“Whenever people think of the anti-mafia movement, they think of recent history, maybe the last 30 years,” explains Palermo native Edoardo Zaffuto. “But it’s as old as the mafia itself. Since the beginning people have organised to resist.”
In previous decades resistance to the mafia might have meant police investigations or political campaigns. Today young Sicilians like Zaffuto are using social movements and business models to take a collective stand and create new opportunities for residents of the island. It all started in 2004 with the Addiopizzo Committee, an initiative by five graduates who wanted to open a bar in Palermo but refused to pay the mafia’s extortion money, or “pizzo” in local slang. Through stickers (featuring the catchphrase: “A population who pays the pizzo is a population without dignity”) and demonstrations, Addiopizzo organised local businesses who felt the same. Soon, they garnered national and international attention.
“Such an ethical consumer campaign was a very new thing for Sicily,” explains Zaffuto, who joined Addiopizzo shortly after it began. By 2008, over 200 local businesses had signed up and volunteers were organising educational tours for schools highlighting the history of the anti-mafia movement. Today, Addiopizzo includes over 1,000 establishments in Palermo and across the island, each carrying an identifiable sticker that invites shoppers to “pay who doesn’t pay.”
A different perspective
Soon after they began to sticker up Palermo, Addiopizzo were contacted by foreign tourists eager to know where they could stay and shop without helping the mafia. “We received emails and calls from Italy but also northern Europe and in particular Germany,” recalls Zaffuto. “From there we realised we could offer tourist packages using only mafia-free guaranteed facilities.”
Addiopizzo Travel, a travel agency for ethical tourism, was co-founded in 2009 by Zaffuto along with Dario Riccobono and Francesca Vannini Parenti, both volunteers in the original committee. Pulling from the island’s rich history and their list of businesses that have said no to the mafia, the agency offers “tours that show a different side of Sicily,” says Zaffuto. This means bike trips to Corleone that focus on the beauty and history of Sicily’s interior but also visits to Capaci, on the northern coast, where Italian judge Giovanni Falcone was killed by the mafia, and Cinisi, home to Giuseppe Impastato, another martyr of the anti-mafia movement.
“From the beginning we tried to balance a tour of Sicily that focuses on its beauty and places of interest and also places interesting for our work, this struggle against the mafia, which is also part of Sicily’s beauty,” Zaffuto explains. One of their most popular offerings is a weekly No Mafia tour of Palermo’s old city, which attracts tourists and locals alike, and they continue to work with schools and universities on educational visits.
This past December, Palermo and Addiopizzo Travel hosted the Ashoka ChangemakerXchange summit. Guests got a No Mafia tour of Palermo and Zaffuto and his colleagues learnt about new and different approaches. “No matter if someone was working on culture, with refugees, or with women’s rights, different strategies inspired different organisations,” he explains.
Speaking of the state of social entrepreneurship in Sicily and southern Italy, two areas of the country that suffer from unemployment and mafia influence, Zaffuto is hopeful that more change is afoot. “When there is high unemployment, instead of doing nothing some people volunteer and then develop creative ideas to find ways to continue working,” he explains. “It’s our experience. We were volunteers, and we still are, but when we realised we couldn’t do it for the rest of our lives instead of leaving or changing jobs we put our ideas on the table and built our own jobs.”
Here’s Addiopizzo’s round-up of the social enterprise following in their footsteps.
A start-up born in a youth detention center in Termini Imerese, near Palermo. They produce and market baked products, including a shortbread biscuit that uses mandarines grown on a plot of land confiscated from the mafia.
A dressmaker co-operative based in Palermo, created by marginalised individuals and focused on textile recycling. As recycling turns waste into a resource, people - often young with problems, immigrants, or with disabilities - discover their creative and business talent. They transform their life from waste into wealth, for themselves and others. Their motto is, “Rethink your life, rethink your design.”
A group of social co-operatives that work in Calabria in various sectors: agriculture (Goel Bio), fashion (Cangiari), communication (GOèL èthical consulting & communication), travel (I viaggi di GOEL) and more. They’ve been affected by mafia retaliation and have received support from the local government and population.
A Puglia-based social co-operative that employs incarcerated women to produce bags and other accessories from recycled products with the idea that the work and what is sold create a “second opportunity.”
See more about Addiopizzo here.
Laurent Fintoni writes for Medium, Fader, Thump and FACT magazine.
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