Sharing meals through the FEAST framework

A graphic of rice bowls used by the ‘Belanja A Meal’ programme

While buying dinner at a coffeeshop yesterday, I was attracted to a couple of posters at the front of a food stall. It turned out to be BAM!

I found out that BAM or ‘Belanja A Meal’ is a programme that goes back to 2018 that allows diners to anonymously pay for meals for needy residents. The word ‘belanja’ means ‘to treat someone to something’ in the Malay Language and is also part of Singlish (an informal, colloquial Singapore English), ha!

Residents can feast on a sponsored meal from this food stall thanks to this rice bowls graphic that appears to tick not only the the boxes of The Behavioural Insights Team’s EAST framework, but also Cass Sunstein’s slight amendment to it. Before I get to that, let me tell you more about how BAM works.

How does it work?

Posters of the ‘Belanja A Meal’ programme placed at the front of a food stall
  1. Upon purchasing your food, inform the stall vendor that you would like to sponsor a meal.
  2. Contribute $1 or more. One sponsored meal costs $3 which is also represented by 3 white magnets.
  3. Stick the white magnet(s) on the rice bowls graphic accordingly.

While beneficiaries are able to check the availability of sponsored meals to redeem through this graphic, in my opinion, it actually doubles up as a #socialnorm to promote potential sponsors to donate!

Digital Vs. FEAST?

After some digging, I also found out that a BAM app was recently launched to facilitate donations and redemption of sponsored meals. This involved 20+ stalls in a nearby town.

While that is aligned with nation-wide digital initiatives and may be more efficient, I am not so sure if it is as fun as how my 4-year-old son and I felt when I got him involved by sticking those magnets on the graphic board! Moreover, it gave me an opportunity to tell him about the programme and teach him something about the community we live in. Best of all, it all happened so naturally.

In the past 6 months or so, Cass Sunstein, co-author of Nudge, has been talking about adding the letter ‘F’ for Fun in the Behavioural Insights Team’s EAST framework, amending it to become FEAST. As some of us are aware, EAST refers to four simple ways to apply behavioural insights: easy, attractive, social and timely.

While the EAST framework has proven useful for policymakers worldwide, he felt that it’s missing something essential: Fun, and gave some examples of how adding the Fun element has yielded more success.

I’m curious to know if the team behind BAM has conducted impact evaluations on the BAM app and the physical one. This would likely quell debates on whether the Fun element is significant for this particular case.

Don’t forget the ‘F’

Photo by James Balensiefen on Unsplash

And please don’t get me wrong. I am all for digital innovation.

I just feel that technology ought to build on what works. In our attempts to achieve efficiency through digital innovations, I understand that it is challenging to ensure that we do not unwittingly compromise any crucial factor. IF the Fun factor has proven to further promote desired behaviours, how might we then design digital innovations that serve the public while keeping them fun?

Let’s chew on that going forward.

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I write about understanding human behaviour through my lens and wonder how different it is through yours.

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M. Salman M. Khair

M. Salman M. Khair

I write about understanding human behaviour through my lens and wonder how different it is through yours.

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