top of page

is a launched service innovation for UK social enterprise The Big Issue to connect with Gen Z. 

About this project

The Big Issue is the UK's number one street paper and social enterprise, helping people who are experiencing homelessness or unemployment. As the traditional magazine business doesn't appeal to younger generations, The Big Issue needs a new form of value exchange with Gen Z to foster the interaction with social issues, build brand awareness and continue their mission.

Team members: Sam, Rajvi, Yijing & Channy


Research scale: 40 Gen Z people

Research locations: young neighborhoods (Islington, Shoreditch, Russel Square...) and universities (Imperial, UCL, LSE...)

Key research questions

What social causes are you interested in? From what channel?
What social causes are you engaging in? In what form?
Are you aware of The Big Issue?



We synthesized the key learnings and mapped them onto the "Engagement Spectrum" to show how Gen Z are interacting with social issues. It helped us to see the opportunity to effectively reach Gen Z. 

Big Issue_ Challenge Labs (3).jpg


We wanted to target the Casual Practitioners (60% of Gen Z) who are mostly university students, so how might we

connect The Big Issue
with university students
through daily activities 

we chose ... food

We identified food as a channel to engage Gen Z with The Big Issue.

We also did some case studies to validate this strategy. 

Change Please

A charity coffee brand on university campuses


A charity training migrants and refugees to cook

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 9.08.29 PM.png
Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 9.08.54 PM.png

It shows that a social impact brand can work on university campuses and gain influence.

It shows hospitality is a proven vehicle of social mobility for people in need.

Big Issue Kombucha

A social enterprise from their incubator program

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 9.09.42 PM.png

It shows The Big Issue is willing to try hospitality and has the resources.




Big Issue Food is a social enterprise


that aims to employ people in poverty


to prepare and sell food


through pop-up stalls on university campuses.




Service Model

We refined our proposition by clarifying who are our stakeholders, how this business works on a macro and micro-level, and what are the value gains for every stakeholder.

Risk identification

We identified 3 risks in our proposition:


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 

For each risk, we created a prototype, tested it, and learned something from it. We then integrated our learnings to derisk our proposition.

Risk 1


We needed to validate a demand for our service exists among university students and find our USP.

How we prototyped

To gauge students' interest in our proposition, we created a fake social enterprise food service, along with sample menus, flyers, and an Instagram account.

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 10.32.35 PM.png

We tested on 70 students across 3 universities: Kingston University, London South Bank and Imperial College. We introduced the proposition with menus and left them a flyer with our Instagram account. We gauged their interest by monitoring our followers.

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 10.42.09 PM.png

What we learnt


People would buy our food.

Most participants were really interested in our proposition, with a third of participants following our Instagram account.


We identified a market.

We identified that people were often unhappy with their university canteen, and wanted our affordable menu.


Every university is different.

Universities can vary, so our target market won’t be accessible at all institutions.

Risk 2


Achieving this proposal without a partner would be challenging, as we didn’t have the skills or expertise to run a food business.

How we prototyped

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 10.51.18 PM.png

Partnership Model

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 11.00.23 PM.png

What we learnt




BaxterStorey could see value in a partnership with The Big Issue, including social good and hiring chefs.


We gained agreement.

We got agreement to run a full trial based on our business proposal.


There's long-term potential.

We had positive feedback on a more long-term partnership based on the business model.

Risk 3


We wanted to ensure that we could build a robust relationship between The Big Issue and students.

How we prototyped

We used role play to start understanding where in our food service we could engage people with The Big Issue's message. 

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 11.11.26 PM.png

What we learnt

Food packaging is a good way to engage.

Food packaging is a great opportunity for engagement and together with a digital service, could provide lasting engagement for The Big Issue.

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 11.12.03 PM.png



We launched the pilot of Big Issue Food at the Royal College of Art Battersea campus.

33905584_Unknown copy.JPG
33905488_Unknown copy.JPG
33905664_Unknown copy.JPG
IMG_7515 copy.JPG
IMG_20230606_122602 copy.jpg
33905696_Unknown copy.JPG
IMG_20230606_123617 copy.jpg
IMG_7534 copy.JPG
IMG_4600 copy.JPG


The pilot was a big success that led to a long-term relationship between The Big Issue and BaxterStorey.


We sold 150 meals, with queues stretching around the room at points.


We gave out a feedback form to every customer and half of them were collected back.

15 min

BaxterStorey sold out their food at 1:45pm. They started at noon and had expected to finish at 2pm.


Among the feedback, 97% said they liked and wanted to support the initiative by visiting us again.

Changing lives
with every bite

©Ken Chen, Sam Royle, Channy Hong, Rajvi Shah & Yijing Chen

bottom of page