Seafood Watch Partnership Announcement

by Tim Moore and Claire Swingle


In the United States alone, 1/3 of seafood has been found to be mislabeled or fraudulently sold. This means that we don’t know what we’re actually eating, or what social or environmental practices were used to supply it. Though the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that “IUU fishing takes up to 26 million tons of fish each year, or more than 15 percent of the world’s total annual capture fisheries output,” illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing often goes unnoticed as a problem.SFW

On Monday, USAID and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program (“SFW”) announced their partnership to change this by combatting illegal fishing, improving seafood traceability, and enhancing the sustainability of fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s largest seafood exporter.

This partnership is a direct result of SSG’s work under the Oceans and Fisheries Partnership Activity, funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Regional Development Mission for Asia (“USAID Oceans”), to strengthen regional cooperation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), promote sustainable fisheries, and conserve marine biodiversity in the Asia-Pacific region.

Under USAID Oceans, SSG has been working to develop public-private partnerships with ICT firms, leading retailers, Southeast Asian seafood processors and fisheries, and the financial sector to support the development of digital catch documentation and traceability (CDT) to reduce illegal fishing and improve fisheries management. Robust, digital catch documentation and traceability, central to USAID Oceans’ mission, will enable seafood to be traced from “boat to plate,” enhancing transparency and visibility in complex global seafood supply chains, all the way through to export to US, EU, and neighboring ASEAN markets.

SSG facilitated the Seafood Watch partnership through its proven STEP methodology to partnership development in order to leverage SFW’s influence on North American seafood markets — where it assesses over 80% of seafood by volume consumed in the US market, and informs seafood purchasing at more than 100,000 business locations. This partnership also leverages SFW’s strong connections to major seafood buyers, including the largest food service companies in North America – such as Compass Group, Blue Apron, and Sea to Table –and business partners like Mars Petcare, to strengthen responsible sourcing commitments and action plans to promote and co-invest in the expansion of digital traceability and transparency in key seafood suppliers in Southeast Asia.

The Seafood Watch Partnership can significantly mitigate IUU fishing and increase the sustainability of fisheries in the Asia-Pacific – a serious concern given that 90% of all fisheries worldwide are now fully exploited, over-exploited, or have collapsed – as well as promote an ethical seafood supply chain and improving marine biodiversity conservation.

Indeed, according to Senior Partnerships Advisor to USAID Oceans, Timothy Moore, “Together, the partnership with Seafood Watch will harness technical experts, major seafood business partners, and on-the-ground fishers to bring about dramatic and positive changes in Southeast Asia’s seafood supply chain and serve as a model of collaboration for other regions around the world.” The partnership with Seafood Watch is a testament to the innovative approaches SSG takes to engineer sustainable solutions to the most pressing global development challenges.


Get involved in the conversation: #SustainableFoodInstitute2016 #USAIDOceans @seafoodwatch #seafoodtraceability #baittoplate

Find out more about what SSG is doing: http://ssg-advisors.com/

Utilizing Evaluations to Improve Transparency in Security Sector Reform Programming

by Zane Preston

Over the last decade, Security Sector Reform (SSR) programming in developing nations has become more common place as the US and its allies seek to strengthen the capacity of local security forces to respond to complex challenges from terrorism to narcotics trafficking. Unlike one-off trainings or Foreign Military Sales (FMS), SSR is more than simply supplying arms or ensuring personnel have the tactical knowledge to perform their duties. The State Department defines SSR as a “set of policies, plans, programs, and activities that a government undertakes to improve the way it provides safety, security, and justice. The overall objective is to provide these services in a way that promotes an effective and legitimate public service that is transparent, accountable to civilian authority, and responsive to the needs of the public.” The US and its allies conduct dozens of SSR program across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. SSR programming is not one size fits all: some programs are created in preparation for statehood, while others fine tune already established law enforcement and military institutions in order to improve their capacity to interdict narcotics and properly handle crime.

