2016 ANDE Annual Conference Session Panel Recap

Providing Comprehensive Technical Assistance to SGBs: Exploring Competing Approaches

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) is a global network of organizations that supports entrepreneurship in emerging markets. ANDE focuses on small and growing businesses (SGBs) based on the idea that SGBs have the potential to create jobs, stimulate long-term economic growth, and produce environmental and social benefits. SGB’s, as defined by ANDE, are commercially viable businesses with 5 to 250 employees and seeking growth capital from $20,000 to $2,000,000.

SSG Advisors has been an ANDE member since 2014 and is constantly engaging with SGB’s across its diverse portfolio. Whether we are supporting capital raising for agribusinesses through the West Africa Trade Hub, or mentoring clean energy businesses in the Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia, we consistently work with brilliant entrepreneurs and dynamic businesses in a variety of capacities. Generally, our engagement comes about as part of a larger, donor-funded engagement, rather than as a direct contract with the SGB itself. In the development context, such support funded by a third party is typically referred to as “technical assistance” (TA).

At ANDE’s annual conference in 2016, SSG’s Director of Sustainable Investment, Darius Li, moderated a spirited discussion on technical assistance alongside two other panelists, Tahira Dosani, Managing Director of Accion Ventures, an impact investor, and Pedro Eikenbloom, Business Development Manager at PUM, a volunteer-based technical assistance provider. The discussion explored three main issues in the provision of TA: 1) Making the case for TA – where is it still most needed in the process, and how best can it be most effectively utilized?; 2) Discussing the different approaches and best practices in TA delivery; and 3) Identifying ways TA can be improved in its application and value to clients and beneficiaries.

Major takeaways from the discussion include:

  • Both pre and post investment TA are vital to the success of SGB’s. All participants agreed upon the necessity of TA and how it is a critical enabler to the placement of capital, and success after the fact, as the company absorbs the investment and continues to grow. The question remains, however, who is best positioned and willing to pay for that support.
  • Although the majority of TA for SGBs today is subsidized by donors, there may be a business case for investors to invest in pre-investment TA as a way of increasing overall returns. Anecdotally, doing so creates long-term financial value: supporting early stage companies increases their probability of ultimately being successful, and thereby improving exit opportunities and returns. Providing TA also helps attract better deals because it allows the investor to offer more value to potential portfolio companies, attracting a higher quality pipeline, transactions, as well as co-investors, particularly in a competitive deal situation with multiple bidders. Investors also learn from providing TA- it makes them better investors because they become more adept at understanding and solving the issues their portfolio companies face, enabling them to spot red flags early on. The combination of these benefits strongly suggest that providing TA can be a differentiator that yields greater returns for investors.
  • There are many different models of providing and paying for TA, and there may exist more effective models that better align long-term interests between TA providers and recipients. TA providers have explored a number of different models in this regard. Open Capital, for example, charges a deferred fee, payable on success. Others, like Growth Africa, take a combination of equity and success fees based on revenues, capital raised, etc. Other models for paying for TA include profit sharing models, self-liquidating exits, VPO, etc – all can be great for aligning incentives between TA providers and SGB’s, but the downside is they are also more complicated to structure. The bottom line is that there are a number of creative approaches emerging that TA funders, recipients, and providers can explore in finding better ways to work together.
  • Standardizing TA service delivery is key to reducing cost and increasing efficiency. For example, Accion always evaluates whether the TA needed is truly bespoke, or, alternatively, is an opportunity where best practices can be extracted and template-ized so that it can be shared with the broader portfolio on a more cost effective basis. Over time, Accion has recognized distinct patterns within their portfolio, with many companies sharing similar challenges. This is made possible by their narrow focus on seed stage investments for financial inclusion startups operating in emerging markets. As a result, they have met common needs for TA by developing distinct learning tools that are shared online and dramatically reduce costs over the long run. 20 such examples are available to the public in Accion’s Venturelab resource library.


Growth in a time of (climate) extremes: Can the Philippines get its act together? (Part 1)

by Lawrence Ang

Yes. You’ve read a lot about it recently. You’ve probably even had a couple of intense, curious, or at the least “interesting” conversations about the Philippines with your family, friends, and colleagues. But, alas, the Philippines isn’t just about its President or its notorious traffic. Right? Right.

So let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the Philippines.

Annual GDP growth?—excellent at 6-7%. Demographics?—over 52% of the population are of working age, and all fluent English speakers (now that’s a workforce!). A high income country by 2040?—looks like it’s destined to happen. The gears of growth running Asia’s favorite beach destination is so well-oiled that its credit ratings were upgraded to investment grade and above over the last 3 years alone. Not even the recent downturn in the US and Asia markets made this economy flinch. No wonder, it feels unstoppable.

