• Seventh Ward Strategies, LLC

    Elisa M. Speranza, President

  • 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, social justice, and organizational excellence. I am a writer, strategist, advisor, facilitator, teacher, board member and water geek. I am also working hard to be an active anti-racist.

    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, ESG, and capacity-building.


    In April 2022, I published a novel called The Italian Prisoner, set in New Orleans' Sicilian community during World War II. For more on that project, please visit www.elisamariesperanza.com.

    Guiding Principles

    These are the fundamental values I draw from the core of my humanity. I don’t always succeed, but I always try to use these principles to guide my decisions.


    Respect. Connecting my actions to the hearts and souls of other human beings, my community, and the planet. Listening, learning, and considering responses with intention.


    Integrity. Doing the right thing, always—especially when nobody is watching. Walking the talk.


    Service. Using my skills for good, in service to others through empowerment and capacity-building.


    Justice. Acknowledging systemic racism and working to dismantle systems of oppression. Decolonizing my own life and supporting those working for social, economic, and environmental justice—including abolition and reparations.


    Hope. Maintaining optimism in the face of despair. Channeling grief, outrage, and discouragement into action for positive change, rooted in love.

  • Current Assignments

    broken image

    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.

    broken image

    Harris & Associates


    Independent Director on the Board of Harris & Associates, a 100% employee-owned company focused on helping communities solve today's complex challenges in planning, financing, environmental compliance, civil engineering, and construction management. The company's offices and project sites span the West Coast in California and Washington with a staff of over 200 employee-owners serving clients in the municipal, water, transportation, and education markets.

    broken image

    University of Colorado at Boulder

    adjunct Instructor

    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.

    broken image

    Vista Ridge O&M Budget Panel

    San Antonio Water System

    Member of a three-person expert panel established to review and approve the operations and maintenance budget for the largest P3 water project in North America. The Vista Ridge project includes a 142-mile large diameter pipeline, and is the largest non-Edwards Aquifer supply developed in the city's history, providing up to 50,000 acre feet/year of Carrizo/Simsboro Aquifer groundwater.

  • Recent Events

    Water Foresight Podcast, April 2021

    In this third episode of the Water Foresight Podcast, guest Elisa Speranza of Seventh Ward Strategies explores the "social" aspect of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments by organizations and the future impact on water.

    New England Water Environment Association Women in Water Forum, February 2021

    This forum, which took place as part of NEWEA's 2021 Annual Conference & Exhibit, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, highlighting progress achieved during that time and identifying the barriers to equitable access to voting that persisted, specifically for women of color. Panelists discussed strategies for supporting women working in the water industry and improving diverse representation in water industry leadership. Great resources here.

  • Services

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

  • broken image

    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. During my career at CH2M, I was President of the $380 million Operations Management business unit for six successful years, with full profit-and-loss responsibility for that 2,300-person group.


    I wore many other hats over the years at CH2M, including time in the C-suite as Chief Communications Officer. I was President of the CH2M Foundation, Trustee of the company’s retirement systems, and team leader for drinking water and utility management consulting. I was a portfolio leader for several key client accounts, executive sponsor for the firm’s global sustainability and corporate citizenship initiatives, and an active member of the Diversity & Inclusion Council.


    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.


    I split my time between New Orleans and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, along with My Man, Jon Kardon. In my other life, I'm working on publishing a novel. You can read more about it here.


  • Past Experience

    Business Operations & Consulting

    • Independent Director for the publicly traded water company H2O Innovation, Inc., where I chaired the Governance/Compensation/ESG Committee. The company was acquired by Ember Infrastructure Management, LP in December of 2023.
    • 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, supporting the "One Water" agenda
    • Operations leader, 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

    • Organizational design consultant for new leadership team working to transform the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans
    • Strategic planning facilitator for Del-Co Water Company's governing board, AWWA's Water Utility Council, Water Research Foundation, and WaterNow Alliance
    • Creator of a Leadership Development Program for rising talent at SBP, in collaboration with Dr. Tasha Eurich, best-selling author of Bankable Leadership and Insight
    • Corporate director during CH2M’s restructuring and capital-raising efforts prior to the company's acquisition by Jacobs; member of the Governance and Corporate Citizenship Committee
    • 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

    • Senior Advisor to Encourage Capital, promoting impact investment in green infrastructure
    • 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
    • Chair of CH2M Foundation, led transformation of the corporate social responsibility and community investment functions; 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

    • 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
    • Non-profit leader, guided strategy, brand, and governance overhauls for several non-profit organizations, including as Board chair for the global Non-Governmental Organization Water For People
    • Consultant with direct implementation and extensive 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

    • Panelist, "Women in Water Forum: Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment," New England Water Environment Association, Virtual Annual Conference, February 2, 2021.
    • Panelist, "Beyond Disruption: Creative Financing For Resilient Water Systems," New Partners for Smart Growth, San Francisco, CA, February 3, 2018.
    • 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

    broken image

    Harvard Kennedy School

    Master's in Public Administration

    broken image

    Boston College

    B.A., Political science

    broken image

    Northwestern University

    Kellogg Women's Director Development Program

  • Professional & Civic Involvement


      Current Activities & Professional Memberships

      • Mayoral appointee, New Orleans Infrastructure Advisory Board
      • Thrive New Orleans, Board member
      • New Orleans Writers Workshop, Board chair
      • American Water Works Association
      • Women Corporate Directors
      • International Women’s Forum
      • Water Environment Federation
      • Belizean Grove
      • Massachusetts Water Works Association

      Past Volunteer Positions

      • Legislative Task Force on the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans
      • Delgado Community College, Water & Wastewater Advisory Board
      • US Water Alliance, Senior Fellow, 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

      • "Answering the Call" Award, SBP
      • 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

      broken image


      broken image




    • Elisa's New Orleans Tip Sheet

      I often get requests for information about where to eat, what to do, and how best to enjoy my adopted city of New Orleans. I keep this "tip sheet" to help visitors make the most of their stay in the Crescent City. I try to keep things current, but let me know if you find a dead link or other...