If things were done a little bit differently…


Earlier this summer, a new neighbour embraced the Ramadan spirit and decided to install some play elements in an empty space in Zizinia condominium.. where I live. Noting that (a) there is no other playground in the condo, just a fenced field that the kids had to rent. (b) that our condo is full of children, and is pretty safe, so kids spend all summer on the condo’s streets playing all sorts of imaginary games they can come up with. And finally (C) one of the games the kids came up with was to see who can collect the biggest number of car hood ornaments!

The new neighbour must be an angel, right? Eeerrrnntt wrooong!

This photo was actually taken by one of the neighbours complaining about the new neighbour’s actions, captioning the photo with “The slums of Zizinia”. Not long after this photo appeared on the condo’s social network, other neighbours of course joined the rant and started sharing their thoughts on how ugly it was, how noisy it is, how rude the new neighbour is, some even said that he is stealing the small patch of garden to himself!

The perfect example for ‘No good deed goes unpunished’

However, if things where done a little bit more differently, our new neighbour could have easily been the hero and not the villain.

And the credit goes to ”The Rule Of Consistency”  

It’s within our human nature to remain consistent even if it might be against our inner will, it provides us with shortcuts and a faster way to make decisions. And salesmen always take advantage of this! In the mid-1960s, psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser decided to explore what is often called the “foot-in-the-door” technique, that a small simple request will lead to the approval of a larger -sometimes even absurd- request later on.

Two groups of volunteers go door to door asking if residents would accept to place a huge ugly billboard saying ‘Drive Carefully’ on their front lawn blocking the entire house view. The first group had an acceptance rate of 15% percent and the second 76%. The only difference is that the second group went a few weeks earlier to the same houses and asked the residences to display a tiny 3-inch sign that read ‘Be A Safe Driver’.

So do you think it would have made a difference if the new neighbour had simply raised the issue of not having any playgrounds in the condo, and engaged the people in a tiny act that reinforced the idea of them accepting to have several play elements for the kids?

A lot of urban designers face situations similar to this where they have to convince and converse with the residence of the area before making any intervention, requires incredible persuasion skills.

Oooh and in case you are wondering what happened to the lil playground; the new neighbour strongly apologised for his outrageous behavior and immediately removed the whole thing.