For over 20 years, The Big Issue has offered homeless people an opportunity to improve their financial and emotional wellbeing through selling the Big Issue Magazine to the public.
A new project now aims to allow The Big Issue and its vendors to exploit the opportunities – and avoid the threats – created by new technologies. The initiative enhances its current core ‘business model’, based on street sales of a magazine, and creates new ways for accredited vendors to acquire IT skills and earn money by becoming digital correspondents.
Skills and a source of income
The current street sales model is based on the vendor acting as a one person ‘business’. Each vendor takes responsibility for buying the magazine upfront, managing their own time and finances and their interaction with the public to ensure they can sell all their copies, and make a profit so they can purchase additional copies to further increase sales.
Through this process, the individual gains self-esteem and greater confidence, as well as acquiring new business and social skills and a source of income – all of which ultimately translates into lower levels of drug/alcohol abuse, higher levels of retaining accommodation and opening new paths off the street. The process of interacting with a vendor also offers Big Issue readers the chance to connect with members of the homeless community, bringing benefits beyond the content of the magazine itself.
The new Big Issue World project will enable Big Issue vendors to benefit from adopting new technology, which can be deployed on the street to support their sale of a magazine to the public. This will include enabling their customers to buy a digital copy of the magazine and to be able to have the option of paying for the magazine using a cashless process.
The project will also offer the opportunity for vendors to be trained in relevant IT and other skills that will allow them to be become digital correspondents. With this training, they will be able to submit articles to a new digital publication being produced by The Big Issue and receive payment for their work. Adopting new technologies and learning new approaches will also give them valuable skills, which can open up other opportunities outside The Big Issue.