photos: We traded street papers with people from around the world. Photo: Jackie Wong.

Building a global movement

At the 2015 street paper summit, we found community in a shared movement to make positive social change.

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Working at a street paper is a strange job. It’s a quirky, spiraling hybrid that encompasses frontline work, social enterprise, literacy training, community capacity building, and magazine production, among many other things. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that all around the world, there are people just as crazy as us working towards the same goals.

It was so exciting, then, to pack our bags for Seattle last month for the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) summit, an annual confererence that brings together street papers from around the world. This year, 44 street papers from 22 countries gathered to share successes and setbacks, and to strategize. We bunked up in dorm rooms at Seattle University and, in the rich tradition of summer camps everywhere, made fast friends with people we’ll keep in touch with for a long time.

We met people at the very beginning stages of starting street papers in Kelowna, B.C. and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and folks who had been working for decades to connect homeless and low-income people with meaningful work and creative self-expression in Washington, D.C. (Street Sense); Copenhagen, Denmark (Hus Forbi); and Cape Town, South Africa (The Big Issue).

This year marked the first year that the conference was held in North America. The short travelling distance made it possible for more Megaphone staff than ever (vendor coordinator Misha, operations manager Jessica, and editor Jackie) to attend the conference. We rekindled longtime friendships with Cascadian street papers in Seattle (Real Change) and Portland (Street Roots).
There is much to learn and be inspired by both publications that distribute tens of thousands of street papers across their cities every week and, in so doing, impact the lives of hundreds of people living vulnerable lives.

The conference featured a special awards ceremony that celebrated extraordinary street paper innovations over the past year. We were surprised and delighted to receive the award for Best Technology Innovation for Megaphone’s Vendor Finder app. The browser-based app is produced by Denim & Steel, a wonderful team of Vancouver web wizards. Check it out at Find.MegaphoneMagazine.com.

Driving home up the I-5, we were so tired—the days had been long and the sleep minimal. But we were glad to have connected with likeminded people. The summit was a necessary reminder of the power of street papers: to work alongside people experiencing poverty and empower them to give voice to their experiences; and to build bridges and understanding between communities.

Street papers work worldwide to build community, opportunity, and meaningful work among marginalized people who continue to confront the cruelest impacts of an increasingly polarized society. How special, then, to find so many kindreds working hard to bridge the gaps.

-Jessica Hannon, operations manager, Megaphone
-Jackie Wong, editor, Megaphone

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