Jamming for Sustainability

Manuel Grossmann

From October 28-30 people passionate about sustainability all over the globe came together for the Global Sustainability Jam. Fjord hosted the local jam in Berlin which had around 50 participants.

The idea behind a design jam is the same as for a music jam: People get together to inspire and learn from each other. It is not the outcome that is the focus, but the time spent together, the learnings that are made along the way and the atmosphere that is being created. The claim of this jam was ambitious – To make the world a better place.

The topic of sustainability drew a lot of attention and attracted people with various backgrounds. For the Berlin jam political scientists, designers, gender experts, anthropologists, architects, financial experts and ecologists worked in multidisciplinary teams. A user centered approaches and design methods were used to mutually create service ideas around sustainability.

The schedule of the 48 hours was tight and packed with various points in the agenda.

The event started on Friday evening. The participants watched the official video by the global organizer which set the framework and announced the global challenge – “Playgrounds”. Given a challenge with playful potential the participants formed small teams of around 6-8 people and brainstormed around sustainability and playgrounds. To get a first glimpse at sustainability the brainstorming was followed by an input session by Johanna Richter from the NGO agbe. Johanna talked about agbe’s “Solar lamp project”. This project is not just sustainable as it replaces petrol lamps with solar powered lamps. What was much more important for Johanna is, that it leverages economic freedom and thus is sustainable in a wider sense. The lamps are not given away for free in a charity-like approach. They are sold to locals in remote African villages who in many cases have used the lamps to create small businesses around them. Having heard so much about light in the dark the day ended with a spectacular fire show in the backyard of the Fjord office.

The next day started with a breakfast and 3 input session which tackled various angles of sustainability. Moritz Grund from the sustainable design center talked about reducing unnecessary consumption, Jan Schmiedgen & Christian Rudolph presented their network Global Waste Ideas which collects fantastic ideas around minimizing waste and Veronica Veneziano from Slow Food Germany presented a project for which they cooked a meal for 1000 people. For this meal only organic vegetables were used which otherwise would have gone into the waste bin because they were too big or too ugly to be sold in a regular supermarket.
After such inspiring talks the participants started their research phase for their own projects. Many teams went outside to do user research, others searched the web for further insights. Once again user research revealed unbelievable insights: During their field research in Fjord’s neighborhood one of the teams met an old couple who regularly goes to the playground to spend their free time. The picture soon became an icon for the beauty of playgrounds.


The teams got back to the Fjord office for lunch where they enjoyed more input session with focus on design & commerce.  Philipp Gloeckler introduced his online marketplace for sustainable products, Timm Kekeritz from Raureif presented ecochallenge – an iPhone app which aims to change user’s behavior through education and gameplay mechanisms. The third input from Andre Knörig of IxDS presented a smart heating interface.

During the afternoon the teams used their research insights to create Personas and brainstorm to develop service and product concepts. A creative break was much needed so the group went downstairs to take group pictures. It didn’t take long that the Berlin jam had decided to tell the world how much loved jamming in their own words as the picture at the beginning of this page shows. At the end of the day all teams presented their ideas to each other with an elevator pitch. After working hard during the day the Berlin jam took a break and the participants had a delicious dinner at Fortuna’s Table – a cozy private dinning location in Kreuzberg.

At the beginning of day 3 Fjord’s coffee machine was milling coffee like crazy to get everyone ready for the final day. As this day was all about turning concepts into tangible output the input sessions of that morning focused on that. The day started with an input by Raul Krauthausen from Sozialhelden (social heros) who shared insight on how to turn crazy ideas into real life projects. Drawing from his experience with wheelmap which recently was featured in google chrome’s TV app Raul knew what he was talking about. Yvonne Rusche and Karim Tarraf gave a quick overview on micro-financing encouraging the Berlin jammers to also consider this option in case they wanted to form a start-up out of their jam ideas. The last speaker of the day was Roman Dashuber from THEMA1 who showed that no idea is too far out to make it real. With the Green Music Initiative Roman helps reducing the carbon footprint of the music industry.

Full of energy the 6 groups went back to their team spaces and prototyped like crazy. At 3.30pm Berlin time all six teams presented their service concepts to the world via the livestream of the Berlin jam.

For more information about the Berlin jam visit their website or check out the pictures on the jam’s flickr site.

The next jam is already in the pipeline. From February 24-26, the next Global Service Jam will take place… Hoping to see you again at Fjord.


Manuel Grossmann

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