Street Debater wants to create less awkward and more meaningful exchanges between the homeless and city dwellers who might pass them by

The first thing people often associate with homelessness is an awkward encounter, with people averting their eyes as they pass by someone asking for spare change. Designer Tomo Kihara wants to change this dynamic through a project he called Street Debater. Instead of ignoring requests for money, Kihara hopes to get people interacting with the homeless by asking questions and engaging in friendly debate.

Street debating raises a question of public interest—such as who the next U.S. president will be or opinions about Brexit—meant to spark a discussion. Street debaters also have a scale that they use to help guide the discussion. Passersby can leave a coin on the side of the scale that represents their side, helping the homeless retain money while prompting the public to engage with them through a more meaningful exchange, essentially creating a more equal power dynamic.

Tomo Kihara Street Debater

The first thing people often associate with homelessness is an awkward encounter, with people averting their eyes as they pass by someone asking for spare change. Designer Tomo Kihara wants to change this dynamic through a project he called Street Debater. Instead of ignoring requests for money, Kihara hopes to get people interacting with the homeless by asking questions and engaging in friendly debate.

Street debating raises a question of public interest—such as who the next U.S. president will be or opinions about Brexit—meant to spark a discussion. Street debaters also have a scale that they use to help guide the discussion. Passersby can leave a coin on the side of the scale that represents their side, helping the homeless retain money while prompting the public to engage with them through a more meaningful exchange, essentially creating a more equal power dynamic.