Millions across the country have been impacted by the Covid crisis and Big Issue vendors are no different.
But now, thanks to a partnership with professional network LinkedIn, nine vendors have been chosen to take part in a pilot to learn new skills and reconnect with customers.
After being donated tablets from Dixons Carphone, they will receive training on reaching an online customer base, finding new opportunities, and engaging with other members of the platform.
Paul Cheal, group chief executive at The Big Issue Group, said: “Covid-19 has changed everything for everyone, but its impact has been keenly felt at The Big Issue.
“All earning potential was stripped from our 1,700 regular vendors who made their living selling The Big Issue on the streets of the UK.
“As we find ourselves in our third national lockdown and footfall on the high street likely to be almost non-existent for the foreseeable future, we are fully focused on empowering our vendors with the digital skills they need to connect with their customers.
“The partnership with LinkedIn, which we welcome wholeheartedly, will not only help the vendors sell their magazine again, it will ease the feeling of social isolation experienced over the past year, allowing them to reconnect with their customers and community.
The third national lockdown means our vendors are once again unable to earn an income. But this time, with the vaccine roll out, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We urgently need your help to get through. Find out how you can do your bit.https://t.co/UPrqcxaplI
— The Big Issue (@BigIssue) February 16, 2021
Big Issue vendors make money by purchasing copies of the magazine for £1.50 and selling to the public for £3. The model allows those who are among the most vulnerable in society to earn a legitimate income.
Last month, sellers told of the “nightmare” of another lockdown, which left the 1,340 regular vendors unable to go to work.
The Big Issue has provided more than £800,000 to support vendors since March, distributing cash and supermarket vouchers and helping vendors pay rent, utility and mobile phone bills while they are forced off their pitches.
One vendor involved in the new LinkedIn project is Emma Ford, who usually sells the magazine in Victoria Station in London and has been impacted by repeated lockdowns.
“I haven’t had Covid-19 but it’s changed my life,” she said.
“It’s played with my mental health and has affected my confidence. I really hope the partnership with LinkedIn will help me a lot.
“We can’t sell the magazine now, so it’s amazing that we can sell online. We really need that income boost. No one knows what will happen, but any little help makes a big difference.”
As vendors await the Prime Minister’s announcement on the way out of lockdown, LinkedIn said it hoped to bring more vendors on board throughout the year to increase their online sales.
Josh Graff, UK country manager at LinkedIn, added: “The pandemic has had an enormous impact on the livelihoods of Big Issue vendors and wreaked havoc on their ability to earn an income.
“We’re really excited about the potential of this scheme and hope that LinkedIn members across the UK also welcome the opportunity to buy from Big Issue vendors once again”.