Pay It Forward: The Big Issue’s newest initiative helps vendors earn more with reader resale

By Kaitlin Jock

On 1 April in London, The Big Issue announced the launch of its newest initiative, Pay It Forward, a project which allows the publication to become the world’s first resellable magazine. The system is devised to create a new stream of revenue for vendors via the use of Monzo, a fast-growing digital banking service.

The new scheme, created by FCB Inferno, a large creative agency, and powered by Monzo, is meant to help combat the new issues homeless people face as society continues to become increasingly cashless. Every magazine comes with a unique QR code used for resale, which in turn allows a reader to pass the magazine they have purchased onto someone else, who can then use the QR code to pay for it again, with the money going to the original vendor that issue of the magazine was bought from.

• The Big Issue has partnered with digital bank Monzo to help Big Issue magazine vendors earn more by making every reader a potential seller. (Credit: The Big Issue)

With the help of celebrities such as Gary Lineker, Roger Daltrey, newsreader Alistair Stewart, and the West End cast of Wicked, up to 20 vendors began a trial launch of the system. This launch saw these celebrities purchase the magazine and help to sell them along to the next person.

The process is one meant to be repeated, a cycle to not only help to create a larger income for a vendor but to also allow the cycle of doing good for the community to continue.

“By turning every Big Issue buyer into a potential seller,” said Owen Lee, Chief Creative Officer at FCB Inferno, “we’ll activate a huge and untapped force for good with each vendor being the head of a chain of entrepreneurship. While all Big Issue magazines are made to do good, this means that every magazine can keep on doing good.”

• Aaron Dunn, Big Issue vendor with Gary Lineker, who is lending his support to the launch of Pay It Forward, a new system which turns The Big Issue into the world’s first resellable magazine. (Credit: The Big Issue)

Vendors who are part of Monzo’s trial launch of the initiative, which allows its customers to have a debit card and bank account without having to provide a permanent address the way other banks would, are already energised and reaping the benefits of the continuous cycling of resale.

“It is great because you get to earn extra money on top of the sales you make of the magazine,” Aaron Dunn, who sells The Big Issue in Covent Garden and got to work alongside Gary Lineker as part of Pay It Forward, said. “You never know how far it is going to go. One of my magazines has already been passed around over 20 times.”

The cycle of resale comes thanks to the knowledge that readers of The Big Issue and street papers like it are believers in the cause.

Lara McCullagh, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Big Issue, said: “The people who buy The Big Issue aren’t just readers, they’re often vocal champions of our mission. This fantastic new scheme, in partnership with Monzo, gives them a way to further support their local vendor by selling the magazine onto friends and family, and offers those same vendors the opportunity to grow their income and their customer base.”

The Big Issue is not the only street paper making strides towards keeping up with an increasingly digital global society. Seattle’s street paper Real Change, recently profiled in The Seattle Times’ Pacific NW Magazine, has made strides towards keeping up with the digital world, as they have started to use the payment app Venmo, which allows customers to pay using their phones in a society where so few people use cash.

The Big Issue Australia has also moved into the market of cashless payments, partnering with the app Beem It, which provides contactless payment services.