Innovative TV White Space Public-Private Partnership Nominated for the P3 Impact Award

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that the TV White Space (TVWS) Partnership in the Philippines has been nominated for the P3 Impact Award. This prestigious award – a joint effort of Concordia, the State Department, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business – is announced each year in the beginning of October at the Concordia Summit in New York City.

The TVWS partnership is a unique collaboration between Microsoft, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ECOFISH project, and the Government of the Philippines to improve the lives of fisherfolk and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines by extending Internet access to remote and underserved coastal communities. The partnership deployed Microsoft’s TVWS technology, which generates an amplified wireless Internet connection by riding empty television UHF and VHF broadcast channels. Together, the partners connected schools and community centers in six remote municipalities to the Internet via TVWS, extending free Internet to over 20,000 people. The TVWS Untitledpartnership was also designed specifically to improve fisheries management: TVWS helped support a new mobile, online system to register fisherfolk in hundreds of rural communities. This system enables the government to better understand who is fishing where and, as a result, to better manage precious and threatened fish stocks. Importantly, the Government of the Philippines has now incorporated TVWS as a key element of its universal broadband access strategy.

SSG Advisors, through its Sustainable Transparent Effective Partnerships (STEP) methodology, developed the TVWS partnership concept, brought the partners together, and facilitated the partnership during implementation.

Today, the TVWS partnership has been recognized as one of five finalists for the P3 Impact Award. The award honors outstanding examples of public-private partnerships that have improved lives and communities around the world, and it recognizes best practices in the public-private partnership arena.

The winner will be announced at the Concordia Summit on October 1-2. Keep your fingers crossed for SSG Advisors, the TVWS partnership, and our partners!


SSG Advisors Media Contact:
Tess Zakaras, 802-735-1169
[email protected]

Countering Violent Extremism: How the Latin American Experience in Violence Prevention Can Inform the Development Response to Violent Extremism in the Middle East and Beyond

By Ned Littlefield and Natalie Shemwell

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, DC, February 2015 (Courtesy Joshua Roberts/Reuters).

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, DC, February 2015 (Courtesy Joshua Roberts/Reuters).

At a recent White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, President Obama framed the challenge facing the global community: ‘When people — especially young people — feel entirely trapped in impoverished communities, where there is no order and no path for advancement, where there are no educational opportunities, where there are no ways to support families, and no escape from injustice and the humiliations of corruption — that feeds instability and disorder, and makes those communities ripe for extremist recruitment.”

The President’s focus has helped bring the issue of violent extremism (VE) to the fore, and it also highlights the complex, systemic, multi-faceted root causes of the allure of extremism. Although it is growing, the body of evidence regarding what works and what does not in countering violent extremism (CVE) programming in developing countries remains limited. Here, it may be possible to draw some insights from other contexts. In particular, the experience of Latin America in addressing the scourge of gang violence and particularly gang recruitment may offer some parallels to the challenges facing governments, donors, and civil society groups in the Middle East and beyond as they grapple with the role development assistance can play in CVE.

There are a number of specific political, economic, and social factors, as well as particular group dynamics and socio-psychological processes that are likely to generate or increase individual and community vulnerability to VE. Social marginalization, the search for meaning and identity, and lack of viable alternatives can be manipulated into recruitment tactics on vulnerable youth by both gangs and violent extremist organizations. Similarly, many of the factors enhancing resiliency to violent extremism appear similar to those that strengthen community resiliency to crime and gang violence. These factors include a shared collective identity or purpose, strengthened social ties, inclusive education and economic systems, and a sense of efficacy by youth.

While CVE programs are relatively new, development agencies have a considerable body of evidence regarding what works and what does not in violence prevention in Latin America. For example, an impact evaluation presented by Vanderbilt University’s Latin America Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) in October 2014 demonstrates that a community-based approach to crime and violence prevention in Central America, which “integrates education and workforce development, economic growth and employment, public health, and governance interventions”, has produced “a significant reduction in the expected level of crime victimization and violence,” as well as a reduction in gang-related problems in treatment communities.[1] According to SSG Senior Associate Kristen Sample, “Governments and donors have more than two decades of experience in violence prevention programs in Central America and Colombia. These programs demonstrate the importance of coordinated action on the part of critical stakeholders – local governments, international donors, and US agencies – to help achieve a collective impact.”

The knowledge and experience gained in Latin America is highly relevant to those involved in CVE work. “There are only a handful of CVE programs around the world, so the body of knowledge within the development community is extremely limited. Therefore, it is critical that those of us working on programs to prevent and counter violent extremism build on the best practices and lessons learned from the Latin America experience,” says Jen Heeg, SSG Senior Associate and an expert on violent extremism in the Middle East.

