How do you react when you come across homeless people on the street? Homelessness is something that can happen to anyone, if they lose access to the means of earning a living. Last year’s attempt to drive the homeless out of a park in Taipei’s Wanhua District by hosing them down was very contentious. The practice was seen as inhumane and certainly not a solution to the problem of homelessness, but neither are welfare handouts or members of the public giving money to beggars viable long-term solutions. What disadvantaged people need is to be given a chance: a stable job with a legitimate income.
The Big Issue, which operates based on the social enterprise model — using an economic vehicle to carry out social participation and thereby achieve a social purpose — is a magazine providing exactly one such “chance” for homeless and socially disadvantaged people to earn a living for themselves.
The Big Issue Taiwan was granted a publishing license in November 2009 after its chairman and editor-in-chief Fines Lee met with The Big Issue founder John Bird, who gave Lee the go-ahead after Lee’s presentation. In the following months of preparation, re-editing and positioning, the first Taiwan edition was published in April 2010. As of today, 30 editions have been published. The magazine, with a circulation of 30,000, is turning a profit, mainly from advertising — and Lee revealed that he is considering expanding its vending locations to southern Taiwan in future.
Photo: Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times
The Big Issue — one of the UK’s leading social businesses — was initiated by The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and founded by Anita’s husband Gordon Roddick and social entrepreneur Bird in London in September 1991. The magazine is a member of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), and as of today, it is also produced and sold in different languages in about 10 countries, including Australia beginning in 1996, Japan in 2003, and also South Africa, South Korea, Namibia, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Taiwan.
To become a seller, one must be homeless or socially disadvantaged. All sellers undergo training and internship, and they wear ID badges, which include the seller’s photo and seller number. There are currently 60 sellers regularly shouting “The Big Issue! NT$100 a copy!” in the vicinity of the top 50 MRT stations in Taipei and New Taipei City. Initially, a seller gets 10 copies for free so he or she can earn NT$1,000 after selling all 10 copies. Then, the seller buys each copy for NT$50, which is half the cover price. Several sellers have already experienced an improvement in their lives and their psychological well-being. This echoes, “[Our work] will have kept us out of greater trouble,” written by UK-based Swiss writer Alain de Botton at the end of his book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.
Once a successful dot-comer, Lee has now shifted his career to the publishing industry and introduced the social enterprise model to Taiwan — successfully creating jobs for the homeless and the disadvantaged. The Big Issue Taiwan’s target readers are the “Y” generation, office workers of the Internet generation, MRT commuters, and others, most of whom are between the ages of 20 and 35. Given that the content is key to maintaining readership, the seven full-time staffers and dozens of contributing reporters from all over the world are constantly working hard not only to get paid, but also to produce a quality magazine to attract readers. Based on the idea of “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish,” as well as objective and unbiased reporting, the magazine aims at covering important global issues concerning past and future. The contents include global consciousness, business and technology, culture, design, and other comprehensive reporting and commentary focusing on a wide range of issues.
Photo: Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times
Lee said, “I have to be honest. Initially, I did not run the magazine for the purpose of helping the vulnerable … A social enterprise is a social enterprise. I simply hope to give the public an opportunity to be aware of the homeless issue. Other than that, we are no different from other businesses. The public might mistake a social enterprise for a non-profit organization (NPO) and start to impose high moral expectations on us. But honestly, a social enterprise is an enterprise, or otherwise, I would just run an NPO instead.”
The magazine is a fresh force in Taiwan’s printed media. Through the positive cycle of “helping those who help themselves,” the magazine helps homeless people earn a living, rebuild their confidence and self-esteem, reintegrate them into mainstream society, and thereby gain control of their lives. Lee also encourages sellers to accept any jobs that are better than selling magazines on the streets. US blind and deaf educator Helen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” The magazine exists as a catalyst to help the homeless overcome homelessness.
(Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times)
Photo: Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times
《大誌雜誌》中文版執行長兼總編輯李取中於二○○九年十一月親赴英國與《The Big Issue》創辦人約翰‧博德會面，而博德在李取中的簡報後，直接給一句「放手去做吧！」授權中文版發行。不到幾個月的籌備、重新編輯與定位，《大誌雜誌》二○一○年四月在台創刊，至今已發行至第三十期。李取中表示，雜誌目前發行量約三萬本，營運至今是獲利的，廣告為主要收入來源，並期待未來能將販售點擴及南台灣。
《The Big Issue》是英國的「社會企業」先鋒之一，該雜誌是由美體小舖創辦人安妮塔‧羅迪克發想，並由其夫婿果登‧羅迪克與社會企業家博德於一九九一年九月創立於英國倫敦。這本雜誌是國際街報聯盟的一員，迄今已有超過十個國家取得授權，以各自語言獨立發行，例如澳洲於一九九六年開始發行、日本於二○○三年以日文創刊，其他國家還包括南非、南韓、奈米比亞、肯亞、馬拉威、衣索比亞、奈及利亞與台灣。
Hsinchu boasts the highest salaries of any city in Taiwan, thanks to the large concentration of technology talent clustered in the city. A woman who works at the Hsinchu Science Park published a revealing post on Monday in the WomenTalk chatroom on Professional Technology Temple (PTT), the nation’s largest online bulletin board. The post’s author wrote that six months ago she changed career and began working for a technology company at the park. During a recent conversation with a 30-something colleague who is 20 weeks pregnant, the colleague mentioned that she had intended to join a fairly well-known mothers’ group
Despite anonymous accusations and attacks online, the Rising Star Rhythmic Gymnastics Association, founded last year by Ukraine-born Taiwanese entertainer Larisa Bakurova, has won acclaim internationally. On May 2, Bakurova announced that athletes from her association won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at this year’s Gym Kids Eastern Cup. Bakurova, who is a former rhythmic gymnast, obtained her National ID Card to become a “new Taiwanese resident” in 2019. She said her association would continue to work hard, while expressing her appreciation for the public’s support while she faced the mud-slinging. Late last month, a netizen attacked her anonymously
Just get the landlord around to take a look at it (1/5) 請房東過來看就好了（一） B: You look like you could sleep for 1,000 years. A: Tell me about it. I’m exhausted. I’ve finally moved to the new apartment. Had I known it was going to be this much mental and physical effort… B: Well, it’s done now. You can sit back and relax in your new home. A: We still haven’t unpacked everything, the apartment looks like a bomb hit it, and we’re having a few teething problems. The whole thing is really testing my patience. B: You’re just tired. Your nerves are frayed. What kind of teething problems are you having? B: 你的樣子，看起來好像一躺下去就可以睡到天荒地老。 A:
Just get the landlord around to take a look at it (3/5) 請房東過來看就好了（三） A: We also have problems with the washing machine and the extractor fan in the bathroom. B: What’s wrong with the washing machine? A: We need to change the drain cover for the outlet pipe. The drain hole has bars going across it. I can’t get the pipe in, and if it isn’t a snug fit, it will flood the floor. B: And how about the extractor fan? What’s wrong with that? A: It doesn’t exist. A: 我們的洗衣機和浴室抽風機也有問題。 B: 洗衣機怎麼了？ A: 出水管用的排水孔，上面的蓋子必須換掉，因為排水孔的蓋子有金屬橫條，所以沒辦法把洗衣機排水管裝進去，如果沒有安裝密實，地板就會淹水。 B: 那抽風機是怎樣？是哪裡有問題？ A: 問題是沒有抽風機。 （Paul Cooper, Taipei Times／台北時報林俐凱譯） English 英文: Chinese 中文: