Our Story

INSP at 25: Our Story so far…

For more than 25 years, INSP has supported street paper social enterprises, like The Big Issue, to promote independent media and quality journalism that provide a source of income and support to people experiencing poverty.

INSP launched as a network in 1994 and NASNA (the North American Street Newspaper Association) launched in 1996. The two networks worked collaboratively until 2013, when INSP became the single global network for street papers on all six continents.

INSP was incorporated as a Scottish charity – The INSP Foundation – in Glasgow in 2005.

Since 1994, INSP has developed into an international network supporting street papers around the world to start-up, develop and scale. Our support includes editorial content, business development support, training, networking opportunities and being part of a global community for collaboration, innovation and exchange.

Today, from our Glasgow headquarters, our small dedicated staff team supports over 100 street papers in 35 countries, to empower over 20,500 vendors each year with content reaching over 4.6 million readers.

When the first street paper Street News launched in 1989 in New York, followed shortly by The Big Issue in the UK in 1991, it was in response to a pressing need as the number of homeless people had reached record levels, with limited support or opportunities available.

30 years on and street papers are more needed than ever. In many countries, the number of homeless people and people at risk of homelessness has increased, with reasons including the refugee crisis, funding cuts and housing shortages. At the same time, we are living in an increasingly polarised world with far-right political parties gaining ground. Independent, constructive media has never been so important, yet much of what exists is the opposite, with quality journalism under threat from budget cuts, “fake news” and media monopolies.

The Big Issue's first edition

Our values:

  • We are committed to challenging inequality and social exclusion.
  • We nurture creative and innovative approaches to social problems.
  • We respect different approaches and perspectives and are committed to learning from each other.
  • We are committed to socially responsible, transparent and ethical operations.
  • We use our resources wisely and seek pro bono support and partnerships to ensure low costs.
  • We respect our network of members and our board as their elected representatives.
  • We are committed to fair pay and we value our staff, interns and volunteers.


Maree Aldam, INSP Chief Executive, said:

“For 25 years, INSP has supported the street paper movement to help tens of thousands of homeless vendors each year to earn an income and improve their lives. During this time, we have seen social shifts and economic changes that pose challenges to our street papers but also mean that their work – supporting some of the most marginalised people in our towns and cities – has never been more important.

In recent years, the global recession and related political and economic changes have had a significant impact on urban poverty and homelessness, with issues such as economic migration, unemployment and housing shortages increasing the need for innovative solutions like street papers. Digital developments in media consumption and cashless payments are a challenge to street papers but with our support, street paper organisations are evolving and innovating.

Throughout our 25th anniversary year and in the years ahead, we will support our street papers to stay relevant in a changing world. We will continue to provide editorial content, business development support and training to our street papers, and we will also increasingly support our network to collaborate at different levels – locally, regionally and internationally – exploring new ways to innovate and increase the social impact of street papers.

As well as being a milestone for INSP, 2019 sees a number of our members celebrate landmark anniversaries, and we want to share our congratulations with them on their longevity and continuing inspirational work.”


25 Years of INSP:

#INSP25: INSP celebrates a quarter of a century with street paper members

INSP has been celebrating its 25th anniversary all year with events and projects, and sharing stories and memories. INSP spoke to members of the network also celebrating the quarter of a century milestone in 2019 about what has changed and what is to come.

Delegates populate an interactive timeline spanning INSP's 25 years. [Credit: Sebastian Sellhorst]

#INSP25: In conversation with INSP co-founder Mel Young and current INSP chair Fay Selvan

On the first day of this year’s Global Street Paper Summit, current INSP chair Fay Selvan was joined in conversation by INSP co-founder, first ever chair, former honorary president, and co-founder of the Homeless World Cup, Mel Young, for a wide-ranging discussion about the past, present and future of the street paper movement as INSP turns 25.

#INSP25: People’s Cover Award

We ran a public vote for the People’s Cover Award to celebrate our 25th anniversary, asking the public to choose their favourite street paper cover from 25 of the most popular covers of recent years. Find out who was chosen as the winner.

You can read more stories about 25 years of INSP here.

How can you help?

If you’d like to support INSP and our work with street papers and the thousands of homeless people that they help, you can make a one-off or regular donation here.