A Personal Account of Global GovJam, Dundee
Written by Katie Bain, Development Officer and Global GovJam Dundee mentor (2017/18)
GovJam is a global event that runs on the same dates across the world. Over 33 countries joined together, jamming over 48 hours, to rock the public sector.
I was nervous in the lead up to GovJam 2018. Not due to any of the average reasons you might be nervous in the lead up to a large collaborative event. It was not due to the lack of organisation, although a last minute venue change did keep us on our toes. It wasn’t because I didn’t think it would be successful or that maybe folk wouldn’t turn up.
I had built up an expectation, based on the roaring personal and global success of Dundee GovJam 2017. I didn’t want my fond memories of my first ever Jam to be tarnished for any reason.
Let me put it into context for you. GovJam Dundee 2017 was the best attended worldwide, with over 80 participants from public, private and third sector descending on venue hosts Dundee and Angus College to work differently, collaboratively and creatively to change the public sector for the better.
This was the catalyst for the creation of the Service Design Academy. There was a realisation that there was a real need for Service Design training. Following the life changing opportunity to mentor at GovJam 2017 – I managed to land a dream job as Development Officer for the Service Design Academy just two months after successfully completing my Masters.
Wow. So this is the real working world …. GovJam 2017 gave me the opportunity to harness some fantastic transferable skills that have supported my personal development journey over the last year.
So in my mind, GovJam 2018 had a LOT to live up to and it sure did not disappoint. Despite missing the final day due to an eye infection (beyond gutted to miss out!) I can confirm that as I had hoped, this Jam demonstrated and completely reinforced all of the reasons why I love to Jam, why I love Service Design and why I love Dundee.
There is a real buzz around Dundee at the moment with a creative boom city-wide, amplified by the impending opening of the V&A and all of the excellent community growth opportunities that have come along with the recent developments. Labelled ‘The coolest little city in Scotland’ and recently recommended by The Wall Street Journal as well as being in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 destinations to visit in 2018, coupled with the success of last year’s GovJam provided the perfect excuse for Global GovJam HQ to run from Dundee in 2018.
The organising team was headed up by Dundee Design Jam members Mike Press and Hazel White, Directors of Open Change alongside Linsey McIntosh (initial Jam creator in Dundee). These three could well be known for not only being Service Design Gurus but also Jam Masters. Mike and Hazel travelled to Greece earlier in the year, meeting with Dundee GovJam twin city organisers in Athens to share their wisdom, expertise and to support others to Jam! Linsey has a wealth of Jam experience having helped run over 7 years worth of Jamming across the city including Service Jams too!
The rest of the organising team and event sponsors ranged from members of Dundee City Council, Hillcrest Housing, Dundee’s UNESCO City of Design and Place Partnership, NHS Tayside via Mr Rod Mountain, Service Design Academy via Dundee and Angus College with an extra special mention to the champion social media superstar student, Barbara Mertlova. Project Pizza, FiveGuys, D’Arcy Thompson and the wonderful Parlour Cafe kept the jammers fully fuelled.
Another big massive thanks to Genna O’Neill, former D&A College Photography student, for volunteering her time and providing some beautiful pictures that captured the real essence and soul of GovJam perfectly.
So you can tell, it was a fully fledged collaborative community effort to run such a fantastic few days, we even had our own Global GovJam graffiti tag (original artwork: Claire Hartley, 2017) which was organised by Emily Kernahan, Hillcrest Housing, in line with another community project that has completely taken off, Open/Close Doors Dundee.
Dundee hosting Global HQ brought along with it the pleasure of working with and learning from Adam StJohn Lawrence (aka Global GovJam God). In addition, I had the added enjoyment of meeting (in person) for the first time twitter friends Marina Terteryan and Tereza Navarová.
Marina, who runs the #WhyServiceDesignThinking podcast joined us all the way from The Why Lab based in Los Angeles and Tereza from Prague. This was one of my personal highlights, getting the chance to get to know Adam, Tereza and Marina a little bit better, share stories, experiences and laughs. To make friends with twitter friends and make real global connections. All through a shared common interest and a passion for people and having fun whilst making services the best that they can for the user. Marina was even kind enough to find a spare minute between Global HQ, mentoring and soaking up the Dundee experience to provide a inspiring video for our SDA students. You can watch Marina talk about her personal experiences and provide insights around user research via the SDA YouTube channel.