With the growth and expansion of SSR programs, there have been increasing calls in Congress for greater accountability and transparency. In 2015, the Congress passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act. It “requires the President to establish guidelines for the establishment of measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans for U.S. foreign development and economic assistance.” This new legislation is creating greater impetus for USG agencies to develop and implement effective evaluations of all foreign assistance programs, including SSR programming.

Some USG agencies have already taken active steps to develop and enhance their evaluation capacity of SSR programs. For example, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (DOS/INL) commissioned two evaluations of SSR programming: the Palestinian Authority Security Sector Reform (PA SSRP) and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Conducted by SSG Advisors, these evaluations are focused on analyzing available data regarding program performance relative to goals, return on investment, relevance, challenges and unintended consequences, alignment with gender and human rights standards, and sustainability and regional changes. According to SSG’s Director Carrie Conway, “These evaluations are identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each program to recommend best practices for DOS officials, utilizing a mixed method approach involving an extensive literature review, individual and group interviews, focus groups, and surveys of training and equipment recipients. By using this multi-faceted approach, the CARSI and PA SSRP evaluations are providing INL and its host country partners with evidence-based insights and recommendations that will strengthen program performance and improve accountability.”

As SSR programming grows in scope and scale, it is essential that program managers and policy makers have access to objective analysis regarding program performance and effectiveness. Through evaluations such as CARSI and PA SSRP, DOS/INL is leading the way in both aligning with the Foreign Aid Transparency Act and by demonstrating the power of evaluation to strengthen its ability to deliver cost-effective, results-oriented SSR programming around the world.

Giving Victims a Voice: Personal Narrative in Violence Prevention in Central America

Incorporating the stories of real people can add a personal layer to violence prevention, and can humanize the way that communities talk about violence. Historically, I’ve thought that a strong violence prevention program might include a few key components: raising awareness through education, providing alternatives to violence, and an approach that takes into account the local context. If a community rallies behind the cause and is really engaged and hopeful for change, all the better. This year, however, while conducting research for a citizen security evaluation, I was struck by an additional element being used by local NGOs on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. I learned about the power of the voices of the victims of violence, as well as the voices of their families and friends. It is those people who know intimately how violence has affected them, their loved ones and neighbors, and those people who can help shape more effective violence prevention.

Local organizations on Nicaragua’s coast know well that these stories can be vital promoters and drivers for change. In order to raise awareness about alternatives to violence, the Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (FADCANIC), uses short, highly produced documentaries that share the stories of community members in their own context, languages, and circumstances. The documentaries showcase both formerly violent community members, and also victims of violence. I was struck by the openness and the vulnerability that is required to share stories about domestic violence, but it is perhaps that frankness that allows the documentaries to really reach people in the community.

I was impressed too by the stories of young people who were part of youth journalist diploma programs with Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe Nicarguense (URACCAN), Bluefields Indian and Carribbean University (BICU), and Centro de Derechos Humanos, Ciudadanos y Autonómicos (CEDECHA). The participants learn how to educate others in their community about their rights, and the paths to take to prevent violence. Several of these “citizen journalists” were victims of violence, while some of the other young people were formerly violent themselves. The journalism program gave them the tools to talk about violence, and to identify alternatives to violence. They can use these tools to reach out to peers and community members. This is especially important in communities where it is taboo to talk about domestic violence, and where there are few services available to victims.

So much can be learned from the people who experience violence, and if they are willing to share, they can reach the community in an impactful way. By taking the first steps to share stories with their neighbors, and with the support of local NGOs, their voices can empower others by letting them know that they are not alone, that they have rights, and that change is possible. Their stories make violence prevention more rooted in the realities of a community and are a vital tool available to effect change.

