The system, created by creative agency FCB Inferno and powered by Monzo, means each magazine can be sold-on each time after its been read, doing good wherever it goes. Each magazine will come with its own scannable QR code, that allows readers to pass the magazine onto a friend, who can scan the code to pay for it again.
The scheme aims to help vulnerable magazine sellers to earn more and counter the issues the homeless are facing in an increasingly cashless society, say the publishers.
A host of celebrities including Gary Lineker, Roger Daltrey, Alistair Stewart and the cast of Wicked have bought copies of the magazine which are now in general circulation, with the special QR code editions starting to run from 1 April.
According to the publishers, Big Issue vendors sell on average one magazine for every hour worked and for each sale, they earn £1.25. Unlike begging, selling The Big Issue offers vulnerable people the means to earn a legitimate income, develop money management skills, build networks and ultimately reintegrate into mainstream society.
Pay It Forward levels the playing field, and offers magazine vendors the opportunity to earn extra money from the onward sale of the magazine, making the time they spend on their pitch more lucrative. The process: Buy it. Read it. Sell it on - can be repeated many times over, creating a virtuous cycle.
This revolutionisation of the Big Issue business model coincides with recent data showing that 4,677 people bedded down on the streets or in sheds and tents in 2018. A figure 165% higher than in 2010.
For the trial launch, Monzo has supported up to 20 sellers around the UK to open Monzo bank accounts. The money from all their sales via Pay It Forward will go straight into their Monzo accounts. Having a bank account and debit card will let them safely save and pay for goods and services in a way that many of us take for granted. This means that the project will also get vendors into the financial system, a crucial step on their journey away from the streets.
Unlike many other banks, Monzo doesn’t need customers to have a fixed address. People only need access to an address (like a friend’s house or a shelter) where Monzo can post their card, making it easier for homeless people to access bank accounts.
As well as making it possible for subsequent customers to buy the magazine without cash, this innovative model also gives the sellers far greater reach, and the Big Issue a unique way to spread its positive message even further. It also answers an environmental issue by ensuring each issue is well read before it gets recycled.
Aaron Dunn, 30, who sells The Big Issue in Covent Garden, said: "It is great because you get to earn extra money on top of the sales you make of the magazine. You never know how far it is going to go. One of my magazines has already been passed around over 20 times!"
Owen Lee, Chief Creative Officer FCB Inferno, said: “By turning every Big Issue buyer into a potential seller, 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.”
Lew Isaacs, Vulnerability Specialist at Monzo, said, “In the last 10 years, the number of cash payments has halved. And although paying by card is convenient, the falling use of cash has real consequences for people in poverty and organisations like The Big Issue.
“We hope Pay It Forward will help grow the earnings of Big Issue sellers when readers pass the magazine onto their friends. Our goal is to give more vulnerable people access to financial services, and help The Big Issue continue its crucial work."
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.”
Creative agency FCB Inferno first started working with The Big Issue in 2015, when they created and funded Change Please which provides former homeless people with a home to rent and a full London living wage, whilst they are trained up as baristas to run the coffee carts. The agency then partnered with The Big Issue and The Old Spike Roastery to build it into a business – and it’s so far taken over 36 people off the streets.