Jamming for the people: designing for real change

Every year, professionals in public services across the world take part in the Global GovJam challenge to discuss, design and create solutions to deliver better services and products. This year’s Australian entry included members from the Digital Profession community.

GovJam was started in 2012 by the Australian Government and WorkPlayExperience. Since then, it has grown to over 200 cities with 15,000 participants worldwide. GovJam provides a unique opportunity for members of the public sector to use their expertise to improve the way governments help their citizens. Participants form teams where they develop, learn and fail – safely – outside of their usual workplace structures.

The 2021 Australian entry was registered and hosted by the Innovation team at Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) in Canberra. The GovJam team (dubbed ‘Ken Behrens’) included members from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER). Some of the team members connected through the Digital Profession community. Ken Behrens joined other teams around the world, including Austria, Canada, Germany, Russian and the USA to ‘jam’ for change.

A collaborative, multidiscipline and cross-government team

As it was the first time the DESE team had joined GovJam, Libby Heasman (Assistant Director of Innovation, DESE) posted a request on the Digital Profession’s Members’ Community Platform for advice and guidance. The post also generated interest from members to participate in the event, with Belle Hogg (Lead Service Designer and Visual Scribe, APSC) and Monique Freeman (Service Designer, APSC) joining the team. 

These Digital Profession members joined the multidisciplinary team of designers, policy experts and researchers. Ken Behrens was kept small as a ‘test’ team to experiment and learn from the experience, with the possibility a bigger team for 2022.

Rising to the challenge outside of the comfort zone

The 2021 Global GovJam challenge took place from 16 to 21 November. Participating teams had up to 48 hours during the week to work on a ‘secret’ theme, which this year was ‘Unplugged’.

The limited time meant the team had to quickly brainstorm, research, design and test. They needed to develop their understanding of the problem, discard ideas that didn’t work and agree on a single solution. 

Through GovJam, the team learned:

  • how to rapidly design, develop and test
  • the value of different perspectives and experiences
  • the importance of allowing space and time for people’s feedback and views.

Belle shared a video of her Ken Behrens experience. She also gives a personal account in blog post on the Members’ Community Platform.

The power of cross-government collaboration

The GovJam challenge shows what cross-government collaboration can achieve. People from different backgrounds, skills and mindsets can produce innovative ideas using user-centred and agile methods. 

The team wants to share their insights from this experience with other government teams and agencies. The Digital Profession members who took part in GovJam are also looking into developing future events like this for the Digital Profession.  

If you are interested in being part of projects like these, join the Digital Profession. Share your perspectives and ideas with a community of your peers across government and help make an APS fit for the digital future.