Seattle: The Ideal West Coast Home for SSG

retrieved from: http://www.theaie.us/Campuses/Seattle

In July, SSG opened its third US office in Seattle to enable us to better engage with clients and partners on the West Coast. Seattle is a natural choice for a West Coast Office for a firm such as SSG. Home to world class technology firms, such as Amazon and Microsoft, and a growing bio-technology industry, it also boasts a dynamic international development scene with organizations such as World Vision, the Gates Foundation and PATH. According to SSG President Nazgul Abdrazakova, “For SSG, Seattle is the perfect home on the West Coast. Not only does it boast an amazing ecosystem of innovative international companies and organizations, the Seattle community emphasizes local sustainability and global engagement – qualities very similar to what drew us to base SSG in Burlington, Vermont, a decade ago.”

Leading up the charge to build our Seattle office is James Bernard, Director of Strategic Partnerships. James joined SSG from Microsoft where he spent nearly 12 years building and managing international technology public private partnerships, primarily in the education sector. With more than 25 years of experience with technology and consumer companies, and a decade working at the nexus between technology and development, James brings a deep understanding of how companies, donors and communities can leverage ICT to solve social, economic and environmental problems. Although he has only been with the firm since April, James is already making an impact with clients from Kenya to Haiti.

“I have been blown away by the amazing team and incredible passion that SSG has in building partnerships and engaging in frontier markets.” says James. “The best news is that this is exactly what companies in the technology space are looking for – real-world expertise in working on the ground to help public, social and private sector organizations solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.”

We opened our office at the Impact Hub, an incubator for social enterprises located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. The central location, open work space and collaborative atmosphere enables SSG to connect with Seattle’s social innovation community and build relationships with firms and organizations committed to building a better world. We are excited to grow our team in this dynamic and diverse community.

A Multi-Pronged Approach to the Growing Pains of Value Chain Development in Timor-Leste

By Colin Foster and Jeff Halvorson

Like other mountainous and geographically-isolated countries, Timor-Leste suffers from a lack of financial and technological services essential to the creation of a healthy, competitive agricultural market. Therefore, finding solutions to sustainable agriculture production in Timor-Leste is all about identifying missing links/gaps in the marketplace and building trust through relationships that have commercial benefit for everyone along the horticultural value chain.

Timor-Leste has very few established services, groups, and associations that provide basic market information to farmers and SMEs. In response, SSG Advisors and Cardno Emerging Markets recently began laying the groundwork with leading telecommunications companies to build and launch an agricultural database that will be used by farmers along key horticultural value chains that supply both domestic and export markets. This partnership aims to increase the supply of much-needed products by giving rural farmers access to up-to-date market prices for their produce, weather updates, and guidance on relevant good agricultural practices (GAP). Meanwhile, SSG works with leading agricultural buyers to contribute to the content on this platform and brokers MOUs with these farmers, thereby solidifying the market pull that will incentivize these newly-informed farmers to produce what buyers want, when they want it.

The next step will be helping firms in Timor-Leste’s small private sector sustainably integrate these solutions into their core business operations. To address this objective, results from recent ICT and rural finance assessments will provide insights into the incentives banks, MFIs, and other lending institutions need to facilitate the adoption and implementation of these ICT products. In addition, SSG and Cardno address capacity and financing challenges facing farmers, input suppliers, and wholesalers so these groups benefit from ICT solutions and formal purchasing agreements with leading buyers.

It’s a long-term strategy that involves building the ICT platform infrastructure through multi-stakeholder partnerships between key buyers and sellers so that the former continue using/funding it when the project ends in 2021. We are still at the early stages of this effort but based on interest and commitments thus far, SSG has found a fertile ground for this new technology due to its potential to significantly improve the lives of thousands of Timorese smallholder farmers by connecting them to interested buyers through a transparent system.

Building Local Partnerships to Empower Youth in Kenya

I’m 35,000 feet above Greenland, and I’m thinking about Africa. Kenya, specifically. I spent six years growing up in Kenya in the 1970s and 80s, and so it is a place that remains clse to my heart, and it’s only been in the last ten years that I’ve realized how much those experiences havScreen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.02.38 AMe shaped my world view and my career. I’m extremely lucky to be able to do the work I do for SSG Advisors, and to be able to give back – even in little ways– to a place that shaped so much of who I am.

