Oslo Sustainability Jam 2013

Ever heard about jamming?  I hadn’t until I joined the Service Design Jam in March 2013 and ended up in the winning team with the idea ”Memorylanes” which we continued to work with for half a year later. This fall they expected 65 Sustainablity jams, on five continents, making this the biggest Global Sustainability Jam ever!

A jam is when people interested in the fields; Service Design, Sustainability, Public sector, etc. meets for an intensive 48-hour workshop to create brilliant ideas related to different “themes”, with people from different backgrounds and nationalities who they never met before! The word “Jam” is even found in the business world. “Innovation Jams” are used to facilitate gathering insight together with internal and external parties. The participants are encouraged to share everything they know and come up with new ideas together! (Doz et. al. 2008).


This year I was part of the brilliant Oslo team hosting this years Sustainability Jam. Oslo Jams took place for the first time in 2011, when Service Designer Ingvild Sundby took this worldwide concept to the capital of Norway. Since then she has been able to influence passionate people with diverse backgrounds that would devote their free time and be able to invite people to this amazing weekend of ideation and creation. Originally the jams was started in Germany by Adam Lawrence and Markus Hormess, which have mobilized a global network of “jammers”, hosts and support network in more than 350 cities, worldwide! You can read more at: http://www.globalsustainabilityjam.org

I want to share my experience as an organizer, and hope to influence more people to join this brilliant concept, either as “jammer”, an organizer, coach or even a sponsor! Next jam, is the Service Jam in the “7th of March weekend”, 2014.


We actually started to plan the Sustainability Jam already in September 2013,  we were all volunteers and there is a lot of preparation needed. You can actually find “play rules”: http://www.globalsustainabilityjam.org/content/what-are-rules) that has been developed based on years of experience. My own experience is that you need to mobilize a network, which can support and make the Jam possible. First of all you need a devoted organizing team, then you need sponsors, sponsors and more sponsors. The only set income we have is the participant fee, so you need sponsors to provide: tangibles, physical space, graphics, human knowledge and so on, and it takes time!! It was great to be a big organizing team to divide the different tasks fairly. We were a team of seven, who had an established network and abilities; some had organized since the beginning and some were newbies who had joined a jam or were just passionate about it. Personally I like taking on a challenge that can make me a little braver, give me relevant network within Service Design since I have a background from healthcare, talk and learn from different people, learn new methods such as applying for sponsors or listening to Ingvild talk about her experience within Service Design and so on.. The opportunities are enormous, and the only limits you have is the ones you create yourself!

To quickly get a better understanding of what a jam is, take a look at this amazing video made by one of our Service Designers, Adrian Paulsen: 

Did you understand more now? Since this initiative is organized by passionate people around the world, the event itself tends to different a lot. I will only give a quick overview of “what happened” and “highlight the most characteristic parts” or “best tips” from our weekend.  Please come with feedback or share your own experience in the “comment” area.

jam programA Jam is a 48 hour long workshop that is hosted during the same weekend, worldwide. Friday evening, November 22nd, Oslo Sustainability Jam opened the doors for about 30 “jammers” who had sign up to join this “craziness”! Due to the topic, Sustainability Jam, we found it important to make this weekend sustainable and eco-friendly. We had sponsors from social entrepreneurial- , design- and eco-friendly companies like: Kompass & co, Godt brød, Centre for entrepreneurship, Halogen and so on. We also brought equipment from our homes to reduce waste. You can see our complete program to your left.

Like I mentioned earlier, every jam, worldwide receives a “theme” which they should relate their ideas to. First challenge is: not reveal the theme, due to big time differences around the world. The second challenge is actually to understand it! If you were part of this years jam, I guess I weren’t the only one who wrinkled my freckled nose when this year’s theme was revealed: AB3?  (see video). This is one of the most exciting parts of the jam. We all sat curled up in front of the screen to watch eagerly 🙂

If anyone worked with the same theme, it would be great to hear your experience from it since it was a tricky one!


On our even, I especially liked that Ingvild, as an Service Designer, had a presentation on this topic on Friday. This is still a new and evolving field, and not everyone who signs up are familiar to it. Another great method we used for ideation, was encouraging the “jammers” to take notes during some of the guest lectures who were “experts” within the field “Sustainability”. This gave us a lot of “free topics” which were used to create the first ideas on Friday. For some magical reason, all of the teams divided into perfect groups (number wise) when choosing the idea they liked the most on Friday evening! Off course there were a lot of iterations during the weekend, but the teams always seem to wrap it up and present it in a very professional way when Sunday comes. I also think the Sunday presentations is one of the most exciting parts!! I think its very important to not just work, but be able to talk with fellow “jammers” and focus on just having a good time. We had a lot of games and exercises (and off course good meals and drinks) that contributed to this.To give the perfect wrap up, I encourage you all to take a look at Alex Asensi´s “Jam video”. We are extremely lucky to have him as a photographer and video man during our Jams. This video is showed to everyone in the end of the event, and always leaves us with a good, fuzzy feeling inside (It still does), and it especially shows that it is so much more to this weekend than just coming up with an idea! Enjoy!

This post was made by SID student (2013) Caroline Chaffin as part of the course “Current topics”. Please don’t hesitate to leave any comments (like requested) or contact me!

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