Global GovJam

A safe space to learn collaboration

by Matt Edgar, Kathryn Grace, Adam Lawrence, Markus Hormess, Ruth Miriams & Mike Press

For three days in early June 2018, a high street store in Dundee City Centre became an experimental space for redesigning public services, engaging with citizens and exploring new ways of working for public sector professionals. It attracted around 70 people from local and national government, social housing, education, health and the voluntary sector to take part in a high-energy, interactive event. Participants spent 48 hours trying a ‘doing not talking’ service design approach based on non-hierarchical collaboration, quick qualitative ‘street’ research and the rapid prototyping of ideas.

Cllr Lynne Short, Convener of City Development at Dundee City Council, only planned a short visit, but “48 hours later, hooked by the energy in the room and the potential to make real changes to the way we deliver services, I was still there! As a councillor, it was inspiring to be in amongst so many public servants passionate about what they do — here and all over the world.”

In 2018, Dundee had a double role. It was also the international headquarters for Global GovJam — helping to coordinate 33 similar events in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It was the second UK city to fulfil this role, following Leeds in 2016.

Kathryn Grace, a key figure in the Leeds jamming community, came to GovJam with experience of a sister event. “We’d learned how not to do it, as well as how to do it in a way that was open, collaborative and didn’t burn us out at the same time. We learned that low-fi was really empowering and enabled people to more easily take part. The GovJam was a safe space to experiment, learn and spark ideas for participants take back to their offices and day jobs.”

Mike Press of the Dundee Jams shares a Jam truth — that a location with easy access to citizens is key. “We ran the previous Dundee GovJam from a university campus, but taking a bus to the city centre is no substitute for just stepping out onto the high street.” His Leeds colleague Matt Edgar agrees, “Our city centre location is a big attraction for public sector workers who often feel remote from the people they serve.”

Support for the Jams by the public sector varies from country. While the GovJam was co-initiated by the Federal Government of Australia, and a Paris GovJam was held in the office of the Prime Minister, others are more citizen-driven, as agencies and activists try to engage their public service counterparts. “I think the neutrality of the jam is liberating for both groups,” adds Matt Edgar. “I’d even dare to suggest the grassroots ethos of the jamming movement has been a healthy counterpoint to the equally awesome but much more top-down power of the Government Digital Service driving change through the uk public sector.”

The UK is a key Jamming nation, and GovJam cities have included Birmingham, Derby, Dundee, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Nottingham. Andrea Siodmok, head of the uk Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab, writes, “I attended a Jam at the Eden Project and was inspired by how different people, who had never met before, could work together on an important topic with such energy and enthusiasm.” One result was the Open Ideas Day, run Jam-style in several cities simultaneously and opened by a video message from the Deputy Prime Minister. “The Jam approach created a safe space for people to co-design,” explains Dr. Siodmok.

Jammers at Nottingham, new to the Global GovJam this year, might agree. Lisa Kowalewski, writes, “I think local authorities can learn a lot from this approach. If we all come in with a GovJam mindset more often, we can be more spontaneous and ad-hoc in the way in which we approach problems and projects, and get more done in more creative ways.”

But what does the Global GovJam produce? Co-Initiator Ruth Mirams is very clear: “There are three key outcomes — the ideas prototyped at the Jam; the deep connections that often lead to collaborative projects; and inspired and equipped innovators who go back to their ‘real’ job with a new way of thinking, working and serving the public. Building innovators not innovations means that the spirit of the Jam echoes in public projects for years to come.”

The next Global GovJam will take place in the second half of 2019. Learn more at www.globaljams.org

What is the Global GovJam?

Global GovJam — a “doing not talking” service design approach based on non-hierarchical collaboration, quick qualitative “street” research and the rapid prototyping of ideas.

Once a year, Global GovJam happens simultaneously all around the world — from Melbourne to Tehran to Berlin to Derby to Buenos Aires to l.a. Local volunteers arrange venues, plan the activities, and gather attendees from the public sector, innovation community and general public. Around the globe, everyone Jams to the same surprise theme, is supported by a Global hq and connects on social media. Agendas are left at the door, and collaborative learning, quick failure and prototyping are emphasised in an atmosphere of playful hard work. At the end of 48 hours, each team publishes not ideas or ‘pitches’, but a functioning interactive prototype to improve or assist the public sector.

The GovJam aims to equip participants to go and make real change, empowering and connecting those who want to do it, and inspiring those who may not yet know what is possible.

The GovJam aims to equip participants to go and make real change, empowering and connecting those who want to do it, and inspiring those who may not yet know what is possible.

GovJam was co-initiated in 2012 by the Australian Federal Government with global jamming experts WorkPlayExperience (Nuremberg), and Protopartners (Sydney). The Global GovJam, an initiative of @WorkPlayX, followed in 2013. It is part of a family of three annual events that has engaged with 15,000+ people at 900+ local Jams in 200+ cities worldwide, connecting people through a high-energy format that explores ways to change their worlds using design and a seriously playful mindset.

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Matt Edgar is head of design for NHS Digital, the national information and technology organisation for health and social care in England. He’s based in Leeds, where he is a volunteer host of the Leeds GovJam.

Kathryn Grace is working with Stick People HQ. She is volunteering with the Service Design Network UK Chapter, championing service design across the UK. Kathryn is supporting both the Global Service Jam and Global GovJam, locally in Leeds and also the Global HQ team.

Adam Lawrence cofounded the Global GovJam and other global Jams. An educator, author & consultant on service design, he helps organizations change how they work. He is also an actor.

Markus Hormess is a service innovator and organisational consultant. He is co-founder of WorkPlayExperience, a service innovation and customer experience consultancy, and co-initiator of the Global Service Jam — the world’s biggest ever service design event.

Ruth Miriams is a designer, researcher and dedicated Jammer. She co-founded Global GovJam and is committed to improving the way the public sector serves citizens.

Mike Press is a Director at Open Change in Dundee, Scotland and has been a commited Jammer since 2013

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The Service Gazette is a print publication for service innovators. It is published since 2015 with most print articles available on Medium.

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Markus Edgar Hormeß

Markus Edgar Hormeß

Service Innovation Coach, author of “This is Service Design Doing”, Cofounder WorkPlayExperience, Initiator of @GSJam, @GGovJam & @GSusJam. Enabler.

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