Learn More

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.

Download Brochure >>

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.

Download White Paper >>

 

The Strategic Social Exchange

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.

###

For further inquiry, please contact:

mediarelations@constellisgroup.com

+1 703 673 5154

www.constellisgroup.com

Share

Israelis and Palestinians Negotiate Peace…and Business

With the second round of renewed peace talks set to resume this week, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is topping global headlines yet again.  Concerned international actors, and the media, analyze each action taken by the negotiating sides for its potential influence on the long-awaited peace deal.  With controversial decisions leading into this week’s round of negotiations, including the release of Palestinian prisoners and the approval of further settlement expansion, hopes are not high for the peace talks’ outcome.  However, while the politicians discuss these high profile peace efforts there are smaller scale Israeli-Palestinian cooperative interactions going on, as well.  Instead of being motivated by peace however, these are motivated by the economy.

As the so-called Start-Up Nation, Israel has become well known for its powerful and innovative high-tech economy.  The small country of just seven million managed to perform an economic development miracle in establishing a world leading Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector.  As the Israeli ICT industry grew and attracted investment from major multi-nationals, it was only a matter of time before those same multi-nationals looked to expand: in 2008 Cisco wondered about the potential to expand their Israeli operation to the West Bank.

Nowadays, Cisco is not alone in looking to the West Bank as a possible new market for the ICT industry.  While originally private-sector interests drove investment in the Palestinian high-tech sector, these efforts are now focusing on a range of diverse benefits.  In just a few years the Palestinian ICT sector has become the concentration of cooperative efforts between international development organizations, local and international private sector organizations, as well as the Palestinian Authority.  The goal no longer remains at simple market expansion, but instead comprehensive socio-economic development of the West Bank through the building of an ICT industry.  This initiative also has a secondary benefit: it is sparking some of the most productive Israeli-Palestinian collaboration seen today.

Facilitated by programs and projects organized in part by development organizations, like Mercy Corp, and multinationals, like Cisco, Palestinians are participating in training and capacity building exercises to improve and develop the local ICT sector.  Following these capacity building programs, Palestinian companies have established solid foundation and begun to explore the regional market, including in their work for and in unison with their Israeli counterparts.  These market collaborations stem from mutual benefits derived from the partnerships.  Israel benefits from utilizing a highly skilled, yet comparatively cheap labor force, while also gaining potential access to the emerging greater Arab ICT market.  Comparatively, Palestinian firms and employees gain exposure to and experience in the international market regionally and globally.

Limited to outsourcing projects and basic services for the time being, due to size and capacity, proponents of further developing an ICT sector in the West Bank look to harness existing comparative advantages in order to succeed.  Many of the guidelines for pursuing a high-tech economy in the West Bank are similar to those cited in the Israeli case, as well.  A limited ability to economically engage with the surrounding region led Israel to develop an information- and technology-based economy.  In a similarly isolated situation, the West Bank demonstrates potential to nullify border issues through the utilization of a service- and knowledge-based high-tech economy.

Additionally, the comparative advantages noted in the Israeli case included a young, educated, and technology literate population.  With the highest college graduation rates in the Arab world, and a demographically young population, the West Bank presents a strong base for knowledge-based industries.  Furthermore, the Palestinian student body has adopted a focus on high-tech subjects, with 2,500 graduating in computer science each year.  Statistics like these, and the rise of the ICT sector from 1% (2008) to 8% (2011) of the Palestinian GDP, demonstrate an optimistic view of future economic growth in the West Bank.  However the road to true development via an established ICT sector faces challenges as well, including those influenced by the outcome of this week’s peace negotiations.

 

Share

Renewed Violence Threatens an Undetermined Future in Iraq

According to the U.N., 761 people were killed in militant attacks in Iraq this month, down from May’s 1,045, a multi-year record high.  With this streak of steady terrorist and sectarian militant attacks, as well as amplifying regional tensions, many have predicted that Iraq is headed toward civil war. Yet, Iraq’s economic prospects also present the chance for significant development. Will a young and still budding Iraqi state prove itself in times of domestic and regional hardship or will it fall victim to sectarian divide?

Following the departure of American forces in 2011, Iraq faced a precarious political and security situation.  The federal government, under Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was operational, holding free and fair elections, but relied on a delicate cooperative balance between political powers in the nation.  To exacerbate the turbulent political environment, regional and domestic issues have made this balance increasingly unsteady.  The government struggles to foster accountability to its divided population, as the Sunni, Kurdish and even other Shia sects develop harsh critiques of Maliki’s government.  Although on the surface the present Shia Prime Minister, Sunni Speaker of the Council of Representatives, and Kurdish President of Iraq would appear to provide sufficient sectarian representation, reality presents a tumultuous state of affairs not easily maneuvered by self-interested parties.