A growing body of evidence suggests that ideology is just one of many tactics employed by violent extremist organizations in their recruitment – similar to Latin American gang recruitment, youth may be driven to join VE groups out of a sense of marginalization, injustice, and desire to belong. These similarities deserve further attention in the analysis, programming, and evaluation phases of CVE work.

The phenomenon of violent extremism is not static – it is constantly evolving. As governments, donors and civil society groups in the Middle East and elsewhere increasingly focus on developing CVE programs to meet this evolving ever-changing challenge, it is essential that practitioners draw upon the wealth of knowledge and experience garnered in Latin America.


[1] Impact Evaluation of USAID’s Community-Based Crime and Violence Prevention Approach in Central America: Regional Report for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, 2014, Latin American Public Opinion Project

Leveraging Tourism for Conservation in the Mara-Serengeti

By Tom Buck and Marissa KimseyVersion 2

The Mara-Serengeti ecosystem in Kenya and Tanzania is recognized worldwide for its size and biodiversity.
Spanning an area larger than Jamaica, the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park provides critical sanctuary for the greatest number of plains game in Africa, including two million wildebeest, half a million Thomson’s gazelle, and a quarter of a million zebra. Each year, the ecosystem hosts the largest mammal migration in the world, with vast numbers of wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River from Tanzania to Kenya in search of relief from the dry season to the south. The landscape also provides an important hub for the conservation economies of both countries, with several hundred thousand visitors crossing park borders each year. [1]

Despite its importance to both countries’ economies and its protected status, the Serengeti and larger Mara River Basin face acute challenges related to human development. In Tanzania, issues such as population growth, overgrazing, and game poaching have weakened the environmental integrity of neighboring buffer zones designed to protect the park.[2] In Kenya, overdevelopment of the tourism sector has led to a spike in lodges, camps. and tour operators – only 29% of them legal. Bed numbers have more than tripled since 2003.[3] While recent insecurity has slowed the unchecked growth of tourism, the specter of tourism expansion remains in place in the Mara National Reserve. The health of the Mara-Serengeti landscape depends on improved management of human encroachments and development pressures.

In May, SSG Advisors conducted an assessment in Tanzania and Kenya in order to identify strategic public-private partnership opportunities addressing management concerns in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Our team interviewed dozens of tourism companies and related stakeholders, a large majority of which recognized the threats to conservation posed by unchecked human development and ever-growing crowds of tourists. Many companies also acknowledged the need to bring surrounding communities into the economy of the park in viable ways, encouraging a shift from ‘use and abuse’ towards sustainable integration into tourism value chains, but also in a way that would relieve business pressures. One potential area of focus addressed the challenge of lodges and operators shipping much of their food over vast distances, which Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 12.44.09 PMleads to spoilage and high transportation costs. These businesses were eager to shorten supply chains by working with horticulture and livestock farmers in buffer communities closer to their operations. They were also keen to procure services such as laundering, car repair, and others from local communities as much as possible.

Recognizing the challenge, the regional governments and conservation organizations can work closely with tourism operators to provide pathways for communities to become more deeply involved with solutions to landscape management issues. Without benefiting directly from the conserved areas, local citizens will not be actively involved in their protection.

In the coming months, SSG plans to engage with identified partners in the private sector, communities, and government in order to delineate the partnership details.



SSG Advisors and Tetra Tech Launch Mentor-Protégé Agreement


SSG President Nazgul Abdrazaokova and President of Tetra Tech International, Jan Auman, launch a USAID Mentor-Protégé Agreement.

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that we have launched a USAID Mentor-Protégé Agreement with Tetra Tech, a NASDAQ-traded consulting and engineering firm with 13,000 employees worldwide. Under the Mentor-Protégé Agreement, Tetra Tech will provide class-leading insight on operations, financial management, and strategy.

According to SSG President Nazgul Abdrazaokova, “Tetra Tech is one of the most experienced and capable organizations in international development today. Based on our shared Vermont roots, SSG and Tetra Tech have a long history of collaboration. We are currently implementing projects together in the Philippines, East Africa, and Afghanistan. Through the Mentor-Protégé Agreement, we will benefit from Tetra Tech’s deep expertise and systems in managing complex development projects and activities.   We are grateful to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business (OSDBU) for championing the mentor-protégé program and look forward to making this agreement a success for SSG, Tetra Tech, and USAID.”

