The Open Think Tank


We recently hosted our first Open Think Tank session, an initiative that brings behavioural science experts and social change leaders together to discuss practical psychologically-focused solutions to some of the challenges the social change leader is currently facing. For our first session, we invited Ruben Hazelzet, an behavioural science practitioner, with a particular interest in the application of social proof techniques. We also asked David Oliphant, an inspiring young social change maker, who is currently focusing on a program called Streetwise that helps homeless folk learn to manage their impulses, curb their drug usage, build basic financial skills and find employment.

Our focus for the session was based largely around a discussion of potential interventions to assist with three of the main objectives, namely curbing drug usage, building basic financial skills and getting participants successfully through the program in one go.

Below are some of the ideas we discussed. We would love to hear your thoughts on how to approach these challenges too. Please share them in the comment section.

Curbing Drug Usage:

  • Escalating weekly rewards to build momentum: If the participants relapses in week three, for example, they miss out on the escalated 'weak three reward', and drop back to their starting point, moving towards the lower 'week one reward' again.
  • A buddy reward system: Participants are paired (or grouped) up together, and are rewarded at the end of the week, not just for their own successful behaviour, but for that of their buddy's too. Therefore the reward participant A receives, is lower if he doesn't relapse, but his buddy does, than if they both avoided relapsing.
  • Coupon rewards: Providing coupons (for food, water, data etc), as opposed to giving them cash. This creates a hassle factor that makes it just that little bit more difficult to buy the drugs
  • Avoiding known triggers: Assigning participants to activities during hot state zones, when they are likely to experience situations that might trigger a relapse. Getting them out, actively moving around, engaging in meaningful tasks with other people will help a lot to shift their attention and avoid the triggers.
  • Triggering a sense of self-efficacy: Getting participants to right on person values and goals they want achieved, which are then used as prompts in hot state zones, to decrease likelihood of relapse.

Building Basic Financial Skills:

  • Developing a practical board game: By using fake money in hypothetical scenarios, within a game-structure, we help participants get a taste of what money management will be like once they get a job. The important insight here was the radical shift of moving from day-to-day hustling, to a once a month salary drop. The transition is monumental once you start unpacking it, and so there is a need to get participants actively thinking about this and making decisions beforehand.
  • Behaviourally-optimizing bank accounts: The first step will be to help participant open bank accounts (most currently don't have one). There a set a few default setting that we can put in place support the participants while they get to grips with managing their monthly income. 1) In addition to the check a account, we could create a savings account and default them into a monthly debit order to initiate a savings mindset. We could minus fix costs and divide their salary by four, setting that amount as a weekly limit to curb overspending.

Getting Participants Successfully Through the Program:

  • Peer-oriented Social Proof: Showing participants short video episodes every month, of the previous participants experience going through the program. The contents of the episodes will be the previous participants, having recently completed the months activities, sharing their experience - the highs, the lows, but most importantly the fact that they got through it. One of the key components of a good social proof intervention is for the imitator to see the influencer as a 'peer'. Our approach should achieve this.

Please let us know if you have any thoughts on how we could improve the effectiveness of these interventions or if you have any additional solutions to share. We would love to discuss your ideas.