Aspirations Week 2012 Report

What is Aspirations Week?

Vendor Ollie at Crisis Skylight Exhibition, BirminghamAspirations Week delivers a week of activities focused on increasing an aspirational culture amongst the Big Issue vendors. Activities throughout the week aim to enable Big Issue vendors to set goals for themselves and plan ways to achieve them. The week also focuses on increasing long-term thinking and planning by partnering with businesses and charities that provide advice sessions and workshops on issues relating to employment, accommodation and healthy living, amongst others.

From the moment a potential vendor walks through our doors, we aim to include them in our strong network of support and guidance. With tall hurdles to overcome, Aspirations Week offers our vendors a chance to step away from vending for a moment and focus on what they want out of life. This week is directly linked to our Off the Street into Life programme but the very nature of an individual’s aspirations means it is weaved throughout our work. 


The main themes which are covered during Aspirations Week are Paid work, Voluntary work, Work placements and training: Employability skills; Education; Hobbies; Well-being; and Social and family networks.


During Aspirations Week, staff and volunteers work incredibly hard to motivate our vendors to set goals for themselves that are personally beneficial. In addition to this, the activities on offer are developed specifically for Aspirations Week, and are tailored to setting goals, planning how to achieve them, and thinking about future learning and development opportunities.

Examples of such activities held are basic skills training; CV writing workshops; museum, art gallery and theatre trips; sales target sessions, creative writing, art, music, opera, photography, poetry, cooking sessions; gardening and history talks; careers advice; gaining access to adult learning/college courses; and confidence workshops.

In particular, setting a sales target for each vendor during Aspirations Week is an important, and effective, method of engaging with vendors who ordinarily would not participate in professional development and learning activities. Feedback on the sales target sessions included boosts in confidence levels and in income, by improving the vendor’s sales technique and engagement with the public.

Book sale, PlymouthActivities which proved to be the most popular, and ultimately the most successful, amongst vendors were the museum, art gallery and theatre trips, the photography competitions and sales target sessions. A large proportion of vendors who participated in these seminars were able to set goals for themselves to work towards over the next year, and reported higher levels of confidence when working towards achieving their goals.


Vendors who participated in Aspirations week: 202+ vendors

Vendors who have reached their sales targets: 71 vendors

Vendors who have gained part-time or full time employment/ taken up volunteer opportunities: 39 vendors

Pursued an interest (visits to museums, music workshops etc): 111 vendors

Received advice in an advice sessions (career, financial, housing etc): 202 vendors

*Many more vendors engaged and enjoyed the presence of the sessions across our offices. The outcomes above relate to instances of very specific engagement. 

Case Studies:

Vendors Adrian and Dinah at Martineau Gardens, BirminghamBirmingham: Big Issue vendor Dinah Ashley, attending various activities and experiences – now writing eloquently on her blog:

Big Issue vendor, Dinah, writes about Aspirations Week with The Big Issue Foundation in her blog:

“As part of Aspirations Week the Big Issue Office offered a trip out to the Martineau Gardens in Edgbaston. It is designed to provide peaceful refreshment to people to increase their well-being. What a great idea!! On their website it says: "Our mission is to inspire people about the natural environment. We also provide volunteering opportunities in the garden and are a venue for educational activities." It was raining but it didn't spoil our joy and by the time it really poured down we were under a canopy having a hot drink. Some people pay good money to go out for a whole day and take a break and have a change, but it was simply a couple of hours spent in good company among natural things and, speaking for myself, it did me the world of good. I love being in natural surroundings, it's relaxing and inspiring. The nice thing is that I can go to that garden any time I want to and sit in the orchard or by the eucalyptus tree and absorb the serenity and ease away my stresses. You can too, if you need to. I will be taking my sketch pad and trying to create some piece of small art. After all, everything in nature is artistic, naturally!”

Bath: A Bath-based Big Issue vendor obtained full time employment as a chef, in Beaujolais restaurant in Queen Square.

Corporate Support

Vendor Josh participating in a gardening session at The Big Issue Foundation offices, NottinghamThe Big Issue Foundation gives special thanks to all the companies and volunteers who provided crucial advice in relation to finance, health and sales training. The support of these companies, and the vendor’s co-operation, has allowed The Big Issue Foundation to facilitate the sessions and to create opportunities for the vendors to work themselves out of poverty and homelessness. 

  • Bath, Rugby tickets
  • Bath, Cinema tickets
  • Bath, Theatre tickets
  • Bath, Torch
  • Bath, Itchy Feet
  • Bath, The Butter Pat
  • Bath, Thyme
  • Bath, Body Shop
  • Bath, Lush
  • Birmingham, Prêt A Manger
  • Birmingham, Private donor of health products
  • Bournemouth, Department Of Working Pensions
  • Bournemouth, Park Lodge
  • Bournemouth, Bournemouth Council
  • Bournemouth, BCVS
  • Bournemouth, Bournemouth SST
  • Bournemouth, NHS Blood Borne Virus Drop-In
  • Bournemouth, Bournemouth and Poole College
  • London, HCCT
  • London, Wanda Bernabae
  • London, Tate Modern
  • Nottingham, The Renewal Trust
  • Nottingham, Stonebridge City Farm
  • Nottingham, Sneinton Dale Allotments
  • Nottingham, Wedgewood House
  • Nottingham, The Co-op
  • Oxford, Crisis Skylight
  • Oxford, Oxford and Cherwell Valley College
  • Oxford, Ruskin College
  • Oxford, Emmaus
  • Oxford, Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action
  • Oxford, Barclays
  • Oxford, Insight Oxford
  • Plymouth, The Co-op

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