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From London to the World – How The Big Issue went global

There are now more than 100 street papers offering a hand up to tens of thousands of homeless men and women worldwide

It started in London in 1991 with a single magazine.

Twenty-five years on, The Big Issue has gone global with a series of sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea, and more than 100 fellow street papers – from Budapest to Buenos Aires and Melbourne to Mexico City – across 41 countries.

Each publication is linked through the Glasgow-based International Network of Street Papers, which The Big Issue co-founded in 1994. Here are just a few…

BIG ISSUE AUSTRALIA
First published: June 1996, in Melbourne
Frequency: fortnightly
Vendors buy copies for $3.50 and sell for $7
Number of vendors: 650-700
Around 6,500 people have sold more than 10 million copies of the magazine since it was first published in Melbourne.

BIG ISSUE SOUTH AFRICA
First published: December 1996
Frequency: monthly
Vendors buy copies for R12.50 and sell to the public for R25
Number of vendors: 250-300
Set up after The Body Shop Foundation gave a grant for a feasibility study, over the last 20 years the magazine has helped thousands of vendors earn more than £1.2m.

Over the last 20 years the magazine has helped thousands of vendors earn more than £1.2m

BIG ISSUE JAPAN
First published: September 2003, in Osaka
Frequency: fortnightly
Vendors buy copies for 170 yen and sell for 350 yen
Number of vendors: 150
With vendors in 13 major Japanese cities, in its first 10 years The Big Issue Japan sold six million copies, earning £6.3m for its vendors.

BIG ISSUE TAIWAN
First published: April 2010 in Taipei
Frequency: monthly
Vendors buy each copy for NT$50 and sell for NT$100
Number of vendors: Around 60 sellers in Taipei and New Taipei City

BIG ISSUE KOREA
First published: July 2010
Frequency: fortnightly
Vendors buy copies for 2,500 won and sell it on the street for 5,000 won
Number of vendors: 2,000
The youngest addition to The Big Issue global family, The Big Issue Korea helps its vendors in Seoul boost their confidence through weekly ballet classes

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Other street papers across the world…

SHEDIA, GREECE
As the Greek financial crisis rocked Europe in 2013, Shedia rose from the streets of Athens and continues to offer hope and a new way of thinking for the embattled people in the Greek capital. Shedia follows the same model as The Big Issue. Vendors buy magazines for €1.50 and sell them for €3.

MI VALEDOR, MEXICO CITY
First published in February 2015, Mi Valedor was launched by Maria Portilla in the Mexican capital after a visit to The Big Issue’s offices on a trip to the UK. Mi Valedor is ‘my pal’ in Mexican slang, but Maria says that its meaning translates to “my protector or someone who looks out for me”.

REAL CHANGE, SEATTLE
After the pioneering investment from London Big Issue vendor Simon Mott to start accepting card payments from his pitch, Seattle-based Real Change developed an innovative smartphone app last year to help vendors cater to increasingly cashless customers. Seattle residents can now buy the magazine for $2.99 (digital edition) direct from street vendors.

The monthly publication is sold outside Metro stations around St Petersburg by 16 vendors

PUT DOMOI,ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
For 22 years Put Domoi has been helping homeless people earn an income. The only street paper operating in Russia, the monthly publication is sold outside Metro stations around St Petersburg by 16 vendors, most of whom are over 60 and mentally or physically disabled. It helps them source medical treatment and support. Approximately 50,000 people in St Petersburg are homeless, with around 5,000 rough sleepers.

MEGAFON, BERGEN
One of Norway’s five street papers, Megafon’s vendors offer a pay-by-text service as well as cash transactions. Selling for 100 kroner, vendors keep half the cover price. Norwegian street papers recently banded together to discuss how drug addiction and mental health problems – two of the biggest issues affecting their vendors – can be tackled.

HECHO EN BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Launched in June 2000, Hecho en Buenos Aires is a multi-award-winning news and arts magazine that has hard-hitting coverage of social issues alongside creative work from vendors themselves. It sells for $20 of which vendors keep $13.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

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