19 December 2014

Our vendors: Beiene Berhane - Surprise, Switzerland


“It was only after coming here that I learnt the true meaning of neighbourly love,” says Beiene Berhane, who, at 75 years old, is the oldest of the Surprise street paper vendors in Zurich, Switzerland.

Beiene is also the first African to sell Surprise. A political refugee from Eritrea, he ended up homeless after fleeing his country but has found a new purpose, and family, selling street papers.

Beiene Berhane sells Surprise in Zurich.
“I come from Eritrea, and only poor people work on the streets there so it is not seen as a good thing,” he explains.

“But then I saw how hard the Swiss work, in whatever job they have, and that motivated me. Today I am very proud that I can sell Surprise.”

Even though his German is limited, Beiene has been able to form relationships with his regular customers, including one woman who has bought Surprise from him for the last ten years.

“I always try and chat to people, although I only speak a little German," says the vendor.

"Somehow, you always understand each other, even if sometimes you have to speak with your hands. A lot of people here also speak Italian. Eritrea was an Italian colony, so I can speak the language.

“In the evening when I have finished selling, I enjoy watching RSI, a Swiss TV channel in Italian. This means I can learn more about where I now live.”

Born in 1939,  Beiene experienced many political upheavals while living in Eritrea, including a 30-year war with neighbouring country Ethiopia.

“I cannot speak about the precise circumstances of my escape from Eritrea; I have painful memories of it,” he says.

“I have hardly any contact with my family any more. I am the second youngest of ten children; many of my siblings are dead. I have six children myself, but I only speak to one son now and then.”

But for Beiene, his new Swiss friends have become his second family.

“They celebrate my birthday with me, look after me when I am unwell, and when I had nowhere to live they took me in,” he says with a smile.

“The Swiss are so friendly. I am often given a coffee or a sandwich - by someone I don't know! That would never happen at home.

“Nevertheless, home is like your mother, you can never forget her. I hope that the situation in Eritrea will calm down and that the people there will take Switzerland as an example.”

Did you know INSP works with over 120 street papers around the world? You can help celebrate thousands of vendors, like Beiene, by signing up to our Thunderclap social media campaign during #VendorWeek 2015.

Thousands of Scots buy Christmas dinners for the homeless

 By Laura Smith

An appeal to buy Christmas dinner for homeless people in Scotland has raised enough money to feed them for a whole year.

Social Bite, an independent chain of sandwich shops, launched a £5 deal through itison.com on Tuesday, 16 December which allows people to buy Christmas dinner for homeless people in Edinburgh and Glasgow, in return for a free hot drink in January.

The social enterprise, which also employs formerly homeless people, originally aimed to serve 400 dinners at one of its Glasgow shops on 24 December and another 400 meals in Edinburgh on Christmas Day.

But their festive campaign has been overwhelmed with support and, to date, over 26,000 donations have been made - raising close to £130,000.

Co-founder Josh Littlejohn, 29, said the whole team are stunned by the response their Christmas dinner drive has received. He adds that they smashed their original target of 800 meals within two hours of the deal going live.

“It’s amazing; this incredible Christmas spirit has blown us all away," said Josh.

"We give away free food to the homeless throughout the year and employ people from homeless backgrounds, so we're quite ingrained in that community. We quickly realised there was going to be a fair number of people without anywhere to go on Christmas Day."

The surplus donations will be funnelled into Social Bite's suspended meal scheme, which allows customers to buy a hot meal and drink for homeless people to collect from their local shop, all year round.

With over 26,200 meals now pre-paid for by the public, Social Bite can now comfortably run their suspended meal scheme throughout 2015.

Good will and good food for good causes

Since launching in Edinburgh two years ago, the socially conscious sandwich and coffee chain has established four shops across the Scottish capital and in Glasgow.

In the process, it quickly captured both the appetites and hearts of locals. So much so that the recent outpouring of goodwill and support has extended far beyond Christmas dinners.

“So many people have got in touch asking if they can volunteer on Christmas Day," added Josh.

"Loads of people have said they're not going to buy Christmas cards this year or get a Christmas tree, and will donate the money to this instead."


Social Bite customers and supporters have also offered to drop in Christmas presents for the homeless people visiting the shops over the festive period, and have been sending cash donations in Christmas cards.

Social Bite also donates 100 per cent of its profits to charity and much of its workforce - currently 14 people - has experienced homelessness.

“For me that's the coolest thing about our suspended food and coffee scheme," added Josh.

"We employ about 14 people from homeless backgrounds and we met a fair few of them because they came in for free food, so the free food is really the first step on that journey.


