3. Getting Techie

Day: Tuesday, October 28, 2014


This was our first meeting with all parties involved in the creation of the new, digital platform to the sale of The Big Issue. We met with members of Gravity Ideas, a small idea company based out of Cape Town, as well as with a marketing team, our advisors, and Trudy. This was an extremely important meeting for us as this meeting was held in order to finalize many of the aspects of our project, including both logistics and final outcomes. This was also important because this was the first time that Steve and Scott were able to give input into the project on a first-person basis with the project sponsor.

Cast of Characters

  • Big Issue
    • Trudy Vlok – Managing Director of The Big Issue
    • AndyThe Big Issue Intern/Translator
  • Gravity Ideas
    • Sebastian “Seb” – Founding Partner/Director of Gravity Ideas
    • David – Founding Partner/Director of Gravity Ideas
  • Nano Social Team
  • Other
    • Chelsea Clark-James – American volunteer with background in street papers, film, and production
  • WPI Advisors
    • Scott
    • Steve


The Big Issue South Africa Offices


Our team exited the taxi in front of The Big Issue 15 minutes before our meeting with liaison Trudy Vlock and the media team. We expected the meeting to be our team, Trudy, maybe 2-3 web developers, then of course Scott and Steve. However as we walked into the conference room our mouths dropped when we saw 14 chairs around the conference table. We did not expect to be meeting with that many people. We took our seats and watched the door as we waited to see who would walk through.

We began by going around and introducing ourselves. David and Sebastian, from Gravity Ideas, went first. Neelan and Harry then introduced themselves as being from the digital and marketing agency. Then Scott and Steve explained the history of CTPC and how this project came about. Our team introduced ourselves; said our names and majors and what part of the project we would be helping with, which was getting to know the vendors and getting their stories onto the website platform . And then Chelsea went and explained that she was volunteering her time to help with this project in any way she could. Then finally Andy introduced himself as an intern of The Big Issue who will assist us in translating, bonding with the vendors, and hopefully traveling with us to visit the vendors in their homes. Andy is going to be a vital aspect to our project and help us form the relationships with the vendors that we need. There was another chair for Carl, the website developer but he unfortunately did not show up for the meeting.

We then delved into the website platform that our team had drawn up. The one thing we had forgotten to add was an area for the buyer to actually purchase the magazine, however we had not discussed that with Trudy. Neelan and Harry enjoyed the third option we had. We had designed it for a mobile platform because one thing flowed after the other. They also said this would allow for user friendlier purchasing. However, Trudy enjoys the ideas that we had for content, which our team was really happy about. For the website we would have a picture of the vendor and basic information under it; such as name, vendor number, where their pitch is, etc. We would also have an intro video, followed by a longer bio. And what the vendors would be updating themselves is the weekly updates and photo gallery at the bottom of the page.

When it came time to discussing the purchasing of the magazine, Trudy really wanted the purchaser to receive a digital thank you from the vendor after they had purchased the magazine. The challenge with that is that she does not want it to be a typical automated response, Trudy wants it to be personal. This thank you message would be built into the website after the purchase button has been pressed. Another element that Neelan and Harry wanted included in this purchasing button is that it would link to Facebook or Twitter and other social media websites, and inform the purchasers’ friends that they bought The Big Issue from this vendor. That way The Big Issue could get spread more and people will start talking about the vendors and who they are through social media. Along the lines of creating an online space for the vendors, Neelan suggested creating “LinkedIn” profiles for all of the vendors in order to show customers that these are professional workers.

Half way through the meeting we began discussing how the vendors would edit and add on to the pages themselves, since we want to teach them to be computer literate and be able to use a computer in order to upload the content they get. An idea was to have Neelan and Harry host workshops and in order to teach vendors how to use the equipment. This demonstrated not to be the best idea based on a workshop David and Seb had put on. When David was attempting to teach the vendors how to use “SnapScan” they just were not getting it. However, he started teaching one vendor how to use it and he understood it. After, that vendor went and taught how to use it to the others in Xhosa and they immediately got it. This sparked an idea in Scott to have vendor groups work together to create content. They would have groups and discuss what they would be posting and how they would post it. This is great to have vendor to vendor interaction and bounce ideas off one another in a comfortable way.

Trudy was concerned about monitoring the content that the vendors put online. She did not want them to take a picture of their child in the dirt or other space and manipulate the public into feeling bad for them so they buy more magazines. The content is meant to show how they see themselves advancing, what brings them happiness, or what interests them. A general idea that seemed to agree among everyone was that the vendors would continuously add content to a template and that content would be edited by a member of The Big Issue to make sure the vendors were being considerate in what they were putting up.

