Project goal
Develop a community engagement methodology to support Criminal Justice System (CJS) organizations and the closest stakeholder efforts to favor the social reintegration of (ex)offenders. Was porposed to develop a training course on community awareness of (ex) offenders’ rehabilitation and reintegration, breaking cycles of reoffending and social exclusion; and also to help EU to involve a large number of actors on this social problem, making all of us playing our full part.
Program developed for the cooperative, Aproximar and transnational partners, during my PhD research in Design (University of Lisbon). This project was co-founded by the European Union (Erasmus+). Link to the project's official website, click here.
Project duration:
December 2017 to July 2020.​​​​​​​
My role
● Led the design and implementation of an educational program supported by community engagement methodology to support Criminal Justice System (CJS) organizations and the closest stakeholder efforts to favor the social reintegration of (ex)offenders.
● Created, tested, and deployed the design toolkit with CJS professionals from five countries: Portugal, Italy, Romania, Germany and France. Professionals were from different areas related to social reinsertion, such as: prison guards, prison managers, psychologists, social workers, etc.
● Design of communication materials, graphic syntheses, and reports. These are present in this link.
The research started for understand the European contemporary punishment and reintegration picture in terms of society's’ perception, participation, offenders labelling, return to work or to community, building a quick assessment tool to measure society “culture” towards punishment and reintegration.
To carry out this research, interviews were carried out with inmates of prisons present in the five countries participating in the project (Portugal, Italy, Romania, France and Germany). Was proposed a looking glass:
● How we, civil society, are contributing to be the turning point in each (ex) offender life?
● What are society’s perception on (ex)offenders and the CJS?
● ​​​​​​​And about its role on reintegration?
In the images below are the results obtained from the questions. 
MOBi - Community engagement methodology
After researching the perceptions of society and offenders, we design a specific methodology to provide CJS with the critical guidance to implement effective community organization engagement. This "MOBi" methodology  focuses on how to engage the community in the CJS needs and mission. It's about moving to a more community-centred model of reintegration. It is about a sharing of responsibilities and power with community.
Broadly, the establishment of CJS partnerships with civil society organizations can be divided into five interdependent phases: 
The first phase, Mapping of needs, has an “opening” phase for understanding the needs, as well as identifying which of them are the most relevant to be worked on during the following phases. This phase will serve to answer questions such as: what are the causes of the problem or what are the impacts of this problem. At the end of this intensely exploratory phase, there is the “problem definition”.
In the second phase, Identify, classify and match, there is a period of synthesis, of organizing what was defined in the previous phase and mainly identifying key actors to act on the strategy to be planned, gaps in information that can be better explored, what kind of interest or responsibility the mapped actors will have in the process.
In the third phase, Engagement, again exploratory, serves mainly to devise strategies on how the community engagement actions will be carried out. The procedures will be defined, the resources that can be allocated to meet the needs, ways of making contacts with the actors, the levels of participation expected to be reached, what are the stages of the involvement process, deadlines for developing each activity, possible limitations, which engagement techniques will be used, among many other issues.
The fourth phase, Performing, proposes to monitor the implementation of the ideas created, the objectives set and recognize if what was planned in the previous phase is being carried out in a timely and orderly manner and if the resources are being used efficiently and effectively.
Finally, in phase 5, Evaluate, Report and Renew, there is the conclusion of the community engagement process and possible renewal for a new process to address another problem. At this stage, the efficiency of the implemented process will be initially evaluated, and valuable feedback will be provided, on issues such as, the best techniques to be used, the most appropriate locations, what does not work so well and could be better done.
After designing the methodology, 24 tools were designed, which can be explored in each of the phases. For each of the tools, a code was created that suggests in which phases they are most recommended. Among the tools designed, there were some that were already widely used in Design processes, such as: Word cloud, SWOT analysis, Stakeholders map, Storyboard, Empathy map, Problem Tree and other more unusual ones, created by the Aproximar team, such as: It's match? Priorities Definition, Engagement Evaluation.
Usability test
After creating the methodology and drawing up methods, a meeting of the MOBi project partnership was used (held in Rome, Italy, between June 25th and 27th, 2019, to test them with professionals who represent each of the organizations and work with social reintegration of (ex) offenders. There were 22 professionals from four countries: Portugal, Italy, Romania, and Germany.
On the first day of the meeting, the first phase of the methodology was explored; on the second day, phases 2 and 3; and the third day was intended to present the ideas conceived and an overall assessment of the methodology and methods. Phases 4 and 5 were not tested as it would require implementing the ideas, and this would not be possible in such a short time.
In general, the evaluations were very positive, and suggestions were made for improvements in methodology and methods. After the meeting, the Aproximar team worked on improvements and sent corrections to the partners who were responsible for (really) implementing the methodology with the SJC in their respective countries.
Implementation of the methodology in Portugal
After usability tests, we implemented the MOBi methodology with the DGRSP, "General Directorate of Reinsertion and Prison Services". The problem identified by the team was to create a training course for employability for a specific group: people aged between 16 and 30 years old, serving time in the community. In addition, the proposal was that Aproximar would be responsible for training trainers for these courses, that is, professionals who work in the context of social reintegration and can be replicators of the training program. This course was called "Check-in Employment".​​​​​​​
The course "Check-in Employment" would be to redesign the "Employability Passport" already created by Aproximar, but for this other target group.
Solution: Check-in Employment
About 8 months later, the project was implemented in July of the following year, during the COVID 19 pandemic, so it was carried out online. A blended-learning course was created for future trainers, professionals from the DGRSP itself. The proposal was to train them how to work with the youth group and teach them how to explore the tool kit designed.

After developing and implementing the training programs, it was realized that a more comprehensive system could be design, relating to other programs that favor the social reintegration of people who are serving or have served time, including: the social reintegration office (existing in Aproximar), the GIP; the mentoring program, which proposes that people who have served time can have a mentor to help them actively search for a job or develop the skills to do so. The product-service system proposal is in the following image.
Images © 2021 Aproximar Cooperativa de Solidariedade Social - CRL & Caio Miolo, all rights reserved.
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