The change is in your pocket

The Big Issue is a socially responsible non-profit organisation that enables willing unemployed and marginalised adults to take responsibility for their own lives through a developmental employment programme.
Issue #223
ON SALE TILL
24 September
issue-223
ISSUE #223 ON SALE TILL 24 September

About Us

What is The Big Issue

The heart of The Big Issue operation is the Social Development Department. Here vendors and their families have access to guidance counselling and social support services. The Vendor Training and Development programme aims to equip vendors to move on into the formal job market through life and job skills training. Free crèche services and ongoing health check-ups are also made available to vendors.

The Distribution Department ensures that vendors understand the business side of selling. Vendors buy each copy for R9 (50% of the cover price) and sell the magazine for R20. Four depots – Woodstock, Wynberg, Bellville and Somerset West – keep vendors from all areas supplied with magazines. A mobile distribution van also resupplies vendors on the street.

The Big Issue believes in giving vendors “a hand up, not a hand out.” By earning an income homeless, unemployed and socially marginalised people are taking their future into their own hands. The Big Issue has provided employment and social support for thousands of people, who have earned over R15-million since its inception.

All income from sales and advertising is put back into producing a better magazine and providing jobs and social support for the unemployed and destitute. The Big Issue relies on funding from national and international donors to cover the majority of operating costs.

The Big Facts

The Big Issue is a non-profit nongovernmental organisation (NGO) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) that publishes a general interest magazine monthly.

Through running a vendor sales operation, The Big Issue creates jobs for unemployed, homeless and socially excluded adults.

The Big Issue’s Social Development Programme provides vendor support including vocational, life and business skills training and guidance counselling.

The Big Issue aims to actively encourage and equip vendors to “move on” from the project into mainstream society.

Funding and Supporters

All income from sales and advertising is put back into producing a better magazine and providing jobs and social support for the unemployed and destitute. The Big Issue relies on funding from national and international donors to cover the majority of operating costs.

The Big Issue welcomes contributions from individuals, businesses and funding bodies. The Big Issue is registered as a Public Benefit Organisation in terms of section 18A of the Act.

Thank you to our readers who are our primary supporters, and to our donors and funders.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does the vendor benefit from selling the magazine?

Big Issue vendors are independent salespeople. They purchase the magazine for R9 and sell it for R18. When they first “badge up” (sign on as vendors) they receive five free magazines to get them started. From then on vendors manage their own money, and in this way are given the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to being responsible, independent and business savvy.

2. What is The Big Issue’s Social Development model?

While job creation for marginalised adults is the primary objective of The Big Issue, an important part of this process is skills development and the provision of a social services support network for vendors. The success rate of a vendor is measured initially through income earned, but ultimately through readiness to “move on” into the formal job market.

3. Who are The Big Issue’s vendors?

Any adult living in poverty, who is either homeless or a shack-dweller and who is unemployed with no other legitimate means of earning an income can become a vendor. The Big Issue does not discriminate based on race, religion, nationality or gender.

4. Who writes the magazine?

The Big Issue magazine is compiled by a small, dedicated editorial team, with contributions by reputable freelance journalists, photographers and columnists. The Big Issue also runs a thriving internship programme aimed at providing young journalists with valuable hands-on experience.

5. Why can you only buy the magazine from street vendors?

The Big Issue’s unique job creation model ensures that each and every magazine sale generates income for a vendor, and that vendors actively work to sell each magazine. Therefore, magazines cannot be sold at newsstands and newsagents.

6. Where can I get the magazine?

The magazine is available from vendors at traffic lights, selected roadside pitches, parking lots and some shopping centres in and around Cape Town, with a small distribution in Johannesburg.

7. Who owns The Big Issue and how is it funded?

The Big Issue is not owned by anyone. It is a registered Non-Profit Organisation, Section 21 Company and Public Benefit Organisation.

All income from sales and advertising is put back into producing a better magazine and providing jobs and social support for the unemployed and destitute. The Big Issue relies on funding from national and international donors to cover the majority of operating costs.

8. What is the vendor Code of Conduct?

All Big Issue vendors are required to sign a Code of Conduct that clearly states the rules and regulations for selling the magazine. This Code of Conduct is strictly enforced by the distribution team and vendors who do not comply may be temporarily suspended, de-badged or banned for life. All vendors are issued a membership badge and bib which they are required to wear at all times when selling the magazine.

Should you have any queries please contact our distribution department on 021-461-6690.

9. Why does the magazine come out every 21 days?

In response to the economic downturn, The Big Issue switched from a monthly to a three-weekly publishing cycle in April 2008. This was to stabilise and increase vendor income and to alleviate the impact of the drop-off in sales at the end of each monthly sales cycle. Vendors now have 16 editions per year to sell, and vendor income is considerably higher than it was before.

10. How is The Big Issue South Africa different to, for example, street papers in Europe and the United States?

South Africa’s difficult socio-economic situation has resulted in an extremely high unemployment rate. This means that most Big Issue vendors are unemployed people seeking work. In Europe and the United States, however, street paper vendors are typically recovering addicts and homeless. South African vendors aren’t usually homeless, but live in townships, informal settlements and shack dwellings. Without the social support systems available in many Western countries, such as social welfare or the dole, earning an income is absolutely vital to South African vendors – especially because they are often required to support not just themselves, but also their families and even extended families. This is why the focus of The Big Issue is to move vendors on to the formal job market and permanent employment.