SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NEWS
In our latest Social Enterprise Spotlight is Caitlin Rodgers and The Big Issue Scotland – an innovative national magazine that empowers people who are homeless, vulnerably housed or facing deprivation to earn an income. Get in touch with Caitlin on 0131 225 6714 / Caitlin.Rodgers@bigissue.com and check out www.bigissue.com. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter too.Every few weeks we focus on a randomly selected social enterprise member for intense marketing support and promotion. The Big Issue Scotland will feature in all e-bulletins, on our website homepage and on all our social media, alongside other support, reaching thousands of people across Scotland and beyond.
What’s your social and/or environmental mission? The Big Issue Scotland provides people who are homeless, vulnerably housed or facing deprivation with an opportunity to earn a legitimate income. Vendors buy their magazines for £1.25 and sell them for £2.50. Selling the Big Issue is a job and an alternative to begging.
How do you do it? We work with anybody over the age of 18 who is facing deprivation. Vendors come from a wide range of backgrounds from rough sleepers to people in overcrowded, unsafe or temporary accommodation and those at risk of homelessness. Working closely with partner organisations, we provide support services including sales training, advice and information on budgeting and finance, health and wellbeing, drug and alcohol support, English language classes and guidance on accessing education and further work opportunities.
What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? I love being part of one of the best known social enterprises in the UK. The Big Issue offers ‘a hand up not a hand out’. We provide a platform for sellers to regain control of their lives, rebuilding confidence whilst earning a living. I have the upmost respect for vendors who work in all weathers and often in the face of adversity. I have met many incredible people at The Big Issue and I am inspired by the strength vendors demonstrate in spite of the challenges they face
What are your current projects? We have recently formed a link with Standard Life through their sustainability programme. We now have a vendor onsite selling The Big Issue magazine to staff once a week. This is a fantastic opportunity for the vendor to gain new customers while working in a safe, supportive environment. They are also providing us with PR and marketing support to help raise awareness nationally.
What exciting things do you have coming up? We are in talks with Lothian Buses, with the aim of distributing old copies of The Big Issue on buses at weekends. This will raise our profile whilst putting the magazines to good use before they’re recycled. We’re collaborating with Edinburgh schools who will design a mural for our office based around the theme of housing and homelessness. Outreach Worker, Rebecca Pringle is carrying out research into Big Issue vendors’ social structure, the results of which will enable us to provide improved support.
Who do you want to work with more? We’re always keen to create new safe and supportive work places for vendors. Indoor pitches make working life so much easier for vendors during the winter months. Our goal is to emulate the model we’ve created with Standard Life across other corporations, bank HQs, universities, train stations, shopping centres etc.
What’s your biggest challenge? There are many preconceptions about Big Issue sellers and misconceptions about our organisation. Some well intentioned supporters hand over the money as a donation. We encourage supporters to always take the magazine they’ve paid for, as vendors are working not begging, selling a quality product. The Big Issue Myth Buster quashes many misconceptions.
What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Be clear about your organisations’ mission, practice your elevator pitch, you need to be able to explain your work in a nutshell. Be prepared to share this with as many people as you possibly can. Share your passion for your work and the likelihood is you’ll inspire those around you not only to support your cause but also to spread the word. Participate in every networking event that comes your way, many great opportunities arise from the connections you’ll make.
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