Global Sustainability Jam [Part 2]

In Part 1 of this post, I began explaining the rationale behind issues that needed to be addressed during the preparation for the Melbourne Sustainability Jam toolkit. For those of you who read part 1- I salute you! For the rest of you: here is the link.

Now, to continue on from where I left off…

Why these contexts were important to consider

Open to any form of outcome

Even though today we can argue that just about everything is a type of service, the jam was not explicitly about designing services. This meant that I was not confined to using service design methods, but could take advantage of human centered and design thinking toolkits. I anticipated that most of the outcomes generated would be in some service shape or form, but did not rule out the possibility of solutions such as products and technological applications to be developed. This made it much more difficult to focus the weekend on one area, and would add an extra step of refinement for groups to work through.

Open to any problem definition, no project boundary

This open ended outcome meant that there was no defined purpose. The only boundary groups had to work within was defined by sustainability and the theme for the weekend: playgrounds. So participants would not come to the jam with the certainty that they needed to focus on creating a ‘service’ or ‘digital application’ or ‘online social network’. This meant that a whole extra step needed to be created as part of the design process.

The phases of the design process for the Sustainability Jam

In normal circumstances a client gives you a problem to resolve, whereas this open structure of the jam meant participants had to find that problem first, brainstorm what they wanted to resolve and define the problem-question that they wished to answer with a tangible outcome. This fuzzy and open step of the process was the most important and needed methods that could help participants efficiently brainstorm under no constraints and refine these ideas so that there was a clear problem or need to answer.

No prior knowledge on design methods

Participants who registered came from extremely diverse backgrounds. Only few had come from a design background, and less  with an understanding of service design or other design methods. This was great for the fact that everyone was keen to learn about the toolkits that are being used by IDEO and Stanford, but meant that the methods i chose to pull together needed to be easy and readily understood by all individuals – especially for absolute beginners. Limiting the number of methods in each phase also answered to this issue, so that participants wouldn’t feel confused or overwhelmed choosing between tools. At a maximum, there were five methods in one phase and at a minimum, three.

Yummy post-its! Image courtesy of Will Donovan

What I learned from this event

In terms of the toolkit, I realised that the most useful, easily understood and rapid methods came from the IDEO Toolkit for Educators. The most time consuming methods came from the Human Centered Design Toolkit and the remaining from the Stanford D.School Bootcamp -sitting somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Surprisingly, I only needed to refer to four service design methods during the prototyping and presentation phases. The bulk of the methods were largely to do with facilitating ideas, inspiring outcomes and organising thoughts. For those of you who can’t decide what toolkit is right for your project, I have put together an awards list to acknowledge the best (and worst) of what is currently available to use

The Award for the most popular method

This one goes to Stanford D.School for its ‘Composite Character Profile‘.

The Award for the least popular method

Without a doubt, Stanford D.School takes out the least used method with its ‘Critical Reading Checklist‘.

The Award for the most useful method for empowering democratic opinion

A tie between the IDEO Toolkit for Educators, ‘Share what you know‘ and D.School’,s ‘Saturate and Group‘ methods.

The Award for the most popular prototyping method

Service Design Tools, ‘Storyboarding

The Award for the most time consuming toolkit

IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit

The Award for the most confusing toolkit

Service Design Tools (Website)

The Award for the most rapid and efficient toolkit

IDEO’s Toolkit for Educators

The Award for the most readily understood toolkit by any person

IDEO’s Toolkit for Educators

The Award for the overall most outstanding toolkit for beginners and rapid workshopping

And it wouldn’t be a genuine awards ceremony without some kind of rigging. The winner is… The Sustainability Jam Toolkit!

The Award for the overall most outstanding toolkit

IDEO’S Toolkit for Educators


The other important skill i learned from this event is facilitation. The wonderful part about the jam was everyone was very receptive to the toolkit and eager to attempt most methods. In some moments, dominant characters would take centre stage leaving quieter group members as passive observers. This comes to no surprise as a group will naturally figure out its hierarchy. But when things got a little out of hand, some of the facilitators had to ‘step in’ to allow equal consensus on an idea and suggest ways to empower all members to have a say. For me, the best method that answered this is issue was post-it note-ing ideas (for use of a better description), sticking to a wall or piece of butchers paper, then re-arranging these ideas into themes.

Are you sick of post-its yet?

There were a few toolkits that utilised this process (each with their own unique heading) but the concept is the same. In doing this, more passive members could vocalise their thoughts and ideas equally with other individuals, as well as breaking down the role of a ‘scribe’ who tends to display control.


With such a short deadline, participants fell into the trap of focusing too long and hard on idea generation than properly executing a concept. This was also anticipated, however, reminding groups to make executive decisions and move forward became a tedious task. It is hard not to get caught up in an idea with one person, let alone five others with varying perspectives. I felt that should I be involved in a scenario like this again, there needed to be constant pressure from time. Discussing the event with the organisers afterwards, we agreed that there needed to be some sort of timer or countdown projected on a large screen, in essence ‘looming’ over the groups. Time needed to be made visible. Ironically, I observed that it was only when groups were starting to work under pressure towards the deadline, that they made the most use out of the toolkit.

In the end..

The winning concept was a service called Pimp my Playspace. This group had the opportunity to participate in the Melbourne’s start up weekend and pitch their idea to a panel of investors.

This event was a great experience, not just for myself but for my research as well. In an ideal world, I would have included methods from other sources, but could only use what was available to me under creative commons license (hence why almost all kits were from IDEO). The event taught me that in a rapid problem solving environment, a step by step toolkit is stifling and inefficient- perhaps this applies in general. At the same time, I realised that it was important to have a guide tailored towards a type of scenario so that the right mindset could be established before tackling certain issues. All project problems are unique and deserve a unique approach, but guides that approach unique environments that are empowered by research and experience, will create more efficient results without needing to wast time re creating the wheel.

Melb susjam.toolkit

View more documents from stefanie85
This was requested and used by other organisers around the globe over the weekend. Feel free to download it for yourself.

3 thoughts on “Global Sustainability Jam [Part 2]

  1. This is a truly useful article, thanks!

  2. […] role at this years global service jam was not dissimilar to my role at the sustainability jam. I was asked to be involved by one of the primary organisers, Gin, who i had met from the […]

  3. Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx!
    Just wanted to say keep up the good job!

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