The Big Issue is launching a UK-wide community selling project to reach more readers, support communities, give a hand up to people on the margins, and make a huge leap forward in the mission to dismantle poverty – all with a resounding social echo.
The new Big Issue Community Selling project is aimed at communities across the UK where there is no Big Issue vendor. Instead, the magazine will be sold by organisations and groups that support their communities – such as social enterprises, charities, religious groups, clubs that provide services for young or older community members, or a host of other groups that make a difference for people in their area.
Each group will receive a quantity of magazines and sell them for £2.50; for each copy sold £1.25 will go to The Big Issue. That helps to cover The Big Issue’s costs of production and distribution of the magazine, and support the core mission of dismantling poverty.
Crucially, this partnership will not take any sales away from individual vendors who want to sell the magazine, but will help support The Big Issue to help our vendors, while also helping communities
With every £1.25 they receive from Community Selling partners, they will be able to help magazine vendors continue to sell the magazine and support them to move on, for example by helping them get into training, skills and education, support for job applications and accessing state support or housing.
As Chris Falchi-Stead, Director of Sales & Operations at The Big Issue, explains, there is a variety of reasons why we do not have vendors in every town and village across the UK.
“There are many remote parts of the UK where it’s very difficult to have a Big Issue vendor. It can be extremely challenging for us to provide the level of service we wish to due to the distance from our offices, and there may simply not be a need for individuals to sell the magazine in these areas.”
But, he adds, the core mission of The Big Issue can help others to help themselves. “In these places however are amazing groups of people doing incredible work supporting their local community, and this is where the Big Issue Community Partnership comes in. This will be another way for organisations to strengthen their communities and contribute to The Big Issue’s mission to dismantle poverty.
“Crucially, this partnership will not take any sales away from individual vendors who want to sell the magazine, but will help support The Big Issue to help our vendors, while also helping communities.”
Paul McNamee, The Big Issue Editor, says that reaching new readers also helps to explain why The Big Issue organisation exists and extend the mission to dismantle poverty – holding politicians to account and campaigning for those without a voice or who are experiencing poverty.
“We know there are people across Britain who are doing incredible things in their local communities, frequently bringing communities together and plugging the gaps that local authority and governmental lack of funding have caused,” he says.
“However, they don’t always have the money to help support them. This brilliant scheme can help with that. By trading the magazine, they earn money and also build links in the local area as people seek out the magazine. They get a great read, of course. But this also extends the very original premise of what The Big Issue was established to do. To offer a hand up, not a handout. It’s about a means of allowing communities to stitch themselves back together.”
Community selling has already made an impact in Ullapool
Last year, we launched a trial programme of Community Selling in the remote Scottish village of Ullapool, in the north-west Highlands. A picturesque tourist destination, from where ferries take visitors to the Hebrides, like many rural locations hidden poverty can be an issue that is not openly spoken about. “In such a small community, everybody knows everybody’s business, and nobody wants to admit that they are struggling financially, so it can be even harder to find and ask for support,” says Jenny McBain, who managed the trial for The Big Issue.
And in recent months, it was noted that increasing numbers of local people were feeling the pressure; a housing association staff member raised it at a community council meeting, and as a result a church group began an experiment with an anonymous foodbank, with mixed results. This was largely put down to people’s reluctance to admit they struggle to feed their family.
That’s where Made in Ullapool stepped in. It’s a vibrant social enterprise that provides training and work opportunities for people with a range of physical or learning needs, who make beautiful candles and gifts.
Adjacent to the ferry terminal, the shop has helped the community get to know more about the magazine, while keeping funds from sales to support their valuable work as a social enterprise.
Now with a regular readership in a location where the magazine was not previously available, Ullapool High School has taken out a weekly order for the magazine, and it is used as a teaching aid to address current affairs and social issues.
“It is community activism and social echo in action,” says editor Paul McNamee. This trial project illustrates that Big Issue Community Selling is about more than just money; it puts social issues at the heart of the community and allows them to think about and look out for others that might need support, and talk about those issues.”
For more information on The Big Issue Community Selling Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0141 352 7280.