Scaling Pilots through Partnership

By Steve Schmida

At a recent press conference, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of the Philippines announced its plans to scale upTWS BOOTH 2mx2m_final[1] the use of TV White Space (TVWS) Technology to deliver free broadband access via municipalities across the archipelago nation of 94 million. The $31 million initiative comes as a direct result of the TVWS public-private partnership (PPP) between DOST, Microsoft, and the USAID ECOFISH project, which piloted the technology over the last 18 months in several remote coastal communities. How did a PPP of a total dollar value of less than $1 million achieve such scale?

Scale is a buzzword in international development today, but few understand how to achieve it. At SSG, we see partnerships as a key tool in achieving scale and we often design our partnerships with scale in mind. Because PPPs share risks, they often allow partners to experiment and pilot new technologies and methodologies that partners could not attempt on their own.

What are the attributes of a good scaling PPP?

  • Institutional capability and mandate in at least one partner. Whether it is public sector or private sector, there needs to be at least one partner in the PPP that has the capacity and the will to scale the partnership. Here, DOST has the role of leveraging technology for development across the Philippines.
  • Strong incentives. These can be market-based or even political. In the case of the Philippines, DOST is in charge of the government pledge to deliver broadband across the nation. Thus, it had a very strong incentive to move forward in scaling. In other cases, such as our Non-Revenue Water PPP, it is the private sector partner that has the incentive to scale into a new market segment.
  • The right pilot gathering the right data. To borrow the old tech database adage, ‘Garbage in = Garbage out.’ Thus, it is critical that pilot efforts are selected carefully, so that they can make a clear case for scaling. In addition, gathering the right data from those pilots is equally critical. In the case of the TVWS partnership, the team was able to demonstrate how broadband access in remote municipalities dramatically improved government service delivery.

In the case of the Philippines, the partners invested considerable time on the front end of the partnership sorting out these issues, rather than rushing forward without a solid foundation on how the partnership could eventually scale. By embedding partnerships with strong fundamentals, partners can leverage small scale PPPs to achieve that most illusive of results: scale.

SSG to Build Agribusiness Partnerships in Haiti

SSG is pleased to announce that we are part of the winning consortium for the new USAID Port-au-Prince-Saint Marc Partnership. Chemonics International will be the lead implementer on the new 5-year food security program.

SSG’s Brett Johnson says, “The Port-au-Prince-Saint Marc Partnership represents a new and innovative approach to addressing the food security needs of the Haitian people. We are excited to be working with Chemonics to build market-driven agribusiness partnerships that will enhance lives and livelihoods in Haiti.”

Global Companies See Growth Potential in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Smallholder Farmers

By Isaac Williams

The dichotomy between the potential for agricultural productivity on the African continent and its dismal reality has long vexed governments, development P1030544organizations, and businesses alike. The World Bank has noted that agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa is routinely less than half that of geographically comparable Latin American and Asian countries. While the average sub-Saharan Africa country has four times the amount of arable land of its typical global counterpart, most African countries are heavily dependent on imports for the provision of staple foods. And the vast majority of food that is grown on the continent comes from smallholder farmers – families working plots of land of up to 20 hectares.

Over the past several decades, development agencies have helped drive significant improvements in the African smallholder farmer’s competitiveness on global markets. Concepts such as value chain development and approaches that focus on the central role of markets and market incentives have gone a long towards improving results of development programs. Nevertheless, success in sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and helping smallholders graduate into successful agricultural entrepreneurs has been halting.

All this is now beginning to change. It is a move led by major regional and global agribusinesses that increasingly see smallholder farmers as valuable new customers and the drivers for staggering forecast growth in the agricultural sector on the continent. Companies have begun adapting some of their core practices and products to this new customer segment. Advertising budgets are now spent on demonstration plots in rural villages, not impressive billboards in cities. Some firms work with NGOs on farmer training programs and tap development finance institutions for credit guarantees that help lower the risk of financing for inputs such as improved seed, fertilizer, and equipment for farmers.

Yet, significant challenges remain. Chief among them is finding cost-effective ways to get quality, appropriate inputs (e.g., seeds, fertilizer, and equipment) to smallholder farmers at appropriate scale, in the right place, and at the right time. And even when farmers are able to use these products to substantially increasing their yields, another hurdle presents itself. Unless local markets are sufficiently efficient and connected to global supply chains and infrastructure to absorb this jump in supply, farmers risk being victims of their own success through a sudden collapse in prices.

Partnerships between smallholders, businesses, and government, as well as innovative approaches to spreading new farming technologies will be central to addressing these challenges.