The Jam Buddies
I was on the organising team again this year with the added responsibility and opportunity of supporting the SDA students become Jam Buddies, a new concept, to allow SDA students a co-design learning opportunity. We had students from our online cohort join us from Glasgow and London to soak up an immersive and energetic learning experience to enhance their SDA studies and personal development within Service Design alongside 8 other enthusiastic SDA students.
The Jam Buddies were an integral part to the success of each team over the 48 hours. You can find out about Hassan’s experience, Service Design Academy Student and Global GovJam Buddy, from Multifarious Experience based in London here.
The reason I want to discuss the venue before the participants is due to the extra dimension that was added by such an intimate, creative and industrial like venue. Kindly loaned to GovJam by UNESCO, the Factory Shop on Reform Street is based in the heart of the city centre.
The environment was inviting, interesting and thought-provoking in itself, with the added value of being able to conduct user research by simply stepping out the door onto the busy street. A last minute change of venue led to GovJam being held in The Factory Shop . It was a slightly smaller venue, participants were briefed on using it as a base and to make full use of the community spirited offers from the DCA and the McManus to use their workspaces as extra space (which was lots of fun during the McMenus Takeover!).
The environment changed and developed as the event progressed, it was used for briefings and talks and as a prototype engineering room and a creative cave for participants to thrive and grow in!
Passers by stopped, their attention drawn to the shop window, which provided a colourful motion-picture glass screenshot of the hive of activities that happened throughout.
By day two, with the sun shining, prototypes flooded out of the shop and onto Reform Street. A whole range of citizens were interacting with GovJam without being direct participants offering feedback, opinions, insights and a sparkle of energy that seemed to encourage and spur the Jammers on meaning that every prototype was based entirely on the thoughts and needs of Dundee citizens.
The power and influence of a venue, location and environment shall never be underestimated again.
Each and every person I met at the Jam has their own unique characteristics and personal strengths to contribute to their team, to the Jam and perhaps even more importantly, to their community.
It’s that physical act of coming together, a mash of collaborative uniqueness, working creatively in sync to tackle public sector issues disguised as a secret theme, that makes me love Service Design, and in particular co-design, as a collaborative approach to solving wicked problems. In co-design each person has an individual role and as such is respected as an expert in their own right. The Jam provides an opportunity for people to learn, discover and showcase those special features and skills whilst networking, making worldwide connections and new friends.
Without giving away too much, to avoid spoiling the experience for anyone out there who is already convinced and looking to join us for GovJam 2019, the jam starts with a secret theme. This year’s video was produced by expert, Jon Gill.
From there, it is a challenge within itself to interpret that secret theme in your own way, merging with the thoughts of others to join forces and create teams to even start thinking about how you are going to tackle the secret theme in relation to the public sector.
There are mini introduction sessions, information sessions and speakers scattered throughout the programme to help provide support and guidance. This years speakers, among others, included
Ali McGill introducing the Business Model Canvas
Prototyping legend that is Andy Young
Sandy Thomson speaking about empathy, storytelling and stepping into the shoes of others
The rest is unpredictable, pragmatic and sometimes beyond explanation. Teams form bonds, working hard together to conduct user research, learn and apply service design tools whilst having some creative fun prototyping and making an idea real for testing, iterating and improving over 48 hours.
It is an intense, fun experience that has so many benefits including learning new skills and knowledge whilst helping to change the public services for the better. Learning by doing and not talking, getting out and about in the city streets and speaking to citizens getting their insights and feedback on ideas, prototyping lo-fi and doing rapid iterations ……
GovJam Dundee 2018 has received so much positive feedback. You can replay all of the action, from start to finish, see the projects come to life in a round up of all the tweets using #DNDGovJam via our wakelet:
You can also get fantastic insights and reviews of GovJam from Barbara Mertlova, Intern at Open Change: http://www.openchange.co.uk/dundee-global-govjam-2018/