Event report

June 13, 2022

Smart Communities and the Internet of People – Mini Jam Report

David Willoughby

Freelance Writer

This mini jam marks the beginning of a collaboration between Loftwork Taiwan, FabCafe Global and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), in which students will address global social challenges through workshops and multicultural exchange.

The theme of this first mini jam was smart communities – How might we become a better informed, sustainable and ultimately resilient “smart” community? On the previous day, four guest speakers shared their perspectives on what makes a community smart, how to scale the community, and how to manage it as it grows. Read a summary of those inspiration talks first.

Around 40 people joined this workshop, most of them students of NCKU plus some interested participants from Japan and other countries. Participants were grouped into smaller teams of around five members plus a facilitator. The teams worked in Zoom breakout rooms and a delightfully designed Miro board (below), their canvas for today’s online collaboration.


Anyone familiar with designathons such as the Global Goals Jam will recognise the process above. However, while GGJ happens over two full days, a mini jam is condensed into just half a day. That means skipping certain stages such as rough prototyping to focus mainly on exploring and defining the problem. In just five hours, participants move from a Team Canvas (below), in which they map the goals, values and skills of each member, to making a final Presentation of their team’s idea.

As we heard in yesterday’s inspiration talks, designing for a community begins with an in-depth understanding of the motivations and expectations of the community members, as well as their social relations. Technology should not supplant those relations, but instead help them flourish or scale. So it’s fitting that today’s teams spend much of their time identifying and mapping social relations in their chosen community to create a Stakeholder Map (below), before adopting the perspective of an important stakeholder whose relationship to the community they hope to transform, which results in an Empathy Map (also below).

All that time spent on problem definition leaves only 45 minutes for Ideation. What we’re hoping to see from the teams is not necessarily a viable solution, but evidence that they’ve gained some insight into the needs of a community and identified an area where a technological (or even non-technological) intervention can make a difference in the lives of its members. Can those communities be made a little more “smart”? Let’s see what each team came up with. But first…

SMART HACKERS – This team chose to focus on a broadly defined community: women in the workplace. The specific issue they tackled was menstrual leave. Their solution was a time management tool that would enable women to manage their workload around their periods, instead of the current system of a fixed number of days of menstrual leave.


SMART CATY – This team chose to focus on how communities might better manage their food resources. The solution they came up with was subscription-based community kitchens. The key insight was that restaurants, rather than being in competition with community kitchens, could be integrated into the system as a way to reduce their own food waste.


PINEAPPLE – This team chose to focus on elderly people living in rural areas who might struggle to access healthcare information, which is increasingly provided digitally. Their solution was to design events and workshops which bring young people to the countryside to teach elderly residents how to use the latest technology to improve and monitor their health.


MONEY DRAGONS – This team chose to focus on rural communities and the issue of disparities in access to education. The key insight taken from their empathy map was that students’ own motivation was a decisive factor. This led them to ideate a digital solution based around gamification and better access to online resources.


HARRY’S TEAM – This team chose to focus on ways to engage the younger generation in acts of cultural preservation. They identified an information gap in society and proposed digital tools that would aggregate and display opportunities for shared cultural exchange between generations.


SHIBUYA VISITORS – This team chose to focus on ways to engage the community in Shibuya and address the issue of littering, specifically beer cans. Their solution was smarter garbage bins and an app to share information about the bins’ usage. Though they did identify a community, this team came closest to what might be termed a “smart city” solution.


LEARN AND EXPLORE – This team chose to focus on isolated communities, especially those living on islands who have been unable to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions on air travel. They proposed a range of solutions from virtual substitutes for physical travel to opportunities for educational exchange to encourage more widespread use of these new technologies.

Guest speakers from yesterday’s Talk Event returned for today’s presentations. Here’s an edited selection of their comments:

“I’m really impressed with the sophistication of the problems which each of the teams selected and the insights that came out of each team. These are real-world problems, and I really liked the considerate use of how technology would be used – rather than ‘We’ve got a solution, now let’s find a problem.’ Think about how you would measure progress, so that you can adapt the solution based on real-world feedback. It’s also useful to consider who might resist your solution, why, and how you might overcome that.”