Kenya is a country of contrasts: huge population growth and large swaths of empty space; arid land that is hard to farm, and lush, green valleys full of growth. Industries in decline – tourism, sugar farming – and new, growth sectors like minerals and technology. It has booming cities – Nairobi and Mombasa — with their frenetic construction, impenetrable traffic jams and vibrant populations; small towns on the verge of collapse, and sparsely populated rural areas. The country is governed by a Constitution that virtually every Kenyan believes in, but they struggle with daily small-scale corruption and ongoing political scandals. As always, Kenya represents the hope and de
speration of Africa.

I just completed, with three colleagues, a Rapid Partnership Appraisal (RPA) on the Kenya Youth Employment Skills (KYES) program, which aims to connect unemployed and underemployed youth with job opPicture2portunities in nine counties over the next five years. The program is funded by USAID, and is being implemented by the Research Triangle Institute International (RTI), our partner on the project. This kind of program can help reshape Kenya, a country with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. Unemployment, while high among all under-educated youth, is even more prevalent among young women, who often become young mothers, or aren’t allowed to work due to religious or cultural reasons. A program like KYES can give hope to young people who lack confidence and skills, and don’t feel like they are part of the growing middle class. People who feel they are stuck doing low-level jobs with few skills or opportunities to move up the economic ladder.

Under this backdrop is where SSG Advisors does its best work. We believe strongly that partnerships between the private sector, non-governmental organizations, community groups and donors represent a critical part of the path forward in any program. The only way to make development really, truly sustainable is to work with the businesses and organizations that were built locally and will be in their communities long after the five-year span of any program. The great news is that many other organizations are also understanding this, including our partner NGOs, the donors and development banks, and of course the businesses with whom we are engaging. Our Sustainable, Transparent, Effective Partnership (STEP) process simply gives everyone a framework from which to work.

In the past 15 days, we met with more than 50 businesses and organizations in five counties across Kenya – from rural farming areas to the bustling cities. We learned about why growing indigenous chickens can yield faster profits than boiler chickens. We learned how ingredients like tea, sugar and bixa are grown and harvested (employing thousands of people) in the start of a long value chain that stretches around the world. We spoke with women’s groups who are selling handicrafts on the Internet in Europe and the US, and met home-grown technology companies that are designing products for Africans by Africans. We heard how a new government regulator is striving to provide better building standards to manage the construction boom. We met local political leaders who are trying to change their communities from the ground up. These people see hope in the future of Kenya, and are deeply invested in it. When we surveyed them about how long they planned to be working in the country, the answer was invariably “for a lifetime.”

The work we did in Kenya over the last few weeks is really just the start of a process that will last for the entirety of the five-year program, and well beyond. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We are actively working with the program team and the partners in every county to start the process of brokering the partnerships that will make KYES successful, and just as importantly, that will give youth the skills and the job opportunities they need to be successful.

At SSG, we don’t just talk about sustainability as a vague concept, or something to check a box in a work plan. It’s fundamental to the work we’ve done in more than 50 countries, and with countless businesses and organizations. It’s core to how we help organizations rethink new business models, allowing them to tap into new markets. By working together in deeply rooted local partnerships, we have some hope of changing the outcomes for millions of people around the world.

Research and Recommendations on Indicators for Agricultural Cooperatives

SSG is pleased to announce the publication of our research report to culminate the Cooperative Research Support Services activity, entitled “Indicators to Measure the Economic Sustainability and Patronage Value of Agricultural Cooperatives: Research and Recommendations” (please see the publication here).

USAID contracted SSG to propose and justify two indicators to measure the impact of assistance to agricultural cooperatives: one indicator for financial sustainability and one indicator for patronage value, or the benefit that individuals receive for being cooperative members. This task was particularly challenging due to the diversity of cooperative experiences across the globe, which makes it difficult to develop widely applicable definitions and metrics, and the limited administrative capacity of many of the agricultural cooperatives with which USAID works.

