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Big Issue Food

Project partner: The Big Issue

Duration: 11/2022-06/2023

Team: 5 people

Main tasks: 

User Research

Market Research

Brand Audit
Stakeholders management
Prototyping and validation of proposition
Visual design

Event Planning

Exclusive Summary

This project aimed to establish a deeper connection between GenZ and The Big Issue through a new service that creates a value exchange. 

Our team created a new food stall service that supported the social mission of the Big Issue group and established a feasible business model by partnering with BaxterStorey to bring social enterprise food services to university campuses. Through iteration and validation, we developed a sustainable solution that engaged young people and supported the strategic objectives of the Big Issue group.


The Big Issue is a social business that supports the homeless and people in poverty through enterprise. As we move toward a more connected society, The Big Issue Group wants to connect to younger audiences to help promote the work they do supporting people in poverty.

As design students at the Royal College of Art, we have been tasked with researching and developing possible new business models that will offer a value exchange outside of The Big Issue’s traditional print business.

How can we connect The Big Issue with Gen Z to create a meaningful value exchange?


  • Desktop research
  • Material review
  • Brand Audit
  • Street Interview
  • Stakeholders interview
Key insights
The scale of social cause engagement among Gen Z
Universities are a big opportunity


  • Brainstorming
  • Idea Prioritization
  • Stakeholders mapping
  • Service system mapping
  • Specification
How does it work?
Business Model
Business Model
Understand Gen-Z’s attitude and behavior pattern toward social causes and The Big Issue

Our initial research focused on desk research, and this highlighted that GenZ are highly likely to take part in social causes, while also having strong ethical values. To confirm our research, we then interviewed and spoke to around 60 GenZs on the street.

But as we dive deeper...We found that the situation was quite different from what we had found on the web, in reality - 

  • Many Gen Z are interested in social causes but are often not engaged

  • Most Gen Z has no idea what The Big Issue actually is, or what the orgnisation does.

Big Issue Food is a social enterprise that aims to employ people in poverty to prepare and sell hot food through pop-up stalls on university campuses.

Service Proposition

We know that achieving this proposal without a partner would be challenging, as we didn’t have the skills or expertise to run a food business. To mitigate this risk, we researched various existing caters on campuses and found that the only way to go forward to was to build a partnership because of exclusive contract restrictions. We identified BaxterStorey at RCA as a suitable partner and pitched a partnership model with agreement from The Big Issue

How might we now work towards connecting TBI with university students through Common, daily activities?


  • Street interview
  • Field research
  • Roleplaying
  • Idea pitching

What we learned:

Identified a market fit and a persona to target, along with our USP of selling affordable, healthy food to compete with meal deals.


Bringing Big Issue Food to life in the RCA Battersea Campus

We identified three risks of our service according to three aspects:
Desirability for the market fit, Feasibility for the business, Engagement between students and The Big Issue.
Click "Read More" to go through our prototype process.

Click Read More to see our pro

What we learned:

Proved a partnership with BasterStorey is possible and got buy-in from all sides for a working test.

What we learned:

Confirmed that subscriptions would be a way to create a deeper engagement between students and The Big issue.

We ran a pilot food stall partner with BaxterStorey in RCA Battersea Campus

After pitching our idea, our team has received positive feedback from The Big Issue regarding the potential partnership with Baxterstorey and the development of the Big Food social enterprise. We are glad to continue working with TBI on branding and messaging and to run a full-scale pilot at the RCA Battersea campus with Baxterstorey.



Would our service be desirable to students and what is our market fit?



How could we make it feasible for The Big Issue to start a food business?



How could we create a deeper engagement between students and The Big Issue?

Customers Feedback and Social Impact

The food stall pilot was a tremendous success, with 150 meals sold and queues stretching around the room at times.


We have gathered 75 feedback from the paper surveys, and 97% of the feedback is positive regarding the food served and the association with The Big Issue brand, although more analysis is required for specifics. The event sparked a considerable amount of interest in the work of The Big Issue, with attendees asking when it would be happening again. Overall, the team was delighted with how the event went. 

The long-term potential of this partnership with Baxter Storey is also being explored, which can help us scale and create meaningful value exchange between TBI and university students.
Changing lives with every bite.
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