I had the great privilege of living in Italy for many years but was always saddened to see the beautiful island of Sicily so badly suffocated by the grip of the mafia. According to university research, just in Palermo alone, the pizzo, or racket, affected 80 per cent of businesses each of them paying a hefty monthly fee which helped fill the mafia’s coffers with more than $1 billion dollars a year.
Things however finally began to look up in 2004, when a small group of entrepreneurs who were planning to open a pub, launched the Addiopizzo (goodbye racket) movement and put up posters across Palermo accusing Sicilians of surrendering their dignity to the mafia. The movement struck a chord with frustrated merchants and quickly took off. It now has hundreds of businesses across Sicily that proudly display the Addiopizzo sticker in their store windows and by refusing to pay the pizzo have begun to significantly weaken the mafia’s grip. After many years of despair, there is now a new sense of optimism and hope among businesses and consumers.
A common theme that I hear from many of my clients is that more innovation and creativity is needed to address the complex problem of cyber crime and Addiopizzo made me reflect on how:
- Even when confronted with a dangerous and well organized threat, there is still ample room for innovation and that grassroots movements can win the day;
- While slow to start, “Collective Action solutions” and cooperation between institutional actors (e.g. law enforcement and business associations) and market-led actors (e.g. the general public and businesses) can be very powerful;
- Awareness and communication are key and businesses need to take a visible and concrete stance against crime.
I therefore believe that there are some interesting lessons which we can learn and apply to our still relatively immature security industry.
Strength in numbers holds true.