"We get to know them and further down the line we try to offer some of them a part time job, and later full time job. We're trying to break the cycle of homeless rather than just give out free meals."

Brian Rogers, who is formerly homeless and works in one of Social Bite's Glasgow shops, will help to serve around 400 dinners on Christmas Eve.

"This is a very special opportunity for the homeless in Scotland," he said.

"This could be the only meal they get so it's amazing that Social Bite has put their hands out to help. This will make the homeless feel welcome, fed and more hopeful for the future."

Brian started working as a kitchen porter at Social Bite earlier this year, ending a four-year streak of unemployment, alcohol addiction, prison time and periods of homelessness.

"It's an amazing opportunity. I never thought I’d get a job and have money," he added.

"I go to AA meetings every week now and am looking forward to building a new life for myself, thanks to Social Bite.

"The suspended meal scheme is brilliant. I wish there'd been something like this when I was homeless."

18 December 2014

Revolutionise: 15 tips for 2015

By Zoe Greenfield

Earlier this month, I attended the Revolutionise Annual Lectures in London. The second event of its kind, it saw 18 speakers share their philanthropy and leadership insight and expertise. The Revolutionise team compiled a Storify of delegate tweets which captures many of the themes and conversations from the day. I’ve gathered some personal reflections in my 15 for 2015 list:

1.    Be ambitious

B.H.A.G it! What is your ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’? Whatever your mission (to help more children, save more lives, find a cure faster), be ambitious! 

"A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines." - Collins and Porras

2.    Challenge yourself

3.    Never miss an opportunity

Be ahead. Be bold. Be positive. Be innovative.

4.    Science is cool

In his keynote address, Phil Barden of Decode Marketing explained how we can take the principles of science and leverage them in our communications. Science can help us to understand decision-making and what drives us, as shown in the Decode Goal Model (pictured).

Interested in finding out more?  To receive regular updates on behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience and their implications for marketing and communications, sign up to Decode Marketing’s Science Update.

Some light reading for the Christmas holidays:
-    Decoded: The Science Behind What We Buy by Phil Barden
-    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
-    Lots of talk about the Chimp! I’ll be trying to tame mine by reading The Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steve Peters

5.    Tangibility

Did you know that autopilot is the preferred state of the brain? And, autopilot responds to rewards that are tangible. So if the brain responds to tangible reward, how tangible is your cause?

A recent high-impact example of tangible cause-fundraising in the UK is The Tower of London Remembers [pictured left]. This week, Social Bite (an Edinburgh and Glasgow based social business) is running a simple but highly effective campaign: £5 buys Christmas dinner for a person who is homeless. 22,000 bought and counting…

6.    Why?

As organisations, our ‘Why?’ is our mission. But donors have a ‘Why?’ too. We need to give people an opportunity to connect their values with action. This is the point where the two ‘Whys?’ meet.

7.    Tie money to the mission

We need to be better at linking our fundraising to the cause.


8.    Don’t apologise

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society spoke passionately about fundraising’s core role within any organisation but called for a change in attitude (both internally and externally). Why is it hidden down a list? Or not even mentioned at all! Why aren't we telling people how much we need to raise instead of being apologetic about it? Without the money we couldn't do anything!

9.    Tackling some of the myths

People are right to be suspicious and to ask questions. We should want donors who are engaged enough to ask us challenging questions!

I recently started reading The Great Charity Scandal and was filled with rage. Not at the accusations made against charities but the potential damage such an attack will have on public perception of charity and consequently the amount of money people give to good causes.

Case in point: overheads. Hughes suggests that it is disingenuous to say ‘100% goes to the cause’. We should be worried about such claims; it is simply not possible to run an organisation with zero overheads.

10.    Giving: more than money

Tony Elischer declared the traditional and somewhat narrow view of giving redundant. The idea that the only ways to give are time, money and goods needs to be expanded to include voice, influence and lifestyle change.
We also need to consider reciprocity in giving, said Ken Burnett. As organisations we need to give the right things to our donors (customer services, stories) to make them want to continue their support and more importantly, spread the word.

11.    Make noise




12.    Be disruptive

It is hard to get noticed! You have to be different to grab attention, said Richard Taylor of CRUK who highlighted a shock campaign by the Pillion Trust #FuckthePoor (watch the video here) to show the lengths to which some organisations have gone to get noticed. In a similar way, we must embrace new and innovative ways of fundraising such as crowdfunding and digital.




13.    It’s OK to be angry.

Iain MacAndrew of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust talked about bringing the anger back into the organization through their 50th Anniversary ‘No Party’ campaign. After all, why should they celebrate their 50th anniversary when so many of their client group die long before that?



