What Is a Service Design Jam?

insights service design jam

The Mad*Pow Experience Strategy team recently set out to bring designers, students, and community members together to explore design thinking and service design methodologies, so they could understand how to bring design into their professional and personal lives. We partnered with Agncy, a non-profit design firm, to create a real-world problem for participants to tackle. As we embarked on a two-day crash course we explored affordable housing and its potential as a channel for developing personal financial security for low-income populations.

Our central goal was not to build a solution, but to help participants understand the general principles of service design -- focusing attention on the generic requirements of all services -- complemented by principles related to process design, organizational design, information design, and technology design.

madpow service design jam

The Event

We had participants from a wide range of backgrounds including design, finance, technology, education, architecture, and the public sector. Everyone came eager to exercise innovative thinking in addressing complex, deeply systemic issues. We discussed research techniques and service design methodologies that can be used to parse intertwined topics into their own bite-sized chunks. That allowed us to address them one-by-one, and eventually bring everything back together for a single coherent solution. Participants roamed downtown Boston to conduct ethnographic research and short interviews. Service Jam participants reported back that they were pleasantly surprised by how their own assumptions were challenged by using ethnographic techniques to hear first-hand experiences from affected people. They appreciated the opportunity to practice service design methodologies in diverse teams. After two days of intense work, the teams shared their work out to the panel of experts from Mad*Pow and Agncy, for feedback. The high energy and passion for solving for the financial needs of underserved populations was much appreciated by us, as we had the opportunity to exercise our teaching muscles, and in turn learned a lot ourselves!

The Outcome

The diverse backgrounds of the participants allowed us to have very rich discussions around the problem space as everyone had a different perspective to bring to the table. At the end of the two days, we had explored several aspects of affordable housing and personal financial security, challenges associated with it, and how we can use design methods to solve for this. Participants came up with innovative ideas from a systems thinking perspective and made their ideas tangible in creative ways, such as skits and acting out network maps! Ideas ranged from a shared living facility called “Fairlandia”, introducing “Exciters” in the community to better housing situations , a “Housing Bot” that would assist someone in their search for affordable housing, and a high touch “Counsellor Service” to assist with housing and financial security.

madpow service design jam

We hope you join us for the next service jam!

Contributed by
Jennifer Smerdel
Job Title
Experience Strategist
Priyama Barua
Job Title
Experience Strategy Director