SSG employed a mixed method approach to identify, filter, test, and assess these indicators. This approach included extensive literature review, key informant interviews with agricultural cooperatives in Guatemala and Kenya as well as subject matter experts and USAID implementing partners in the U.S. and Europe, and survey of subject matter experts. In the absence of an industry standard for designing and testing indicators, SSG developed an indicator rating approach that helped filter through scores of indicators based on data gathered through stakeholder interviews.

Additionally, SSG assessed the indicators based on Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation (PM&E) principles, with a focus on the utility of the indicators to the agricultural cooperatives and the ability of target organizations themselves to collect, report on, and make use of the data. The PM&E lens is aimed at making the process of designing and utilizing indicators a form of building local capacity in the vein of USAID Forward, a strategy within which local organizations develop the ability to increasingly engage with the Agency as implementing partners. SSG’s approach has the potential to advance USAID Forward in that, based on our indicator recommendations, the cooperatives can feel invested in the design of the project and think critically about the effects of USAID assistance.

So, now what? There are several noteworthy next steps that arose from this research. First, during the final presentation to USAID, the report appeared to spark important conversation among the researchers and various USAID stakeholders around how to continue to strengthen the M&E and impact of assistance to agricultural cooperatives. Second, given the objectives of USAID Forward, it will be interesting to explore opportunities to incorporate PM&E principles into other types of activities where target organizations or individuals can assume ownership over the indicator development and reporting process. Third, there appears to be an ongoing opportunity to leverage information and communications technology to inform M&E around cooperative development and other USAID agriculture activities through self-reported data. This capability may be particularly important for indicators regarding small farmer perception of cooperative management, which may be costly or difficult to ascertain through face-to-face surveys due to sensitivities within cooperatives. We are looking forward to leveraging the methodologies and experiences from the Cooperative Research Support Services activity in the future, whether with cooperatives or other areas in which SSG has supported M&E for foreign assistance, such as the security sector.

Finding Justice through HICD in Liberia: Strengthening the Capacity of Liberia’s Legal Institutions

By Natalie Shemwell and Colin Foster
Temple of Justice - Liberia

As life climbs back to normality in Liberia after years of civil war and catastrophic disease, Liberia’s Judicial System is struggling to effectively maintain law and order for its citizens.

A five-year USAID rule of law activity, the Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program (LPAC) program implemented by Checchi and Company Consulting Inc., seeks to promote a more effective and accountable formal justice sector. The project focuses on improving the capacity of five Liberian legal institutions: Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the Liberian National Bar Association, the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute, and the Liberia Legal Information Institute

SSG Advisors used USAID’s Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD) framework to define measurable performance gaps faced by each institution and to propose solutions to address them. Through an intensive three-week assessment, the SSG team worked collaboratively with each of the five institutions, staff, and stakeholders to identify the root causes behind the variety of performance challenges faced by each organization.

The HICD framework provides methodologies and tools designed to assist organizations as they strive for performance excellence. The assessment provides the first steps in the HICD process, serving to anchor the entire performance improvement system. The assessment is a systematic and thorough workplace diagnosis and documentation analysis that provides a basis for improving performance at the organizational, process, and workforce levels.

Strengthening institutional capacity remains one of the greatest challenges faced by USAID as it works to fulfill its development assistance mandate worldwide. USAID Forward mandates a growing role for direct Agency partnering with local institutions. Over the next five years, Checchi will use the comprehensive findings and suggested performance improvement solutions from SSG’s preliminary assessment to support each institution in implementing capacity-building efforts that will target sources of inefficiency.

