Never Underestimate The Power Of Purchase
Why are our vendors so popular? Why can you not meet a single Big Issue buyer who does not chirp on about some Big Issue vendor, expecting me to know them personally (I often do not).
Occasionally I get the opposite, but mostly I get people saying that they think the world of a certain vendor. And they want me to know that they are our ambassadors on the street.
I think it frequently comes as a big surprise that people can go through a lot of grief in life but pull themselves through. And grow in self-esteem and skills in the process.
The Big Issue demonstrates that you can put someone in a position of responsibility – and selling The Big Issue is definitely that – and see them grow. And see them become more rounded.
It is the power of the public to influence the lives of people who want to get their act together, and just need a hand up. It is also the power of purchase. It is the power of the consumer. The consumer who takes the paper is demonstrating their ability to change the life of the person before them.
The power of the consumer is often described as if it was simply someone’s right to take something back to a shop and say ‘stuff this tat’. But there is a deeper power: the power to help people to help themselves. It is the power of the public to engage in the lives of those in need, and relish the outcome.
The power of the consumer that I talk about is the reason we say The Big Issue is ‘street trade, not street aid’. It is about the buyer being able to support someone so that they can begin to support themselves.
Over Christmas and the New Year I was working on a small book that I hope to publish in the next few months. It’s about poverty. But it is also about our power to influence and change the world.
During this time I have looked into poverty, its causes and its continuity, more deeply than I ever have. And I am astonished at the conclusions I have come up with.
One is on the power of the consumer to decide. The consumer holds the future in their hands. The consumer, which is you and me, has the ‘make or break’ power. And we have to find a better way of using it.
You, the purchaser of this paper, have demonstrated a trememdous concentration of power. Because for all the things you could purchase in the world, you have chosen to buy The Big Issue. And unlike with the many other chances to become involved in the lives of those people in need, you have a direct relationship with the object of your empowerment. And that is the person who has sold you the paper.
The Big Issue, as we have said countless times, operates in the market place. We live and die by the market place. If you stop buying The Big Issue we do not have gifts from government – your money by another route – to maintain us. We live and die in the market place.
You like our vendors. You stop and buy. And you change them as you buy from them; as they change you. That is the power of being a consumer of The Big Issue.
If you have any comments please email John at email@example.com
Or tweet him at @johnbirdswords