Housing

Weighing it up: Student uses debate tool as alternative to begging

Tomo Kihara’s Street Debater invites homeless people to ask multiple-choice questions of passers-by who use money to tip the scales and back their point-of-view

Street Debater

Brits are being asked to weigh up their stance on everything from Brexit to Donald Trump in a new alternative to begging.

Street Debater, created by Japanese designer Tomo Kihara, tasks homeless people with quizzing passers-by on the big questions and inviting them to back their answer by adjusting the balance on scales with coins.

The aim of the project is to offer a conversation starter as well as giving people a game as an experience rather than outright asking for money.

Kihara has already introduced the idea to London, trialling with one debater in the English capital.

Alongside other trials in other countries, street debating has reportedly earned £13.50 per hour after grabbing the attention of more than 12 people every 60 minutes, according to the TU Delft student in the Netherlands

He said: “It serves as an initial viable step for people who wish to discontinue begging by allowing them to earn money in a dignified way to restore their ties to the community on an equal footing.”

Kihara presented the project to other designers on the first day of the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this month.

He discussing how the project is hopefully reframing begging in the hope of allowing people to earn money with dignity, an idea that bears some similarity to The Big Issue’s ‘hand up not a hand out’ ethos.

It’s clear that nobody has a simple and sure-footed means of getting to grips with the rising numbers of homeless people and rough sleepers, and the underlying poverty and deeper issues that lead to it. However, it’s also clear that many people are trying. There is a focus on homelessness and a desire to break the cycle – as shown by Street Debater.

We have opened up The Big Issue to ideas. The Big Issue Platform is non-partisan and open to politicians, policy-makers, business, third-sector leaders, readers and vendors. Anybody who has an idea that can be part of the solution – send it to us.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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