5. Workshops

Workshops are considered to be the perfect medium for participants to get familiar with each other and gain focus for the event. The type of workshops given will vary based on the goal or context of the event, but having a Co-Design workshop is always helpful given that accessibility is one of the most important pillars of a ChairJam. This workshop is even more important if teams aren’t self formed, since people from different backgrounds may lack the experience of working with people from other disciplines. If the context of the event is creating joyful experiences like we did in ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019, having a Game Design workshop can be a good way to lighten up the atmosphere and get participants’ attention on the topic. If possible, it could work better for teams to participate in these workshops together. That way, the teams have the opportunity of an icebreaker before needing to start work in earnest.


5.1 Co-Design Workshop

5.1.1 Goal

Co-Design Workshops aim to help participants from different backgrounds get a better sense of how to work with others. Given our topic highly focuses on accessibility, this provides a unique opportunity for educating participants on some ground rules regarding disability. Working with wheelchair-users to create experiences is the core of ChairJam, so this workshop should not be skipped.


5.1.2 Example Content

This workshop could take several forms. At ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019, it was a talk given by one of our organizers. The organizer had extensive experience with Co-Design and prepared a presentation to explain to the participants what it is and why it is important. That being said, it could just as well be an activity that involved allowed participants get some immediate practice at co-design.


5.2 Game Design Workshop

5.2.1 Goal

Game Design Workshops aim to provide a basic idea of how to design a playful or joyful experience. Many participants may have never participated  in an event like Chairjam before. A playful design activity can be indispensable for getting them in the right creative mindset for the weekend.

5.2.2 Example Content

At ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019, we used an icebreaker activity devised by one of our organizers, Theresa Devine, called the Mystery Box Assignment. It involved watching JJ Abrams’ Mystery Box Ted Talk and pondering about what your personal ‘Mystery Box’ was. Once that was discovered, each participant’s personal ‘premise’ could be determined by the organizer. The participants were split into groups of roughly 4-6 and asked to create a simple game that somehow used or combined their personal premises. They were provided with simple board game materials, like paper, colored pens, dice, spinners, and “meeples”: small wooden play figures.

5.3 Tech Workshop

5.3.1 Goal

A Tech Workshop should showcase to participants the basic capabilities of the technology and materials available to them. We did not have one of these at ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019, but theorize that it could be helpful for the brainstorming and development process. Many participants may not be familiar with the tools they have at their disposal. Having a brief explanation of the tools and the purposes that they can be used for will help them when trying to understand everything that they could feasibly create.

5.4 Expert Consultants

Besides workshops, we found during ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019 that having some expert consultants to help out teams during the jam is valuable. Some of the teams’ technical challenges could be difficult to overcome for a participant without experience in that area, and it was also hard to evaluate scope and schedule without knowing the potential difficulties. 

One difficulty here is in arranging the schedule for the consultant. The Jam event will span a rather long time, depending on your schedule up to 9 hours a day, and it may not be possible to  have a consultant around the entire time. One option here would be to select a venue that already has experts in the building. ChairJam Pittsburgh 2019 was in one such building, but did not have a 24/7 expert available. Our solution was to try to gauge exactly when the expert’s particular expertise would be most valuable and have them be around at that time. For example, our hardware shop expert was available for the bulk of the second day, when we assumed most of the building would be done. Alternatively, you could set up specific office hours for the consultant beforehand and have more in-depth, well-organized QA sessions.