Jam-packed Innovation: Highlights from our Service Design Jam at the Royal College of Art

blog | Words Ellen Simmons | 03 May 2024

In March, the Innovation Unit Design Academy held the second annual Service Design Jam, hosted by the Royal College of Art Service Design MA course. Sport England sponsored the event, which a range of its partners supported.

We are enormously grateful to all those who helped make this event a success!

To learn more about sponsoring the next Service Design Jam, Click here

Before writing this blog, I had the pleasure of interviewing the winning team.

Thanks and congratulations to Piotr Prelewicz, France Hémain, and Pranali Pawar, all Service Design Master Degree Students at the Royal College of Art; Sylvia Bakie, Public Health Practitioner, NHS Lothian; and Alpa Patel, Senior Manager, Equality, Sport England, for their winning design, “Infinity Champions”.”

The winning team of the service design jam smile for a photo.

  • Representing the RCA: Piotr Prelewicz (second from left), France Hémain (third from left) and Pranali Pawar (third from right), all Service Design Master Degree Students, Royal College of Art
  • Representing the IUDA: Sylvia Bakie (second from right), Public Health Practitioner, NHS Lothian
  • Representing Sport England: Alpa Patel (right), Senior Manager, Equality, Sport England

What is the service design Jam?

Our Service Design Jams are a high-energy, fast-paced two days where people from different backgrounds work through the design process and solve a specific challenge in just two days.

The idea was inspired by the global games jam, in which participants design a game over a weekend.

Since then, Jams in different contexts, have focused energy and creativity on an issue to generate a high volume of exciting ideas. As part of the Innovation Unit Design Academy curriculum, we run an annual jam focusing on social innovation in the public sector.

Ingredients for (a) good jam

  • A real brief from a public sector client with a focus on social innovation (find out how to make your brief the focus of our next design Jam)
  • Interdisciplinary teams that bring together design expertise with practitioner experience and deep sector knowledge
  • A human-centred design approach that amplifies the voice of lived experience
  • Working at pace to solve a problem under time pressure
  • Some friendly competition

A real brief from a public sector client with a focus on social innovation

Sport England is committed to focusing its investment and energy on the people and communities who face the biggest barriers to being active.

Their data shows that disabled people are almost twice as likely to be inactive when compared to those without a disability. They’ve recently developed an intersectional approach to analysing their data called The Inequalities Metric, which shows that the more characteristics related to inequality a person has, the less likely they are to be active.

For this reason, Sport England set the brief to explore creative and innovative ways to include disabled people in initiatives that contribute to a more active nation. Specifically, groups chose to focus on either disabled young people from culturally diverse communities or LGBTQ+ disabled adults to highlight the importance of taking an intersectional approach and recognising that individuals with multiple markers of inequality, such as disability, minority status, or LGBTQ identity, are less likely to engage in physical activity.

Interdisciplinary teams bring together design expertise with practitioner experience and deep sector knowledge

The magic of an event like this comes from people with different backgrounds and experiences coming together to achieve something they couldn’t have done on their own. Students from the RCA are experts in the design process, confidently navigating the double diamond and creating beautiful outputs. IUDA students also bring the service design methods they have learned on this course, combined with their lived experience of working in the public sector. The Sport England staff and partners bring deep understanding of sport and disability. When you form a multidisciplinary team that holds different perspectives and expertise like this, the insights and results are so much richer.

“I think we worked quite well to acknowledge that we all come with different qualities, skill sets, and mindsets. The way we solve problems is also different, so I think that way of working was really interesting to experience.” Alpa Patel
Senior Manager for Equality at Sport England and Jam winner

A human-centred design approach that centres the voice of lived experience

Our work in social innovation starts with, amplifies and sustains the voices of lived experience. To ensure our jam participants could do this too and therefore develop ideas that meet a real need, several Sport England partners made themselves available for research interviews and offered feedback.

“What was great is that we actually had access to real research participants. We could speak to disabled people from diverse backgrounds and people related to sports, which gave us insight so quickly.”Piotr Prelewicz
Royal College of Art Service Design Master Degree Student and Jam winner

Teams also gathered insight from the general public on the streets of London. The Infinity Champions team made badges of the symbol for neurodiversity and used these as a conversation starter. Through these conversations, they even managed to have their concept validated by a school group including neurodiverse children and their sports teachers – as perfect a focus group as you could hope for.

Working at pace to solve a problem

Over the course of a two-day design jam, participants followed the double-diamond design process, immersing themselves in this challenge and understanding it deeply through and using a combination of desktop and in-person research and user insights to unpack and understand the challenge, then develop solutions grounded in real insight. These insights informed their redefined (and more specific) challenge, which they hurried to solve by the end of day two.

“It was very interesting because we went through the whole design process in less than two days. Usually, our projects last two or three months.”Piotr Prelewicz
Royal College of Art Service Design Master Degree Student and Jam winner

Some friendly competition

At the end of day two, each group presented their proposed service to a panel of judges. There were six really strong ideas, which were judged against their:
Beauty – the quality of their presentation
Brains – the strength of the idea
Heart – how much they centred people in their process
Magic – does their design have an element of creativity and surprise?
Mastery – the strength of their process
Bravery – does their idea challenge convention?

A spotlight on the winning team

The winning competition entry focused on neurodiversity rather than physical disability. The proposed service, “Infinity Champions,” provides training for teachers and parents to better understand the needs of neurodiverse young people.

“Infinity Champions” would work with partner organisations to deliver training and certifications, and signalling to parents and neurodiverse young people that spaces are safe for them. To foster community empowerment, the service would support senior pupils to become peer mentors. The long-term goal is to create a self-sustaining network where trained individuals become mentors, perpetuating community support and understanding.

“I think that whole experience will be like something which stayed with me. Usually the type of projects we do as a students don’t touch sensitive topics.”Pranali Pawar
Royal College of Art Service Design Master Degree Student and Jam winner

We know that if followed, the design process will yield novel results. Nevertheless, it is always inspiring to see the high-quality work that teams produce in under 48 hours. Congratulations to all participants on their incredible work.

We are already looking forward to next year’s jam. If you think your organisation would be interested in sponsoring it and helping to shape the challenge for next year’s event, please get in touch.