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Reducing reoffending rates to 2%: our CSR project presented at the 53rd ICCA Congress

Martedì 11 Novembre 2014

The Padua Conference Center presented their CSR project at the 53rd ICCA Congress, which was hosted in Antalya, Turkey, last 1-5 of November. Almost 100 participants (out of the 900 attendees) attended the session “Innovative approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility in the meetings business”.
The session was moderated by Guy Bigwood, Group Sustainability Director at MCI.
For those who missed the presentation, please find hereby the notes of the speaker and the slides of the presentation.

“Serve time and find a job”

Enrico Belli sales and marketing managerLet me introduce myself: my name is Enrico Belli and I am the sales & marketing manager at the Padua conference center.
I will show you how at the Padua Conference Center social responsabilty involves inmates, underprivileged people, who work inside the prison.
I want to tell you a short story.
In the ’80 a group of criminals committed a 100 crimes, in the space of 6 years, murdering 24 people in total. They were finally captured and put in prison: big surprise was to know that they were policemen.
They used their free time to commit those terrible crimes.
Two years ago I was invited to the prison, as one of a group of visitors, and I met one of those criminals: I watched him while he was telling the visitors about himself.
He regretted what he had done, he was suffering for the people he had murdered.
Working as employee of our company inside the prison was the first step to being socially reinserted or reaccepted in society, while continuing to pay for his crime.
This is one story among hundreds.
What is the matter with meetings and how can this inspire our work as members of ICCA?
I will try to answer to these question in minutes.
Yet, let me say few words about Padua.

An introduction to Padua, our city, and the conference center

Padova wonderful cityPadua has 200.000 inhabitants, and has the second oldest University in Italy, that means the second oldest in the world: it was founded in 1222.

The University of Padua has 58.000 students coming from 107 different countries and 2.000 faculties.
University lessons are also taken inside the “Due Palazzi” jail in Padua.
Some figures about the conference center: It has been founded in 1998, has 2000 sqm, 8 meeting halls, the plenary room can seat up to 730 guests (or people). We host 200 events per year and 40.000 visitors.

The Padua Conference center is a department of a company: “Officina Giotto”. We are a not-for-profit company, meaning that the earnings are reinvested in the company, not divided up between the owners.
Our  company is specializing in catering and events, landscaping, call center, assemblee-line organization.
The word Officina means workshop, laboratory, the word Giotto refers to the world-famous painter Giotto. In Padova we have a 14th century church, the Scrovegni chapel which is completely affrescoed by Giotto).

As soon as the Padua Congress Centre was founded, we placed special value on social responsibility based on our worldwide recognised excellent initiative: since 1991 our company have been reducing return to crime by introducing job opportunities into the “Due Palazzi” all-male prison of Padua, involving both non-violent and violent offenders.

The Officina Giotto network

The Officina Giotto network has 450 employees, out of which:
  • 30% being underprivileged people (30% of which)
  • 130 inmates in the Padua prison (on the payroll) who are payed monthly
  • 20 inmates in the Padua prison who are allowed daytime (or day) permits.

Now back to the business meetings and my conclusion.

Delivering social values to the business community

How do we deliver this social value to business meetings?
How do we involve the business community?
Every time a buffet is planned at the conference center, an internal order starts for our confectionery laboratory in the Padua prison.
We do not delegate the catering production to an external company: we do it. Since 2004 our chefs’ place of work has been inside the prison: they go in in the morning and go out in the evening to go back home to their families.
We have had the confectionery workshop, now known as “Pasticceria Giotto”, inside the prison since 2005.
For instance, the world-famous Panettone Christmas cake “Pasticceria Giotto” is distributed all around Italy and in 10 countries in the world. 


The private 35,000 square meters park around the Congress Centre is maintained by a group of disabled, former alcoholics and inmates who are allowed day permits.
Since 1991 the traffic has been increasing around the prison at rush-hours. None of the employeed inmates has escaped since 1991.
We also involve clients in visits to the prison.
We also organize meetings inside the prison where participants are involved in teambuilding activities.

In addition to the catering production and the landscaping, other 70 inmates are also involved in the following jobs:
  • Assembling bicycles for an italian company which exports worldwide.
  • Assembling suitcase wheels for a leading Italian company
  • Document scanning
  • Assembling digital signature devices
  • call center (both for companies and local public medical care centers)


Now to conclude my speech I want to talk about the benefits and 3 suggestions to you:
The key factor of success is the quality of the product, the process, the services.
The other key factor of success is the sense of working.
For us, working is a human need for all people, both unconvicted and locked up people.
If the prisoner is involved in the aim of the quality of product and services, he is led to reflect upon the meaning of working.
Consider at first that the social annual cost of the prisoners is 6.5  billion €.
We have 52.000 prisoners in total in Italy.
Once released, a prisoner becomes a repeat offender in 70-90% of the time.
That means:
  • Increasing costs for the government
  • Increasing taxes for the contributors
  • Increasing insecurity for the citizens

Reoffending rate has fallen to 2%

Thanks to this work experience, once the inmate has served his time he has been reformed and when he leaves prison he can find a job in Padua or in the area.
The number of criminals who return to crime has fallen to 2% among those who are involved in this sort of work – meaning that the former inmate has been reborn.
How much money do the government save this way?

What we learned from this journey

Pretend nothing less than the best: in our Padua project, quality of product and services is the key factor of success. In one sentence: “do not compromise on quality”
Always give a chance, there is always a new opportunity round the corner: both violent and non-violent offenders can be reformed. In one sentence: “Give a chance”
Do not give money, give orders, sign contracts, buy products and services: choose a supplier and let him grow with you: we learned much from clients that trusted in us, even if they were much bigger companies than we are.
In one sentence: “do not give money”.


For those who missed the presentation, you can download the slides of the presentation.
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