Social Entrepreneur Fights Mafia

This is a guest article from Ashoka.org about Dario Riccobono, leader of anti-mafia movements including the “sticker campaign” and his nonprofit AddioPizzo Travel.

“While the movie The God Father has become a cult in many countries, it has done Italy and Sicily much damage by glamorizing one of their worst social plagues. The mafia is often perceived to be mostly about gangster’s lifestyle. Instead, it is essentially about economic, political and cultural control of a territory through an intensely localized grasp from which all other pathways of power flow. Given its long history with mafia culture, Italy is at the forefront of the anti-mafia movement. It has long been understood that fighting the mafia is not only the responsibility of public prosecutors and the police but of every citizen. The anti-mafia movement in Italy is large and well-organized. Libera, the main anti-mafia organization is the only Italian NPO to feature in the top-100 list compiled by the Global Journal of Philanthropy. The last few years have seen the emergence of several social entrepreneurs working towards a similar objective but adopting different methods.

Dario Riccobono is one of the social entrepreneurs who grew up in a mafia-affected area. He was touched by the anti-mafia movement and later decided to create a new approach to solve the problem from a different angle. Dario was born in Capaci, a small town, sadly known by everyone in Italy as it is the place where Judge Falcone was killed in his car in 1992 (the mafia blew off the highway when he was traveling with his wife). A large social movement was shaped as a result of this tragedy and the anti-mafia movement became a strong player in Italy’s civic society. Important victories were obtained, such as a confiscation law, passed by a popular referendum, to make all goods confiscated from the mafia available to non-profit organizations for free to be used for social good. However, mafia infiltration in all aspects of the social and economic life remains a problem.

To be able to assert its rule on Sicily and control the territory, the mafia has collected a local “protection” tax (called Pizzo in Sicilian dialect) for decades. This is still largely collected across the whole of Sicily, even in large cities such as Palermo. Those opposing such a levy, or those calling the police on them, would have their premises burnt and their families threatened. Police would often turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, focusing instead on more violent crime.

Darios’s new idea began by leveraging the power of consumers in fighting against the Pizzo. AddioPizzo (goodbye Pizzo) began working in Sicily in 2004 under the slogan “a society paying the pizzo is a society without dignity.” By leveraging the strong sense of “honor” and “dignity” shared by many Sicilians, AddioPizzo began to reframe the concept: not only the pizzo-paying business, but anyone who purchases goods from them, is a tacit accomplice of the mafia. Addio Pizzo began by rallying over 1000 signatures of people who pledged only to buy products or services by businesses who would not pay the pizzo. As the percentage of those paying was over 80%, he created a demand for pizzo-free products. As too many people have lost their lives fighting individually against mafia , Dario understood that the only way out of this eradicated cultural and economic model is to involve every person in understanding that even buying a product sold in a shop that contributes towards the mafia’s racket means to be involved with mafia. Consumers’ behavior has an influence on society and it was time for this behavior to shift. Dario was among the first members of AddioPizzo, bringing together individuals who refused to pay the pizzo into a movement working towards change in Sicily.

Dario’s role as a leader and social entrepreneur became overt as in 2009 he created a spin-off of Addio Pizzo called AddioPizzo Travel. Dario understood that the mafia was becoming a global economic giant, and it could be fought only if the same mindset shift among citizens and consumers happened outside of Sicily, in the rest of Italy and beyond. As Sicily is part of a common European market, in which goods and people are free to circulate, Dario understood the power of including non-Sicilians in the fight against mafia. This struggle needed to spread to as many regions and countries as possible and at the same time focused on the younger generation, which has the highest potential to win this fight against the mafia in their lifetime. He began therefore to focus on tourists and schools.

Tourists visiting the island can use Addio Pizzo Travel as a tour operator as well as a cultural mediator. They will organize a holiday in which every hotel, car rental, restaurant, etc is part of the network and is certified mafia-free. They will also offer the opportunity to join one or more specific tours which present Sicily through the lenses of the anti-mafia: they will show you how the movement began, take you through the first businesses to rebel, to the houses of the first young people who said no to the mafia and lost their lives because of it. You can explore the economic power of the mafia, or the political one.
The same offer, albeit age-specific and more in depth, is offered as an option for schools. Rather than visiting only the historical or artistic heritage of Sicily, Addio Pizzo Travel makes sure that young people and their teachers are made aware of the power of the mafia and that they become actors of change in their own communities.

Addio Pizzo is a powerful movement which is anchored in Palermo and focused on local change. Addio Pizzo Travel, on the other hand, has the power and ambition to become a global player by creating awareness of the mafia infiltration in the economy to more and more people and to empower them to begin by leveraging their power as consumers through an anti-mafia brand. This could be extended to other areas of Italy in which a similar illegal levy is raised by organized crime (Calabria, Campania) but also to other countries with similar problems but lack of civil society involvement in fighting it.”

Read more here!

“Dario Riccobono.” Ashoka.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

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