  • Increased collaboration between aligned businesses. By working together, complementary businesses, such as seed and fertilizer companies, equipment manufactures, banks, and commodities traders, can leverage each other’s respective strengths and networks, lowering the risk of working with smallholder farmers. For example in Nigeria, AfGri, a major South African agricultural services company, is working with smallholder farmers to ensure that the Dangote conglomerate has a steady of supply of tomatoes for a new tomato paste factory.
  • Partnerships with the public sector to improve the business environment. By partnering with governments and donors to improve local infrastructure and lower trade barriers, businesses can ensure that the crops their farmer customers produce reach market before spoiling and, on the other hand, that their own products can reach farmers on time and at a competitive price. In West Africa, the USAID-supported Borderless Alliance is working with major transport companies in the region to track bribes, checkpoint delays, and other barriers to getting goods to market quickly and efficiently.
  • Reducing risk and cost by working with smallholder associations and pre-negotiating contracts. By pre-negotiating purchase agreements with major, global food companies and providing support for the aggregation of crops from many small farms, businesses can be certain that farmers will have a ready market come harvest time. In Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, Cheetah Limited, a Dutch agro-trader and processor, has contracted 20,000 smallholder farmers to produce high-quality paprika.

These approaches provide promising examples of the type of innovative structures that can help to change the face of smallholder agriculture in Africa, turning it into an engine to feed the region and the world and working with farmers as customers and business partners, not aid recipients.

Partnering for Agribusiness in Timor-Leste

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that we are a member of the newly-awarded USAID/Timor-Leste Avansa Agrikultura project. This new, 5-year project is focused on improving the country’s horticulture value chains and will assist Government of Timor-Leste efforts to join ASEAN through technical assistance on certain ASEAN ‘single window’ requirements. Cardno Emerging Markets is the prime implementer of the project.

According to SSG’s Brett Johnson, “We are excited to be working with our colleagues at Cardno on the new Avansa Agrikultura project. Timor-Leste has tremendous agricultural potential and innovative public-private partnerships will be a critical tool in unlocking investment and growth in the country’s horticultural value chains.   We look forward to working with the entire team to make this project a success for USAID and the people of Timor-Leste.”

Partnering to Make The Business Case For Solar in Cambodia

By Darius Li

35 Picosol- Solar Powered Center[2]The Cambodian Electricity Market
With a total installed electricity capacity of 360 MW, Cambodia currently imports 45% of its electricity from Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The high cost of imported diesel fuel, fragmented supply system, and lack of consumer subsidies lead to high tariffs—energy prices in Cambodia are among the highest in the region, second only to the Philippines. In 2011, the retail electricity rates ranged from $0.19 USD/kWh in Phnom Penh, $0.25 – $0.40 USD/kWh in other grid-connected areas, and up to $0.50 – $1.00 USD/kWh in rural areas (mostly diesel generators).

Cambodia also has the lowest electricity access rate of any of the 12 countries PFAN-Asia covers with only 31% of the population currently connected to the grid. The government has set ambitious targets to combat Cambodia’s slow energy sector development, including increasing village electrification to 100% by 2020 and individual household electrification to 70% by 2030. But, between now and then, millions of lives will continue to be adversely impacted by the lack of affordable and reliable electricity.

The enabling environment is also extremely challenging. Not only does Cambodia lack feed-in-tariff subsidies for renewable energy, the national electricity utility does not even allow independent power producers to feed energy into the grid—at any price. Moreover, the national grid extension plans are not clear, causing significant uncertainty and risk for power project developers who are weighing investments that can often require more than ten years of visibility to properly assess.

However, it’s not all bad news for renewables. Cambodia possesses immense natural resources that can fuel substantial renewable energy generation. Hydro, solar, biomass, and biogas are in abundance and comprise the majority of the country’s potential renewable energy resources, including 1,400MW wind, 10,300MW hydro, 6,700MW solar, and 16,400MW biofuels. To date, less than 1% of this potential capacity has been developed.

