Top Manta Project: Nobody is illegal
An ethical, social and solidarity brand that is committed to changing this society by improving the lives of the most vulnerable.
We are migrant workers, and we are people of peace. In 2015 we created The Popular Labor Union of Street Vendors of Barcelona (Spain) as a way to support ourselves in the face of day-to-day hardness selling on the street, condemned by a system that does not allow us to work and reside legally in Spain, and as a way of defending ourselves against institutional racism, persecution and criminalization.
For years we have been targeted by the police, politicians and media because of current legislation and institutional racism prevent migrant persons fleeing their home countries, whether due to poverty, war, violence or persecution, to access decent work.
The street vendors did not arrive in Spain empty-handed: we have very varied knowledge and trades. Several of us have been tailors in Senegal and many of us have experience as merchants.
Top Manta project was born as a social transformation initiative. We have our code of values: we are in solidarity with each other and with other vulnerable groups, and we consider that street sales are a dignified activity and that working to survive is not a crime.
In June 2017, when the Popular Labor Union of Street Vendors of Barcelona creates the Top Manta brand to take our colleagues off the street and create new opportunities. The group aimed to improve the living conditions of our members and seek alternatives to imitation products.
Thanks to the selfless support of PlayGround Do., street vendors managed to turn our initiative into a long-term entrepreneurship project through mentoring, training in trends and design, legal advice and support in the communication strategy. Our group created our own line of designs, with which we narrate our trip by boat to the Spanish coast, the fight for our rights and the link we maintain with the culture of Senegal.
Through our activities, we want to promote our own solutions to the problems we live each day as a migrant collective, make our situation known and that society sees us as we deserve, as what we really are: entrepreneurs, fighters, workers, with trades and with the desire to work without be daily persecution by the police. The Top Manta logo represents our livelihood - the blanket - and our means of transport - the cayuco. Finally, the waves. These symbolize the difficulties of crossing the sea.
We have created our own clothing design. Through our activities and our clothing brand Top Manta we want to make our situation known and that society sees us as we deserve, as what we really are: entrepreneurs, workers, with trades and with the desire to work without the daily persecution by the police. We are people who have put at risk our lives to access a honest and legal work.
In April 2018, the first Top Manta collection was presented in a fashion show in Barcelona (Spain) organized by PlayGround Do. , in which the protagonists were the street vendors and their own designs. In March 2018 we launched a crowdfunding campaign to obtain sufficient resources to manufacture the rewards of the people who participated in the campaign and start our legal activity in the fashion sector through our Association.
The Top Manta project is an example that social transformation is possible. PlayGround Do. offered all his strategic and logistical support in a totally selfless way. This event showed that by providing tools and professional support, groups like us, who are born entrepreneurs, can get out of marginality.
The alliance between the Popular Labor Union of Street Vendors of Barcelona (Spain) and PlayGround Do. was coordinated under the slogan "Nobody is illegal", a slogan that favored that at all times alliances can be fostered, both at the business and activist level. A key fact when adding agents that have wanted to get involved in the project.
Everything starts here: towards the cooperative and legal work for street vendors
We still have a long way to go. Our goal is to continue growing to be able to get all the street vendors out of the street so they can work and reside legally. Our project and self-management model has begun to be implemented in other cities in Spain and we believe that it can inspire all vulnerable groups and extend to all countries of the world, so that migrants can work and reside legally in the country to which they migrate, be able to demonstrate their worth, their knowledge and culture.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Current legislation in Spain and institutional racism prevent migrant people fleeing their home countries, whether due to poverty, war, violence or persecution, from accessing legal and decent work. We are migrants and we are people of peace; we risk our own lives fleeing from our countries in order to have a decent job and help our families to survive. Upon arrival to Spain, our dreams are broken, we are treated as criminals, imprisoned or deported and considered ‘migrants in irregular situation’, not having the right to residence and work, neither access to basic social services such as education, housing and health. In order to regularize our situation, we are required to remain in Spain for at least 3 years, but we have no right to work. In order to survive, we work as street vendors, but it is considered an illegal activity and when we are detained by the police, this criminal record prevents our regularization for another 5 years. We are thus trapped by the system, which prevents us from having a decent job and criminalizes us, being the constant target of the police, politicians and the media. That is why in 2015 we join together as a Labor Union and launch our own Top Manta clothing brand to give voice to our situation of injustice, persecution and vulnerability, to find ourselves a solution to our labor problem, to improve our living conditions collectively and fight together for legislative changes. With our self-management project, we offer labor opportunities to our colleagues through an offer of a one-year pre-contract to those who have been in Spain for 3 years so that they can apply for a work and residence permit by the way of 'social roots' and can work on the project; we can also offer a scholarship training program for those colleagues living less than 3 years in Spain. The creation of employment by Top Manta project for people who exercise street sales in our city, allows its administrative regularization and participation in the territory.
