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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 non-­governmental organization based in Delhi since 1998 which undertakes poverty alleviation work, especially focusing on disaster relief, humanitarian aid and community development across India. Founded by social entrepreneur Anshu Gupta, it uses urban surplus as a tool to alleviate poverty and enhance the dignity of the underprivileged. Through barter between material and community efforts, an inclusive alternative economy is created where everyone is an equal stakeholder in the process, creating a model for development with dignity. The communities are no longer ‘beneficiaries’ of charity in this paradigm, but workers who are paid in a non-­monetary form of currency.

Goonj has established a culture and mechanism of sustained mindful giving, grounded in dignity and empathy, for vast stocks of everyday necessities. It collects underutilized urban materials (like clothes, books, kitchen items, etc.) and processes them (sort, repair, repurpose, clean and carefully curate) into need-based socio-geographically appropriate family kits comprising clothing, toys, utensils, footwear etc.

Goonj’s innovative approach has spread throughout 22 states in India, and currently handles over 3000 tons of material every year. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Goonj escalated its urban and rural network to rapidly deliver 4.1 million kilograms of food packages and relief kits between April to October 2020 to severely affected families in the most neglected communities in 26 states/UTs, working with a strong on-ground partner network.

We had a chance to speak with Anshu about this remarkable program on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.

31 | Clothing, Currency and Community


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Dance for Arvasu" by Tom Teasley from his album "Dreams of India."