Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Book - Coming up from the streets

Tessa Swithinbank
Coming up from the streets: the story of the big issue
Earthscan Publications, 2001, 052 SWI

Established in 1992, "
The Big Issue" magazine has become a hugely successful social enterprise that now operates on four continents and provides thousands of homeless and vulnerable people with the opportunity to achieve financial independence and self-reliance for themselves.

Not simply a highly readable celebration of "The Big Issue" project, in Comings up from the streets Tessa Swithinbank provides us with a detailed case study of an ambitious social enterprise. "The Big Issue", which Swithinbank joined as international editor in 1992, was a steep learning curve for all involved. Frankly and objectively guiding us through this journey, Swithinbank discusses the great many challenges as well as opportunities involved in the setting up and developing of a social enterprise, and as such Coming up from the streets offers practical help and insights to NGOs and governments involved with the homeless, or to those businesses wishing to set up enterprises for the common good.

As part of it's manifesto challenge "
encouraging enterprise" the RSA has devoted significant attention to the emerging social enterprise industry, including the hosting of lectures such as "Social Enterprise: here to stay?" which took place earlier this year. However in the August 2006 edition of the RSA journal, an interview with John Bird, co-founder and editor-in-chief of "The Big Issue", questions why homelessness is still an area under represented by social enterprise. Bird argues that the current charity based approach to dealing with homelessness only feeds the physical reliance and sense of psychological dependency experienced by homeless people. From this perspective the role of "The Big Issue", the example it sets, and what can be learnt from the evidence and analysis of accounts such as Coming up from the streets - become hugely valuable.