Step Up Will Write SWCF’s Book on Best Practices

Step Up Consulting Services was contracted by Soil and Water Conservation Foundation (SWCF) to write its book of best practices in natural resource management.

SWCF writeshop
SWCF management team and staff in a book concept writeshop last September 2015.

SWCF has been in existence for more than thirty years now.   SWCF began in 1985 as an informal network of persons of several nationalities concerned with the global ecological challenge and the necessity of broad-based local initiatives to respond.

It started small-scale support of existing projects by providing inputs to farm-based species trials and consultancy services to hone the technical and management capabilities of project staff and extension workers.  Convinced that the geo-physical eco-system called the watershed is the operative planning and implementation unit, the Foundation embarked on its first three comprehensive, integrated and cooperative ventures to rehabilitate three watersheds in Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental. Since these three initial projects, the Foundation has completed implementation of almost a hundred environment projects in at least four regions in the Philippines for the last three decades.

The initial title of the book was “Nourishing the Earth, Nurturing the Soul”. The title speaks volumes of what SWCF wanted to do, and is still trying to do since the time it started – to nourish the earth, and nurture the soul – two processes that feeds into each other and articulates SWCF’s development philosophy.  SWCF does not only intend to change the landscape but also the people. This involved understanding deeply why people and communities lose appreciation of God’s creation and finding ways on how collectively stakeholders are able to restore this. This book narrates how these processes evolved in the communities in Bohol, how people were touched, and how it led helped restore the environment.

Mr. Canjura Joins Step Up

Mr. JoseJCanjura-profile Canjura is one of the latest addition to Step Up’s roster of consultants. He joins Step Up this year as one of the researchers of the project on open data and governance funded by the Southeast Asia Technology and Transparency Initiative implemented by Hivos .

Mr. Canjura is a Canadian urban planner and governance specialist. Since his arrival in the Philippines Mr. Canjura has worked extensively in local governance, with a focus on building mechanisms and tools that foster greater local economic development and a more competitive business enabling environment. He recently completed a study on the human resource and organizational development interventions that lead to greater local competitiveness, and collaborated in an assessment of Local Economic and Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO) competencies. Prior to his involvement in this project, Mr. Canjura also worked on several other open government initiatives: he conducted a study on the state of advocacy for budget transparency; and worked on an assessment on open contracting data in the Philippines. Mr. Canjura holds a Master’s Degree in Urban and Strategic Planning from Dalhousie University in Canada; a Diploma in Project Management and an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Geography, both from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

 

Step Up’s Strategy Advisor Attends Training in South Africa

sout africa trainingOn 27-31 July 2015, Step Up’s Strategy Advisor, Mr. Michael Canares, joined seventy other scholars from around the world to attend the Social and Solidarity Economy at the International Development Corporation in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The theme of the academy was Social Innovation in the World of Work and is the 5th edition of the academy since it started in 2011. The academy is sponsored by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Mr. Canares’ participation was sponsored by the ILO.

Step Up Conducts Leadership Training for HS Students

IMG_20150704_090228Step Up Consulting sponsors the leadership training of thirty high school students of Sacred Heart College in Calamba Misamis Occidental.  The training was part of the SHS Alumni Batch 91 activities of which Step Up’s strategy advisor is the class president.  The training was conducted on 4 July 2015 at the school’s audio-visual room.

The students selected to attend the training were classroom officers of the school.  They were treated to a day of structure learning experiences, brief talks, and group-sharing activities to hone their skills in managing and leading groups.  The training drew heavily from Blanchard’s situational leadership principles.

Students who attended the training appreciated the value of activity and the school faculty expressed appreciation for the support of the sponsoring group.  Training program was provided by Step Up Consulting staff while food and logistics were shouldered by Batch 91.

Step Up Welcomes Dr. Marcial

Step Up welcomes Dr. Dave Marcial who joins the firm’s roster of consultants and provide services to clients.

daveDr. Dave Marcial is dean of computer studies at Silliman University. Dave’s research is on ICT applications and how this has impacted society more particularly the education sector, drawing from extensive studies in IT (bachelor and masters) and blending that with his doctorate degree in educational management. Dave is an author of numerous papers and has presented his work in different conferences in the Philippines and abroad.  He is currently the president of the Philippine Society for IT educators, and the founder of the Society for Information and Communication Technology in Teacher Education.  More information regarding Dave can be found here.

He joins the research team for for the Encite OGD project that Step Up implemented with funding support from the International Development Research Center.

 

Step Up Develops Guide on Road Asset Valuation

LRMPATStep Up Consulting Services was contracted by the Louis Berger Group, Inc. to draft the guidelines n Provincial Road Asset Valuation based on inputs from the Department of Public Works and Highways,  the Department of Interior and Local Government, and Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia.

