event the previous years, and I was really excited to do it this time.

For those who don’t know, the Barcelona GovJam is an event where small teams work for 48h. on building innovative approaches and solutions towards challenges faced by the government and public sector. It happens within the Global Service Jam, and it takes place simultaneously worldwide. The Jam is open to anyone interested in public services, with no need to have experience in this sector.

Honestly, I expected more designers in the room — it may be that the topic is not sexy enough for cool designers? — and I was positively shocked to see how many public servants were willing to make changes within the administration.

Warm-up and inspiration session

I attended the warm-up session. We Question on Project hosted the event in Barcelona and they gave us a hint of what was coming next. We discovered the value of service design, its differences with product design and we learned good practices.

Perspectives on the object of service design by Kimbell & Blomberg, 2017

The organization found a funny way to get us in the mood. Like an escape room, we had to carry out some procedures and formalities to be accepted and win our entrance ticket. And it was such a tedious work! We went upstairs, downstairs, upstairs again, we filled-in paperwork and we dealt with rude public servants. But I was finally accepted!

Welcome to The Bureaucracy Escape Room

The Secret Theme

Check minute 08:00 to listen the 2018 secret theme

The theme of the jam is always a secret until the day the Jam starts, when it is revealed to all countries at the same time. I was shocked when I heard a sound! I expected an specific topic.

Starting point

We rapidly generated ideas about what the sound suggested to us. We came up with lots of different interpretations, from someone pulling a bathroom chain to a theatre curtain going down. We discussed in groups which problems we could tackle and we collectively ranked the eight better ones. Then, we create the final groups based on which idea we would like to develop.

Discover: Ideation and affinity map

After having groups done, the ideation process began. We all brainstormed ideas on the subject we had chosen in sticky notes (with no constraints and zero judgments, that’s the rule!).

We used the affinity map to identify which ideas were common within the group and gathered them by categories and subcategories.

Timeboxing was really helpful to ensure that we did not spend too long on a task and to avoid overthinking. It is really important to limit your time, especially in Jams, where time is very scarce.

At that point, we had a better idea of what we wanted to explore! We wanted to reduce the anxiety when parents have to process bureaucratic procedures. Our aim was to review the way in which citizens interact with the public administration in order to make it a playful experience. We just needed to explore our assumption.

User Research: Guerrilla Interviews

We were ready to walk out the door and start asking people away. We divided the group in two; ones would interview public servants and the others would interview the users.

Even though we were kicked out from a public administration building, we managed to get enough information for our project.

Evaluation of Insights

When we got back, we analysed and synthesized the data collected on the street. We gathered the information by affinity to find out users’ difficulties and motivations.

Affinity map

We also knew how our user persona will be: a first-time father who enrols his son in a public nursery near his domicile. We mapped our user journey throughout this process to find pain points.

Customer journey


We now had a better picture of our solution: In order to reduce the anxiety of first-time parents when processing bureaucratic procedures for their child, we designed a service that goes with parents throughout these tedious processes.

This service was provided by an app that customizes parents’ interests and necessities, according to their children ages. We also designed an itinerant bus to provide personal and face to face support.

Parents could check how to make any registration procedure, find information about children’s facilities, courses, etc. throughout both channels.



As we did with the interviews, we divided the group to prototype both, the bus and the app. Because of my product design background, prototyping is so exciting for me and I had so much fun doing it.

We used scraps, plasticine, and cardboard to recreate a child timeline and a bus.

App (left) and bus prototype (right)

Testing others’ prototypes and feedback

Critiques are essential to the design process. So, we tested our colleagues’ prototypes and changed what we thought it could help them to refine their idea. We also listened to their feedback and made some improvements.

Receiving feedback from another group (left) and testing others’ prototype (right)


We were now ready to test our prototypes on the street.

Our idea was to locate the itinerant bus in areas where families spend their leisure hours with their children such as parks, sports centres, etc. The bus would guide them on issues related to the bureaucratic procedures and parents could share their concerns with other parents in the same situation.

As we wanted to test if this idea has good acceptation, we when to those areas to talk with our users. We talked with parents and we invited their children to get on our bus. :)

Bus testing

Meanwhile, the rest of the group was testing if the app was a good solution to the problem we were facing. We created a timeline to engage with our interviewees and learn which necessities parents needed in each stage of their children’s lives.

App testing

What we learned from testing was:

  • The app had to be focused on parents with children aged between 0 to 12. Users related the bus with childhood, because of where it was located.
  • We knew better our users’ concerns.
  • The name of the bus wasn’t appropriate.
  • We learned new locations where parents would like to find the bus (e.g. extracurricular centres, libraries, etc.)
  • Parents would like to find on the bus people to guide them, not just people giving information.
  • We weren’t sure about where were the limits of our guidance. How intrusive could we be?

Service Blueprint

We design a service blueprint to describe the nature and the characteristics of the service interaction in detail, directly tied to the touchpoints detailed in our specific customer journey. In that case, we mapped two different scenarios: the interaction with the app and the bus.

Service blueprint

The Service Business Model Canvas

We also had time to think about the business model. We followed a specific canvas for services developed by Ojasalo & Ojasalo.

Service Business Model Canvas


After three crazy days, we were ready to present our project in front of everyone. It was such a great experience to finally show what we had been working on for three days!

A theatrical presentation seemed a great idea to engage with our public. We decided to represented a young pregnant mother worried about how to do her child’s paperwork in a near future and we show how our project would help her to deal with this situation.

Every project has a different approach and I was amazed to see how far we all came in such a short time.

My super nice group

What did I learn?

Stop talking, start doing! This will be my mantra from now on.

Jams, hackathons, innovations days…are highly energetic and vibrant working environments. This is what I love about this events. They are the right atmosphere for innovation because attract open-minded people that are ready to challenge themselves.

Apart from design technics, you also test your soft skills. Working with people that you don’t know from before is challenging, especially when deadlines are tight and everything is so intense. But it is also so rewarding. You learn how to build on each other’s ideas, you leave your egos out and you work collectively.

This playful atmosphere also forces you to think outside of the box. It becomes the right framework to explore and embrace the ambiguity, with no fear of failing.

I will strongly encourage you all to attend any of these events once in a while. It gives you a boost of energy, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and you meet such an interesting people. See you next year Barcelona GovJam!

You can check all Barcelona projects here.