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First International Street Paper Vendor Week roaring success

 INSP 11 February 2019

Vendor parties, a Twitter storm and city mayors battling it out as vendors-for-a-day. The first-ever ‘Vendor Week’ put a smile on the faces of thousands of vendors and readers alike. Celebrated by INSP street papers across the world, the week championed the entrepreneurial spirit of vendors and challenged perceptions of poverty and homelessness. (877 Words) - By Danielle Batist

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First International Street Paper Vendor Week roaring success

Vendors of The Big Issue in Glasgow during the party as part of International Street Paper Vendor Week.Photo: Katrin Schmoll/INSP

INSP VW Banner

International Street Paper Vendor Week banner.


At any one time - across 40 countries - there are more than 14,000 vendors, selling 120 different street papers. They are inspiring people. To celebrate this, the International Network of Street Papers kicked off the world's first International Street Paper Vendor Week on Monday 4th February 2013.

The countdown of course started weeks before, with dozens of street paper editors getting their magazines ready and staff at the small INSP office in Glasgow working round the clock to prep local and global activities.

The world's media soon caught up, including The Economist, who wrote a great piece about the successes and challenges of the street paper model, concluding that whatever changes will arise: "...they will not replace the best bit of the old street-newspaper model: giving homeless people a way to help themselves."

Given the time difference, The Big Issue Australia was the first of INSP street papers to launch their activities They managed to get the Mayors of Adelaide and Melbourne to compete selling the street paper for a day.

Many street papers took to social media to inform their readers and fans of the fact that the first-ever Vendor Week had started.  Liceulice in Serbia changed their Facebook banner to feature a different vendor every day. Toledo Streets blogged about some of the reasons why "this week, we're making a big deal about celebrating our vendors".

On the other side of the world, The Big Issue South Africa started a campaign asking vendors to write down the answer to one question on a chalk board: 'What inspires you?'

And that was all even before the local events kicked off in INSP's home town of Glasgow, where Scottish International Development Minister Humza Yousaf joined the celebrations by selling The Big Issue for an afternoon. He wrote about his experiences on his website: "Today's experience has shown me what a massive difference it makes when people take the time to stop and chat with vendors."

And then there were the stunning Vendor Week campaign posters, designed pro bono by 999 Design in Glasgow. Street papers used them to introduce local vendors to their readers, and educate them about the global street paper network at the same time.

Many of the 6 million global street paper readers were informed about Vendor Week through a special INSP-produced feature about vendors worldwide, titled 'Meet the world's most inspiring work force'. Street papers published the piece, translated into 9 languages, including Portuguese, Japanese, Norwegian and Polish.

StreetWise in Chicago promoted a powerful essay, written by vendor William during their regular writing workshop in honour of Vendor Week.  "Selling street papers is very different from panhandling. Panhandlers have nothing to lose and can behave very badly with no real consequences. Street paper vendors will lose their vendor badges if they are reported breaking rules. The public should understand the difference and try to support and encourage the vendors they encounter on the street."

As more street papers started handing out goodie bags to their vendors, they helped each other brainstorm through Facebook on what to put in.

At INSP's headquarters in Scotland, a special event was hosted by its Patron the Lord Provost of Glasgow in the beautiful City Chambers. The event -made possible by these generous sponsors- featured the vendor photography exhibition 'Eyes of the Street', with speeches delivered by The Big Issue founder John Bird, vendors Joan and Peter and many of INSP's supporters.

Vendor Week also celebrated former street paper vendors, who have managed to move on and are now a great inspiration to others. Many readers read this fantastic success story of Erica Phillips, former Big Issue South Africa vendor. After selling the street paper for 14 years, Erica has started her own computer school in Cape Town.

Whats Up magazine in St. Louis, USA gave vendors amazing 'Dignity v. Poverty' campaign T-shirts from our last global campaign.

Day 5 saw INSP make a presentation at the Brand Perfect conference in New York. Battling 'thundersnow' blizzards of historic proportions, INSP's Network Services Manager Maree Aldam was at the event to present delegates with the question: 'How do we make the street paper model future-proof?' A hugely important question affecting thousands of future vendors, so we're very grateful to Brand Perfect for inviting us to be the conference case study.

In Portugal, a new training programme for vendors of street paper CAIS was launched in honour of Vendor Week. The CAIS Association launched the Sales Techniques Training with the support of 10 volunteer trainers, gathered by the volunteer network MySocialProject. The project will benefit over 78 vendors and will run over the next 4 months. The programme aims to increase vendors' social and professional skills.

And as vendors and readers continued to spread the word via the Twitter hashtag #INSPiringpeople, the world's first-ever International Street Paper Vendor Week came to a close. Street papers and vendors have INSPired tens of thousands of people everywhere and shown them how street paper model works to inspire change.

We hope the word on the street will keep spreading and that you will keep on celebrating your vendors. Stop for a chat, get to know their names and buy your regular copy, so that tens of thousands more street paper vendors can change their lives.

Find out more in the Vendor Week Storify

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