Global Sustainability Jam In Bangalore


So far on my International Design Walkabout I’ve not managed to get to any of the Service Design or Global Sustainability Jam events. I have missed events in Amsterdam, Brazil and Newcastle – but I finally managed to join a jam event while I was in Bangalore. It was the Global Sustainability Jam hosted by Thoughworks Bangalore by Rohit Bansal and Manish Pillewar, and an organizers Madhulikha Umapathy, Sushant Chavan, Pooja Dave all of which were people who are passionate about sustainability, and were running their Sustainability Jam event to be involved in a wider purpose.

This is what the Global Sustainability Jam is about:

“One weekend in November, creative, passionate people will meet, form teams & get to work in an energetic, global, face-to-face event. They’ll have fun creating brand-new real-world designs, projects and initiatives which might make a difference.”


Rohit Bansal the Thoughtworks host

 The Global Sustainability Jam organizers': Sushant Chavan, Madhulikha Umapathy and Pooja Dave

The Global Sustainability Jam organizers’: Sushant Chavan, Madhulikha Umapathy and Pooja Dave

Adam StJohn Lawrence and Markus Hormess who work under the name of Work•Play•Experience came up with the idea of the Jams. When we interviewed Adam StJohn Lawrence for the Design Transition book, he described a jam as:

“Each Jam is hosted by an interested individual or group in a spirit of experimentation, co-operation and friendly competition; and teams have 48 hours  (over a weekend) to develop brand new services inspired by a shared theme.”

From this interview, I came to really appreciate how the Jam events are spreading the tools of service design worldwide with the last jam having nearly 2000 people participated, with zero budget. The people are from all different backgrounds come along as they are curious to learn.

I attended the Global Sustainability Jam with my Bangalore friends Anna, Paola and Maddlen, and when we arrived I was taken aback by how many people were there – over 50!


Every Jam has a theme, and each of the participating locations develops new services around the idea of the theme. For this Jam the theme was ‘Heartbeat’. We soon got to work in our team, which we called ‘8ball’, and through the weekend we developed an approach called ‘magic cities’. It was based on the question: ‘How do we enable people to share culture to make a more human-centred city?’ As Bangalore grows parts of its culture are getting lost, and our team wanted to create a system to keep the heartbeat of Bangalore alive.



So we design an ecosystem that is constantly learning how to make the city more humane by listening to the pulse of the city. Through mapping cultural stories and connecting communities, tourists and government in a transparent service, new services can be developed together. We started to prototype this service by first capturing people stories, and learning the best approach to do this. Then we understood the actors that would be involved in the service and we created customer journey maps to show how the service would start to work, involving school children talking to their elders to capture stories, tourist accessing the stories as they move around the city and government and town planners listening to the stories when they are build new public services.

It was great seeing all of the different Jam projects when they were presented at the end of the weekend: some involved great acting, and other teams had built amazing working prototypes.

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What was meant by the word Sustainability had been left open for teams to interpret, and throughout the Jam we were reminded to find a way to make the service we were proposing sustainable. I understand now that just changing one thing in a system doesn’t work: you have to look at the whole ecosystem with all of the actors involved and develop new values that will make money while benefiting people and the planet. By no means a small task! These things are starting to happen with the development of approaches like the Circular Economy, which I find very interesting as it works on a system level, and service design is important in order to return goods into the system.

At this Sustainability Jam, I just wanted to step back and be part of the team, although I did at times find it hard not to take the lead, having just facilitated the Mozaiko platform throughout Brazil, which aimed to develop services that addressed problems that matter to people in Brazil. But Jams are about collaboration, having fun and ‘doing, not talking’ – so I resisted the temptation to take the reins! There was a great energy throughout the Jam, and I met lots of interesting people keen to learn more about service design.  It was a great weekend, thanks so much to the host and organizers – you made it a fun weekend and hosted some great dancing events from gangnam style to bollywood dancing! Note to anyone that has not been to India before -  I’ve never seen guys dance with so much energy when they are doing bollywood dancing, so watch out!

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On a final note, I love where the Jams are now heading: on 4th-6th June 2013 Adam and Markus are going to be running GovJam which I think will be a big success. Having spent time with the Minas Government in Brazil, called Movimento Minas, and hearing about the co-development of public services in Cornwall, UK (see Shaped by Us) during our research for the ‘Design Transitions’ book, I can see that there is a lot of value to be added at a local government level through design: not only by looking at creative ways to deliver efficiency and effectiveness, but also by showing the delivery of new human and soft values.


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