On Collaboration

Before joining SSG, I worked at Oxfam on policy and advocacy issues for several years. Last week, my former Oxfam coworker Jo Cox was killed while working in service to those she represented as a UK Member of Parliament. Those who knew Jo far better than I have shared about her fierce commitment to justice, delivered kindly and humbly, with a genuine desire to connect with people regardless of their background or circumstance. Jo fought for integration; she believed that through collaboration, people can achieve far more than they could on their own.

Collaboration helps us find solutions that would be otherwise unimaginable. It is additive: we achieve a greater outcome together than we do as individuals. We don’t always know exactly how to work together, with whom to work, or where we’ll end up. But being willing to accept that we can do more with others leads us towards far better outcomes than resolutely limiting ourselves to whatever we can accomplish on our own.

This is why we do what we do – helping people work together to solve tough problems, such as improving health, education, and economic outcomes. Collaboration doesn’t have to be complicated; often the simpler, the better. We bring together those who need, say, books or fertilizers or medicines or jobs, with those who have these things. We help them find the conversation about how to work together. It can be difficult: trust takes time to build, and different types of organizations tick in very different ways. But helping people focus on finding their common goal is worth the effort, because getting there together means we achieve far more than we would alone – something Jo understood and lived by throughout her life.

Can Better Data Enhance the Climate Resilience of Small Holder Farmers?

WILD-photoFarming is – at the best of times – a risky undertaking.  For smallholder farmers in developing countries, such as Kenya, this is not the best of times. A report by Environment for Development finds that severe droughts in Kenya have interrupted rainfall partners with serious consequences such as harvest failure, deteriorating pastures, and livestock losses. [1] These losses have implications for agricultural incomes as well as local food security. It is therefore essential that smallholder farmers have access to risk management tools, such as climate data or weather insurance.

For years, insurance companies and donor organizations have been trying to develop weather-indexed insurance for smallholder farmers with limited success.  A key challenge in many countries has been the lack of accurate climate data – both current and historical.  Weather insurance requires accurate historical and current climate data so that insurance companies can develop models that allow them assess risk and set premiums.  Without accurate data, insurance premiums end up being very high – often beyond the means of a farmer to pay.  These high premiums have hindered the uptake of weather insurance products by smallholder farmers.

A new tool may help address this challenge by providing highly accurate historical and current climate data that can help lower weather insurance premiums significantly.  As a key outcome of the USAID/Kenya and East Africa PREPARED project, the GeoCLIM tool allows for much more accurate climate data by synching up inputs from both ground weather stations and satellites.  GeoCLIM was originally developed by PREPARED partners and stakeholders (including Tetra Tech, FEWS NET, USAID, ICPAC, UCSB and USGS) for use by policymakers across East Africa to address climate change and famine early warning. SSG Advisors and PREPARED partners also envisioned its significant potential for the insurance industry – providing much-needed data required to better forecast risks and, therefore, set premiums.

Under the auspices of PREPARED, SSG Advisors brought together national meteorological and hydrological organizations, climate scientists, technology firms, insurance companies and farmers groups to explore how GeoCLIM might underpin the development and scaling of weather-indexed insurance products targeted at smallholder farmers in Kenya and, eventually, across East Africa.  At a two-day workshop, participants used Osterwalder’s  Business Model Canvas to develop and clarify what a weather-index insurance business model might look like.[2]  Partners mapped out product offerings, channels, value proposition, relationships etc. – all the essential elements of how a weather-indexed insurance product can be offered and scaled for smallholder farmers.

With business models developed, the partners are now working to formalize a partnership that will result in the launch of a new weather-index insurance product for smallholder farmers by late 2016.  By harnessing the power of climate data, insurance companies, governments, donors and scientists are giving small holder farmers the tools they need to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.



[1] Kabubo-Mariara, Jane and Kabara, Millicent. (20145). Climate Change and Food Security in Kenya. Environment for Development Discussion Paper Series. 15-05.

[2] Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., & Clark, T. (2010). Business model generation: A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers. Hoboken. NJ: Wiley. Sahlman, WA (1997). How to Write a Great Business Plan. Harvard Business Review75(4), 96-108.