Magsaysay Awardee Anshu is the Founder of Goonj and Gram Swabhimaan.
Popularly known as the Clothing Man, Anshu is the recipient of the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Award, popularly called the Nobel Prize of Asia. He quit a corporate career in 1999 to initiate Goonj, the world’s first agency working on clothing as a development issue. It disturbed Anshu that despite being a basic human need, cloth was nowhere in the development agenda. This attention to a neglected basic need set him on 24+ years of transforming India’s culture of giving of our unused cloth and other under-utilised material for development work.
Under Anshu’s leadership, Goonj has taken the alarming growth of urban surplus and instrumentalised it to trigger large-scale rural communities-led development work. While creatively and flexibly matching and seamlessly weaving urban surplus into the changing priorities and realities of rural marginalised communities. Anshu has pioneered the genesis of a parallel surplus-based economy of barter between efforts of rural communities and underutilised material as the two new currencies.
The Goonj model has emerged as a worldwide case study around deploying surplus material circularity to mobilise large scale civic-engagement-led material poverty alleviation, community dignity and agency-led rural development and rural wisdom-led climate change mitigation work.
Anshu studied Mass communication and did his masters in Economics. Starting as a freelance journalist, he left a corporate job in 1998 and founded GOONJ. His mission was to make clothing a matter of concern and to bring it among the list of development issues,to address the most basic but ignored need of clothing and the multifaceted role it plays in the lives of people, especially in rural India.
Anshu sees his work as a way to address a core challenge of our times; the growing gap and inequality between the urban prosperity & rural poverty.Taking the menacing growth of urban waste Anshu used it effectively and efficiently as a tool to trigger large scale development work on diverse issues in some of the most backward areas and remote communities of India. In the process he has created a model of a parallel economy which is not cash based but trash based. With Goonj, Anshu has brought attention to a nonmarket, nonmonetary approach — one grounded in empathy and dignity. He has turned the mostly passive urban and rural masses into prime stakeholders and actors addressing their own needs by solving their own problems. He has done this by weaving together a beautiful pipeline system from the cities to the villages for channelizing resources to create empowerment and development in rural India. Anshu considers one of Goonj’s central work to be changing mindsets about the immense humanitarian potential of people facing poverty by reusing urban surplus and demonstrating a model that delivers as promised.
Some experiences from the field
” It all started as small social media posts with some old clicks of my travels, some questions and sometime a lot of anger too.
In my travels across the country.. on one hand I noticed sky high buildings, statues, fancy airports, while on the other side, talking to people I saw some of the worst disasters of our times. Going deeper into the country I could see immense suffering, neglect and still the best of courage and human spirit.
This collection of my thoughts and musings emerged over the last 2 decades of my own life journey and the beautiful journey called Goonj..”
– Anshu Gupta