But let’s talk about climate change for a second. Or to paraphrase, the way nature is pulling the rug on emerging economies. The Philippines is, if not the most, vulnerable nation in Asia when it comes to extreme weather events. An average of 20 typhoons ravage the country annually, with droughts interspersed in between. Typhoon Haiyan, recorded history’s strongest supertyphoon ever, claimed at least 10,000 lives in 2013 and resulted in over $225 million of damage across major cities, coastal areas, and agricultural towns—with several communities still recovering 3 years on. It comes as no surprise then that the Philippines has a reputation of being one of most vocal champions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the recently signed Paris Agreement—a product of decades’ worth of global negotiations that limits greenhouse gas emissions to “safe levels” and sets the framework for how the international community will assist developing countries, institutionally and financially, adapt to the new norm of a hotter, more unpredictable, and extreme world.

But here’s the rub. As the Philippines experiences phenomenal growth on one hand, and an uncertain climate future on the other, what does the future hold for Asia’s new tiger economy? Well, it seems, more uncertainty. The country is yet to ratify the Paris Agreement, as of this article’s writing, putting into jeopardy opportunities to receive much needed financial resources from the international community to help the country cope with the effects of climate change. Furthermore, current domestic capacities to implement climate adaptation measures have been left wanting, despite the nation holding the record for having passed some of the most progressive climate laws and policies in the region. A budget issue? Perhaps. A case of a new administration still gauging the benefits of “owning” the problem? Many believe so.

Add to that, there’s the other big elephant in the room—the country’s energy mix. In the nation’s quest to fulfill its ambition of becoming a high income economy by 2040 (with average per capita income expected to reach $14,000), powering the country’s industrialization has become an absolute priority. So much so that the cheapest options on the table, which today are perceived to be coal-fire powered plants, have been deemed as the most convenient and expedient to address the country’s energy woes, notwithstanding the country’s rich renewable energy resources, which admittedly are variable and “peaky”.

But should this be the case? Is a coal-dependent future the smartest way forward? What of natural gas, the world’s emerging “transition fuel”; or solar micro-grids, the energy of the future according to Silicon Valley? Is there a way for the Philippines to stay flexible, enough to take advantage of rapidly innovating energy technologies like cheaper solar and batteries? How much will it cost and who pays? How does all of this affect the country’s ability to compete with its neighbors?

The debate rages on.

In partnership with the Ateneo School of Government, SSG Advisors is developing a policy roadmap for the Philippine government and the nation’s power industry under the “Getting Our Act Together” Project—a multi-sectoral initiative focused on developing concrete policy recommendations towards accelerating an optimal energy mix, climate action, and private sector collaboration. Since the project’s launch in August 2016, several expert workshops and policy dialogues have been held with leaders from the public and private sectors, altogether crystallizing practical policy measures that can immediately be adopted to balance climate and energy in the midst of a rapidly developing Philippines.

The holy grail of an optimal energy mix capable of delivering secure, affordable and sustainable power to all now dominates talks within executive and legislative circles, as it is likely to affect the major decision making processes of jeepney drivers to blue chip investors alike and, at the same time, mirror the country’s seriousness in tackling carbon emissions in solidarity with the rest of the world, small as its footprint may be.

One thing’s for sure, though. As the next global climate conference is just around the corner (November 2016 to be exact), the Philippine government is expected to make major decisions around its ratification of the Paris Agreement and its long-term strategy to power the Philippines. So between now and then, the buzz is likely to enter a crescendo. So let’s keep talking. Until Part 2!



Lawrence Ang is Director for Asia for SSG Advisors. He brings nearly ten years’ experience at the nexus of sustainable development and private sector engagement in the region. Aside from leading SSG’s partnership building and impact investment advisory work in Asia, Lawrence is currently leading SSG’s efforts, in partnership with the Ateneo School of Government, to develop policy pathways towards establishing a climate-smart development agenda, an optimal energy mix, and an enabling environment for private sector investment in the Philippines.




Coming Together for Education in Haiti

by Andrea Alcala

On September 5th, public schools in Haiti opened up their doors to the new school year, and with a new school year comes the renewed opportunity to tackle educational gaps and challenges.

