October 25, 2018

Action at The Global Goals Jam Tokyo 2018: Looking back, moving forward

Kelsie Stewart

FabCafe CCO

September 22nd and 23rd, 2018, was a sunny, bustling weekend in the creative district of Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan. The south side of Shibuya station was full of Tokyoites, enjoying the 3-day weekend. The River Festival, which was being held to celebrate the renewal of the surrounding neighborhood, was in full swing. Young families lounged on hammocks while sipping instagrammable lemonade, a jazz sax wailed at an engaged head-nodding audience.

In the same neighborhood, at 100BANCH, an Experimental District that Builds the Future, approximately 60 creators, including University students, social entrepreneurs, artists, and others, gathered to participate in the 2018 Global Goals Jam.


In 2015, at the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals are called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs point to the realization of a world without poverty, where the glass ceiling of economic and gender inequality is broken, where climate change is not an issue to be “believed in” or not, but addressed seriously as a real environmental crisis. To highlight stories and ongoing projects related to the goals, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organizes an annual event called the Social Good Summit. At the Social Good Summit, global thought leaders gather to speak about their vision and strategic progress toward achieving the SDGs. This year, the Social Good Summit in Tokyo was organized by the UNDP in Tokyo, hosted by 100BANCH for the second year in a row.

To stimulate creativity and action around the SDGs, following the Social Good Summit is the Global Goals Jam (GGJ). The GGJ is an internationally-held, two-day ideathon+hackathon aimed at creating solutions to the challenges posed by the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2018, the GGJ was held in over 70 locations with more than 2,500 participants. The GGJ was born out of the collaborative efforts of the UNDP and MediaLAB Amsterdam, now known as the Digital Society School. The design sprints and methodology, created by MediaLAB Amsterdam, provides the road map. A solution to the goals, which are defined by the UNDP, is the destination. Fueled by a shared passion and for social good, Jammers (GGJ participants) work on a 48-hour deadline to create real interventions from a local context.

The local background

In 2017, I attended the first Global Goals Jam in Tokyo as a participant. The experience was, in a few words, mentally intense, empowering an exercise in hyper community-building. In two short days, in a group of people I had just met, immersed in design sprints for the first time, my group became a team and my team produced a visual prototype to address the #4 SDG, Quality Education. I had just moved to Tokyo less than two weeks prior and within a single weekend, I had made personally meaningful connections through a shared commitment to social good with people from a range of professional and international backgrounds.

It was a direct result of this experience that when the baton was offered to me to host the GGJ this year, it was with great enthusiasm that I accepted the role. This year, GGJ 2018 Tokyo was organized for the second time by Loftwork, Inc. and FabCafe, with the support of 100BANCH and Adobe. On top of Tokyo, the reach of the GGJ expanded even further through the FabCafe Global network as Loftwork and FabCafe organized the GGJ for the first time in Kyoto as well as Hong Kong!

(GGJ Kyoto 2018 photos on top, GGJ Hong Kong 2018 photos on bottom)

GGJ Tokyo 2018: the numbers

44 participants
Approximately half university Students and half working professionals, many who study or work in fields related to the SGDs.

8 diversely talented facilitators
A handful of passionate volunteers
1 Daiki Kanaoka, Technical Director and prototyping extraordinaire
1 Kelsie Stewart, Project Manager (me)

Day one:
The inspiration talk

This year, Loftwork and FabCafe were able to collaborate for the second time with the UNDP team in Tokyo.  We opened the GGJ with an inspirational talk and informative presentations on the SDGs from the UNDP Director Tetsu Kondo and Yuko Yasuda. For GGJ Tokyo 2018, we honed in on the 3 SDGs of Gender Equality, Quality Education and Sustainable Cities and Communities. Yuko dug deep into these areas to give everyone a clear picture of what exactly we were up against.

Ice breaking & team forming

Before jumping into the design sprints, Jammers made pairs and did one-on-one interviews through an exercise called the T Profile. In the T Profile, one person interviews the other on (1) their skills, expertise, and assets, and (2) their hobbies and passions. The answers from the interview are then plotted on the T Profile. The vertical stroke of the “T” is the depth of skill and deep disciplinary knowledge of the individual. The horizontal stroke of the “T” is the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. Following the interviews, we posted the T Profiles on the wall and connected the points of commonality between the participants with string. The resulting visual was a fun way to show the interconnecting points between all the Jammers.

