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Strategic Social 1-Pager

Our one-page summary provides an overview of our core services—and what sets us apart in the world's most challenging areas.

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Engaging for Enduring Outcomes

Our outcomes are enduring because they are culturally tailored and acceptable from the outset. This approach is effective whether the cultural divide is due to unfamiliarity in the international community or just between domestic regions or business sectors.

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Our Unique Approach

Strategic Social brings a unique, industry-best approach to achieving success in complex environments. Our robust efforts are guided by a simple process: Understand, Empathize, Engage, and Transact.

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Constellis Group Acquires Strategic Social – Global Holding Company Strengthens Services Portfolio

Reston, Va. (March 5, 2014)— Constellis Group, a holding company comprising a family of businesses that provide complementary security, support and advisory services, today announced the acquisition of Strategic Social, a security technology integration and business consulting firm.

Strategic Social is a leading provider of public safety technology, business consulting and program management solutions to commercial and government customers in challenging and austere environments.

According to Constellis Group Chairman and CEO Ignacio Balderas, “The business and cultural synergies between the Constellis Group companies and Strategic Social are noteworthy. Our businesses operate in the same geographic regions and serve similar customers including governments, multinational corporations and NGOs. Additionally, Strategic Social’s solutions complement the program management, mission support, logistics, security, training and advisory services within our current portfolio. Most importantly, the company’s ethical and customer-driven approach is a perfect fit for Constellis Group.”

“We pride ourselves on our cross-cultural understanding, ethical business practices and commitment to building capacity amongst our employees and the communities in which we live and work,” says Matt Bigge, CEO of Strategic Social.

“Everything we do starts with understanding the people in the geographies where we work. Our solutions are driven by demographics, sociology and bespoke, localized case studies. At Strategic Social, we understand, empathize and engage. This localized approach gives us a dramatic competitive advantage,” he emphasized.

Headquartered in Reston, Va., Strategic Social supports expeditionary operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and North Africa.

About Constellis Group

Constellis Group is a holding company comprising a family of businesses that provide complementary security, support and advisory services to governments, multinational corporations and international organizations working in challenging environments worldwide. The Constellis Group portfolio includes Constellis Ltd., Strategic Social, Tidewater Global Services, Triple Canopy and their affiliates. Visit www.constellisgroup.com.

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For further inquiry, please contact:

mediarelations@constellisgroup.com

+1 703 673 5154

www.constellisgroup.com

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Mobilizing the People: Transcending Borders through Social Media

Much has been said about social media’s role in empowering marginalized populations, revolutionizing the ability to share and utilize information worldwide.  In authoritarian governments, where non-regime approved opinions are often silenced, social media allows individuals to advocate and collaborate with their similarly minded peers within their own countries and around the world.  It is this collaboration through social media that Alec Ross, former Department of State Senior Advisor for Innovation, has called the prime medium for the establishment of social change movements.

New forums for social interaction have provided worldwide access to an endless supply of information and news.  As a result, power has shifted from large traditional information providers, such as governments and the mainstream media, to the citizens themselves.  Oscar Morales’s One Million Voices Against FARC is one of social media’s first success stories, as Morales was able to mobilize millions of Colombians against terrorism using Facebook. The movement started by providing the public with the face of a victim, in this case the child of a FARC rape victim, whose story was circulating around the news at the same time.  This timing caused the movement to go viral gaining thousands of supporters on Facebook within hours of its inception.  Rather than let one image define his movement, Morales continued to provide information to his network. Through social media, he was able to organize the movement to reveal more victims to the public, to provide videos, photos, and information against the FARC.  This movement spread across the globe, leading to demonstrations around the world with millions of people in attendance.

In addition to giving social media users the power of information, the new leaderless format of movements has helped to create anonymity for the founders of movements and protect their members. For example, We are All Khaled Said, an influential movement against the Egyptian Government in the weeks leading up to the Egyptian Revolt, was able to use anonymous social media accounts to provide a level of secrecy necessary to evade the dangers of government persecution and punishment.  Additionally, Facebook and other media outlets allowed the movement to connect with other networks and movements, providing wide-ranging support, as well as legitimacy, to the group.

