Navigate Supports Philly’s 2019 #GSJam
April 17, 2019
April 17, 2019

March 29-31 marked this year’s Global Service Jam (GSJam), a weekend-long journey into service design. This was the ninth consecutive year that groups around the world came together to create services based on a single ambiguous prompt. Navigate was a key supporter of the Philadelphia GSJam, which took place at the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation in Center City. We were excited to come together with other members of the local community for 28 hours of service design fun!

The Jam Overview

Service design is rapidly growing in popularity and use around the world, focused on weaving research, strategy, and design together to address complex problems, and the GSJam embodies the energy, spirit, and community of the discipline.

Since 2010, the GSJam has served as a catalyst for people to engage with and celebrate service design, while creating meaningful change in the world. Over a weekend, people from various backgrounds, cultures, and levels of experience come together to learn service design by doing. The heart of the GSJam is highlighting the value of making, not talking. It is an active, educational step towards a career shift or a way to help people discover how service design can enhance their current work.

This was the fourth GSJam that I have helped organize, and each year I look forward to seeing how the event helps participants realize the power of service design. In particular, I love how the GSJam enables those who may not consider themselves to be “designers” to get hands-on experience with designing – making an idea reality – and it all starts with a simple prompt.

One Prompt For The Whole World

Each year the GSJam prompt is intentionally ambiguous to spark broad ideation on ideas for a new service. The prompt is not a puzzle. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers and no prizes to win. The process is a part of the product. As it says on the Global Service Design Facebook page, “prototypes don't describe your idea, they are the idea … in an early form. A great prototype can be tested with your hands, not your head.” The prompt for this year was:

Yes, that’s all there is to it! Based on the prompt, we got to work researching, ideating possible solutions, and building prototypes to test them.

GSJam Philadelphia: Day 1

One of the great things about the GSJam is that it’s open to those with all levels of experience, and there are experienced designers and coaches there to help and guide the process. Here in Philadelphia, our Jammers (as we call them) came from the public and private sectors, working for large healthcare organizations, international financial institutions, and social services, and our coaches, including the Navigate team, came from healthcare, higher education, consulting companies, and more.

We kicked off the event with a bit of education and background on service design, the GSJam, and what to expect throughout the weekend. Once we were ready to get started, we revealed this year’s prompt – which none of us had ever seen before. We then quickly quiet-stormed ideas – #doingnottalking – followed by structured ideation that crossed initial reactions from the prompt with Disney characters, magazine articles, and more! We were busy ideating and using Post-It notes galore! In a short amount of time, our Jammers filled the walls with ideas, identified concepts to work on, and created stories to choose which ideas and prototypes to focus on. This is where the fun really begins in a GSJam, with everyone openly sharing their ideas and making broad, loose connections to build upon.

The goal of Day 1 was to air out all ideas, find ones that resonated with the group, and create teams around the ideas to spend the rest of the weekend exploring. We all went home energized for the next day.

GSJam Philadelphia: Day 2

No more Post-It notes! The thinking was over and it was time to start doing, making something we could test. With our coaches supporting the creative exploration taking place, our teams spent the entire day working to turn our ideas into real, tangible, low-fidelity prototypes, using simple materials like paper and cardboard, to better understand how their concepts could create value for the end users.

As the prototypes were created, we immediately tested them for user feedback. Teams were encouraged to go outside and engage the public to gain insights that would assist with the development of the prototypes. User feedback is one of the main tenets of service design, and the GSJam requires participants to leverage creative resourcefulness given the intense time constraints.

The goal of Day 2 was to develop a prototype, get feedback, and iterate on it based on that feedback, preparing to submit it the following day.

GSJam Philadelphia: Day 3

Time for the exhausting final sprint to the finish! Our group finished with three final designs that crossed digital and physical moments to focus on what people value instead of chasing technology or surfing channels. Service design focuses on how people live, solving problems in a way that feels natural. The ideas and prototypes the Philly teams developed were impressive, covering complex topics of mental health, isolation, community development, staycations, PTSD, and immersion therapy with ASMR and VR.

After making final tweaks to our prototypes, we shared them with Jammers across the globe. Across four days and 19 time zones, Jammers at 124 locations on six continents participated in this year’s GSJam. More than 500 prototypes were published. The broad range of service concepts, all derived from the same prompt, demonstrates the power of creative thinking and problem solving. Structured ideation led a group of people, who had never worked together before, to stretch their thinking.

To see what the world created in a single weekend check out #GSJam on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about our growing community at, and stay tuned for future events. We’d love for you to join us and learn more about service design!

If you have any questions, shoot me an email at or reach me by phone at 484-383-0606.

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