Following the T Profile, participants had individual brainstorming time using the 5W2H template. The key point in this exercise is to finish the statement, “How can we design a solution that…” with your own words. After specifying a personally interesting challenging through the 5W2H template, participants were able to articulate their passions more clearly in order to break into final teams.

Before arriving to the GGJ, participants were asked which SDG (Quality Education, Sustainable Cities and Communities, or Gender Equality) they felt most passionate about. Based on these previously identified personal interests, we started the GGJ in 3 pre-chosen SDG groups. Following the 5W2H independent brainstorming, we posted each template on a board, facilitators combined similar 5W2H templates, and then Jammers dot voted for their top 3 choices. After dot voting, the most popular 2 or 3 ideas were selected and then facilitators helped each SDG group break into final, smaller 5-6 person groups.

The design sprints

While the Team Canvas provided a foundation to warm up to our newly formed groups and the Actor’s Map gave us an opportunity to consider all the stakeholders affected by each challenge, many teams continued to reference their work with the Empathy Map as the first solid step that brought their teams’ ideas together. Some participants named their target persona and took time fleshing out their personality, giving team members a more holistic view of who exactly it was they were trying to help. I was pleased to see that even when the persona was in a disadvantageous position, team members often took care to give their target persona a certain degree of autonomy. For many teams, the persona on their empathy map became an important point of documentation on which they continued to build upon and continue to empathize, even up until the presentations themselves.

After lunch, one of our facilitators had a great idea of doing a fun warm up activity called Danish Hands. I was so happy to do something physical and fun to wake everyone up from their post-lunch sleepiness. It was also refreshing to see so many smiles after the first half of the first day.

Next up was the KJ method, where we finally started brainstorming solutions to our challenges. Multiple concept sketches and dot voting later, we ended our first day with many groups already beginning work on their dirty prototype.

Day two: let’s get prototyping!

Day 2 had a soft opening, with teams being allowed to work freely on their prototype. Some groups used this time to clarify a chosen concept sketch from the day before through a storyboard. Other teams devised interview questions for further research into their target users and the viability of their idea.

In the late morning, we hopped back into Design Sprint #3 with the 3P template and the Business Model Canvas. The Business Model Canvas was particularly helpful in solidifying whether or not our ideas were sustainable economically. Some groups had team members with very strong opinions about where their support should (or definitely should not!) come from. Having a group of people from diverse backgrounds, with different types of business backgrounds, became as challenging as it was advantageous. At this point, it became even more important to re-identify the local stakeholders and their relationship to the prototype being created. In the Through Other’s Eyes section, each facilitator rotated around every other group for 15 minutes per group. This gave groups many opportunities to practice pitching their ideas and facilitators were able to see what skills and advice they could offer other groups.

Before presentations, participants had one last opportunity to add the final touches to their visual prototype and presentation materials. Presentations were 15 minutes long (including time for Q&A). Following the presentations, we held an official after party and, in typical Japanese-style, an unofficial after-after party!

To give an idea of the GGJ experience in Tokyo from a couple different perspectives, I have collected some reflections from one facilitator and one participant:

Comments from a facilitator, a participant

“It was my first time participating GGJ, and to be honest, I was a bit concerned at the beginning because I wasn’t aware how much I was expected to know about SDGs. What is great about GGJ is the fact that you bring in people from diverse backgrounds, and therefore discussions become more complex and multi-perspective, which reflects how society works in real life.

The process and design of GGJ allows different ways to visualize ideas, making sure every individual has a way to contribute and present ideas in their own preferred style. At the end of the workshop, I believe all of my team members learned that the SDGs are quite complicated and there is no “perfect” solution to each issue. At the same time, however, we were electrified to solve our goal from the very beginning, which to me, indicated that there are passionate people out there who are willing to challenge and overcome global issues.

GGJ serves as a bridge to connect SDGs and those individuals, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity given to work with such intelligent and exciting participants and organizers at the event.”

-Yuuki Guzman, GGJ Tokyo 2018 Facilitator (Quality Education), Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University

“Usually, participation in a workshop like this that takes more than one day will cost about 10,000 yen. However, when the participation fee is around 10,000 yen, only company employees tend to gather and thus the age range of the participants tends to be limited. Rather than incorporating diverse opinions, opinions are settled in terms of their situated industry, innovative opinions disappear, and the workshop ends with somewhat predetermined results. So, I think the cost structure, (where company workers paid 3,000 yen and students paid 1,500 yen) created an opportunity for equality at the workshop.