14.    Profit with purpose

There is a constant rumbling about the need for charities to be, or act, more corporate. But, if that were true, why are companies trying to be more like us? Business should serve society too: “Winning alone is not enough, it's about winning with purpose.” Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever.

Jacob Rolin asked why we as a sector define ourselves as something we are not and advocates a more positive definition: “Be prepared to lead the change... deliver a purpose.”

A phrase which came up many times throughout the day: profit-with-purpose. Charities shouldn’t shy away from talking in terms of profit (money left over after your expenditure) because it is this money which allows us to make change.  

15.    Be social

Times change. We need to embrace all things digital. Happy (digital) Christmas! Click here to watch a short video.

**All of the ideas, images and links came from the #AnnualLectures. I have tried to give credit where possible but after a 4am start and 15 pages of notes, my mind was abuzz and this was the most sense I could make of my notes after a day of frantic note-taking and talks jam-packed with ideas and insight. Thank you to all of the speakers! See you in 2015!**

17 December 2014

Happy 5th anniversary to Philadelphia street paper One Step Away

A street paper produced by homeless people and sold on the streets of Philadelphia has marked its five year anniversary by celebrating the real stars of the show: its vendors.

Since launching on 15 December 2009, roughly 650,000 copies of One Step Away have been sold by more than 1,700 homeless and unemployed people across the city.


Around 85 percent of One Step Away's vendors rely on the paper for employment. They sell the publication for $1, keep 75 cents of each paper for themselves, and give 25 cents back to the paper to help cover printing costs for the next edition.

One Step Away vendor Jarred.
To celebrate its five-year milestone, One Step Away ran a special edition which took a trip down memory lane to reflect on some of the paper's highlights in the years since its inception.

The editorial team also spoke to several One Step Away vendors to find out what selling the street paper meant to them.

One Step Away vendor Jocelyn.

"One Step Away made a difference in my life because One Step Away made me realise that anybody can be one step away from being homeless," said vendor Jocelyn.

"I love working for One Step Away because we are changing people's lives each and every day and also helping their needs."

One Step Away vendor Ram.

For vendor Jarred, One step Away has been "the come up" in his life. His colleague Ram said that selling a street paper has given him "self-empowerment" and vendor Jayden added that One Step Away has given him "the chance to make a change in my life."

For vendor Daniel, his job at the grassroots non-profit has given him a huge hand up in life too.

"One Step Away keeps me from begging in the street," he said. "It employs me when no one else will give me a chance."

One Step Away vendor Daniel.
So a big congratulations to the staff, writers and vendors of One Step Away on the milestone, and here's to five more years of quality journalism that is helping to change lives straight from the streets of Philadelphia.

You can help celebrate street paper vendors like Jocelyn, Jarred, Ram, Jayden and Daniel around the world by signing up for INSP's Thunderclap during #VendorWeek 2015.

See below for more details.

12 December 2014

Our vendors: Richard Mills - The Big Issue UK, Gloucester

"I love selling the Big Issue but I don't think people realise what a hard job it is," says 50-year-old Richard Mills, who sells The Big Issue in Gloucester, England.

Former rockin' roadie turned Big Issue vendor Richard Mills.
Before selling a street paper, Richard was a roadie and guitar technician for 15 years, travelling the world and working on tour with big name rock stars like the Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia.

"I used to follow bands around on tour and a friend of mine had a company doing theatre work in Cambridge, unloading the trucks and fixing up big arenas for gigs," he recalls.

"This led me into doing guitar technician work, and I worked on a self-employed basis for about 15 years. I was working with bands and performers like Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Paul Young."

Richard became homeless about two and a half years ago after losing work.

Following a spell of sleeping on the streets and camping in tents, he finally found a place to stay thanks, he says, to "a man from round the corner, who worked at an estate agents, asked if I wanted to do a bit of flat sitting for him. And since then, I've been in a flat. It was a top offer."

Richard now sells The Big Issue in his hometown. "I used to buy the Big Issue back when it first started, when it was a broadsheet and cost about 50p," he says.

"A friend of mine suggested I try selling it, when I was in a night shelter about two and a half years ago."

While being outdoors in all weather often proves to be a tough gig, Richard says it's his customers who often keep him motivated. It turns out The Big Issue seller has become an inspiration to the community too.

"Selling the Big Issue is one of the hardest jobs I've ever had to do, so I wouldn't mind getting an easier one," he says.

"But then, a woman came up to me the other day, when I was feeling really depressed, and said, 'I see you out in all weathers - You're a real source of inspiration to me.'"

See below for how you can help celebrate street paper vendors like Richard around the world by signing up for INSP's Thunderclap during #VendorWeek 2015.