We created Top Manta project as a way to support ourselves in the face of day-to-day hardness selling on the street, condemned by a system that does not allow us to work and reside legally in Spain, and as a way of defending ourselves against institutional racism, persecution and criminalization. We want to work legally to build bridges with our society and contribute to the economy of Barcelona, which is our city, and of the world.
Upon our arrival in Spain we are considered as 'migrants in irregular situation'. We are then trapped by the system that forces us to remain continuously in Spain for 3 years to regularize our situation, but without the right to work. In order to survive, we work as street vendors, which it is considered as an illegal activity, so we are persecuted and arrested. That criminal record avoids our regularization again and thus we are trapped for years, in a situation of injustice and vulnerability.
Top Manta brand pursues the right to a dignified life and to get a job from the legal point of view. Currently through our Project we can offer labor opportunities to our colleagues, through an offer of a one-year pre-contract to those colleagues who have been in Spain for 3 years so that they can apply for a work and residence permit by the way of ‘social roots’ and can work on the project; we can also offer a scholarship training program for those colleagues living less than 3 years in Spain.
Another of our objectives is to make known to society our situation of social injustice and vulnerability, which prevents us from working legally, condemning us to work as slaves with unworthy wages. The current Immigration Law in Spain goes against Human Rights, preventing the free movement and the right to work of migrant persons.
Through our activities, participation in solidarity events & social networks and our clothing brand Top Manta we want to make known our situation and that society sees us as we deserve, as what we really are: entrepreneurs, fighters, workers, with trades and with the desire to work without being daily harassed by the police. We are people who have left our families behind and have played our lives in order to access honest and legal work.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
Our project has as main objective to continue looking for collective solutions for the problems faced by the more than 400 street vendors living in Barcelona (Spain), not only labor, but also legal, housing, training, etc. For this, it is essential to regularize our administrative situation. We believe that this project model can be extended globally to all vulnerable migrant groups in the world. This is how we understand self-management: political innovation for a more just and hopeful horizon.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
The project means a breakthrough for the normalization and integration of the migrant community within the city of Barcelona. The project has allowed the Popular Labor Union of Street Vendors to dignify our work, register our own logo and create our own business, with which we want to regularize the administrative situation of all the street vendors that live in Barcelona, integrate them into the city, make aware to the population on our current problem, eliminate discriminatory laws and racism.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
Top Manta project was born as a model of self-management and social transformation. According to the calculations, in Barcelona, for more than 10 years a group of between 400 street vendors remain permanently. The majority are young people from African countries, mainly Senegal. Top Manta project pursues the right to a dignified life and to get a job from the legal point of view. We want to demonstrate our capabilities and what we are worth, we want to work legally to contribute to the economy of our city, Barcelona. Since our creation we have achieved the regularization and integration of 85 colleagues through our struggle. We believe 'Nobody is Illegal' and thus through our brand and our activities we also want to eliminate racism and get the necessary support from society and political groups to modify the current legislation that discriminates against the poorest and most vulnerable collectives.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
The greatest achievement has been the elimination of stigma of our collective: now people ask what is behind the blanket. We are not only vendors, there is much more and people have lost their fear of asking us about our lives. A breakthrough for the normalization and integration of the migrant community within the city of Barcelona. When we launched the brand everyone was surprised. The essential thing has been the brand, but the fact that we have shown that we have capacity, that we are entrepreneurs and creative. People started then asking us for t-shirts, they wanted to buy Top Manta products and we didn't even have the resources to make them. As the project developed, we have managed to open our own shop-workshop in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona (Spain). At present, our work is mainly serigraphy, sewing, both design and production of > 4,000 pieces/year of clothing. In addition, our group sees in the brand an opportunity to continue evolving towards social integration.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
Through our activities and our clothing brand Top Manta we want to make our situation known and that society sees us as we deserve, as what we really are: fighters, workers, with trades and with the desire to work without be daily harassed by the police. We are people who have put at risk our lives to access a honest and legal work. Thanks to the selfless support of PlayGround Do. the group of vendors created in 2017 our own line of designs, with which we narrate our trip in dinghy puting in risk our lives to the Spanish coast, the fight for our rights and the link we maintain with the culture of Africa. Likewise, we wanted our clothes to be of quality and represent our values, that is why we use environmentally friendly fabrics (such as Fair Trade cotton and recycled materials of the Continental Clothing brand) and also respect the labor rights of those who make them. ‘Legal clothing made by illegal people’ is the leit motiv of our collection.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
Our project has as main objective to continue looking for collective solutions for the problems faced by the more than 400 street vendors living in Barcelona, not only labor, but also legal, housing, training, etc. For this, it is essential to regularize our administrative situation. Becoming a Cooperative would allow us to enter into employment contracts for those who still cannot access them, to improve our working conditions and generate the possibility of hiring as many colleagues as possible. Not only to find work solutions but because work is the main way to acquire residence and work permits in Spain. At present, our work is mainly serigraphy, sewing, both design and production and sale of our own garments. However, our idea is to expand the possibilities of self-employment so that colleagues who have trades and knowledge can apply them in some type of service, promoting the presence of migrants in the cooperative world and favoring the development of a global social market.
