The Team With Zwkiswa and No-Senior

The Team With No-Senior and Zwkiswa

Fostering Community Amongst Vendors

Beyond the working relationship with us as co-researchers, the vendors bonded with one another. Some of the vendors knew each other outside of work, but we observed that many of the vendors had never met each other before. We learned that while vendors come into The Big Issue offices periodically to buy magazines or attend trainings there is not much of a community between them.  Through the ice breakers they participated in, the vendors got to learn things about each other they never knew before. When we discussed where everyone’s homes were, some vendors were shocked to learn that they were neighbors. These house visits provided the vendors with the opportunity to begin sharing their lives with a larger group. During which, we saw that a solid sense of community had been formed between the vendors. They were able to take pictures capturing the reality that they face every day. Fikiswa, one of the vendor mentors, mentioned “we came to see everyone’s home to see if they were in a bad place. If they were, we wanted to know so that we could help them. We support each other.” Our liaison, Trudy Vlok the managing director of The Big Issue, was amazed by how much the vendors had connected through this project. Before the activities, the vendors would say little to each other, but now they talk, laugh, and ask how each vendor’s week has been, proving that a community space had been created between them.

Fikiswa Explains Photo Analysis

Fikiswa Explains Photo Analysis

Making the Vendor-run Profile Program Sustainable

The primary goal of this project was to ensure that the vendor run profile program would be effective and sustainable. To accomplish this goal we created a vendor mentor group to assist vendors in providing biographical information and visuals for The Big Issue’s online marketplace. Our mentor group consisted of 4 vendors — Themba, Xolani, Lavista, and Fikiswa — who all showed enthusiasm for the project, could help translate for the other vendors, had attended all our meetings, and had an approachable personality. They each had personal strengths to bring to the project. Xolani and Themba would be the “ambassador” spokesmen for the program, Lavista would connect with the younger vendors, and Fikiswa would be the “mama mentor” of the group.


Nadjia Gives Themba Pointers

Nadjia Gives Themba Pointers

Experimenting with New Technological Skills

A goal of The Big Issue was for the vendors to be able to upload and update their profile pages on their own due to the large number of vendors at The Big Issue and the minimal Big Issue staff. We tested how well the vendors knew how to use computers and the internet to inform The Big Issue if this was possible. However due to the large number of vendors, independent uploading proved to be unrealistic.

Lavista's First Blog Post

Lavista’s First Blog Post

Blog Posts

Blog posts were created for our mentors and we taught them how to type out a post. This proved to be challenging due to the lack of experience the mentors had working with computers. Xolani, Themba, and Lavista struggled with figuring out how to move the mouse and click to select. They worked hard to type a few sentences about themselves; however through this activity we realized that a lot more time would need to be spent for vendors to be able to update and upload content on their own.

How-To Guides

To promote program sustainability, our team created how-to guides with the input of our vendor mentor group that the mentors and Big Issue staff could use to help with training of the vendors. The goal is for the vendors to eventually be responsible for bringing in and uploading their own photos and weekly updates of what has occurred in their lives most recently. We made several guides for how to use cameras, the internet, and how to properly type on a keyboard along with keyboard shortcuts. We compiled these guides into a “Mentor Training How-To Guide” for The Big Issue and also created a proposed mentor program instruction guide for The Big Issue staff.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts


We realized that it would be helpful to create a how to guide use a computer keyboard guide and a simple how-to use the internet guide. These guides were given to The Big Issue along with challenges they may run into when working with the vendors due to computer illiteracy. Although we would not be continuing using computers with the mentors, we felt that the keyboard and internet how-to would be helpful for the technology team that will provide computer trainings for the vendors in the future.

How To Take A Picture

How To Take A Picture

How-To Use a Camera

The camera how-to went through all the steps of using a camera in order to take a picture; starting with taking the lens cap off and ending with pressing the “play” button to review the picture that had just been taken. The mentors grasped how to use the camera and were able to clearly teach it back to us by following the steps in the guide.

A Worksheet Made For An Easier Process

A Worksheet Made For An Easier Process

 Mentor Training How-To Guide

A very big accomplishment for us was the creation of a Mentor Training Guide. We compiled all How-To Guides with suggestions from our pilot mentor group into a succinct guide aimed prepare the mentors for their new roles. This document is meant  aid in the training of new vendor mentors, either by veteran mentors or Big Issue staff.

Taking a Different Approach: Worksheets

Due to the challenge the vendors had with typing and updating the blog posts, we decided to take away the aspect of the computer and bring it back to pen and paper. Worksheets were created with the input of the mentor group to provide the essential profile information that will go on the vendor webpages. All vendors will fill out these worksheets with the help of mentors to get their page running and begin understanding the idea of the online marketplace. The mentors had great success with filling in this worksheet with the other seven vendors, suggesting that this was a sustainable option.

The Mentors Prepare To Run The Meetings

The Mentors Prepare To Run The Meetings

Vendor Mentors Lead the Group

After the meetings with the mentors and receiving feedback on the training resources, it was time for the mentors to take over and teach what they had learned to the bigger vendor group. Before we left we wanted to make sure that the mentors could take charge and work one on one with other vendors to gather biographical information for their online profiles and help them take pictures for their web-pages. Fikiswa and Xolani worked together on the worksheets while Lavista and Themba took charge of the camera activity, producing very successful results. All the vendors listened and respected the words of the mentors and cooperated with all the activities while having a fun time. As we watched the mentors own the project, we realized that this vendor run profile program has a lot of promise.

Jakoef's Vendor Magazine

Jakoef’s Vendor Magazine

The Big Issue: Vendor Edition!

As a farewell, “Vendor Magazines” were created for each vendor. These magazines included written biographies using the information obtained from the worksheets the mentors completed with the vendors. Along with the bios, photos they had taken throughout the project were incorporated. This was a great way to end as it showed the success of the worksheets and showcased all of the effort the vendors had put into the project.

Proposed Vendor Mentor Program

In order to convey our visions for the continuation of the mentor program, we created a document that outlined a proposed program structure. This document also provided The Big Issue with observations from the pilot mentor program and the benefits this program could bring to The Big Issue.

If you would like to learn more about any of the documents, they are all located in  Resource Library