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Should I host a Jam?
So, you are thinking about hosting a Jam? To help you
decide, here are answers to nine important questions.
1. Can I host? Why should I?
Anyone can host a Jam. You can be an expert, or a complete beginner – you only need to follow a few simple
guidelines and rules. And as a local Jam Host, you have great freedom to shape your local Jam.
There are many great reasons to host.
You will help yourself and others learn about a
design-based approach to creativity and problem
You will meet and work with beginners and experts
locally and all over the world. You will pick up a bunch of
new ideas and work practices.
You can subtly showcase your own experience and
skills with participants and the press.
You will not get rich (the Global
Service Jam is non-profit), but you
might get famous(er).
You will certainly have a great time!
2. How much work is Hosting?
Hosting a Jam is as much work as you want it to be. Some jams are fancy events with hundreds of participants,
professional materials and graphics. Some are a few people in someone’s kitchen. The minimum you need is:
A room to jam in - this can be an office, kitchen, coworking space, community center... We’ve seen Jams in a beach
hut, a castle and a jacuzzi!
Connectivity - good internet connections to upload your work and stay in touch with the rest of the Global Jam.
Anything more is up to you. You can help your Jammers through the process (that’s a good plan!), or let them
organise themselves. You can provide catering, or just tell them where the supermarket is. It's your Jam!
Ana (Ljubljana): “We do complex jams & invest
several weeks of work. It’s all repaid when you hear
& see the transformation in the participants.”
Adam (Nürnberg): “We once organised a Jam in 20
minutes. The Jammers all helped. It wasn’t perfect,
but that’s OK. It’s a Jam!”
Daniel (Birmingham): “The main task is
getting people to come. Making the Jam
itself is not that hard.”
3. How big is a Jam?
Your Jam will be one of many Jams in different countries. There might be
up to 100 Jams all over the world.
Each local Jam has at least one team of Jammers – imagine a table of
about five people. But most Jams have several teams, and about fifteen or
twenty people is a nice size for a small Jam.
Most Jams are around 20 to 50 people, but some are 100 or more.
Marina (LA): I like a small Jam of less than
20 people. Logistics are easier, people are
more relaxed and you don’t need a
Lisa (Leeds): I like big Jams! Jams are
about connecting people, and bigger Jams
have more impact, more press, more
prototypes and more connections!
4. Who comes to a Jam?
Anyone can take part in a Jam - and your Jam should be open to anyone (as long as you have space). They might be
(service) designers, entrepreneurs, academics, artists, government workers, students, customer experience experts,
tech wizards, patients, unemployed folks, grandparents or kids.
Your “Jammers” will probably be interested in human-centered approaches to problems, or design, or creativity, and
have an open, enquiring mind.
Elisabeth (DC): A lot of people come to a Jam
because they want to make a change. They are
all different; sometimes skilled, sometimes quiet,
sometimes silly – but always open minded and
5. What happens at a Jam? How does a Host make it happen?
At a Jam, participants spend up to 48 hours researching, ideating and prototyping possible solutions around a1
surprise Theme. Importantly, the Jam is not about discussing ideas. It is about finding an interesting problem, then
hitting the streets in teams to talk to real people, generating a lot of ideas quickly, and turning them into prototypes
which you test, refine, and test again – with real people if possible. Doing, not talking!
Most Hosts lead their Jam through a discovery and development process based on design
thinking or service design. Any other method is fine too. If you don’t know that way of working,
simply use another method – or ask the Jam community for help!
Jams can be shorter, but NOT longer. The time between revealing the Secret Theme and closing
uploads may not be more than 45.5 hours at #GSJam and #GSusJam, or 48 hours at #GGovJam. :)
5. What support is there for hosts?
The Jam is a non-profit, community-supported event,
and Jam Hosts worldwide use an online platform
called “Basecamp” to share ideas, experience,
motivation, tools and files with each other.
Every time you have a question about the Jam - ask
the community. Someone is always happy to help. :)
There is also a “Firestarter
Handbook” which shares the best
experiences from hundreds of Jams
and is packed with tools, time-plans,
warm-ups and good advice from
many Jammers all over the world. It's
free to every Host.
If I can’t find what I need, I ask the community via the
Basecamp platform. I know that I can always connect.”
6. How should I form a team to host the Jam?
If you are reading this, you are probably exactly the right person to
start a Jam. You already have the right mindset to mobilise the
resources you need. But you do not need to do everything alone –
it’s best to find help.
The best Jams are run by a team, with a mix of skills. Each of them
might be good at organising events, planning budgets, spreading
the word, or facilitating people through a process.
They might have some experience of design thinking or similar
approaches, or they might be totally new. You might not know
these people yet, but starting a Jam might be the best way to meet
them. The most important thing is to find some others – perhaps
friends and colleagues, or people you find online – who are ready
to give it a try.
Uli (Dresden): You can find Jam collaborators at open mic events, concerts,
poetry slams, literature clubs, food fairs, art exhibitions. Members of barcamps,
blogger communities and code campers may also be interested.
7. Who pays for this?
The Global Jams are organised by a non-profit informal
network of design aficionados.
The Jam has no political or religious agenda or affiliation. It
also has no staff and no budget.
It’s free to host a Jam. Local hosts might use their
networks to find free spaces, ask friends to cook meals, or
ask participants to bring and share resources, whether
food or sticky notes. They might cover their remaining
costs by finding sponsors or by collecting a small
admission fee. Whatever happens, no-one should make
money from a Jam, but no-one should get poor either!
Lorna (Birmingham): We gathered resources by leaving collection boxes
in workspaces a month or so before the Jam. It meant we could keep
our admission price very low and keep the jam “open”.
8. How can we connect with other Jam hosts / locations?
The Jams are global events, and Jammers love that
international feeling. So, most Jams celebrate the
international experience in some way.
Many Jams use a social media wall. All through the Jam,
they show to the Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, Facebook
and other social media posts by thousands of Jammers
(Take a look at the Global Jam Community Facebook
page, or the many other Jam pages.)
For more direct contact, use Basecamp to find a “twin”
Jam, and link up by video calls at regular intervals
throughout the Jam weekend, or by helping each other’s
Lorna (Birmingham): Suddenly the video link came on and we were
talking to Jammers like us in Kuala Lumpur, who were working
on the same problem we were. It was amazing!
Need more help to decide? Hear from Jam hosts directly…
Video: Tips for hosts by hosts
Why you should Jam (soundbites): A complete playlist
Marina, Los Angeles
Ana Kyra, Ljubljana
For more information, see the FAQ at the webpage of any Jam:
Get help any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you at the Jam!