What challenges prevent the successful political navigation of such a crucial time for Iraq?  While the nation has always dealt with a domestic atmosphere tense with sectarian issues, this specific uptick in violence has particularly strained the state of affairs and progress in the political arena.

Perhaps the most frustrating result of increased regional and domestic pressure is the reemergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI or The Islamic State of Iraq).  Following years of brutal al-Qaeda operations, by 2007 Iraq was all but unified against al-Qaeda with the efforts of U.S. forces, the ISF, and the U.S.-backed Sunni Awakening Movement.  This coalition, coupled with independent Shia militias who, in addition to targeting U.S. troops, also fought al-Qaeda militants.  However, with the departure of U.S. Forces and growing minority discontent toward Maliki’s Shia-led government, al-Qaeda has benefited from a resurgence in violence.  This renewal of strength pulls from simultaneous goals of fighting both the Syrian and Iraqi governments.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq has publicly associated and claimed partnership with parts of the Sunni opposition in Syria, most notably its questionable merger with Jabhat al-Nusra.  The spillover of Iraqi al-Qaeda fighters into Syria and vice-versa, as well as similar practices among Shia militias, has threatened a short-lived lull in sectarian violence.

However, fresh terrorist violence is not the only confrontation to Iraq’s political stability.  In order to briefly address the dwindling security situation in Iraq one must consider Iraq’s place in a region of conflict.  Historically sandwiched between neighbors that all see great value in promoting their respective opinions in Iraq, regional actors play a significant role in Iraq’s security, economic, and political affairs.  While past decades saw meddling on the part of Turkey and the Gulf nations, the most substantial external influence now comes from other actors.  Cradled between the ongoing Sunni uprising against Bashar al-Assad in Syria and strong, yet unpredictable Shia neighbor Iran, Iraq must deal with an international presence in its domestic affairs.

While sectarian hardships have stifled progress in the political and security realms, there have been significant economic developments and accomplishments in Iraq since the U.S. withdrawal.  Iraq has experienced rapid growth: 10.2% in 2012 and estimates of 9.4% annually through 2016.  With these kinds of promising economic prospects Iraq is viewed by some as a market of the future; Citigroup recently opened in Iraq this week as its first new market since 2007.  However, in the eyes of other interested investors, such as HSBC who is considering a pullout from Iraq, the situation is not so bright.  In a recent program note on Iraq, the IMF reported the powerful effect oil has had on the Iraqi economy, bringing in $90 billion in revenue in 2012, but also emphasized that Iraqi economic prospects are subject to “significant risks, deriving mainly from institutional and capacity constraints, oil prices volatility, delays in the development of oil infrastructure, and an extremely fragile political and security situation.”

Due to this potential for remarkable gains or equally damaging regressions, Iraq is at a significant turning point in plotting its future course. U.N. Special Envoy to Baghdad Martin Kobler concernedly discussed this crossroads, noting that Iraq could experience a collapse of the federal state into sectarian-defined regions or it could blossom into a regional economic power with political stability.  Whether or not increasing oil revenues can lead to comprehensive economic prosperity and development for Iraq will be greatly decided by the ability of the country to advance past the recent period of political and sectarian conflict.

Share

Big Data in Government: A Step toward Improved Analytics

One of the biggest and the newest trends to ascend the ranks in the Information Technology industry is “Big Data.” Big Data is fast gaining the popularity and preference among vendors and customers alike. Much like Cloud Computing, Big Data has taken the IT community by storm and will become an essential service utilized or offered by many companies.  Though Big Data has its detractors, who worry about privacy in an increasingly digitized world, practically every major business sector is toying with the idea of Big Data as the key to solving important problems in and across disciplines.

Simply put, Big Data is a collection of large and complex data that cannot be processed on a single machine, but needs a cluster of servers to be processed. It is about looking at information in entirely new ways in order to improve whatever it is that a company or agency does. If managed effectively, big data can be a huge competitive advantage, enabling businesses to leverage a wealth of information to benefit decision-making processes.

Additionally, for government agencies across multiple sectors that have technology-enabled collection of vast pools of data, Big Data services offer the opportunity to finally organize and analyze this information. For example, Freddie Mac was able to leverage Big Data processes to quickly identify those homes affected and under duress during Hurricane Sandy and within a week the agency took effective measures to stop possible foreclosure proceedings on those borrowers. This would not have been possible before the era of Big Data. By comparison, during Hurricane Katrina, Freddie Mac was unable to pinpoint impacted properties in a timely manner.