Jacinta Plucinski, FreakLabs 


“It’s interesting that many of the teams dealt with the disparity between urban and rural access to services. Most of these are very big problems, but could some of them be framed as how to solve them in one specific area? For example, the issues faced by women in the workforce – how might one company solve that? Then there are the issues of scale. I liked that the team dealing with medical resources decided to focus on the people. Apps are great, but how can we get people to come and help?”

Azby Brown, Safecast


“Everyone did a really good job of narrowing these issues down and making them specific. For example, not just dealing with a trash problem but dealing with the problem of beer cans. I liked the potential to get data that could be monetised by the beer companies who are the offenders, and potentially supporting that project. I also really liked the issue of gender equality, which after all affects half the population. As an aside, I liked that many of the profiles people were using were female profiles, because a lot of solutions are designed by men for men.”

Chris ‘Akiba’ Wang, FreakLabs


“One of the things I really liked was the way all of the projects touched on things like age, in relation to the technology gap, or class, looking at urban-rural divides, or gender and how it plays out in the workplace. One additional step is to think about things intersectionally – how do all these different factors tie into each other? Environmental issues like waste collection are almost always tied to social inequalities. Also, think about consumer awareness and adoption. You’re all incredibly technically skilled, and that intergenerational exchange of knowledge and skills is so interesting.”

Keiko Ono, Social Innovation Japan

Today’s event hosted by NCKU was open to people outside the university and outside Taiwan as a way of promoting intercultural exchange. Let’s hear what some of the participants had to say:


“This online workshop was very interesting and broadened my mind. Even online, we could have a great discussion. I could sense that Loftwork made a huge effort to prepare everything and anticipate any issues that might arise. Thanks to the facilitators, I could really share my ideas!”  Alice Wei


“This is the first time for me to participate in an online workshop. I graduated from NCKU a while ago, but this was like returning to the heated discussions and learning of my school days. We were free to address any social issue from gender equality to global communication, waste disposal to cultural management. I could get some hints here for my future work.” ─  Yoyo Chiu 


An online workshop transcends geographical barriers and it connects us with people from all over the world. Through design thinking, people from different backgrounds and cultures identify social problems and new technological solutions to draw up a blueprint for a better world. During the process, we not only learned to listen to others, but also learned to express our own opinions. Such opportunities for cross-country exchanges are invaluable in the face of the epidemic.”  Chloe Liu 


We also received the following comment from one of the facilitators from NCKU:

As a facilitator, I had to capture the attention of the participants in the online environment, and to get everyone to focus on the topic, generate effective discussion, and reach a consensus from different cultural backgrounds. We were able to hear everyone’s voice and everyone felt the process of turning individual ideas into actionable solutions together. I always believe that this is the most enjoyable and valuable part of the workshop. We will continue to create more possibilities for innovation and experimentation in the future.

Leslie Tsai, Atelier Future CEO

The moderator for this mini jam from FabCafe would also like to share from the organizer perspective:

“In the “Smart” Communities workshop, our original intention was to challenge, or even critique, how we incorporate technology deemed “smart” into our communities. Yet, after Day1’s inspiration talks, I saw many participants step back and question an arguably even more important challenge: how might we re-imagine and define again the concept of community in the context of today’s technology-laden society? It was exciting for me to see this focus shift because it indicated that participants were truly digging into their challenge by constantly questioning and reiterating their challenge statement.”

Kelsie Stewart, “Smart” Community Mini Jam Organizer, FabCafe Global CCO

Video provided by NCKU Atelier Future

If you’re inspired and would like to take actions next, please feel free to contact the speakers from Safecast, and Freaklabs for internship opportunities.

Loftwork Inc. is a creative agency which, through open collaboration, takes part in the design of websites, contents, services, communication and spaces. We manage the digital craft cafe “FabCafe” with expansion overseas. We encourage and empower communities to tackle environmental and social issues beyond borders. If you’re interested in collaborating with us and with our communities, please feel free to contact us! 

“Smart” Community Mini Jam is organized by FabCafe Global, Loftwork and Global Goals Jam and supported by Atelier Future at National Cheng Kung University.


  • David Willoughby

    Freelance Writer

    David thinks and writes about sustainability, technology and culture, and has reported on many of our hackathons, talks and other events. He also works with Japanese companies to help tell their stories to the world.

    David thinks and writes about sustainability, technology and culture, and has reported on many of our hackathons, talks and other events. He also works with Japanese companies to help tell their stories to the world.

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