Boston Service Jam: jamming, making and grow^ing


Prototyping often provides the path of least resistance when it comes to communicating a design concept, regardless of the form the prototype may take. Last weekend, designers, professionals, students, and others came together around the world to envision new service experiences and to make them tangible through rapid prototyping techniques. The Global Service Jam encourages local communities to gather at the same time around the world, to literally "jam" or improvise together under the same umbrella theme. The goal? For teams to take an idea beyond a post-it note sketch without looking back.  

The theme "making, not talking" forms the backbone of the GSJ mission. Teams form organically around shared interests and work together to envision and execute new and exciting service experiences that address a need they identify through guerilla research techniques. Service experiences here are loosely defined, and can be composed of a variety of influences and touchpoints, including products (physical or digital), places, processes, and most importantly, people.

Globally, this year’s jam was composed of nearly 120 local communities, with nearly 3,000 participants. Here in Boston, our local event was comprised of 15 creative folks, including a sizable contingent of Bentley grad students and several professionals and students hailing from elsewhere in the city.  

Day 1: Warming up with an ice-breaker exercise at Essential’s studio

Day 1, which was held here at Essential's studio, primarily set the stage for the rest of the weekend. The global theme was revealed via a charming video from the Helsinki Jam, purposefully left open-ended and intended to provoke interpretation. The GSJ13 theme was:

grow ^

Friday, jammers brainstormed into the night and then pitched specific ideas that appealed to them. Teams self-identified with one another.

Day 1: Jammers assess brainstorm concepts
Saturday and Sunday's day long events were hosted at Hostelling-International Boston (HI-Boston), just down the street from Essential in Chinatown (the most impressive hostel facility many of us had ever seen – highly recommended!). The first half of Day 2 was all about hitting the streets. Jammers were encouraged to get in touch with their bold sides and strike up conversations strangers to uncover fresh feedback about their service concepts. Many jammers constructed hand-made prototypes and signs to help get the conversations going.

Day 2: Preparing to hit the streets to conduct guerilla interviews

Day 2: Rapid prototypes ready for testing

By Day 3, we could all see finish line. Jammers came in a little groggy but remarkably well-motivated to see their visions through.The hostel’s community room was characterized by a low hum of activity all day.

Day 2: Jammers “making-not-talking” at the HI-Boston

As the sun set outside, each of the four teams presented rich and personal projects:

  • Open Neighborhood
    Helping new transplants love where they live through
  • Land Marks
    Where personal histories meet city histories
  • ShoeDate
    Offering idle fashion resources to individuals who need access
  • Speak Aloud!
    Growing the public voice in physical spaces

Day 3: Teams were encouraged to demonstrate their service live


As the Jam came to a close, I walked away feeling sentimental, and inspired by our jammers. Their excitement was palpable, and their commitment was admirable. Service experiences don’t come to life without the participation of individuals. As service design professionals, we can generate beautiful products and attempt to orchestrate seamless processes, but nothing hangs together without active engagement of the players in our services. The Jam, to some degree, represents a similar construct. We as hosts and organizers set the stage, but the Jammers bring whatever screenplay they invent to life – all in 48 hours! 

Check out more about the Global Service Jam event:

Visit the Boston Service Jam blog: