• Elisa Speranza

    President, Seventh Ward Strategies, LLC

  • Why, What & How

    I help purpose-driven organizations succeed so that people, communities, and ecosystems can thrive and prosper. I am passionate about improving the human condition through environmental stewardship and organizational excellence. I am a strategist, advisor, facilitator, writer, teacher, board member and water geek.

    Through my firm Seventh Ward Strategies, LLC, I provide consulting services to public, private, and non-profit organizations. I bring my deep operations, management, talent development, governance and communications experience to bear on each assignment, bringing multiple stakeholders together to find common ground in solving complex challenges.


    My consulting practice is focused on harnessing the power of values-based leadership, strategic communications, and effective teams to foster sustainable business growth, promote equity, and implement innovative yet practical solutions to critical civic challenges. My areas of focus include: water, environmental stewardship, corporate citizenship, sustainability, social justice, impact investment, community empowerment, and capacity-building.

  • Recent Work

    I have recently served as a strategy advisor to a number of water/wastewater utility directors, water sector organizations such as the American Water Works Association, the Water Research Foundation, Del-Co Water Company, the US Water Alliance, and other non-profit organizations, including SBP. Current engagements include:

    Encourage Capital

    Senior Advisor

    Senior Advisor to Encourage Capital, an investment firm working to generate both compelling investment returns and social and environmental impacts for its investors. My focus is on generating municipal green infrastructure projects that provide environmental, economic and community benefits.

    Northeast Power Coordinating Council, Inc.

    Independent director

    Northeast Power Coordinating Council, Inc. (NPCC), is responsible for promoting and enhancing the reliability of the international, interconnected bulk power system in Northeastern North America through the development of Regional Reliability Standards and compliance assessment and enforcement of continent-wide and Regional Reliability Standards, coordination of system planning, design and operations, and assessment of reliability, and the establishment of Regionally-specific criteria, and monitoring and enforcement of compliance with such criteria for the State of New York, the six New England states, Ontario, Québec, and the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

    H2O Innovation

    Member, Board O&M Committee 

    Member of the Advisory O&M Committee of the Board of Directors for H2O Innovation, which designs and provides state-of-the-art, custom-built and integrated water treatment solutions based on membrane filtration technology for municipal, industrial, energy and natural resources end-users.

    University of Colorado at Boulder


    I am a member of the team, led by Dr. Richard Kuchenrither, that developed the Water Engineering and Management certificate program at CU-Boulder. The course helps graduate-level civil engineering and distance learning students prepare for a career in the water industry, and includes topics such as: governance, leadership, ethics, finance, communications and management. The course led to a Water Environment Federation textbook, and she co-authored the Leadership chapter. I have also been a guest lecturer on various topics, including communications, utility management, leadership, and sustainable development in the water and sanitation sector at: Loyola University (New Orleans), University of Kansas, University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, University of Denver, Babson College, Boston College.

  • Services

    • Facilitation
    • Strategic planning
    • Management consulting
    • Policy analysis
    • Coaching and leadership development
    • Governance and organizational transformation
    • Communications
    • Writing
    • Teaching

  • About Me

    I'm a native Bostonian, transplanted to New Orleans in 2002. I spent 15 years with the Fortune 500 global project management firm CH2M (acquired by Jacobs in 2017), including serving as one of seven employee-directors on the firm’s Board, and on the Governance & Corporate Citizenship Committee. During my career at CH2M, I was President of the $380 million Operations Management business unit, with full profit-and-loss responsibility for that 2,300-person group.


    I wore many other hats over the years at CH2M, including Chief Communications Officer, President of the CH2M Foundation, Trustee of the company’s retirement systems, and team leader for drinking water and utility management consulting. Most recently, I was a portfolio leader for several key client accounts, and executive sponsor for the firm’s global sustainability and corporate citizenship initiatives.


    Before joining CH2M, I worked for several other firms, was deputy director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and a project manager for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.


    An experienced non-profit board member, I chaired the board of the global non-profit Water For People, from whom I was honored to receive the Robert Hite Award. I was an officer of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and received that organization’s Outstanding Service and Honorary Membership awards. I also served on the Board, and as Governance Committee Chair, for the US Water Alliance, and I am a member of the Water Environment Federation, AWWA, Women Corporate Directors and the International Women’s Forum.