Some agencies are even going a step further in trying to become more transparent by standardizing their processes and making raw data more easily accessible to public. The Government stands to benefit significantly from properly analyzed Big Data. With the amount of public transit, healthcare and public-safety data, governments have access to countless ways the public sector could use this information to save money and improve services. By efficiently handling Big Data challenges and using analytics to effectively unlock key information, agencies can derive a variety of benefits, from improving the way they presently utilize IT to discovering new services and capabilities.

Some of the advantages of using Big Data and analytic tools in the Federal agencies are:

  • Make better decisions more quickly. Instead of merely guessing, decision makers can use analytics tools and other technologies to process data, improving understanding of situations and allowing enhanced solutions to be implemented.
  • Forecast outcomes. Gives agencies the ability to predict results by allowing the user to play out scenarios under controlled circumstances and to identify correlations and trends in underlying data and more.
  • Eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Identifying unnecessary steps and inefficiencies in processes, an organization can minimize internal waste. Also some agencies, given the sensitive nature of their business information, can use Big Data to identify and eliminate fraud and abuse by the people or parties they serve or monitor.
  • Improve productivity. With the right set of analytic tools, even nontechnical users can work with large data sets to find information, deliver better services or make decisions that support the mission.
  • Enhance transparency and service. Big Data allows agencies to make data available to the public, standardizing processes and making the system more transparent. It also allows agencies to offer information as a service, whether it’s online tax records, census information, weather data, mortgage information or more.
  • Reduce security threats and crime. Analyzing Big Data is key to helping police, homeland security officials, intelligence analysts and others pinpoint patterns and other hidden information to help identify specific threats.

Big Data is not just a trend for larger companies or government agencies to adopt; small and mid-sized businesses are also feeling the pressure of managing and analyzing their data, thus giving leverage and competitive advantage to the companies that effectively use and manage Big Data. Several experts term Big Data as a new engine for innovation in the IT industry and recognize it as one of the game changer technologies that will transform the future.

 

Share

Why Cash Payments Rarely Work: A Case Study

Recent reports that the CIA has been supplying Afghan President Hamid Karzai with cash payments since the beginning of the war surprised many, though it shouldn’t have, and caused them to question the efficacy of such payments at a time when both the stability of the security and political regime in Afghanistan have been threatened. Similar payments to U.S.-backed Somali warlords in early 2006 offer a case study of how such monetary compensation might prove to undermine the very powers the U.S. seeks to support.

In July 2006, Ambassador Crumpton, the State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator, informed a full Foreign Relations Committee that he was surprised at the Islamic Courts Union’s (ICU) takeover of Mogadishu in June of 2006, an action that effectively defeated the U.S.-designed Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT).  Earlier that year, numerous credible reports  asserted that the CIA had begun funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars through secular Somali warlords to create the ARPCT in an attempt to “help [the U.S.] root out al-Qaeda and to prevent Somalia becoming a safe haven for terrorists.”  Instead, the U.S. payments actually “strengthened the hand of the people whose presence we were worried most about,” i.e. the extremists within the ICU and the broader al-Qaeda leadership.

Given the weakness of Somalia’s transitional government at the time, secular warlords with the military capabilities to fend off an encroaching Islamist insurgency may have seemed like the ideal party to fund, but in reality, they did nothing to legitimize the central government or counter the root causes of instability.

For the historians among us, this might be no surprise given that the Somali conflict has been sustained by a complex sociology and economy of war.  That is to say that the Somali conflict has, in a way, been organized by those in competition for resources in conditions of great scarcity. Therefore, providing cash to Somali warlords, simply because they were in opposition to the ICU, did not mean that the cash would go toward fighting extremists; instead, it would be used to maintain the warlords’ power networks (a situation eerily similar to that of Afghanistan).

Effectively, the money removed long-term leverage.  This very calculus to use violence and cash payments only cemented Somalia’s clan culture and political system, encouraged Somali stakeholders to benefit only at the equal expense of others and ultimately created new vested interests that became problematic down the road.

The lawlessness and broader corruption created by bags of cash to secular warlords should have been no surprise when thrown into a society built on diffuse authority and that has historically harbored an immense distrust of central security and governmental forces.

The challenge, then, is to acknowledge that reforming civilian alternatives to local governance and justice (like the ICU) in Somalia cannot be dismissed as too costly, too dangerous to study, or not feasible given the long-term costs.

Such historic miscalculations won’t repeat themselves when a civilian authority is answerable to its own people and not bags of cash.

Share