Throughout the entire meeting Andy had a great insight into the reaction the vendors will have to many of the topics we had discussed. His first concern was the age difference of the vendors when it came to teaching them about technology. The younger vendors would pick it up faster, but it would be disrespectful for them to teach what they knew to the elders. So he enjoyed the idea of creating vendor mentors. Many of which would come out of the twelve we are using for the pilot of this program. Unfortunately Andy did not agree with the idea of giving the vendors cameras. He mentioned that many of them will lose them then come back expecting us to have more to give them. If we give something once, they will expect a continuous amount of it. We all agreed with this point and gave the vendors the challenge of figuring out how they would take pictures themselves. Andy said that if the vendors are passionate about this and want to add content to their pages they will find a way to do so.

The meeting ended on a great note and everyone seemed to be on the same page regarding content and what the webpage would entail. After most of the others had left Trudy, Chelsea, and our team stayed to discuss our meeting on Thursday with all of the vendors. We were concerned that meeting twice a week with the vendors wasn’t enough time, but Trudy told us that we could work every day for two hours with different groups of vendors, we just had to coordinate it with them. This is exactly what we wanted to hear, because this way we could get more content in a shorter amount of time. That way we could focus more on filming at their pitches or going with them to their homes. Trudy and Chelsea reassured us that the vendors were very open and excited to share their stories with us, and if there was ever any topic they did not want to discuss, they wouldn’t. We ended with talking about a 5 minute pilot for the vendor webpage that would include Trudy discussing what it actually is, and highlighting the vendors as well. The plan is for this to go viral so that people begin buying the magazines from these vendor web-pages.

With this great meeting, clarification and plans from Trudy buzzing in our heads, we left The Big Issue extremely excited to just start working with the vendors and learning who they are. We were slightly disappointed that we weren’t working more on creating the website and just providing content, but we were glad because this gives us more time to just spend with the vendors and get to know who they are.


Ari: This meeting was a lot more than I thought it would be. I truly thought it would be like a PQP meeting, but it was much more professional and intensive. The people we will be working with are all very professional and I felt very unqualified for the job we are taking on. It seems that our project will be used to market all of the SA Big Issue website platform which is an innovated and new system that has never been used anywhere. This is a lot of pressure that I never expected! It was very interesting to be working with these people and to interact with them. There were two men who were co-founders of an innovation company that helps consult with other companies in order to change customers behaviorally change and interact with the company better. We will also be working with a website development team as well that will help the website be more marketable. This all puts everything in perspective and makes me truly understand how we will be helping the Big Issue vendors. This platform is supposed to reach hundreds and even reach people across oceans. This is a big task. I’m glad that we are working on it, and Trudy seems to think we will be able to do everything we plan on accomplishing, but it will be a lot of work.

Gianna: This meeting is nothing like what I thought it would be. There are many more players in this project than I originally thought. I am excited to be a part of something like this! Neelan, one of the digital marketing developers, mentioned that this is will be the first platform of its kind in the world. What we are doing is innovative and we have a chance to be part of something new, which I am really excited about. I am a little disappointed that we are no longer doing participatory video or a fuller length documentary with the purpose of highlighting the vendors. We are now doing a shorter “commercial” for the website platform to promote it. This is turning out to be more of a marketing project than I originally thought. I am still excited to be able to interact with the vendors though and really get to know them! I feel very under-qualified for this project but I feel like I will learn a lot.

Jordon: This meeting extremely productive and I feel really good about the future of our project. Meeting with the driving forces of this entire project to gain some insight on what we were doing, what we had to do, and what their vision was for the project. I was surprised that the team has really big intentions for this project, particularly from a marketing standpoint. We learned that we were not going to be making as much content and we were not going to be working as much with the vendors as we had initially thought. Our project, which was initially going to focus with interviewing and teaching vendors has become a project based around creating marketing content. Although this makes our job much simpler and easier, it makes me feel a lot more confident about this project really making a difference. I’m extremely excited to get going on this and I really hope this work goes on to make a difference with the vendors.

Nadjia: This meeting was not how I expected it. First off there were a lot more people involved in this project than I had originally believed. The good thing about it was that everyone involved seemed really invested and excited about the project. It was hard to say much at the beginning of the meeting because a lot of it was focused on the website platform and how they were going to include this aspect, or what was going to follow the purchasing button, or even how are we going to market this. It made it difficult for us to discuss why we were there, which was for the vendors and getting their stories out there and having them gain confidence. However I felt that our team did a good job of constantly bringing it back to the vendors and that they needed to be included in every aspect of this process. I really enjoyed listening to Andy and what he had to say because he was also thinking with the mind of a vendor and noting that they wouldn’t be able to have a camera. Or that if one vendor was succeeding the rest would follow as well and upload their content. I thought towards the end we all ended in a place that worked for all of us. I was unsure if certain topics got resolved. One issue I was concerned about was if the vendors were going to be included in the editing process of their page. The vendors need to be able to trust the workers of The Big Issue and know that if they put themselves out there and post something personal about their lives online it will be respected. But after this meeting I’m really excited to start working with the vendors and getting to truly know them.

Continue to Scene 4: Seeing Through A Vendor’s Eyes