Raspberry Jam is the name for Raspberry Pi meetups—and they come in many different formats. Some are like traditional tech user groups, but many are family-friendly events that provide opportunities for kids to learn to code and make things. The Raspberry Pi Foundation supports the community of Raspberry Jams and has just released a Guidebook to help people get started.
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Raspberry Jams take place all around the world—but mostly in the United Kingdom and the United States. They're run by (and attended by) a mix of engineers, hobbyists, teachers, parents, and young people. Some Jams do workshops, some do talks, some are practical, some do show-and-tell. And anyone can run one—you just need to find a venue, make some plans, set a date, and you're good to go!
Is there a Jam near you?
Take a look at the Jam map on the Raspberry Pi website and see if there's an upcoming event near you. If you find one, then great—sign up and head on! If there isn't one coming up, try checking the "Past events" checkbox and see if there has been one in your area before. If so, see if you can find out if they're planning more events by checking out the organizer's website or Eventbrite/Meetup pages.
If not, you can start your own. It's still worth looking around to see if someone's run one near you before—if there's not been one directly in your area, try getting in touch with the organizer of the nearest one you can find. Perhaps they'll have some tips, offer to help you, or be willing to contact the attendees of their event to tell them about yours.
If you're ready to start thinking about running your own event, it's probably best to find some people to help. You might need people to bounce ideas around, help you decide what the Jam should look like, or even just be there to help on the Jam day.
Finding a venue
The first thing you need to do is find a venue. Schools, universities, and libraries can be ideal, as they have great spaces that are often available on weekends, and they often like to run community events. Another ideal venue is a community center—either a place where other tech meetups are held or just a general community space. There are plenty of other options, from offices to pubs—all Jams are different, and there's lots of potential in all kinds of venues. Depending on your activities, you might need access to tables, chairs, power, maybe a projector, maybe separate rooms for talks—it all depends on what you have in mind. You might want to be flexible and do what you can in the space you have. Schools, universities, libraries, and community centers may be willing to host your event for free.
Planning your activities
Your Jam can be whatever you want it to be. It can be practical—you can have people bring kit along and work on a project, you can provide kit for people to use, and you can even put on workshops for people to learn. Some Jams do more of a show-and-tell, where people bring along projects they build at home and demonstrate them. This is a great way of showing newcomers what the Pi can do.
Parents might want to bring their kids to give them a chance to learn about coding and making, so you'll want to schedule a way for them to learn the basics at your Jam. A "getting started" session (talk or workshop) can be a good way to welcome those new to the Pi.
Your event doesn't have to be for kids—though this is quite common, as the Pi is an educational tool. But if you want to run a tech meetup for adults, that's fine too. You might want to put on tech talks and offer more advanced materials.
Once you have a venue and you know what activities you're going to offer, you just need to set a date and tell the world! You might want to ticket the event so you know how many people will turn up, and maybe so you can cap the number at the venue's capacity. It's quite common to use tools like Eventbrite and Meetup to ticket and promote Jams.
Take a look at how other Jams ticket and promote their events by checking them out in the Jam map.
Once you have a web page with your event information (this could be Eventbrite, Meetup, a Facebook event, or just a web page with the date and venue), you can submit your Jam to the Raspberry Pi website to be included in the Jam map and calendar.
Once you've run your first event, you might want to consider running it regularly. Some Jams run monthly, others every two or three months, and some bigger events run annually. It's completely up to you.
After your Jam, make sure to reflect on the success of your first event and look at what could be improved. What's most important, though, is to find out what your attendees thought. You might want to send out a survey to see how they enjoyed it and what they want to see in the future. Let them lead the direction the Jam takes. If they want more beginner workshops, try to make it happen. If they want more technical talks or show-and-tell, see if you can find the right people to facilitate.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation just released the Raspberry Jam Guidebook (under a Creative Commons license), which is full of advice gathered from the Raspberry Pi community. It covers setting up and running a Jam in great detail, complete with quotes and case studies, covering lots of topics you might need help with. The Guidebook comprises eight chapters:
- Getting started
- The next steps
- Running your activities
- Running a safe Jam
- Planning the big day
- After the first Jam
- Developing your Jam
Download the Guidebook now—and you can always reach out to the Foundation for support. There's a Jam branding pack to help you promote your Jam, and once you've submitted your first event to the map, you can apply for a Jam starter kit with stickers, magazines, worksheets, and more.
All images in this post are by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, CC BY-SA.