Strategic Partnerships; Strategic Insights


Sue Schram Addresses the Challenge of Food Security in the Middle East


ICARDA Board of Trustees visit the Cereal Rust Research Center near Izmir, Turkey

On May 3, SP Senior Partner Dr. Sue Schram departed for Izmir, Turkey, for her final meeting as a Trustee on the Board of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Sue has served as a Trustee on the ICARDA Board and as a member of its Executive Committee at a difficult time in the Center’s history.

In 2010, at the beginning of her first term on the Board, ICARDA’s headquarters was located at Tel Hadya, outside Aleppo, Syria. When the situation in Syria became unsafe for international staff in 2012, ICARDA was forced to evacuate its headquarters. Syrian rebels seized the headquarters building, vehicles and equipment were stolen, and facilities damaged. Fortunately, no damage was done to ICARDA’s gene bank, which houses valuable genetic material from crops in the region. For safety, the genetic material was duplicated and deposited in gene banks across the region and at the “doomsday” Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

Capitalizing on excellent relationships with countries in the region, ICARDA decentralized and relocated its research staff from Syria to relevant sites in Lebanon (the temporary headquarters), Jordan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey. Sue has the highest regard for ICARDA staff and their families who fled their homes and schools in Syria on short notice, and for the country-based research facilities and staff that have given a new home to researchers from HQ and, in some cases, built facilities for them. The stress on the staff has been extraordinary, with many foregoing any time off for years, in order to keep operations going.

Local Syrian ICARDA technicians from surrounding villages near Aleppo have bravely continued to work ICARDA’s 950 hectares of land in order to assure continued soil productivity. Lives have been lost as a result of shelling in the fields. Remarkable people risk their lives to do this work that is so important for food security in water-limited and conflict-ridden areas. It is critical that institutions like ICARDA are sustainable for long-term research to continue.

ICARDA is one of 15 research centers in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) — a group of 15 research centers placed strategically around the world — each contributing to specific aspects of global food security research. ICARDA manages over 200 projects outside Syria. Its regional research programs involve more than fifty developing countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, run by country offices.


ICARDA meeting with officials of the Turkish government to discuss food security

Last summer Sue coordinated the activities of a U.S.-based group that fought successfully to restore $30 million of World Bank funding to the centers. The Bank had released plans indicating that they would reduce their support to zero over a period of three years, which would have been devastating to the system of centers.
Research shows that global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75 percent annually to meet the demands of an estimated 9.7 billion people in 2050 and to meet the consumer demands of an expanding middle class. Assuring that future generations have access to adequate nutritious food in the face of population growth and climate change requires more, not less, attention from public and private sectors alike. The agricultural, environmental and nutrition research at CGIAR research centers contribute to reaching that goal.

Sue will miss visiting the beautiful Middle East and her dedicated professional colleagues and friends from around the globe who serve on ICARDA’s Board and staff. SP Consulting is proud of Sue’s commitment and salutes her dedication and hard work towards this humanitarian cause.


Steve Safier: Former Chief Human Resources Officer, Psychologist and Music Enthusiast


Steve toasting with his three sons

  1. How did you connect with SP Consulting?
    • I was referred by a colleague who had very good things to stay about SP’s talent, impact and culture.
  2. What drew you to SP versus joining other firms or agencies?
    • The level of consultants, breadth of solutions and intellectual and business flexibilityContinue Reading..

What Instagram’s Algorithm Update Means for Your Social Strategy

In March, Instagram announced that it would be updating its timeline algorithm to better showcase content that users care about. The format is similar to how Facebook operates and displays its users updates, posts and photos. In fact, Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012 for around $1 billion. But why fix something that wasn’t necessarily broken? According to Instagram, users don’t see up to 70% of their feeds.

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Client Services Spotlight: Senior Partner Maria Toshkova

SP Consulting’s network of experienced, innovative thinkers allows our firm to deliver results of the highest quality for clients across a broad spectrum of sectors and industries. In this post, the second in a monthly series, we aim to highlight some of the thoughtful project work led by our senior partners, and the many ways in which SP Consulting has proven itself to be a trusted partner to our clients.

