If you have walked through Civic, Woden Plaza or other places where people shop in Canberra then undoubtedly you would have come across the uniformed street vendors selling The Big Issue Magazine.
The Big Issue is one of the best examples of a successful social enterprise, globally. The Big Issue has been in Australia since 1996 and launched in Canberra in 2004. Its mission is to help people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage to help themselves. Each vendor is a micro-entrepreneur who is working, not begging. Earned money in the vendor’s pocket creates self-esteem, self-belief, options and helps them integrate back into mainstream life.
Vendors buy copies of the magazine for $4.50 and sell them to the public for $9.00, earning the difference from each sale. The other $4.50 goes to producing the magazine and providing support to vendors. Vendors agree to a code of conduct and undergo training before they sell the magazine. In Canberra, they are supported by the fantastic Kate Dawson from Woden Community Service.
Kate is passionate about community work especially housing solutions for the disadvantaged. Kate has been a Director of Common Ground Canberra since 2015. She has recently taken on the management of The Big Issue. Kate is pursuing a two-pronged vision for The Big Issue in Canberra. Firstly, to give the opportunity to be a vendor to more people. Secondly, to find new ways for vendors to sell The Big Issue such as new locations and directly to the staff of large organisations, rather than just on the street.
If you’re looking to support people facing disadvantage, consider buying a copy of The Big Issue. By doing so, you are promoting the growth of their micro-business, funding the support network behind them, and helping your vendor develop valuable life skills that could help them out of disadvantage.