Behavioural Design Digest
June 25th, 2019

Dear reader, 

Yesterday we had a heart-warming encounter with a homeless man, which got us thinking: How could we apply some behavioural design thinking to get people to care more about the homeless? Here's four ways to solve this challenge. And on a side note: We finished the lineup for the second edition of Behavioural Design Fest in September. It's going to be awesome. More about Fest at the bottom of this mail. 

I hope you enjoy this edition, 

A Tough Behavioural Design Challenge

Homeless people face a pretty tough behavioural design challenge: How do you succeed to get people to give you a bit of money? The big problem is that there are quite some barriers to giving: 

  • People don't have small cash on them
  • People often don't trust homeless people: They're afraid the money will go straight into buying drugs or alcohol
  • Social anxiety: When there are no visual signs of other people giving money, you can quickly think of yourself as the only sucker with a weak disposition called compassion.

Now Imagine that I gave you a briefing in which I ask you to find a solution to the problem of helping homeless people to get more donations.

What would you do? 

If you work in advertising, there is a big chance you will come back with a campaign that gives beggars a face and a story. Your campaign strategy will probably aim at increasing the motivation to donate by calling for more empathy. This campaign will probably have some effect on awareness, but won't contribute much to 

By contrast, when you would approach the briefing from a Behavioural Design perspective, you would come up with more practical strategies, based on a better understanding of behaviour and how influence works.

Strategy 1: ask a different question  

Replace the "please, give me cash"- question with an easier or more pleasant one. 

Those of you who attended our Behavioural Design Academy masterclass know that I love to use the example of the "most intelligent beggar in the world": The most ingenious beggar I ever came across was the man who held a cardboard that said: ¨which religion cares the most to the homeless?¨ He accompanied this cardboard with a little donation bowl for each religion. It should come as no surprise that atheists went all the way to demonstrate that they were better than other religions. 

You probably heard the story once of the blind man who was begging for money.  A passer-by came up with a brilliant idea: She wrote a message on a cardboard and put it next to the blind beggar. Money started to pour in. The message on the cardboard? It's a beautiful day, but I can't see it. The cardboard turned the question around: It confronted people with how lucky they are for not being blind. 

I would suggest that homeless people who stand near a supermarket should hold up a sign that tells the ingredients they need to get through the day. I'm pretty convinced they'll have a full shopping bag within 30 minutes, because adding one item for the homeless person to your shopping list, doesn't feel like that much of an ask. 

Strategy 2: take away barriers to giving  

Mark Brand, a Canadian chef and ex-homeless, came up with a genius idea to get people to donate for the homeless. Knowing that people often don't want to give because they assume that the homeless person will spend it on drugs and alcohol, he came up with a coin-based system. In his restaurant Save on Meat, customers can buy a token that can be given to homeless people. That person can reimburse that token at Save on Meat for a Sandwich (and nothing else). This system not only takes away a barrier to giving, but it also brings back a little bit of dignity in a homeless person's life. To be able to eat a proper meal at a real dinner instead of lining up in a queue for terrible food stamp soup makes a big difference. 
I heard about a similar approach last year in the Czech Republic. Winters can be pretty rough over there, especially for the homeless. So one charity came up with the idea to sell hostel-vouchers to buy a homeless person at least one night with a warm bed.

Strategy 3: Make survival a bit easier

There are many little urban interventions for making life a bit easier for homeless people. If every neighbourhood had a couple of lockers for the homeless, it would be a bit easier for them to store their valuables (or shower gear). There's a project in Lisbon doing precisely that

And what about the 7-year old who created hero-bags. Backpacks full of survival gear for homeless veterans. Instead of asking for money, the kid asks fortunate people to donate for packs for the heroes of this country who ended up homeless.

Strategy 4: Serendipity 

Be adventurous; you might actually have a surprising encounter. 

There are so many stories I could tell about how giving to someone, even if it was giving the homeless person a bit of attention, resulted in a surprising encounter. From the German poet who offered me to write a personal poem in exchange for a bit of cash, to the homeless man sitting on a bench next to the Amsterdam canal near my house, with whom I ended up having a great conversation about fishing in the Amsterdam canals. Not ignoring them might be the most inspiring thing you will have done for the whole day. 
The moral of this story: if you get a behavioural briefing in future, always look first to how you can make the behaviour easier and look for ways to replace the question with an easier one. That's the power of Behavioural Design. 


Three great ways to re-energise your brain this summer

We decided to do a couple of extra editions of our Behavioural Design Academy this summer. Treat yourself with two days of high-intensity training on the art and science of influence: 
  • July 4th and 5th: Behavioural Design and Finance: A two-day masterclass for people working in finance on how to design positive financial behaviours and habits. (Dutch) 
  • June 27th and 28th: Behavioral Design Academy - Two-day foundational course (English)
  • July 18th and 19th: Behavioral Design Academy - Two-day foundational course (Dutch) 

Join us at Behavioural Design Fest

We just finished the line-up for the second edition of Behavioural Design Fest, our conference on Behavioural Design on September 20th in Amsterdam. We have Dutch Politician of the Year Klaas Dijkhof on politics, Sony Music CEO Benelux Toon Martens on how to influence employee behaviour in turbulent times, bestseller Author Mark Tigchelaar on how to regain your focus, TUDelft Professor Nynke Tromp on Design for Societal Change, Fundraising guru Alan Clayton on how to design fundraising campaigns that work, SUE founder Astrid Groenewegen on designing happy workspaces and Ruurd Oosterhout on how to design a trolling farm and how to spread fake news. 

PS: Not an unimportant detail, but the conference is in Dutch. We wanted to test-run the potential of Behavioural Design Fest first in our home market, before taking it abroad. 
Get your Early Bird Ticket Now (Dutch)

Do you consider hiring SUE? Book 60 minutes with SUE. Get to know the people behind SUE / Behavioural Design Academy and get a Behavioural Design perspective on your challenge. Who knows where it could lead to...

Book 60 minutes with SUE
That's all for this week, we hope to catch you next week!

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