Haiti’s education system deficiencies have been magnified by past international and national assessments results that showed how almost half of primary school students are not able read or write in French nor Creole by grade 2. In response to this alerting information, on November 5th of 2014, the Haitian government adopted the National Cause: Reading, Writing and Math (CNLEM). The National Cause is a nationwide platform to advance the aforementioned skills in basic education through focalized and standardized efforts. As a way to bring back national awareness to the National Cause, the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a Back-to-School Conference on the importance of reading, writing, and math in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien, Haiti.

SSG Advisors led the technical implementation and logistical coordination of these events, bringing together close to 200 participants per location. The event mobilized MENFP local and regional staff, as well as representatives of national and international partnering organizations committed to improve basic education in Haiti.

WP_20160915_002Conferences were divided into two main sections: presentations and discussion. The first part of the conference was structured with two key sessions covering the National Cause and the importance of literacy, numeracy, and mother tongue instruction, with national presenters such as the MENFP Director General-Mr. Louis Mary Cador and Matenwa non-profit, community leader Abnel Sauveur, and international presenters such as Dr. Josefina Vijil, Dr. Rosangela Bando, and Christine Low. Followed by the presentations were the small group breakout sessions to discuss personal and organizational resolutions to drive the National Cause for improving reading, writing, and math. This last part was highly appreciated by participants, as it not only offered them a space to voice their thoughts and learn from others, but it offered them the opportunity for their inputs to directly feed this national movement.

SSG Advisors is happy to see how the multi-stakeholder, collaborative nature of these efforts within the education sector remained true throughout the execution of these events and beyond. We look forward to learning about the shared advancements to achieve higher quality education in Haiti under the National Cause umbrella in the upcoming years.


What Works in Countering Violent Extremism

Chad / Darfurian refugees from Sudan / Djabal camp  (17 766 refugees, 4681 families), 4 kilometers west from Goz Beida UNHCR sub-office located 217 km south from Abeche, located 900 kilometer east from N'Djamena the chadian capital. The camp, created on 4/6/2004, is located 80 km from the sudanese border. Sunset on one of the playground of Djabal refugees' camp. Teenagers play football, the main sport activities. 60 % of the camp's population is under 18 years old, with 40% of old people. / UNHCR / F. Noy / December 2011

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post. To view the original article, please follow this link.

By Elise Barry

Twenty years ago, no one had ever heard of CVE. Now, CVE (or countering violent extremism if you haven’t quite caught up on the acronym) has evolved into a field of study, a strategy, a U.S. government and international priority, and a larger debate over what is effective in preventing the terrorist attacks that inundate the news these days. This is not to say that either the tactics used by violent extremist groups or efforts to prevent violent extremism are new phenomena – they are age-old. However, in the last decade, there has been a significant push by governments, multilateral organizations, and NGOs to focus efforts under the umbrella of CVE to respond to the increase of terrorism worldwide. Unlike the hardline military, security, and intelligence approach of counterterrorism, programs under the CVE umbrella seek to empower communities and build resilience to violent extremism (though many programs in the past have misunderstood or blurred this distinction).

In contrast to the sharp increase in interest being focused on this new field of CVE, there are few studies or examples that have been able to concretely pinpoint what works and what doesn’t in preventing individuals from joining violent extremist groups. Leaving aside the fact that quantifying ‘success’ in CVE is extremely difficult, the lack of hard data or success stories has created a larger debate over what works in CVE or whether it even does work. This has left many scratching their heads or worse – talking a lot, while saying little of substance.

This debate has gotten one thing right in that there are no easy answers or panaceas in CVE. However, with the benefit of hindsight on the last decade of CVE programming and from my own experience supporting development agencies, NGOs, development professionals, youth, and other stakeholders to understand the role they can play in CVE across Africa, I see a few rules of thumb that are critical for CVE to be effective:

One size does not fit all

In a world where you can customize your latte in 100 different combinations, we need to begin thinking this way in terms of CVE programming. The backgrounds of individuals who join violent extremist groups and their reasons for doing so are incredibly diverse and often very individual. Not only does it matter what country you live in, what your gender is, and your socioeconomic status, but your individual life experiences leading up to this point also play a key role in the reasons you may or may not be more likely to join or support a violent extremist group. Because of this, the unfortunate fact is that one size does not fit all and a program that might impact one individual is not going to make one bit of difference for their neighbor. For example, let’s think about a youth parliament program in Mandera, Kenya, a city on the border of Somalia that has been the scene of frequent al-Shabaab attacks. For some youth, this program could provide them with a voice and a platform to create change in their community, which may have been the impetus for supporting al-Shabaab otherwise. For others though, they may not be the least bit interested in joining a youth parliament. Perhaps they faced significant discrimination and would benefit more from psychosocial support or yet another type of program. Rather than broad projects that attempt to address all of the grievances in a community, let alone a country, CVE programs need to be as granular as possible. As a result, we need a lot of them.

