The majority of India’s poor still live in rural villages, while the many living in the urban areas have increasing purchasing power. In response to this growing disparity an Indian organization, GOONJ, has developed a large-scale resource mobilization initiative to re-use surplus clothing from the urban consumers to the rural poor; rather than simply giving away the clothing the villagers are motivated to engage in community projects such as the repair of roads or de-silting existing water in exchange for the clothing. Strategically, GOONJ started with recycled clothes – clothes did not involve heavy investments and policy changes – with plans to expand to deliver critical resources like medicines and books using the same distribution model.
The distribution network engages over 100 grassroots organizations as dispersal partners in rural areas since local groups can best analyze the needs of its locality and have access to some of the remotest regions. Urban collection camps are staffed by volunteers working with corporations and schools to collect and transport the recycled material.
Systemic changes to the way urban households think about discarding consumer goods and engaging with those less fortunate can have lasting impact throughout India. Lessons learned from observing those impacts and the ones learned from a scalable distribution network responding to populations living in poverty or post-disaster can be applied throughout the world. Started as a national movement it could turn into an international one.