The Big Issue Foundation
T 018 6524 7070
Oxford is a city of international eminence; renowned for its iconic architecture, rich heritage and history, academic calibre, scientific research and entrepreneurial activity. Within this milieu vendors are an established feature in their red tabards, and many have long-term, loyal customers with whom they have developed friendly relations.
Our office is situated about a 15 minute walk away from the city centre, just off the Cowley Road, which has a reputation for being the most ethnically and economically diverse area in Oxford.
All vendors receive sale training, focusing particularly on good customer service skills, prompting them to consider how they attract and retain customers and so maximise their sales. Particularly in view of the fact that begging is a significant problem in Oxford, we are concentrating on ensuring that all new vendors are fully conversant with – and comprehend – our vendor agreement and that all vendors understand the importance of adhering to this so as to uphold and promote The Big Issue philosophy and reputation.
Our work is highly relational and, having a relatively small clientele, we are able to work intensely and holistically with vendors, supporting them to access the services and resources they require to meet their needs and fulfil their aspirations.
We have been over the last few years but now we get funding through the general Grant Assistance meeting one or more of the aims of the Oxford Community Strategy. We work closely with a number of local agencies that provide services on a range of issues pertinent to vendors’ needs, such as Crisis Skylight, Thames Valley Police and Luther Street Medical Centre. Twice a month we join the local outreach team to conduct early morning surveys of rough sleepers in the city. This activity provides us with an opportunity to promote The Big Issue as a legitimate way for the homeless to earn an income and helps us to sustain collaborative, joined-up working practice.
Every year we run a number of themed weeks, focusing respectively on health, aspirations and sales & money. Our recent Sales & Money week saw the launch of a new Vendor of the Month award which serves to recognise and reward the progress vendors have made towards social and financial inclusion over the preceding month, and is awarded on the basis of good conduct, attitude and commitment, efforts to improve sales, positive public feedback and progress made towards personal goals. We are always keen to hear encouraging words from the public so please get in touch with your suggestions as to who should receive the next award!
All vendors who have passed an initial probationary period with us are eligible to apply to the Vendor Support Fund, which provides small grants to vendors to improve their financial management, enhance their employability skills or better engage with their local community. Previous examples of approved grants in Oxford include a place for a vendor on an evening class in ‘Practical Philosophy’; a solar panel to generate electricity for a vendor who lives on a boat; a contribution to a power-assisted bicycle for a vendor with a chronic lung condition; and an annual fishing rod licence for a vendor who finds angling therapeutic!
Through our work, we have helped vendors to access bank accounts, get registered with doctors, enter alternative employment, get re-housed and so much more. Thank you to all our supporters for making this possible.
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