Cambodia Country Assessment Summary

The Opportunity for Off-grid Solar
Against the backdrop of this challenging environment, we believe there are significant opportunities for pioneering private-sector businesses to develop, innovate, and implement profitable business models using solar photovoltaics (PV) technology that can result in significant social and economic returns. The confluence of the following macro factors provide long-term, sustainable growth in this sector for those that are able to successfully navigate and overcome its implementation challenges:

  • High electricity tariffs – As previously mentioned, electricity tariffs in Cambodia are amongst the highest in the region and vary widely, ranging anywhere between $0.19 – $1.00 USD/kWH (possibly even higher in some areas), and is subject to continuous fluctuation due to a number of variables that impact the cost of fuel for generation.
  • Low rates of electricity access – With large parts of the country yet to be electrified, there remains many opportunities for private-sector businesses to fill in existing gaps.
  • Rapidly increasing GDP – With a forecasted GDP growth rate of over 7% in 2014 and 2015, increasing economic activity in the country will enable greater ability and demand for basic services such as electricity. The growth rate in electricity demand is estimated at around 20% per a year.
  • Declining costs of solar PV With costs having already decreased in the neighborhood of 80% in the past five years alone, solar PV technology development has driven down costs and will likely continue to do so – albeit, perhaps less aggressively – for years to come.
  • Uncertain fossil fuel prices – The continuing depletion of fossil fuel reserves combined with rapidly increasing demand from developing countries and rising global population will result in significant long-term price uncertainty and volatility for fossil fuels.

Partnering with Johns Hopkins University
In partnership with a 4-student team from John Hopkin’s University (JHU) School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), we have been jointly developing a study on “The Business Case For: Solar PV in Cambodia.” The study will provide in-depth market analysis that will backup our initial hypothesis on the attractiveness of the solar market in Cambodia with real data points and detail the breadth and depth of specific commercial opportunities. This unique partnership brings substantial benefits to both parties involved. For PFAN-Asia and SSG Advisors, the SAIS team represents an extremely capable, highly motivated, and cost-effective team with broad experience from both public and private sectors.

Developing The Business Case For: Solar PV in Cambodia
Work began in earnest in October 2014. The team’s research highlighted two distinct models that appeared particularly interesting in the Cambodian context:

  • Revenue diversified mini-grids, which are mini-grids that serve a combination of commercial and household clients with one or more anchor clients, deployed in geographies that do not currently have access to the grid, and;
  • Custom industrial applications, which includes replacing or augmenting diesel-powered systems with solar components wherever such systems are already in operation. This also often includes displacing fuel usage in backup generators for large industrial customers.

The SAIS team traveled to Cambodia in January 2015 to conduct additional primary market research, including customer surveys, interviews, and other forms of data collection to validate their report. The team is currently reviewing their findings and compiling the data they have collected into the final report, which will be launched later this month.

About the Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) regional Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia program (PFAN-Asia) assists businesses, governments, and others in Asia’s developing countries to mobilize and scale up investments in clean energy. The primary goals of the program are to mobilize at least $1 billion in funds for clean energy investments and avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions amounting to at least 40 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. PFAN-Asia seeks to identify promising clean energy projects that have the capability of raising private sector financing.

About The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) IDEV Program
The SAIS International Development (IDEV) Program has been training international development practitioners for leadership roles in policy and practice for over seventy years. IDEV provides rigorous academic training in the economic, political and social dimensions of development, and practical skills to prepare students for the challenges of a career in international development.

A Hub of Creative Culture and Innovation in Vermont

By Crosby Fish

Since SSG Advisors first opened our doors in Burlington, Vermont in 2005, we’ve meandered from a small, shared office in the heart of downtown to a bright DSC_0151[1]converted mill building with space for a growing staff and an enviable perch
overlooking the Winooski River. Along the way, we have built a reputation for innovation in sustainable development, anchored by a company-wide passion for creativity and a culture that embraces new perspectives on and approaches to the development challenges to which we dedicate our careers.

The fact that SSG has thrived here in Burlington is no accident. As is the case with most businesses, SSG’s culture mirrors its surroundings, and Burlington offers a vibrant backdrop of startups, social enterprises, and non-profits that feed on the city’s energetic, progressive vibe. Craft beer and farm-to-table food aside, Burlington has long been home to entrepreneurs that want to do business differently. Last month, Forbes named Burlington as one of the top 10 innovative tech hubs in the US, placing it alongside the likes of San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. SSG has grown out of this same fabric, and it’s easy to see the link between the surrounding community and our emergent staff culture.

This year, Burlington became the first city of its size to fulfill all of its energy needs with renewables. A combination of hydroelectric dams, biomass plants, and wind farms, along with increasingly prolific distributed solar installations, produce enough electricity to power the city’s homes and businesses year-round. This achievement is a prime example of the groundbreaking outcomes that constantly emerge from a Burlington community committed to finding new ways of making itself better. SSG is proud to share the same impulse, and, even as we grow offices in Washington D.C. and elsewhere, Burlington’s creative culture and commitment to sustainable business will continue to be reflected in our DNA.