The CEO of Help Refugees on how to use retail for positive change.
11 Feb 2020
More charities and not-for-profit organisations are moving away from traditional fundraising to inspire change in new ways. Many have discovered that retail brings social causes directly to the streets, but how can you rethink the traditional charity shop to create real impact? Our first Today at Apple event saw Josie Naughton, CEO of Help Refugees and pioneer of the Choose Love campaign, address exactly that. The event was part of our first collaboration with Apple, an event series that seeks to empower and inspire local entrepreneurs and businesses, all from Apple’s Regent Street flagship. Here are the biggest takeaways from the event:
Find a cause and fight for it.
It may seem like an obvious first point, but it couldn’t be more essential. Ensuring the cause behind your space is relevant will help you tell your story in a more powerful way to the public and make it relevant to a new audience. Help Refugees was founded by Josie and two other friends at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015; a time where the issue couldn’t have been more critical. However, making the issue relevant to a social media savvy audience was how it snowballed into a movement that now reaches over one million people around the world; from Calais to the Mexican border. Josie emphasised this point, saying: “A key thing to know from the start is pinpointing the relevance and importance of your brand.” In other words: you can’t create an unforgettable in-store experience without a driving force behind it. Find your cause: the rest will follow.
Honour your space.
If someone asked you to visualise a retail space for social good, your mind would probably go straight to the typical charity shop. Charity shops are often seen as both outdated and underfunded, but this was exactly the kind of negative perception that Josie wanted to challenge through the Choose Love store. Stepping away from the traditional, Help Refugees instead curated a different kind of retail experience: a shop where you couldn’t buy anything.
Taking inspiration from the layout of the Apple Store, representational products were laid out on plinths that explained the journey of a refugee, allowing visitors to donate money for these items; from phone credit to a sleeping bag. Using the space to its full potential with a well-designed fit-out and incredibly Instagrammable interiors meant the Choose Love store got the attention it deserved both on and offline. DJs, performers and events brought the Help Refugees community together and flipped the outdated charity shop on its head. “What you’re essentially doing through any retail space is raising money,” recounted Josie, “So make it fun!”
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
A resounding takeaway from the Space for Campaigning talk was to just go for it. Recounting the times that she and others in the movement had hesitated and focused on details when they should have pushed forward with their idea, she urged attendees to just go for it. In fact, she remembered how the Help Refugees team were so worried about if people would like the Choose Love store that it may not have happened. The CEO affirmed to attendees: “Just give it a go and don’t hold yourself back.”
Ask for help.
There’s no better reason to bring your community together than changing the world for the better. Asking for help from the Help Refugees community through social media was crucial to its growth as a movement in the early days, and since then, the help has only grown. Fast forward to the cast of Fleabag manning the check-outs at last summer’s Choose Love store, and it’s clear that a like-minded community is key to campaigning in retail. Volunteer spots for the Choose Love stores disappear within seconds, so don’t be afraid to ask for help; the response from like-minded people who share your vision and want to make your idea happen could be more than you think. As Josie succinctly put: “Over the years I’ve learned that it’s not big corporations, it’s ordinary people like you and me that are the ones who make the change.”
If you have an idea that could deliver a positive impact to our world, then enter our Space for Ideas competition for a chance to win a free store to bring it to life.