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The Big Issue Hits Taiwan

Categories: East Asia, Taiwan (ROC), Arts & Culture, Humanitarian Response, Ideas, Media & Journalism
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Mr.Jia, who sells the first issue of The Big Issue Taiwan Edition. Photo Courtesy of AmberTaipei

The Big Issue [1], first published in UK 20 years ago, is now rolling out its Traditional Chinese monthly edition in Taiwan [2] on 1st of April. This is a unique publishing project which relies on homeless people to sell the street magazine and hence helps them to have a legitimate job. The homeless can earn 50 TWD (around half of the price) for each magazine they sold. You can read more about its origin and development on Wikipedia [3].

Taiwan is the 9th country that publishes The Big Issue. Li Chi Zhong(李取中), the founder of Roodo Blog [4], introduces this model to Taiwan with a hope to develop a new type of social business. One month before publishing the first issue, bigissue.tw [5] started its Facebook fan page [6] to recruit volunteers. So far it has 27,000 fans already. Many Taiwanese bloggers are invited to write for the first issue, including Kenworker [7], famous travel blogger, and soundfury [8], noted writer and music critic.

Lin You Xue is excited [9] about the arrival of The Big Issue to Taiwan:

Big issue 登陸台灣,對我個人是個振奮的消息,除了驚訝台灣亦步亦趨吸收英國的社福觀點外,作法上也漸漸同步了起來。這份街友才能販賣的雜誌,在英國發行已經超過20年,雜誌賣點除了內容之外,附加價值在於,提供人們幫助弱勢的管道,但與捐款不同的是,讓弱勢族群也肩負自力更生的責任。

The arrival of The Big Issue to Taiwan is an exciting news to me. I am surprised that Taiwan is not just taking up perspectives but also methodologies of British social welfare. This sold-only-by-homeless-people magazine has been publishing in UK for more than 20 years. Besides its content, it provides a way for citizens to help minorities. But different from donation, the model lets minorities to take responsibility and live on their own.

siligraphy19 says [10]:

… 請大家告訴大家這本雜誌的消息,轉貼我的部落格文也可以. 如果在捷運站出口處,看到穿著The Big Issue制服的街友或志工, 請停下腳步, 購買一本100元的雜誌, 作為對社會企業雜誌最直接的支持. 省下一杯星巴克的錢, 獲得的不只是閱讀的樂趣, 也幫助街友或社會弱勢的人們, 透過販售雜誌的工作機會, 賺取收入, 重建信心,重新取回生活主導權。

…Please tell everyone about this magazine, or you can just repost my article. If you see homeless people or volunteers in The Big Issue uniform around MRT stations, please stop and buy the 100 TWD magazine for showing your direct support to the social business. Drink a cup less of Starbucks and save the money for the joy of reading and helping homeless people and minorities. By selling magazines, they can get income, rebuild confidence and earn their own living.
Purple Beans(紫豆子) took some photos [11] when he saw volunteers selling The Big Issue near Gongguan MRT Station. Although it looks like a promising project, Ambertaipei shares her conversation [12] with Mr. Jia, one of the homeless sellers on Twitter [13]:
「請支持我自食其力!」賈先生說。早上從捷運站出來遇到他,喊得聲嘶力竭卻沒有半個人停駐看一眼;賈先生說,我是他今天賣出去的第一本the big issue http://twitgoo.com/mn587 [14]
“Please support me to earn my own living!” Mr. Jia shouted. I met him in the morning when I left the MRT station, no one slowed down or took a look no matter how hard he shout. Mr. Jia said that I was his first customer today. http://twitgoo.com/mn587 [14]

賈先生說:「大家不知道我在喊的這是什麼~」捷運站外飄起小雨,他不能站上有屋簷的捷運手扶梯前喊,只好繼續站在階梯外喊「大誌雜誌!」的確,到底什麼是大誌?大誌有什麼?對於平常只逛拍賣只讀蘋果與GQ的上班族來說,一個站在捷運外叫賣陌生書刊名字的中年人一點也沒有意義

Mr. Jia said: “They do not know what I am shouting about.” It was raining outside the station and he could not stand in front of the escalators under the roof, so he kept shouting “The Big Issue” outside the station. However, what is “The Big Issue” anyway? What is inside The Big Issue? For white collars who are only interested in online auction sites, read only Apple Daily and GQ everyday, they don't care about the middle aged man shouting and selling unpopular magazine outside a MRT station.

antibadmedia also anticipates the difficult future [15] of The Big Issue in Taiwan:

再過兩天這本雜誌就要創刊了,雖然立意很好,但是新聞中報導台北縣市以外的縣市仍由便利商店作為販售通路,恩…… 如果這本雜誌內容還不差,也確實地實踐其宗旨「由街友販售」,那大家就盡己所能支持囉!大型的社會公平不易一蹴可幾,小規模的資源流動總是可行的。除了期待還要觀察。

Two more days and this magazine is going to publish its first issue. It has a good intention, but the news said that outside Taipei city and Taipei county the magazine will be sold via convenience stores, well…….If the content inside this magazine is not bad, and it genuinely practices the principle of “sold-only-by-homeless-people”, then we shall do whatever to support it! Social fairness in large scale is not something to be achieved overnight, but resource re-allocation in small scale is still possible. Let us wait and see.