Switchboard Stories: Armada Global
Information is power, according to the old saying. But for small organizations, groups and individuals traveling to other countries, information can also help improve safety and reduce the likelihood of unexpected problems while in remote areas where threats can come from political instability, health hazards, criminal elements or terrorist activities.
Armada Global is all about using information to reduce risks. It’s a Pittsburgh-based company started by former Central Intelligence Agency officers to provide a spectrum of services ranging from surveillance and investigations to high-tech home security and corporate risk management.
As the only for-profit organization in The Global Switchboard, Armada Global plays a unique role. While it serves clients worldwide, it also works with many Switchboard organizations to bring its expertise to the challenges facing globally focused non-profits.
“The more you know before you travel or you go into a location, the more you can prepare and take active measures to try and avoid potentially dangerous situations,” says Armada Global President Zach Grove. “We’re big on avoiding threats before they ever materialize.”
At the Switchboard, Grove and his colleagues, all with backgrounds in government intelligence or military special operations, have conducted workshops for members on avoiding risks while traveling abroad, even touching on what to do if problems did arise. One session included a demonstration of how to escape restraints after being captured.
For Switchboard founding member Amizade Global Service-Learning, the close collaboration with Armada Global has provided enhanced safety and a greater sense of well-being for everyone involved in its programs through the use of satellite communications.
Even in the 21st Century, when many take high-tech communications for granted, Amizade has been grateful for opportunities to stay connected in the many remote areas where it sends student groups, says Executive Director Brandon Blache-Cohen.
“For first time in our 21-year history, we can see where our students are in real time, and so can their parents, whether they’re in the Brazilian Amazon thousands of miles away from a cell tower, or in rural Tanzania,” he says. “That has brought a lot of peace of mind to our constituents and to our staff members as well.”
For Grove, a Western Pennsylvania native whose CIA work took him to hotspots around the world and gave him an appreciation for different cultures and global awareness, participation in The Global Switchboard seemed like a natural step.
In Pittsburgh, which he sees as a smaller city with a comparatively large global footprint, the Switchboard has been an important catalyst in bringing together like-minded people and organizations.
“The collaboration opportunities that have emerged from that by just being co-located I think speaks volumes more about what they’re doing,” Grove says. “[Amizade] has opened doors to us in the education abroad sector, and it has helped us to develop new service offerings. What the Switchboard is doing is making organizations more efficient and more effective.”