Dundee Global GovJam 2018

Post written by Open Change intern Barbara Mertlova.

For two days in early June, 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. On 5th June, a former clothing store hosted Dundee GovJam – the second time this global event has been held in the city. You can read more about last year’s success in our post here.

Owing to the success of last year’s event, this year Dundee gained the opportunity to play the essential role of Global headquarters for the event. With that came responsibility to oversee and ensure smooth running of all 30+ GovJams worldwide. However, it also allowed us to welcome the co-founder of Jam events Adam St John Lawrence, as well as another member of the HQ team Marina Terteryan, service designer and host of the podcast #WhyServiceDesignThinking from Los Angeles.

What is Global GovJam

While you can find all detailed information about Global GovJam at the official websites www.govjam.org and www.globaljams.org, or over on our Dundee page www.dundeegovjam.org, we summarise it for you briefly here.

The event takes place annually, around the same time of year, across the whole world simultaneously. For 48 hours, participants from all sorts of backgrounds are brought together to take part in a high-energy, interactive event that looks at innovating public services. The key focus is on doing, rather than talking, meaning that Jammers explore and prototype ways to improve the public sector using design and a playful mindset.

GovJam grew out of the Global Service Jam – an annual event that takes place early in the year and, since 2011, has seen over 900 Jamming locations and more than 15,000 participants across the world. Dundee joined the Jamming community with its first Global Service Jam in 2013, and has held successful events every year since.

As Mike Press explains: “Linsey McIntosh and a small group of students initiated the first Jam, which Hazel White and I came on board to help organise. Every year a different group of people take a lead on organising it, and over the last couple of years a great bunch of students led by Blair Boyle and Taylor Dewar have pulled it all together. Their great commitment has meant we can focus more of our energies on Global GovJam. It’s significant that Dundee now has an evolving and vibrant Jamming community.”

That community also includes the City Council, Hillcrest Housing Association, Dundee & Angus College and Healthcare Designed in Dundee – organisations committed to design-led change – plus the highly experienced volunteers who mentor during the event. Open Change is a sponsor of Dundee Global GovJam and co-ordinates and manages the whole event. OC intern Barbara Mertlova also managed social media for both Dundee GovJam and the entire Global GovJam initiative.

First of the occasions on which Dundee showed its spirit for creativity and open sharing was when the Open Close project recreated the Dundee GovJam logo designed by Claire Hartley and turned it into street art.

Dundee Global GovJam 2018

Kicking off at 5pm on Tuesday 5th June, Dundee Global GovJam 2018 welcomed over 70 participants, mentors, speakers and Jam buddies to our extraordinary venue. The former clothing store had been used by UNESCO City of Design Dundee as a pop up gallery space for Dundee Design Month. With that exhibition now finished the UNESCO team generously gave us free use of the space, providing Dundee GovJam with an ideal central location and a flexible space we could adapt to our needs.

Linsey, Mike and Hazel introduced the event, along with Steven Kyle of Dundee City Council. This was followed by this year’s Opening Video, which traditionally reveals the Secret Theme of the Jam and which had been produced by the Dundee organisers under the expert direction of filmmaker Jon Gill.

Afterwards, participants enjoyed ice-breakers and a short brainstorming activity, setting an interactive Jamming atmosphere in the room, and serving as a high-dynamic way to form small teams. Walls of the venue quickly filled up with post-its rich in brilliant notes, and first versions of prototypes made appearance. However, no one could hide their excitement at the arranged catering for Tuesday evening, as pizzas, wine, and soft drinks started arriving from just across the street – the Project Pizza. Informal chats, networking, and friends-making among people with a wide range of backgrounds, powered by the indescribable energy of that evening, is something perhaps only Jams can bring about. 

Next morning, the early risers among us enjoyed a breakfast buffet that was sure to fuel innovative ideas throughout the day. But to stimulate innovative thinking in those who chose to recharge by a lie-in, Wednesday itinerary started with a series of short, but inspiring talks. We were proud to invite Alasdair McGill who introduced the Business Model Canvas, Sandy Thomson who had the audience take their shoes off to demonstrate how humanity tells stories, and Andy Young with whom we prototyped scary monsters – all of which was going to tie into the participants’ upcoming hands-on experience. 

The difficult part was about to come, however, as it was time to break the first drafts of each group’s prototypes. All teams went out in the streets of Dundee and with the use of various tools and methods put their initial ideas to test.

Focused on continuously improving and elevating each project, most Jammers chose to grab lunch on the go in one of our sponsor venues, including The D’Arcy Thompson Restaurant, Five Guys and Project Pizza, and continued talking to the public, testing prototypes and simply going along with the 3 core themes of GovJam – Fail fast, fail often; Don’t talk about it, show it; and Get out of your seat, get out in the street. However, everyone made sure to be back for a special visit that the Dundee Council Leader John Alexander made time in his extremely busy schedule to pay us.

Throughout all days, we stayed connected with other Jamming locations, either via social media channels constantly displayed to anyone who walked into the Factory Shop or by interacting with others’ posts, as well as Skyping to other cities, which included our Twin Jam in Athens.

As the evening approached, teams presented the then stage of each prototypes and allowed other groups to question and feedback the ideas, all the while receiving support and guidance from our experienced Mentors. Tired, but highly motivated atmosphere filled the room, which signalled for our next exceptional catering, this evening provided by the Parlour Café.

On Thursday, once energised with warm pastries, fruit or yoghurts, participants again took off to the streets, to refine and work on what was soon to be the final submissions of their projects. During the course of Dundee GovJam, participants uploaded their work which you can view here.

We had a total of 6 prototypes, initiated, tested and presented by the teams, addressing a wide range of issues that concerned public services. However, Global GovJam focuses on outcomes rather than outputs – the learning, changes mindset and impact on ways of working.

That is why we asked participants to post what they liked, learned, and will do tomorrow. These are the highlights:

“I liked the enthusiasm in the room, it was fantastic”

“I liked that it was fast-paced with lots of meaningful production”

“I learned that everyone has something to contribute, and I learned not to be afraid to do so”

“I learned that I can be more creative than I thought”

“We were surprised to hear people say they don’t think the council impacts them, but they actually interact with services from the council on a daily basis.”

“Tomorrow I will start thinking how it could work in my service area”

Global GovJam online

If we have captured your interest, you might want to search Twitter for Dundee GovJam account @GSJDundee, or its hashtag #DNDGovJam under which participants were posting about their progress throughout the 3 days. If you want to find out more about the global scene, have a look at @GovJamHQ or browse through the official hashtag #GGovJam and feel welcome to comment, interact, and network with Jammers across the world!
More about connecting with Jams has been written in this post.

Lastly, you can read an official closing post and a thank you message at the global HQ website – here.

Thank you

A special thanks to all those who helped to make this event happen – in particular to UNESCO City of Design Dundee for financial support and providing an ideal venue. Thanks also to our guest mentors Marina Terteryan, Tereza Navarová, Taylor Stillie and Bruce Scharlau – and to our guest speakers Alasdair McGill, Sandy Thomson and Andy Young. A big thank you to our film and photography volunteers Genna Small, Jon Gill, Mark Thomas and Fergus Burns.

And a final thank you goes to our Jammers – without you, #DNDGovJam wouldn’t have happened!