Road asset accounting is a problematic practice in the Philippines. The most recent pronouncement in road asset accounting was the New Government Accounting Systems (NGAS) promulgated in 2001 through COA Circular 2001-005. While the NGAS, through the NGAS Manual, prescribes the rules in accounting for road assets, the corresponding effect on financial statements is severe when the time the road assets are completed.  Road assets on construction are debited to a Construction in Progress account but this is eventually closed to Government Equity account upon road asset completion.  As a result, road assets are no longer valued in the financial statements but are only disclosed as Public Infrastructure in the Notes to Financial Statements.

This accounting treatment has several effects. Road assets are no longer treated as assets but expenses, theoretically, as the values are closed against the equity account. Correspondingly, monitoring these assets become virtually impossible because they are not considered as part of the fixed assets inventory, and thus, are not provided with depreciation.  While road condition of the province has improved because of the rehabilitation, the provincial LGU’s value (represented by its equity account) decreased because the assets are technically charged against the equity account.  Under normal circumstances, this could not have been possible.  Asset acquisitions should have increased the net value of a local government unit.

This engagement is critical to ensure that road assets are valued in financial statements of local government units.

Step Up Trains Community Leaders on Enterprise Management

A participant explains the asset and opportunities map during the enterprise development session.
A participant explains the asset and opportunities map during the enterprise development session.

PROCESS Bohol, Inc., commissioned Step Up Consulting to train its community leaders in Ubay, Bohol the basics of financial management.  The training, attended by more than 30 community leaders, was intended to assist the organizations manage their enterprises better and prepare them for eventual phase-out of PROCESS support.

Step Up has more than 10 years of conducting community-based trainings with different audiences – farmers, women micro-entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and local government leaders.  It uses participatory approaches in conducting its capacity building programs and makes use of “games” in order to “teach concepts”.  As one of the women leaders in this training remarked – “It is the first time that I understood complex financial management concepts in an easy, phased way”.

In the training, Step Up taught the community leaders the basics of enterprise management, how credit management is critical to business operations, and the different steps in ensuring that business decisions can be made based on available financial data.

Step Up Presents at ICEDEG Conference in Ecuador

The Panel Members and ICEDEG 2015 Ecuador
The Panel Members and ICEDEG 2015 Ecuador

Managing consultant of Step Up Consulting Services joins the panel of four speakers conducting a tutorial on Open Government and Open Data at the International Conference on E-Democracy and E-Government.  The conference was held at the Universidad de Las Americas in Quito, Ecuador, last 8-10 April, 2015.

Michael Canares spoke about Open Government and Open Data in Asia and joined Sandra Elena and German Stalker of the Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (Argentina) , Francois Van Schalkwyk of African Minds (South Africa), and Carlos Jimenez (Spain), founder of the IEEE e-government initiative.

The participation of Michael Canares in the conference was funded by a paper dissemination grant from the International Development Research Center through World Wide Web Foundation.

Step Up Facilitates Agency Readiness Assessment

(This post was written by Open Data Task Force and originally appeared in http://data.gov.ph/news/open-data-stocktake-workshop).  

Following our recent collaboration for the Enhancing Citizen Engagement with Open Government Data (EnCitE-OGD) project, the Open Data Task Force and Step Up Consulting Services again worked together to organize the Open Data Stocktake Workshop. Held from March 10-11, 2015, the workshop introduced government agency representatives to a matrix designed to evaluate agency readiness for open data. The tool—called the Benchmark on Readiness for Open Agency Data (BROAD)—was developed by Step Up Consulting as a standard for assessing the open data capacities and practices of agencies. Using the BROAD tool, a total of 63 participants—representing 23 government agencies—rated their agencies’ readiness to implement open data and integrate it in their activities.

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The workshop was conducted over two days, catering to different sets of agencies. The program began with welcome remarks from Undersecretary Bon Moya of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). He updated the attendees on the Task Force’s 2014 milestones, including legislative advancements and a DBM-specific skills training session. He also discussed the results of the recent Open Data Barometer, which identified areas of improvement for the Philippines. His remarks were followed by a short presentation from Shita Laksmi of the Southeast Asia Technology and Transparency Initiative (SEATTI), which provided funding support for the workshop. She gave an overview of SEATTI’s work in various countries, emphasizing issues such as election monitoring, social accountability, and public service delivery. Overall, SEATTI’s goal is to build linkages with partners and create a supportive ecosystem that contributes toward public sector transparency and accountability.

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In support of this commitment, SEATTI awarded Step Up Consulting with a research grant for a project called “From Motivation to Use: Stakeholder Interests and Initial Results of the Philippine Open Data Portal.” The BROAD tool was developed as part of this project. During the Stocktake Workshop, Michael Cañares of Step Up Consulting gave an in-depth introduction to the tool, which breaks down agency readiness into 8 elements and 12 indicators.