Though social media has ushered in a new era of global community, citizen journalism and information sharing, many academics would advise against buying into the belief that social media, and social media alone, has led to some of the most dramatic social upheavals of recent history. Rather, Jon B. Alterman argues in “The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted,” that it was social media’s ability to empower individuals and convey information to the traditional media that made it a tool of revolutionaries, not a revolutionary force in and of itself.

Nonetheless, social media has facilitated the opening of closed societies and in this new era of global interconnectivity, it will continue to mobilize and connect individuals around the world, shifting traditional means of geopolitics to a more population-centric approach.

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Afghanistan After 2014: Combating the Taliban without Weapons

As the United States begins to prepare for its withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2014, it has begun to address one of Afghanistan’s largest narcotics operations with no force at all. Opium production and trade is one of the main sources of funding for the Taliban, not to mention it has contributed to political instability and a breakdown in the rule of law.

The latest survey by the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs shows that 5% of Afghanis living in urban areas are addicted to opium, compared to .03% in the U.S.  Additionally, the percentage of the population addicted to opium in rural areas is projected to be in the double digits. This makes Afghanistan the country with the highest addiction to opiates worldwide. Further, Helmand and Kandahar, two of the most instable provinces in Afghanistan, are also the largest producers of opium. This linkage between opium production and corruption illuminates the importance of tackling the production of poppy.

Relative peace and stability following the withdrawal of U.S. forces is predicated on the subjugation of the Taliban insurgency, making efforts to stem their funding ever more important. Initiatives by the U.S. government to combat the production of opiates involve enforcing and strengthening the rule of law and the criminal justice system.  However, the popularity of informal law at the tribal level, coupled with the paradoxical meshing of Shariah Law with common law, make the establishment of a transparent legal system extremely challenging.

Amy Schimisseur, Team Lead for the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Afghanistan Counter-narcotics, spoke at an event held at Georgetown University called Afghanistan 2014 and Beyond, about initiatives in place to change attitudes and behaviors regarding the production and trafficking of opium.  One initiative is the Counternarcotics Public Information Initiative (CNPI), which disseminates public information and awareness through Afghan media outlets, NGOs and government agencies regarding the effects of the poppy crop.  Local leaders are being trained to hold community councils on the dangers of drug use and Preventative Drug Education initiatives within public schools have also sought to stem drug use at an early age.

Economic aid also acts as an important tool to encourage the destruction of opium crops and to provide opportunities for development. A widely successful initiative is the Good Performers Initiative (GPI). The program involves incentivizing provinces to eradicate opium production in return for development assistance ($1 million USD/year) for sustainable infrastructure projects such as schools, roads and sports stadiums.  The project ideas come from local villages within the given province and the contracts are awarded to Afghan companies.  This not only incentivizes governments to eradicate poppy production, it also employs local Afghans and builds capacity.

Even though troop withdrawals will take place, the U.S. plans to continue its war with the Taliban nonviolently on both the governmental and civil society fronts.  It is essential that the rule of law provide citizens with security, consistency of expectations, and protection by and from government.  With the prospect of the Taliban trying to make a move after the majority of U.S. troops have left, the capacity of civil society and the government, as well as economic development and market opportunities, will be necessary to combat insurgency movements.

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Turkey Between East and West: A Balancing Act

More recently than not, Turkey seems to be walking through a political minefield, poised to take one wrong geopolitical turn, disrupting its carefully crafted foreign policy and international partnerships. It has continually tried to appeal to both Western standards of democracy, while maintaining its Islamic heritage. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has helped transition Turkey over the past ten years into the economically powerful Islamic democracy it is today. Part of this success has come from its “zero problems with neighbors” policy since 2009; however, with growing conflicts of interest between Turkey and Iran, and Turkey and Russia, the country’s aspirational role as a broker in the Middle East/Central Asia may be at risk. Iranian nuclear ambitions, the Syria conflict, security ties with the U.S., renewed negotiations with Kurdish rebels and strengthening economic ties with the East make for an uncertain future regarding Turkey’s balancing act.