Since 2013, SP Consulting (SP) has been working with the alternative energy group and sustainability institute of a Southwestern U.S. public university. Partnering with the university’s sustainability initiative, one of the largest of its kind in the country, SP was brought aboard and retained to help develop and execute partnership strategies with the U.S. Department of Navy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as companies in the private sector.

Concurrently, SP was tasked with developing a partnership and visibility strategy for the client’s work with the USDA, which has resulted in $3 million in pending proposals and new technology solutions.

Under the leadership of SP Consulting’s Chairman Ken Smith and Senior Partner Maria Toshkova, SP’s work has helped our client become one of a handful of universities to provide research, training, and strategic guidance to the Navy. Over a three-year period, SP’s client will receive a grant of $1.5 million per year to finance the development of multiple education and research programs to help the Navy meet its sustainability goals.


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The Fight to Save the Princeton Battlefield

As you read this, bulldozers tear into the Princeton Battlefield, one of our nation’s most historic sites. At this battlefield in 1777, Gen. George Washington staged a daring counterattack to save the American Revolution, which appeared to be lost less than two weeks before. Now this hallowed site is at risk to make way for a faculty housing project by the Institute of Advanced Study (unaffiliated with Princeton University). SP Consulting is proud to work with the Civil War Trust to protect America’s historic battlefields from encroaching development. In his recent column in the Washington Post, George Will comments on Gen. George Washington’s valiant charge at Princeton to turn the tide of the American Revolution and the fight to preserve this battlefield. You can join the charge and save the Princeton Battlefield by joining the thousands who signed a letter requesting the Institute to cease construction.

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A portrait of George Washington at Princeton by Charles Wilson Peale


SP Spotlight: Bill Novelli

Bill Novelli, Board Member of SP Consulting and co-founder of Porter Novelli, shares his thoughts on leadership, marketing, and why he joined the board of SP Consulting.


SP Spotlight: Hugh Barrett

In this week’s spotlight video learn what brought Senior Partner, Hugh Barrett to SP Consulting, his seasoned career in healthcare, and how he enjoys his free time.

Read his bio here.



National Park Foundation Celebrates National Park Service Centennial at Lincoln Memorial 

Recently, the National Park Foundation in close partnership with the National Park Service, the U.S. Mint, and SP Consulting launched the sale of commemorative coins celebrating the National Park Service’s Centennial. Hosted in front of the Lincoln Memorial, speakers from the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, and U.S. Mint spoke to an audience of over 150 attendees.


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3 iPhone Camera Tips to Help You Take Better Photos

There is a saying that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” The quote by Chase Jarvis is one that has defined the recent world of mobile photography and videography. With the rise of Instagram, VSCOcam, and other photography and video apps, the shift towards mobile has become inevitable. Many consumers are now ditching their clunkier cameras for the ones right in their pockets, and for good reason. The image quality coming from mobile cameras, like Apple’s recently announced iPhone SE, is already on par or better than some of the latest digital cameras.


Howth, Ireland by Eric Lee

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Michael Baer: SPLLC Board Member, Higher Ed Executive and Political Commentator


Mike with his wife Charlotte, son Daniel, and daughter Naomi at Crater Lake, Oregon celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary.

Ten years ago, Michael Baer was approached by Chairman and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, LLC, Ken Smith about possibly joining the Strategic Partnerships, LLC Board of Directors. Ken was strengthening Strategic Partnership’s presence in higher education, and was hoping to identify a talented, senior executive who possessed a deep understanding and experience into the rapidly changing world of higher education. After a handful of conversations with Ken, Michael was intrigued by the work and goals of Strategic Partnerships and happily agreed to join the Board of Strategic Partnerships LLC. This has been a mutually beneficial relationship as Michael has been able to contribute to Board and staff understanding about higher education as well as missions of various education sectors, while in return Michael has learned from other Board members of the perceptions and expectations for higher education from those in corporate and public arenas.

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