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Donation scales

Project uses social questions to help passersby interact with homeless people

Property & Construction

A set of scales allows passersby to use their monetary donations to vote on the current issue being offered for debate by a homeless person.

Social entrepreneur and designer Tomo Kihara calls himself a playful interventionist. His goal is to find new ways of approaching, challenging and discussing difficult issues of the time. His most recent project is the Street Debater. Using a set of scales with the answers to a multiple choice question, passersby use their monetary donations to homeless people to (literally) weigh in on topical issues of debate. Having moved to Amserdam from Japan, Kihara was shocked at the scale of homelessness in large European cities. He realized that many people found themselves in a moral dilemma about donating spare change to someone living on the streets. Not knowing if it is the correct thing to do or not means that many passersby are left feeling guilty and ashamed of their inaction.

Street Debater changes those negative interactions to ones of positive connection. By providing the means for homeless people to start conversations with passersby, Kihara believes that the simple act of accepting donated money becomes more of an equal exchange. Homeless people no longer feel that they are begging with nothing to give in return. This also offers people passing by a simpler mean of starting a conversation. Kihara has made the design for the scales open source and available for download. Questions posed to the public are handwritten on whatever materials are available, allowing for queries to be completely relevant to the locale. Development of the project includes using the scales as the foundation for a toolkit of activism and encouraging as many people as possible to get involved.

Major social challenges facing communities are being addressed in a number of creative ways through innovative applications of technology. Blockchain is being used in New York City to help give homeless people a digital presence and identity, which allows them easier access to the support services they need. In the UK, keycard-accessed vending machines provide 24-hour access to essential items such as food, clothing and sanitary products. How might similar ideas or approaches be deployed earlier as a preventive mechanism to help vulnerable people avoid homelessness?




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