Top Manta project was born as a project that seeks to demonstrate the capabilities and value of migrants who want to work legally to contribute to the global and Barcelona economy and improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable people. The project has allowed to dignify our work, register our own logo and create our own business, with which we want to regularize the administrative situation of the street vendors that live in Barcelona and integrate it into the city.
Our social and solidarity project is based on four main objectives: 1. Seek labor solutions to the group of street vendors in our city and the exclusion suffered due to current immigration legislation that prevents migrants from accessing a decent job and life. 2. Buiding bridges with local community: integrate our collective into society. 3. Legal advocacy: promote and contribute to the elimination of discriminatory laws 4. Contribute to the sustainable development of our planet.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
In the last year, the demand for Top Manta products has begun to grow and so has the interest of designers and other agents in the fashion world. We managed to open our own shop-workshop in the Raval neighborhood (Barcelona) and also acquired the necessary machines for screen printing. Our project is based on a code of common values: work and solidarity between us & with other vulnerable groups. Therefore, we believe that a commercial activity can have a social&solidarity function. We are committed to offering ecological, fair trade products and affordable screen printing prices; mainly, because groups and associations can screen their t-shirts/pieces. Likewise, our store is designed not only as a commercial space but above all as a meeting space, where different knowledge and needs are socialized in talks. We are convinced that promoting the presence of migrants in the cooperative world favors a sustainable development from an anti-racist perspective and improves the social market.
Top Manta project is committed to offering fair trade products and affordable screen printing prices; mainly, because groups and associations can screen their t-shirts or pieces. Our store is also a meeting space for training services and talks in anti-racism and rights of migrants.
Our designs speak of the African culture, which awake a significant interest in our clients and promotes the interaction between both cultures. Through the purchase of our products and participation in our activities, we invite the local (Spanish) community to collaborate in an important social change, which creates an important feeling of participation in a social transformation for a more hopeful world.
The possibility of having a legal job increases acceptance and recognition by the local community of the host country. This dignifies not only the life of our collective, but also helps to establish ties with the host community, its integration and its demonstration of value and participation in the economy of the territory. Through our brand we can demonstrate to society our capacity for entrepreneurship, struggle and work.
One of the main achievements of the project has been the elimination of the stizmatization of the collective, people have begun to stop thinking that we are criminals and have lost the fear of asking ourselves about our lives. All this has facilitated the creation of new social ties with the local society in our city.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
A key moment for the group was the strategic alliance with PlayGround Do., carried out for one year (June 2017 - June 2018). The art department of the digital platform participated, as well as 15 professionals from different disciplines: sociologists, activists, political scientists, lawyers, designers, philosophers, artists, teachers and filmmakers. The initiative had a three-phase strategy: training (legal advice, marketing, branding and business), creation of a micro patronage through the crowfounding platform and the creation of the business and communication (presentation of the collection on a fashion show to sell our items and make ourselves known to the general public through the media). We have also had the constant support from “Tras la Manta” and “Espacio del Inmigrante” (local organizations) and free legal advice from Rizoma Lawyers, with whom we have designed a first phase of activity in the fashion sector towards our long-term objective: the creation our own Cooperative.
