Founded to help London’s homeless earn a living, The Big Issue magazine is now partnering with digital bank Monzo to boost sales in an increasingly cashless society.
Since it launched in 1991, The Big Issue has not only helped 92,000 street vendors earn approximately $150 million (£115M), it’s also earned a name for itself for its feisty reporting on social issues.
This month’s cover, for example, cries: “Pay Binmen (Garbage Collectors) More Than Bankers!”, a quote from their in-depth interview with universal basic income proponent Rutger Bregman.
As a reminder, Bregman is the young Dutch historian who disrupted Davos earlier this year, in his first appearance at the gathering of the world’s economic elite, tearing up his original speech and pointing out that “nobody raises the issue of tax avoidance and the rich not paying their share.” “It is like going to a firefighters’ conference and not talking about water” he explained.
London-based challenger bank Monzo has built its own reputation for innovation since setting up as app-only in 2015, signing up more than 1.5 million punters attracted by its instant spending notifications, built-in budgeting features and agile customer support. The bank is now also authorised by the financial regulator.
The two trailblazers have come together for the ‘Pay It Forward’ partnership, created by agency FCB Inferno, which is being trialled across the UK to address the issue of an increasingly cashless society.
Each Big Issue in the scheme now carries an individual, scannable QR code that allows a reader to pass it on to a friend who can scan the code to pay the original vendor again. The vendor thus accrues gains in his/her account from multiple sales of a single issue, in effect becoming head of a chain of sales.
Vendor Aaron Dunn, 30, (pictured with celebrity supporters, footballer Gary Lineker and rock star Roger Daltrey) is thrilled with the scheme, saying, “One of my magazines has already been passed around over 20 times!”
Having a bank account and debit card gets vendors into the financial system, enabling them to safely save and pay for goods and services in a way that many of us take for granted. Unlike many other banks, Monzo doesn’t need customers to have a fixed address.
As well as offering buyers a cashless alternative, the model gives the sellers far greater reach, and on an environmental level, ensures that each issue is well read before it gets recycled.
“The falling use of cash has real consequences for people in poverty and organisations like The Big Issue,” says Monzo spokesperson Lew Isaacs. “Our goal is to give more vulnerable people access to financial services, and help The Big Issue continue its crucial work.”
Originally set up in response to the growing number of rough sleepers on the streets of London, The Big Issue offered people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income through selling a magazine to the public. Vendors, usually homeless or in vulnerable circumstances, buy the magazine at £1.25 apiece and sell them at £2.50.
There are currently around 1,500 vendors, who last year alone earned a total of £5.5 million. Currently, the magazine is read by over 400,000 people across the UK. It looks as though the Monzo scheme could boost all those stats as buyers vote with their, um, wallets to participate in this social initiative.