2020: The year we organized the Global Service Jam twice
Jamming for Good
The Toronto Jam for Good is part of the Global Service Jam, a weekend-long event that aims to engage everyone interested in a design-based approach to change.
Every year, in cities around the world, jammers get together to celebrate a weekend of collaboration, learning, thinking, and doing. In teams, jammers tackle global challenges and at the end of the weekend, every team showcases the service or product they have created along the weekend. But to pull this off, the jammers are not alone; a group of organizers, speakers and mentors are there to guide and support the different teams during the weekend.
Coupled with this, we have a “for good” approach: how might we create new products or services, as a means of making the world a better place?
We have a “for good” approach: how might we create new products or services, as a means of making the world a better place?
Though 2020 has been like no other year, and we soon found out we would need to put our design skills to the test to pivot our programming from our in-person event to a virtual one!
Organizing an in-person event
We had practically everything we needed just a week after our Code of Conduct was published:
- Two venues. We would visit Facebook offices for the Friday kickoff, and Shopify offices on King West for the rest of the weekend.
- Sponsors. We already had sponsors such as Shopify, Facebook, CIBC, 5Y Impact Collective or Impact Origin.
- Speakers for all the tracks that would come and speak about inclusion, wellbeing, data or sustainability.
- A sold-out event with a long waiting list…
We almost bought the post-its, markers and the rest of the supplies! But suddenly, a global pandemic happened.
Many jams were cancelled or postponed around the globe, and the Toronto Jam for Good was one of them. It wasn’t safe anymore to organize an in-person event, and we were too busy dealing with our day-to-day jobs, while the world around us was changing faster than we could ever think.
It wasn’t safe anymore to organize an in-person event, and we were too busy dealing with our day-to-day jobs, while the world around us was changing faster than we could ever think.
The new date
As it was the 10th anniversary of the Global Service Jam, the Jam must go on! A new date was announced (7–9 August), and we decided to go for it again but remotely this time. Our organizing team adapted to tackle this new challenge, and we welcomed new members to the team. We had a whole new event to plan since many of our previous learnings from the 2019 Jam were not applicable to a virtual event. Fortunately enough, we learned some useful things about remote collaboration during these months of quarantine, and we applied it to the organization of the Jam for Good.
Fortunately enough, we learned some useful things about remote collaboration during these last months of quarantine, and we applied it to the organization of the Jam for Good.
The jam weekend came, and instead of welcoming the jammers at the astonishing Shopify and Facebook offices, we started the Zoom call. There were no nibbles or refreshments this time, just music and small windows that opened to the participants’ homes.
The jam weekend came and instead of welcoming the jammers at the astonishing Shopify and Facebook offices, we started the Zoom call.
Speakers and mentors
We were a 9-people team of organizers, but we were not the only ones supporting and guiding the different teams.
During this hectic weekend, we had a group of speakers that inspired our jammers to choose and design their projects:
- Cheryl Li, Inclusive Designer at Inclusive Design Research Centre (OCAD University), was our first speaker. She gave an amazing talk about inclusive design, highlighting some tips on how to design our services using a participatory approach.
- Aldo de Jong, Director of Data Leadership at Facebook, came to talk about his work at Facebook, where they use data for good. He encouraged our participants to use open datasets to prototype their services.
- Sean Nauth, Communications & Awareness Consultant at UN Environment Programme, shared with us his wild claims for corporate sustainability. His recommendation was to keep our frienemies close, but our stakeholders closer.
- Ziyan Hossain, Lead Solutions Designer at Accelerated by Design, talked about designing for wellbeing, and how “it’s not always something that can be designed but rather the conditions for it to exist are created”.
We also welcomed experts from the different areas of the design process:
- Gigi Wong, Senior UX Researcher at Shopify, introduced the research phase to our jammers. She talked about her team and work at Shopify and prompted everyone to be intentional: “Given the time you have, what do you need to learn to take your next step?”
- Roxanne Nicolussi, Principal at 5Y Impact Lab, came to talk about ideation and put us to work, helping the teams visualize how problem framing is crucial to ideation. Focus on needs, frame the problem and generate as many ideas as possible!
- Georgia MacMac, Independent Designer & Strategist, introduced prototyping. She talked about prototyping for services, products and systems using the tools available to us, and the importance of creating sacrificial concepts.
- Manpreet Juneja, Design Strategist, came to talk business. She shared different tools to design business proposals. She advised teams to find beneficial ways to address the needs of people, profit and planet (3P).
To guide the different teams during their process, our jammers had the help of a group of mentors that joined us during the weekend:
At the end of the weekend, the different teams presented their freshly baked services. When the jam started, we suggested a list of four themes aligned with the talks initial, and the teams used some of them to guide their projects. This is what they came up with:
By Sonya Silva & Helene Kwong. Connecting immunocompromised people with each other to help them navigate the financial uncertainty of Covid-19.
Under the Same Moonlight
By Danielle Lim. Supporting those in need of food during times of crisis, an online food mutual aid platform
Thrive Grow Kit
By Channey Phung, Sebastian Campos-Moller and Lalit Guglani. Urban garden data for tracking growth in cities.
A different experience
This jam was, without any doubt, very different from what we were expecting when we first started organizing it. As it happens with every creative project, things may not end up being what you were expecting, and it’s important to be flexible and be able to adapt your process to the new challenges.
We introduced new tools to the jam and did things in new ways, and we still had time to have fun because, at the end of the day, that’s why we jam!
We still don’t know what will happen in 2021. Having a remote jam removed some of the constraints we had, but added some new ones. We didn’t have to deal with food or drink suppliers this year, or to be at the door to make sure that nobody was left out. We also didn’t have to run to the store to buy more flipcharts because we ran out of them. On the other hand, not being in the same physical space impacted the way the teams collaborated and interacted with each other. Out of all the phases of the design process, prototyping was the biggest challenge. In a virtual jam, the ability to rapid prototype and share in the making process was certainly affected the most.
Not being in the same physical space definitely impacted the way the teams collaborated and interacted with each other. Out of all the phases of the design process, prototyping was the biggest challenge.
The organizing team
I already mentioned this during the Code of Conduct article, but to achieve the best results it’s also very important to surround yourself by the right people. I don’t want to finish this article without mentioning the amazing team behind all of this:
- Aldo de Jong
- Devika Narayani Prakash
- Georgia MacMac
- Helen Photisat
- Jinwei Hu
- Manpreet Juneja
- Rahul Undevia
- Silvia Hernández (this is me!)
One more thing
If you arrived this far, here is where we give thanks. After all that has happened this year, we want to say thanks to all the people and organizations that made this event possible: that’s our sponsors, speakers, mentors and especially, the jammers!
On top of that, I have some personal thanks to a smaller group of people that helped me enormously during this:
- Jen Rogers, for being incredibly patient and helpful, responding many many emails while challenging us to have an even better event, and supporting us on behalf of Shopify.
- Georgia MacMac, Devika Narayani Prakash and Manpreet Juneja for joining the organizing team when we needed it the most, and helping us create a truly amazing experience.
- Rubén Perez Huidobro, for helping me to get my dreamed venue and sponsor, and for basically being by my side every day :).
If you want to read more of what happened during the 2020 Jam for Good (7–9 August), you can visit our Twitter page or our Instagram profile.