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What’s a Jam?

Each YES! Jam brings together approximately thirty outstanding young changemakers for a week of networking, skills sharing and community building. YES! Jams create transformative fields of shared inquiry in which young leaders deepen the root system behind the commitments, prayers and actions that move through their lives.  Our alumni support one another and collaborate together on-goingly long after the Jam, sustaining themselves for a lifetime of service to the world.


The program incorporates facilitated dialogue, sharing circles, inspiring guest speakers, organized networking, ceremony, live music, artistic expression, games, movement, participant-led workshops, and free time for participants to enjoy each other and the beautiful environment surrounding them.


Why is it called a Jam?

When musicians get together and play unprepared music, they create songs that have never been heard before, and this is often called a "jam." When talented musicians do this, it often results in some of the most memorable music of our collective history. But that's not the end goal. When musicians get together to "jam," they get to share their unique skills and knowledge, as well as learn from the other musicians. They get to hear and experience other styles of music, expand their horizons and make something unique. They get to have fun, build community, and combine their collective talent, inspiration and skills to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. This fertile ground of diversity, trust and joy sprouts some of the most powerful seeds.


How are Jams different than a conference or workshop?

Our process uses peer coaching, whole and break-out group discussion, and facilitated activities to foster community building and self-awareness.  All of our activities emphasize individual and shared reflection, inquiry, and connection.  In creating dialogue space, facilitators and participants believe that transformation takes place on three interconnected levels, the internal, the interpersonal and the global.


What is a Jam?

by Shilpa Jain and Tad Hargrave


To understand a jam, maybe it’s important first to know what it’s not. A Jam is not a week of intellectual rhetoric and debate. It is not a meeting, conference or seminar, or a time to be spoken at through panels and plenary sessions. It’s not really about information (though that may be present) or about being primarily in the mind/head space (though, that can be there too). It’s definitely not a franchise to be spread around the world (no McJams!), and not THE heart of the global youth movement (we hope that there are many hearts, heads and hands!). Nor is it about abstract, internet-based networking.  For the folks organizing and facilitating Jams, it’s also not about making money, or advancing careers, or traveling around the world as ‘youth ambassadors’.


A Jam is a chance for young change-makers to share their experiences, ideas, questions, hopes and struggles; to learn and unlearn from each other; and to build relationships that matter to them. It looks different in different contexts, but there are few common aspects. First, a Jam seeks out and tries to manifest vibrant diversity, both in terms of participants and facilitators, and in terms of processes and issues explored.  Moreover, in the course of a week, a Jam attempts to build bridges across diversity. It offers glimpses into a world which can include everyone, wherever they are at in their journeys.  The emphasis is on what and who is present, rather than on a pre-set agenda; process comes first, only then can there be real outcomes. All efforts are geared towards dialogue, friendship and understanding, rather than on being right or winning arguments.  The personal and interpersonal elements are given ample space and time. All of this means that processes are often ‘slowed up’, that people are invited to speak from their hearts, and that they are invited to listen for understanding (not necessarily agreement or disagreement) and to be present to the space and energy.


Those who come to a Jam usually come hoping to find their next growing edge. With Leveraging Privilege for Social Change, they are often pushing the envelopes around power and privilege and their relationships to these issues. With World Jams, they are trying to connect the dots of various movements and issues, hoping to attain greater clarity and engagement in their work, while living more full and balanced lives.


To put it simply, a Jam embodies two core principles: uncompromised truth and unconditional love. A Jam is, above all, a place to be real, to take off masks, to speak one’s truth, and to be fully oneself. Simultaneously, a Jam is a highly appreciative space, where compliments and love are given freely and received with dignity and gratitude, and where the intention is towards healing, learning and growing honest, healthy relationships.


Some key ingredients of a Jam:

  • Safe, supportive and beautiful physical environment
  • Solid logistics (for food, accommodation, transportation, etc.)
  • Carefully selected participants, on the grounds of their commitment to internal, interpersonal and systemic change, and whatever other criteria the organizers/facilitators have set
  • Capable facilitators (more on this in the document, “Qualities of a Jam facilitator”)
  • A trusting relationship and good teamwork/ team balance among the facilitators
  • Relevant and provocative content and processes
  • A few carefully selected guest presenters/elders based on the criteria the organizers and facilitators have set


It is also very important to notice that Jams are highly specific kinds of events.  We do not suggest that they are the only or best kind of work to happen in the world of social change. A Jam is simply a process, with its own particular idiosyncrasies that have been developed and chosen.  It is important to name these specifics.


For example, we have decided that 30 people (inclusive of organizers, facilitators and participants) is the ideal number to have at a Jam. We focus particularly on people who:

  • are engaged in their own work in their own community;
  • are accountable to a place and rooted in something real and concrete (not abstract ideas or theories or networks);
  • are willing and eager to have their perspectives, worldviews and practices challenged;
  • are aligned with the above-mentioned Jam principles and values.


There are also certain conventions which further limit who comes to a Jam. For example, in YES-organized Jams, participants need to know English (for LPSC-USA and for the World Jam) or money needs to be available for good translation services. Participants need to have access to computers/tech-nology, in order to really find out about the Jam. Participants need to have passport/visa capacities and a somewhat secure financial capacity to travel outside of the country. And usually, participants will have had to somehow come into contact with current or former Jam facilitators or participants and receive recommendations for participation.  All of this is to say, that, as it stands, Jams have been and are highly selective.


We recognize that Jams can feel exclusionary or elitist, and this is an area of concern and ongoing inquiry.  It is our intention to recognize that Jam participants are not inherently better or worse, more accomplished or less, than anyone else.  They are just a particular mix of people that helps this particular program to work.  Everyone, of every age, region, ethnicity, area of focus, background, relationship to privilege, and depth of activism experience, has unique gifts to give to this world.  Everyone deserves a loving, safe and supportive environment to help them grow and thrive.  Jams focus on a small and intentional cross-section of people, in hopes that this work can be of service to the creation of more transformational gatherings and supportive communities for all people everywhere.


This is a constantly evolving statement that has  been created by and is being refined by the YES! Jam community. If you are a Jam alumni and would like to suggest any changes to this document, please email your thoughts to: info@yesworld.org.