Elements Corresponding indicator/s
Element 1: Leadership Indicator 1: Level of commitment of agency leaders to institutionalize open data within the agency
Element 2: Strategic/Policy Framework Indicator 2: Presence of whole-of-agency strategy/policy regarding open data
Element 3: Data Management Systems Indicator 3: Comprehensiveness of information on data assets and requirements
Indicator 4: Availability of a clearly-defined technical standards for data publication
Indicator 5: Adequacy of data release practices
Element 4: Organizational Structure Indicator 6: Functionality of a team, unit, or working group on open data
Element 5: User Engagement Practices Indicator 7: Extent of agency efforts in engaging both internal and external users of open agency data
Indicator 8: Responsiveness of agency to user request or demand for open agency data
Element 6: Knowledge and Skills Indicator 9: Level of knowledge and understanding of open data at all levels in the organization
Indicator 10: Level of technical knowledge and skills of open data unit or team in the agency regarding open data and data management
Element 7: Financing and Budget Indicator 11: Amount of financial allocation for open data activities and initiatives
Element 8: Technological Infrastructure Indicator 12: Adequacy of technology to implement open data initiatives

In discussing BROAD, Cañares stressed that it is a living document—that it could change based on suggestions from the agencies themselves, the end users of the tool. He and Outreach Lead Ivygail Ong described it as “a conversation between the Open Data Task Force and the agencies concerned.” The representatives responded by seeking clarifications about the tool and open data in general. One participant asked whether there is a passing score for BROAD (none; the intention is to assess weak points and determine levels of support), while others raised concerns about post-administration continuity and current practices regarding the selling of government data. Such dialogue is crucial to the evolution and advancement of open data. While some answers may not yet be clear, the mere opening of these topics allows for discussion and the generation of new ideas.

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In the afternoon, the attendees were given time to rate their agencies on each of the 12 indicators using a 0-4 scale. Afterward, they shared their scores with the group and explained their justifications for each. The wide range of scores testifies to the variety of their stories, owing to such factors as agency size and budget. One important finding is that larger agencies usually experience more difficulty, since they would need to train more people and stretch an already strained budget. Another is the existence of a strong correlation between the agencies’ Indicator 1 scores and the rest of their ratings. This suggests that, among the elements, Leadership has the greatest impact on outcome.

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The workshop ended with a few remarks from Ong, who thanked the participants for their input and assured them that the Task Force will conduct follow-up coordination within the next weeks. She also asked them for recommendations on future activities. The attendees responded with specific requests, such as assistance in crafting an internal policy for open data and skills training sessions.

Just as these trainings need to be conducted on a per-agency basis, so do data exchange and coordination have to be adjusted according to each agency’s situation. The results of the Stocktake Workshop establish that agencies have varying levels of open data readiness, and thus need different types of support. Building on these findings, the Task Force will continue to work together with agencies to liberate more data and lay down practices that will contribute to government transparency for years to come.

 

CSOs IN Negros Oriental Gather for Open Government Data Training

DSC_0213Nineteen representatives from 12 civil society organizations (CSO) in the Province of Negros Oriental are gathered for a 3-day capacity building activity on open government data, an offshoot of the research “Enhancing Citizen Engagement with Open Government data”. This free training was held at UCS 202, Uytengsu Computer Studies Hall, Silliman University, Dumaguete City on February 12-14, 2015. The skills training aimed to appreciate the importance of data in communicating key governance issues to citizens; learn data skills more particularly (a) data tools like scraping pdf documents and converting them to reusable formats; (b) data visualization (offline and digital); (c) telling stories from data; produce a data visualization on area of interest and present this in a public event with other key stakeholders; and draft a plan of action on how they intend to popularize or communicate their outputs from the workshop to wider audience or their constituents.

The activity was graced by Dr. Emmannuel Lallana, Chief Executive of Ideacorp, who discussed the context of open government and open government data at the global, regional, national, and subnational spheres. Also, Ms. Farah Dibs Gentuya, DILG City Director of Dumaguete, presented about the FDP, the documents disclosed through the FDP and how citizens can make use of these documents. Further, Ms. Gianne Gaorian shared about the current initiatives of the Philippine Government on open data and open government. She highlighted on the open data portal and how citizens can make good use of it. On the second day, Gianne facilitated the online data visualization workshop.

Dr. Dave E. Marcial, provincial lead for Negros Oriental, facilitated two workshops: selection of data set and offline data visualization. In the same manner, Mr. Michael Canares, research leader, facilitated the workshop on data narratives. He guided the participants in weaving a story of their data visualization, how to communicate their data and what are their options for doing so.

At the end of the workshop, participants were able to present their data visualization outputs, both online and offline. The participants are expected to meet again next month for a learning workshop.

This activity is implemented by Step Up Consulting Services, with funding provided through the World Wide Web Foundation ‘Open Data for Development Fund’ to support the ‘Open Government Partnership Open Data Working Group’ work, through grant 107722 from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (web.idrc.ca). For more information about the research, go to http://encite-ogd.ph.