How the UK’s Leading Social Enterprise Continued its Vital Mission During the Lockdown

Company profile
Company profile:
From an award-winning magazine offering employment opportunities to people in poverty, to a multi-million-pound social investment business supporting enterprise to drive social change. For nearly 30 years, The Big Issue Group has strived to dismantle poverty through creating opportunity, in the process becoming one of the most recognised and trusted brands in the UK.
Year founded:
London, UK

Few organisations can say that their primary mission is to make the world a better place. The Big Issue Group is one of them.

Nearly 30 years ago The Big Issue launched as an emergency response to a social crisis, allowing society’s most vulnerable people to buy and sell The Big Issue magazine and keep 50% of the cover price
Since then 100,000 vendors have sold over 200m copies and benefited from £115m of income
15 years ago Big Issue Invest was launched, which to date has directly invested in over 400 social enterprises and charities
Founder John Bird’s peerage in 2015 affirmed The Big Issue as a true British icon and paved the way for the transformational Future Generations Bill, designed to prevent another generation of Big Issue vendors
The Big Issue innovates for social good, not profit, with funds reinvested in delivering our mission.
And with such important work—work that can literally improve the world—The Big Issue’s staff needed a reliable phone system that would work anywhere.

A legacy phone system no longer worth the investment

When The Big Issue purchased a set of on-prem phone systems several years ago to support its network of offices across the UK, the organisation was initially pleased with the investment. But over time, the phone system created problems that eventually became too serious to ignore.
The first challenge was the fact that the phone system was on-prem and dependent on the office’s power supply. Jacek Papciak, Senior Network Engineer for The Big Issue, describes the problem this created.
“Our area experiences a lot of power cuts, sometimes lasting for an extended period. When that happens, we lose all of our phone service. And because our phone hardware serves more than one location, a power cut to one office can knock out phone service for many of our offices.”
And although the legacy phone system allowed employees to access phone service via desktop and mobile apps, both of those apps began having issues… then serious problems... until they eventually failed. That left employees with very limited phone service as soon as they stepped away from their desks.
Worse, the system itself was complicated and required a lot of technical knowledge to fix even minor issues or make small administrative changes. That created enormous headaches for the organisation’s technical team.

Cloud communications solves these problems… just in time for the lockdown

The Big Issue’s technology team made the decision to upgrade to a cloud communications solution for several reasons. At the time, though, they had no idea that the best reason wouldn’t even present itself until they began rolling out their new work-from-anywhere phone system.
The organisation wanted to make it easy for its remote and traveling staff members to stay connected and reachable no matter where they were. RingCentral’s desktop and mobile apps allowed them to take and make calls using their business numbers from any computer or laptop.
“We also wanted to make sure our employees’ phone service wasn’t at risk of a power cut,” explains Jacek. “With a cloud solution, they could continue with their calls during a power cut as long as they had battery power for their mobile phone or laptop.”
With those goals in mind, The Big Issue’s technology team began rolling out RingCentral’s work-from-anywhere communications solution… the week that the UK government issued its COVID-19 lockdown orders.

Maintaining operations… and the staff’s vital mission… from home

Because they were able to easily make business calls and even video conferences from the RingCentral app, The Big Issue’s employees enjoyed a much less disruptive transition to working from home than they would have had they not had the unified cloud-communications solution.
Even during the pandemic, The Big Issue’s staff working from home during the lockdown were able to collaborate as a team, discuss promising projects with social entrepreneurs, and do all of the other valuable work that has made the organisation such a significant force for social good over the last three decades.
And RingCentral’s work-from-anywhere solution played part in that positive outcome. As Group Finance Director Clive Ellis puts it: “We picked an odd time to implement new technology—as the entire country was locking down. But it was fortunate that we rolled out RingCentral when we did, because it’s helping us continue doing important work and was a vital tool for staff working from home during the lockdown.”