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Arriving and settling at a destination community
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries
Idea Proposal Stage
Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).
Group or Organization Name
The Popular Labor Union of Street Vendors of Barcelona, Spain (Sindicato Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes de Barcelona)
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
Our non-profit association is composed of migrants and racialized people as a collective that experienced displacement. We work permanently in the anti-racist struggle, to denounce and combat racism and colonialism. Our project is aimed at overcoming the exclusion suffered by our collective. Street vendors are victims of multiple discriminations: because of our race and class, because of the work we do and our socioeconomic status (such as housing, access to resources, etc.). Top Manta cooperative allows us to overcome the situation of the street that violates and criminalizes us, creating a space of security and common work, in which collectively we can create answers to the various problems that concern us. Our project and self-management model has begun to be implemented in other cities in Spain and we believe that it can inspire all vulnerable groups and extend to all countries of the world, so that migrants can work and reside legally in the country to which they migrate.
Type of submitter
We are a Cooperative or Community-Owned Organization
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State
In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)
- How could we improve the message we want to give society to ensure that it understands the objective of our idea and the bridges we are building with the local community through our project?
- What tactics or means do you advise us that we could use in the future to get our message and our idea goals to reach the world globally?
- How do you advise us that we could raise society's awareness of our problem and achieve legislative changes in institutions that prevent discrimination against migrants and promote equality policies?
- What alliances we could establish to increase our impact?
Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)
This phase helped us to strengthen our message: migrants are entrepreneurs and creatives, and that this results in a benefit for all. With our brand and activities, we are promoting the participation of migrants in the territory, and so their inclusion&recognition. We are also building bridges with the local community that participate not only by buying our products but also in our fight for a social transformation, making them participants of a global change and a more sustainable development.
The community comments and feedback showed to us that through the purchase of our products and participation in our activities, we invite the local (Spanish) community to collaborate in an important social change, which creates an important feeling of participation in a social transformation for a more hopeful world, as it was showed during the event we organized with our neighbours in Barcelona.
Mentorship: we had a very constructive meeting with our assigned mentor, Tawfiq Abbud, that help us to identify some áreas that might be clarified in our idea. We learned how valuable is our idea and how it can change the lives of a lot of people, not only to our collective here in Spain but around the world as a model of self-management and advocacy that will inspire many other vulnerable groups globally. We have learned how important is to show to the community: the process how we plan to solve the legal status of the migrants (including statistics about the work we have done and how many lives we can change in a given time period if we get the funding), the legal journey for migrants in irregular situation and how is the process to get a legal work/residence permission in Spain and the connection we have with the local business and community through our project and activities. We have edited our idea adding new information & images and a complete business plan to include all this information. Experts feedback: from the valuable answers obtained from our expert (Swatee Deepak), we have learned that although we are currently carrying out many of the proposed initiatives (i.e collaborations with local students, artists, fashion designers, NGOs saving lives in the sea, attendance at European events such as City Rights United events and Permanent People's Tribunal) we can continue to improve and strengthen these collaborations to raise our message worldwide and achieve legislative changes. Community research: during the improve phase we have shared our idea to the migrant and local community through our social networks and we have organized an event with our local neighbours in Barcelona were we showed our project and our fight for our human rights. The comments and stories learned during this phase demonstrated a positive mentality change in our collective and the community as bridges are built as a benefit for all.
In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)
BridgeBuilder funds would be essential for us to develop the brand globally and reach our objectives: increase the production/sales of the brand's products in the online shop, the sale to other local business/spaces enabled in social events/fairs, increase our presence in human rights events, schools/universities, and to reach >140 street vendors contracted directly by the project and through our struggle getting occupational plans by the city council with laboral contracts of at least 1 year duration and achieve legislative changes against immigrants discriminatory laws. For this we would need to have a wider space to store the products, expand the silkscreen equipments, garments and sewing workshop, and have our own transport vehicles ($100K). It would also allow us to offer labor contracts to street vendors in our multi-service cooperative and implement advocacy & cooperation initiatives ($100K). The overall funding needed to accomplish these objectives is $200K.
