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Goonj

Scarcity of clothing—and cloth, is an overlooked contributor to poverty across the world. Without proper uniforms, children cannot attend school. Without decent clothing, people are prohibited from a variety of employment opportunities. And without sanitary napkins, women might be confined to the home throughout menses.

Goonj is a non­governmental organization based in Delhi founded by Indian social entrepreneur Anshu Gupta in 1998. It trades clothing and other unused items donated by the urban middle class for community development work in poorer areas. Working with the community and development partners, infrastructural improvement needs are identified. Goonj then recruits workers from within the community who are paid with the donated clothing, cloth, utensils, furniture, and food.

Goonj’s model allows poorer communities to direct their own development. They are instigators and owners of their improvement. They are no longer ‘beneficiaries,’ of charity, but workers who are paid in a non-­monetary form of currency.

Another initiative called “not just a piece of cloth” began after the 2004 Tsunami when there was a surplus of unwearable donated clothing. Goonj repurposed the cloth into menstrual pads.

Goonj’s innovative approach has spread throughout 22 states in India, and currently handles over 3000 tons of material every year.

We had a chance to speak with Anshu about this remarkable program on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to Episode 31 | Clothing, Currency and Community here.