The second interesting point to me was that the primary language of the team (and the workshop) was English. For Japanese people, this kind of experience may be considered a high hurdle, but I enjoyed trying to listen to each person’s opinions while avoiding making judgement based on the color of someone’s skin, while being aware of the potential communication barrier. In this way, I felt this event was a genuinely global and multicultural experience. Even though I was in Japan, I thought that this workshop was more meaningful than a week-long study abroad! I also thought that this was an opportunity to acquire strong English skills in a practical environment. I certainly gained more experience and practice here than I could have ever attained at any English conversation school.

Finally, I felt our team put forth a great amount of effort and we wanted the opportunity to present something similar again. I would like organizers to consider arranging a space where our team could have an opportunity to pitch our idea again to even more interested parties. More specifically, I would like to present our ideas to companies and would appreciate it if there were a follow up space where we could connect and listen the opinions of professionals within Loftwork as well.”

-Aya Kozuka, GGJ Tokyo 208 Participant (Sustainable Cities and Communities)

The magic behind design-sprint-fueled prototyping with strangers at the GGJ

The Global Goals Jam is a call for action with action: team building, empathy-focused exercises, organizing, re-organizing and, finally, prototyping. Participants are not only challenged to consider deeply what they should do or what they can do but to actively make a concerted, focused effort to MAKE something. Through this process, individuals imagine themselves as real live change makers and with this, their perspective of “I believe in this” shifts to, “I can do this, I can make an impact on this”. This mindset shift is unmistakably powerful and an integral building block to the realization of the SDGs.

Another happy consequence of the GGJ Tokyo experience was of building unexpected camaraderie through hard, meaningful work with people you have met for the first time. Agile thinking through design sprints means being confident enough to make big jumps while being flexible enough to pull a u-turn or go down a very different path upon seeing a more effective route. This kind of mental gymnastics can be challenging even for teams who have had the time and experience necessary for dialing into each other’s abilities and sensibilities. At the GGJ in Tokyo, from a shared commitment to social good and a ganbare! (let’s do our best!) spirit, over a weekend of design sprints, I was pleased to witness like-minded group members become invested team members through such mental gymnastics. Within the GGJ framework, I can see several effective applications including project-based learning workshops, communication workshops, local and global community building as well as diversity training.

For next year’s Jam, I look forward to working with other domestic and international friends to see how we can collaborate more meaningfully before, during and after the Jam. This will actually be a topic of discussion at the GGJ Hong Kong Reunion party tomorrow, which I will be gladly attending at the side of Eda Chow, the co-founder of Loftwork Hong Kong and organizer of GGJ Hong Kong 2018. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, Hong Kong!

The Globals Goals Jam 2018 Tokyo was organized by FabCafe Tokyo / Loftwork and supported by 100BANCH and Adobe. Special thanks to the UNDP and the Digital Society School for their hard work in bringing the SDGs and design methodology to make it all happen.

For more information on our partner’s GGJ activities:

Global Goals Jam Kyoto 2018 Event Report
[Organizers:MTRL KYOTO / FabCafe Kyoto, 京都産業大学 情報理工学部 伊藤慎一郎 研究室]

Global Goals Jam Hong Kong 2018 Event Page
[Organizers:MTRL HONG KONG / Loftwork, Sustain Hong Kong]


  • Kelsie Stewart

    FabCafe CCO

    Kelsie joined Loftwork and FabCafe in 2017 and oversees the FabCafe Global network. In FabCafes across Asia, Europe and America, Kelsie strategizes and aligns Fab synergies to empower everyone to take the initiative to make and share their ideas with local and global communities. Kelsie is also the Tokyo organizer for the Global Goals Jam (GGJ), a two-day designathon and community which aims to create short term solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Kelsie has organized sustainability and design thinking workshops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

    Kelsie joined Loftwork and FabCafe in 2017 and oversees the FabCafe Global network. In FabCafes across Asia, Europe and America, Kelsie strategizes and aligns Fab synergies to empower everyone to take the initiative to make and share their ideas with local and global communities. Kelsie is also the Tokyo organizer for the Global Goals Jam (GGJ), a two-day designathon and community which aims to create short term solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Kelsie has organized sustainability and design thinking workshops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

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