What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)
BridgeBuilder funds could allow us to legalize a greater number of people in an irregular situation offering job opportunities and training scholarships and continue creating bridges for their inclusion, protection and recognition. The funds would also be used to make the brand more competitive in the fashion world to expand the brand and our message globally, also to have the necessary resources to participate in activities and events globally at universities/administration for the formulation of policies that can make a difference in the fight against poverty, inequality and the fulfillment of human rights in the world. We want to launch the 'International Day against Inmigration Laws'. With the funds, we would also want to set up cooperative projects with the farmers of our country of origin (Senegal) to contribute to its development and the end of poverty in Senegal.
What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)
Top Manta project calendar of activities and objectives planning for 2019-2021. For more details, please refer to our attached Business Plan. The activities that we could carry out thanks to the BridgeBuilder prize funds are marked in green.
Our main activity will be to continue looking for collective solutions to the problems faced by the > 400 street vendors that live in Barcelona, not only labor, but also legal, housing, training, etc., regularize their administrative situation and integrate it into the city, raise awareness to the population about our current problem, continue strengthening bridges with the local community, eliminate racism and get the necessary support from society and political groups to modify the legislation that discriminates against the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Currently, through our struggle and our project we have achieved the regularization and work permit of 85 colleagues. Our goal is to achieve the regulation of 35-40 colleagues more to be contracted directly through our project by 2021 and cooperate with the local administration to establish occupation plans that involve labor contracts of at least one year duration for another ≥ 100 street vendors by 2021.
What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)
IMPACT: By 2021, our goal is to achieve the regularization of ≥140 street vendors. Continue building bridges with local community: integrate our collective into society and modify the current legislation that discriminates against the poorest and most vulnerable collectives. Launch globally the ‘International Day Against Inmigration Laws’. Have our project as a model of self-management and advocacy that inspire many other vulnerable groups globally. MEASUREMENT: We will measure the number of colleagues that get their regularization through our project and struggle. We will also measure the number of followers in our social networks and events to measure the ties with the local community, inspire other vulnerable groups globally and change discriminatory laws. QUESTIONS: How can we work with the youth community of our origin country to prevent them from risking their lives and leaving their families behind in order to have a better life and eliminate poverty?
Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)
The Labor Union is made up of more than150 members. There are 9 members who work and collaborate actively in the association and the Top Manta Project mainly in the following activities: design, sewing, screen printing and sale of our own fashion garments and other products (t-shirts, sweatshirt, bags, caps, among other accessories), as well as screen printing services. Training services and talks aimed at entities, groups, schools and in the public administration: training in African culture, anti-racism and in the rights of migrants. Social and volunteers networks, communication with the press and with other groups/human risghts associations/local commerces/artists/fashion designers. Organization of group trips to Senegal for cultural exchange and Senegalese food services, mainly in popular festivals, political, cultural meetings, etc. Please watch our video to know us better, learn about our history and what the Top Manta Project means to us.
Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)
Our mentor helped us to learn how to explain how is the legal journey for migrants in Spain and how our project can help to resolve this situation.
Thanks to our mentor and expert valuable advice, we have created some grafics that help to understand more tangible our human problem, how we can resolve it and the work we do.
The improvement phase overall has help us to learn how valuable this project can be, not only to resolve our problem as a migrant collective, but also to inspire other vulnerable migrant groups in the world as a model of self-management, sustainable development, bridge with the host community and advocayof human rights, and how to make our message to be understand globally.
We created and included a video that describes how is the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implementd and how our idea works.
We have also prepared a business plan to our idea to fully describe our project, market analysis, organization and management , services and products, marketing, sales and finantial aspects.
During the improvement phase, we used the community research toolkit and expert advice to apply insights from feedback by end users and the community our project aims to serve. In this case study with one of the street vendors that benefit from the project, we have collected his experience as migrant that experienced displacement himself.
We aim to use this experience to be communicated to all our audiences in social networks and events, so that they can better understand our situation and how the project can improve the lives of many people and build bridges with the host community.
Thanks to the valuable comments of our mentor and expert, we have realized of the value of our idea and how it can help other vulnerable groups in the world, but we have also learned how important it is to know how to properly communicate our message to all our audiences and thus achieve a social transformation in the world. Thus, we have edited our idea to explain&make visual how is the legal journey for migrants in Spain and how we can solve the problem, how our brand and activities are integrating the collective within the society and our legal advocay activities to change legislation. We also added a complete business plan to our idea to include all this information. The community research showed to us how the project is helping migrants of the collective and that we are also building robust bridges with the local community, that participate not only by buying our products but also in our fight for a social transformation, making them participants of a global change.