Founder, The Big Issue
John Bird MBE is a social entrepreneur, best known as the founder of The Big Issue, a magazine that is edited by professional journalists and sold by street vendors affected by homelessness. He was born in Notting Hill, London to a poor London Irish family, became homeless at the age of five, resided in an orphanage between the ages of seven and ten, and went into prison in his teenage years. He slept rough on the streets of London and returned to prison a number of times in his late twenties.
In September 1991 he launched The Big Issue with Gordon Roddick and in November 1995 he launched The Big Issue Foundation to further aid the homeless. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the company and the Board of Trustees for the foundation. The Big Issue magazine started as a local London venture, but expanded with specific editions and services to other British cities, and then to other countries.
In 2001, with Big Issue Chairman Nigel Kershaw, John helped found The Big Issue Invest, a provider of finance for businesses with the aim of creating social change. Initially just dealing in loan finance, in 2009 The Big Issue Invest launched a social investment fund.
In June 1995 Bird was awarded the MBE for ‘services to homeless people’, and in 2006 he received the Beacon Fellowship Prize for his energy and originality in raising awareness of homelessness and his support of homeless communities worldwide.
In the early 21st century, Bird became a Social Enterprise Ambassador as part of a programme led by the Social Enterprise Coalition and supported by the Office of the Third Sector, part of the UK government's Cabinet Office.