Last Friday, Kamloops launched the first edition of their street newspaper “The Big Edition”. Joining over 100 cities worldwide, The Big Edition is produced by members of the Kamloops Lived Experience Committee — a group of volunteers who have experienced homelessness, addiction, abuse, disabilities and mental and physical health challenges. For their first edition, we contributed the following article:
Starting a Social Enterprise from the Street
Startup culture is sexy these days. Top global entrepreneurs have followings bigger than rock stars and celebrities. The picture of a startup entrepreneur these days is young, hoodies, tees, and laptops hunkered over coffee and craft beer building disruptive technology.
The team at The Big Edition is different. They are a collective of individuals with diverse Lived Experiences around issues of homelessness, addiction, abuse, disabilities and mental and physical health challenges. They have banded together to support themselves and their community of peers. This group is known locally as the Lived Experience Committee (LEC).
The Big Edition is a local version of a global social enterprise model that’s working in about 100 cities in 34 countries and published in 24 languages. There are about 9,300 vendors globally selling to about 5.5 million readers. This is all part of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) with the closest being the Megaphone in Vancouver.
In Kamloops we are at Issue #1. The model is simple. The LEC, along with partners and contributors, put together stories, poetry, and art about local and global issues. Some of the content is licensed from other global street publications in the network. Advertisers can pay for ad space just like they can in other publications. The publication gets printed and is distributed right now in three ways; on the street by local vendors (members of the LEC) who sell you an issue, through businesses who bulk purchase issues to distribute to their employees and customers, and as an insert in Kamloops This Week. In the future this may also be distributed online. The model creates employment for members of the LEC.
Try to put the situation in context. Starting a company is hard no matter what. Think about starting a company when shelter is not available or unstable, you are dealing with the pain of abuse, disability, addiction, mental or physical health challenges, and oftentimes structural poverty. Add this on top of the normal pains of starting a company – limited resources, sacrificing personal life, long hours, lack of sleep, mental health challenges, etc. It’s humbling to watch and support the LEC through their startup journey.
The idea of social enterprise is to use entrepreneurship to help put sustainable, long term solutions in place to community, social, and environmental challenges. This is a global trend capturing the interest of people from all walks of life who are seeking to build a more regenerative economy and healthy communities. The City of Kamloops took a risk last year to help three local social enterprises participate in a social enterprise acceleration program where they are paired up with local entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) who help provide long-term entrepreneurial coaching. This was a risk, but the results are starting to show. If you want to partner to help support social enterprise development in Kamloops, please connect directly with Natalie Serl (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Andrew Greer (email@example.com).
Hopes are high. The Big Edition aims to reduce panhandling in business corridors and other public spaces. The model also creates revenue to pay members of the LEC for their contributions to the paper and their ongoing work. It helps support skill development and mentorship opportunities. It also provides a voice and a platform for discussion of critical issues affecting the community.
Want to help? The best thing you can do to support the LEC is to use your business or organization to bulk buy issues for the year or purchase advertising. Connect with one of the project leads on the LEC, Glenn Hilke (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This paper is a hand up, not a hand out. Let’s make it happen.