Charity shops are an important feature of the circular economy, facilitating the use of resources for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from resources whilst in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life. In 2020, when charity shops traded for only 33 weeks because of Covid-19, Charity Retail Ireland, the umbrella body for charities who operate shops for fundraising purposes, estimated the triple impact of charity retail in Ireland as follows: 

  • Financial: €36.5 million sales, 7 million garments sold, 8 million customers served 
  • Society: €42 million social impact including the value of 8,000 volunteers, community activation schemes such as the 600 people employed through Tús and CE schemes, and the 600 people employed 
  • Environmental: 14,775 tonnes diverted from landfill, 106,000 CO2e tonnes carbon savings (Charity Retail Ireland, 2020).

Despite this, in Ireland there has never been an attempt to utilise charity shop spaces for Global Citizenship Education (GCE) activities. This is the case even though engagement with charity shops can be motivated by a desire to exercise active and sustainable citizenship. 2021 NCBI market research with 1,000 people found that 76% shop in charity shops because they want to support the particular charity (domestic/overseas), 68% are looking for a bargain and 36% want to buy in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way (NCBI, 2021).

Charity shops are increasingly popular, with Saint Vincent de Paul, one of the country’s largest charity shops retailers, reporting an unprecedented spike in sales post-Covid-19 lockdowns. This is attributed to a greater number of male and younger customers, a desire to spend less and be more sustainable, together with a rise in the number of low-income families trying to meet their basic needs. Both Saint Vincent de Paul and Barnardos, a smaller charity shop stakeholder, report higher levels of donations post-lockdowns, a result of household decluttering (O’Riordan, 2021). The charity shop donor/customer profile are mainly adults representing a broad cross section of society, including those from groups who could be considered marginalised. This profile fits with the people least likely to be engaged in GCE (Bailey, 2010: 59-41). 

As a charity shop retailer, APA is a member of the Charities Institute of Ireland and of Charity Retail Ireland, which involves being a signatory to the Code of Charity Retailing. Although the Code of Charity Retailing does not directly reference GCE, it can be viewed as providing opportunities for GCE approaches as signatory organizations are charged with providing ‘clear information to donors and customers about their charity’s objectives and activities’ and providing ‘appropriate training, information and support to staff and volunteers’. Additionally, this Code notes that ‘it is for individual members, within the limits of the law and the spirit of this Code, to determine what actions it might take to promote sustainable behaviour’. 

A Partnership with Africa (APA) is one of the few overseas non-governmental organizations in Ireland with both GCE experience and charity shops. To date, these two strands of the organization’s work have been complimentary but separate.  In 2022-23, the Get up and Goals (charity shops) project aims to bring the two strands of the organisation’s work in Ireland together in a pilot initiative, thereby addressing a GCE implementation gap, drawing on the expertise of, and sharing lessons learned with relevant networks, with the longer-term goal of ensuring that GCE is embedded as part of the culture of the Irish charity shop sector. 

To ensure an evidence-based approach, Get up and Goals will carry out a baseline survey with charity shop stakeholders in quarter 4 2022.  This survey will seek to understand the motivation for stakeholder involvement with charity shops, knowledge levels about the Sustainable Development Goals and the contribution of charity shops to these Goals and, attitudes to/ideas for GCE activities in charity shops.

In keeping with the pilot nature of the project, and to build stakeholder confidence and sense of ownership in the concept of GCE in charity shops, it is intended that GCE activities in shops will run on 3 relevant international days, such as World Day of Justice on 20th February, International Women’s Day on 8th March etc.  Awareness of shop related GCE activities will be disseminated via the shops themselves, and via shop Facebook pages and the Get up and Goals Twitter handle, relevant websites and e-circulars (e.g. ActiveLink, Charity Retail Ireland etc). Lessons learned from this pilot project will draw on the expertise of and be shared with relevant networks. 

To find out more about Get up and Goals and get involved with project activities follow us on Twitter @GetUp&Goals


Bailey, N., 2010. ‘Does development education ‘fit’ into adult education?: Offering adult learners the opportunity to engage with development issues’, Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 10, Spring, pp. 59-41. 

Charity Retail Ireland, 2020. Triple bottom line infographic. Available:

O’Riordan, E., ‘Charity shops report ‘unprecedented’ spike in sales since reopening,’ Irish Times, 20 August 2021

NCBI, 2021. ‘We need to talk about charity shops’.  Available: We Need To Talk About Charity Shops – NCBI