  • Experience

    Business Operations & Consulting

    • Former senior executive with CH2M (acquired by Jacobs in 2017), a Fortune 500 company providing infrastructure and natural resources solutions to clients worldwide
    • Senior Fellow with the US Water Alliance
    • Operations leadership experience, including full profit-and-loss responsibility for a $380 million, 2,300-person business unit providing on-site facility operations and maintenance services to over 200 public and private sector clients and operations partner in large design/build/operate projects
    • Portfolio manager and executive sponsor for key public and private sector client accounts, and team leader for management consulting and drinking water services

    Governance & Organizational Excellence

    • Corporate director during CH2M’s restructuring and capital-raising; served on the Governance and Corporate Citizenship Committee
    • Former board member, active leader and officer with the US Water Alliance, American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Association (WEF)
    • Veteran people manager, with a passion for talent development and deep experience in organizational design, leadership dynamics, coaching, mentoring, and diversity and inclusion

    Environmental Stewardship & Corporate Citizenship

    • Executive sponsor for CH2M’s World Environment Council Gold Medal Award-winning global sustainability programs, and for collaborations with The Nature Conservancy and impact investors
    • As Chair of CH2M Foundation, led transformation of the corporate social responsibility and community investment functions; was named by Fortune as one of 50 companies “changing the world” by making social benefit part of their core business
    • Key player in the public, private and non-profit realms for the $4 billion federally court-ordered Boston Harbor clean-up program, one of the country’s greatest environmental success stories

    Strategic Communications & Teaching

    • Served as CH2M’s Chief Communications Officer, overseeing strategy development and implementation of an award-winning enterprise brand and culture program; led the marketing/communications team through implementation of new platforms for internal social media, investor relations, a major corporate restructuring effort and a capital-raising exercise
    • Guided strategy, brand and governance overhauls for several non-profit organizations, including as Board chair for the global Non-Governmental Organization Water For People
    • Direct implementation and extensive consulting experience in risk communication, media relations, political campaigns, stakeholder involvement, and public education
    • University instructor and author of water industry reference works on sustainable financing, communications, asset management and leadership. 

    Presentations & Publications

    • Speaker, "Collaborative Leadership," Association of Regional Water Organizations, St. Simons Island, GA, October 18, 2017.
    • Panelist, “Accelerating Solutions: Innovative Water Financing,” WaterNow Annual Summit, Boulder, CO, April 20, 2017.
    • Keynote speaker, “Our Common Water Destiny: Building a Sustainable Water Future for All,” California/Nevada Section of American Water Works Association, Spring Conference, Anaheim, CA, April 11, 2017.
    • Expert contributor and Panelist, “Water: An Impact Investment Primer for Family Offices and Foundations,” TheImpact/CREO, New York, NY, March 22, 2017.
    • Panelist, “Utilities in the 21st Century,” ResCon, New Orleans, LA, March 7, 2017.
    • Session presenter, “The Effective Water Professional: Lessons in Values-Based Leadership,” Pacific Water Conference, Honolulu, HI, February 15, 2017.
    • Chapter author, “Leadership,” The Effective Water Professional, Water Environment Federation, 2015.
    • “Bloom Where You’re Planted—Lessons in Values-Based Leadership,” WTS New York Chapter, AWWA PNW Chapter, 2015.
    • “Leading for Today & Tomorrow,” keynote speaker, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, 2014
    • “Uniting the Water Industry: A New Paradigm for Collaborative Solutions,” National Association of Water Companies, 2012.
    • “Municipal Green Infrastructure Success Stories,” White House Conference, 2012.
    • “Global Models and Innovation,” keynote speaker, New Orleans Water Challenge, 2012.
  • Education

    Harvard Kennedy School

    Master's in Public Administration

    Boston College

    B.A., Political science

    Northwestern University

    Kellogg Women's Director Development Program

  • Professional & Civic Involvement


      Current Professional Memberships

      • American Water Works Association
      • Women Corporate Directors
      • International Women’s Forum
      • Water Environment Federation
      • Belizean Grove/TARA

      Past Volunteer Positions

      • US Water Alliance, Board Member & Governance Committee Chair
      • Lead Mentor & Water Challenge pitch judge, Propeller Incubator
      • Water For People (Board Chair)
      • American Water Works Association (Director, Vice President and Council Chair)
      • Lecturer: Univ. Northern Colorado, Univ. Denver, Univ. Kansas, Babson College
      • Boston Conservation Commission (Chair)
      • New England Water Works Association (Board)
      • Mass. Water Works Association (President)
      • The Boston Harbor Association (Board)
      • Save the Harbor/Save the Bay (Board)

      Honors & Awards

      • CH2M sustainability and corporate citizenship work honored with World Environment Center Gold Medal Award & Fortune 50 Companies Changing the World
      • Robert W. Hite Award for Outstanding Leadership, Water For People
      • Excellence in Leadership, National Urban Fellows
      • Champion of Diversity Award, CH2M
      • Outstanding Service and Honorary Member, AWWA
      • McGuiness Outstanding Member Award, Massachusetts Water Works Association
      • “5S” Society, Water Environment Federation
    • Contact

      Elisa M. Speranza, President

      Seventh Ward Strategies, LLC

      1705 Burgundy Street, New Orleans, LA 70116