Turkey has deep-rooted economic ties with Russia due to oil and natural gas dependence – it imports 10% of its oil and 58% of its natural gas from the former Soviet Union. Although less reliant on Iranian energy imports, Turkey is still invested in maintaining relations with Iran for geographic, political, and security reasons.  Compounded with an increasingly strong alliance between Russia and Iran, Turkey is in a difficult situation as it tries to balance relations with the U.S. and Western Europe. Though militarily Turkey’s behavior seems to align with that of NATO, economically, Turkey’s decision-making looks eastward.

However, this algorithm may not work for long as Turkey’s economic and security affairs collide. Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. sanctions against the country have already created a rift in the U.S.-Turkish alliance and could lead to major strategic problems for Turkey. Additionally, Russia and Iran remain the main suppliers of weapons to the Assad regime, yet Turkey is the main supporter of the Free Syrian Army and its border with Syria has come under fire prompting a U.S.-Turkish military buildup.

Though Turkey’s ties to the U.S. loom large in its decision-making process, it has had no qualms in the past about bucking U.S. interests for its own. This policy has received much support at home as both PM Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul maintain high levels of popular support and have benefited from a policy that seems to put Turkey first, relegating international political demands to the back burner. For example, if Turkey is not admitted to the EU, Erdogan has threatened that it might be strategically advantageous for it to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with Russia and China. With Iran as an observer state, Turkey’s admittance to this organization could shift its allegiances further east, dissolving ties with the EU and the United States. Shared values, along with booming economies in China and Turkey, may make the SCO increasingly attractive as the EU continues to drag its feet on Turkey’s admission.

President Obama’s brokering an Israeli apology to Turkey for the death of eight Turkish humanitarian workers during the Gaza flotilla raid of 2010 may be signaling Turkey’s turning back to the West. Finding itself at a global crossroads, Turkey will have to determine which allegiances are more beneficial for its long-term political, security and economic interests. But in the short-term, it is more likely to walk a fine diplomatic line to keep itself in favor in both East and West.

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Syrian Civil War Coverage Turned Stagnant: Can Reports of Chemical Weapon Use Reverse the Trend?

Sentiment map courtesy of RecordedFuture

As the Syrian Civil War moves into what will be its third year of conflict, coverage of the topic has become repetitive with little fluctuation as the war itself stagnates and the international community has failed to act significantly. However, reports that Assad’s regime may be using chemical weapons to defeat rebel forces have brought Syria back to the forefront.

At its start, the Syrian civil war was on the front page of every newspaper.  Recently, the news coming out of Syria has been given less importance.  The majority of stories relates to the success of the rebels or the politics of the rebellion, which are often isolated to the back pages of the news.  Whereas military gains and losses were a novelty in the early days of the war, the impasse in fighting and significant loss of human life have made the issue more discouraging than a triumph of the Arab Spring.

When examining online media sites, recent articles about the war are abundant when searched, but they are rarely seen as headlines on the home page.  For the most part, these stories focus on one or two strategic gains, political developments in the rebellion, rocket attacks on various neighborhoods or the increasing number of Syrian refugees.  Though these stories are similar to the ones that grabbed headlines less than two years ago, they have been downgraded in significance, becoming stale as little has changed over the past two years.

In the past month however, the Syrian civil war has found its way back to more prominent areas of the media space (see graph).  Since February, there have been several articles relaying the international community’s concern over the possible use of chemical weapons from Assad’s arsenal by either side; the use of which could force international action.  Israel has recently come forth claiming that chemical weapons were in fact used this past week in Syria.  While the news has engendered a skeptical response from some within the international community, including the U.S., it has mentioned that the alleged attacks are being investigated for more concrete proof.

News stories about the war have escalated in the past month as the West has denounced chemical weapons and indicated that their use would mark a significant turning point in international intervention.  The use of these weapons, if proven true, may lead to a revival of awareness in the Syrian conflict as the world awaits international action in this civil war.  If not, it seems that the Syrian civil war will continue on a similar trajectory with the media following suit.

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