Talk Less and Do More: Designing a Service in Only 48 Hours

 Photo by Daniel Lombardi

Photo by Daniel Lombardi

What do you get when you add 25 aspiring design thinkers, five design mentors, six boxes of coffee, one secret theme, and hundreds of Post-it notes? Well, you get a giant mess to clean up afterward, but you also get a Jam! This past weekend Peer Insight was delighted to host the Uncle Sam Service Jam, the local arm of an international event called the Global Service Jam.

On March 1st, at 7:30 PM,  groups of service design enthusiasts in cities across the globe gathered to research, design and prototype a new service around a secret theme. This year's theme: Grow^.  In just 48 hours, the Jammers went through an accelerated, but complete, design process, with final prototypes of their services due to the Global Service Jam web platform before 3:00 PM on Sunday.

It was an intense weekend for all those involved but the collaboration, drive and energy of the five DC teams was inspiring. As someone who is fortunate enough to practice human-centered design on a daily basis, and get paid to do it, it is humbling that so many people across the world would give up their weekends in hope of either learning a new skill or just to participate in the design of a service that could potentially improve the quality of life.

The Uncle Sam Service Jam (USSJ) brought together a significant number of stakeholders in our local community, from the Jammers, who ranged in profession from students, to consultants, to government workers, to the local businesses that were kind of enough to make donations and sponsor the Jam, to the local Eastern Market and DC residents who participated in the Jammers' street research.

Reflecting on the weekend, it became clear to me that although, technically, only two of the five USSJ teams declared that they would design a service to help grow communities, that almost all the teams touched upon this issue in one way or another. Whether it was getting to know your neighbors better, getting to know your city better, creating a community to share skills or working to improve the city's overall happiness quotient, each of the teams recognized the need to establish and maintain a network of relationships. In a world when technology has, at the same time, both opened us up to and closed us off from inter-personal relationships, it is intriguing to me that from our theme of Growth^, the DC teams were looking to grow in mostly social ways. I would love to hear how other Jammers in different cities interpreted the challenge.

How about you? What kind of service would you design if you had only 48 hours and the theme Grow^?

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