Learn and act locally, with a global awareness

When we talk about addressing the drivers of violent extremism, it often requires real social change. For example, if we look at what makes violent extremist groups attractive, predominately to youth, it often comes down to the fact that many groups are offering those individuals a voice, a recognized role in a society, and an opportunity to overturn systems – whether that system is based on age or entrenched elites – that is holding them back. To address this will require that the status quo of social structures be challenged and revised. Such social change is nearly impossible to predict or plan from the outside. Moreover, it would be naïve to assume that anyone, outside of the community enacting that change, knows what is best or would work for them. Creating a space for individuals to discuss their grievances and be a part of devising the programs will not only result in better solutions, but will also give individuals a measure of control over their problems.

This does not mean we should promote CVE programs in a vacuum. Country-wide, regional, and even global trends do play into violent extremism and how it manifests around the world. This is true when looking at the overlap that often exists between organized crime and violent extremism. For example, while the grievances that cause an individual to join Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are likely very localized, responses need to at least be aware of the regional criminal networks and instability that keeps AQIM in business in the first place. So, programs should be targeted, locally-driven, and localized, while keeping an eye on broader trends and patterns.

Be realistic and focused, but not discouraged

It is easy to become overwhelmed when looking at the complexity of the issues that need to be addressed to mitigate the root causes of violent extremism or the length of time it will take to see progress. CVE programs needs to go hand in hand with economic development, security sector reform, democracy and governance strengthening, and a whole host of other development objectives. Moreover, many of the drivers of violent extremism are generational problems that may very well take generations to resolve. This is not what many want to hear, but it is the truth. Even with a diverse range of programs in every at-risk community, there will not be a quick fix to terrorism. We need to accept this now, so that we can focus on what can be achieved.

Seen from another perspective, the complexity of the issues is also cause for optimism, as we realize that we can address individual parts of the problem. It is both reassuring and encouraging that one small youth parliament program in Mandera, Kenya can make a difference. No, this is not even remotely close to ‘solving’ the problem of violent extremism in the world, in Kenya, or even merely in Mandera. However, it will make a difference, and, with enough smart, locally-driven, focused, and creatively diverse programs working in collaboration with the development projects already underway all over the world, we will see progress.

The Concordia Summit and The Power of Partnerships

The world’s most prominent business, government, and nonprofit leaders convened during September’s UN General Assembly in New York at The Concordia Summit to examine how to catalyze effective partnerships for impact, discussing issues from global food supply to the refugee crisis to waste disposal.

The power of partnerships is no secret to SSG, as multi-lateral engagements have been the cornerstone of our work since the beginning. We have developed more than 200 partnerships in 50+ countries across every sector of development: poverty alleviation, natural resource management, economic development, education, health, climate resilience, gender, and conflict. Our work across the development space positioned us to engage around several issues at the Summit:

  • SSG’s Tim Moore is the Senior Partnerships Advisor for the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (Oceans), and has been leading the development of multi-stakeholder partnerships to combat illegal fishing and promote sustainable fisheries management in Asia Pacific through the development and adoption of electronic seafood traceability systems. At the Summit, he facilitated a discussion on the role of seafood traceability through partnership in addressing labor trafficking.
  • SSG’s Managing Director, Steve Schmida, presented updates on the TV White Space Partnership (TVWS) in the Philippines, which won the P3 Impact Award at Concordia in 2015. This partnership is a unique collaboration betweenMicrosoft, 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. In the last year, the Government of the Philippines built on the TVWS partnership success to scale its investments in the technology throughout the country as a critical component in its strategy to provide countrywide coverage for all of its citizens.
  • James Bernard , Director of ICT4D at SSG, and Tom Buck, Director of Natural Capital at SSG, participated in a round-table discussion focused on digitally-enabled partnerships. SSG’s work on a number of ICT4D projects – from business models for connecting the “bottom billion”, to using data to track sustainable fishing, to developing online badging programs to create jobs for underemployed youth – proved to be a valuable part of the discussion, which was attended by Qualcomm, Google, University of Notre Dame, Project Concern International, USAID, and other organizations.

This Summit is testament to the increasing importance of partnerships, in both the development and the diplomacy space. SSG has been at the forefront of harnessing public-private partnerships and private sector engagement to address the most challenging global development issues, and we must continue to innovate. The Concordia Summit inspired us with the work that others are doing and reminded us of the continued importance of collaboration to ignite opportunity and advance global good.

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.