Step Up Strategy Advisor is M&E Advisor for Vanuatu Roads Project

Image courtesy of Adam Smith International

Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor at Step Up Consulting is part of the implementation team of the Roads for Development Program Phase 2 (R4D2) currently implemented in Vanuatu by Adam Smith International, with funding support by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

R4D2 will support the Government of Vanuatu’s Public Works Department (PWD) under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU).  The program commenced in June 2019 and will run to the end of June 2022, with an option to extend by two years, subject to DFAT approval. The program aims to contribute to the achievement of the Government of Vanuatu’s (GoV) National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2030 (NSDP) goals, more particularly the following:

  • A dynamic public sector with good governance principles and strong institutions delivering support and services to all citizens of Vanuatu
  • Sustainable and well-maintained infrastructure and services for all, through inclusive and effective partnerships

Mr. Canares is R4D2’s short-term Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser.

Step Up Designs and Facilitates First South Cotabato Open Contracting Challenge

Transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts is one of the principles enshrined in Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act)  alongside the principles of competitiveness, public monitoring, accountability, and streamlined procurement process. In promoting transparency in government procurement activities, government agencies are mandated to publish all bid opportunities and post all awards and contracts in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).  

However, public access to contracting information from planning up to implementation is limited. Most contracting documents are not published online and are being kept internally by agencies. The current version of the PhilGEPS does not have information on the planning and implementation stage. This situation makes tracking and monitoring of government projects difficult, which in turn makes government procurement activities susceptible to fraud, collusion, and corruption. 

With support from HIVOS, the https://southcotabato.gov.ph/Provincial Government of South Cotabato in partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines implemented an open contracting program in order strengthen transparency and accountability in local procurement systems in the province of South Cotabato.  This culminated with the publication of local procurement activities in a centralized portal in compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). 

To cultivate use of open contracting data, ECCP desires to build capacity of prospective users in understanding public procurement as well in using contracting data for various purposes, including research.  ECCP partnered with the Notre Dame of Marbel University (NDMU) to cultivate awareness and appreciation of teachers and students on the importance of public procurement and in using contracting data in academic research.

Two training programs were conducted to prepare proponents for the open contracting research  thinking through research topics.  The first one conducted last 2 February 2020 and focused on the discussion of open contracting and its value in promoting transparency and accountability, as well as improving public service delivery.  The second training, conducted on 15 February 2020, focused on cultivating use cases and enabling the participants to start thinking about potential research projects on open contracting.   

After the two trainings, participants we asked to submit proposals for the 1st South Cotabato Open Contracting Challenge.  Three proposals were received were the following:

  1. Forecasting Contractor Performance Using Non-Parametric Models by Cubort Bulanon and Chucky Marie Fernandez
  2. Citizen’s Project Monitoring Management System by Rodulfo Dorado and Elisha Susana Alvarico
  3. Cost-Efficiency of Procurement by Lot by Michelle Capistrano, Jennifer Era, and Rean May Galang

On March 11-13 2020, the proponents were invited to a BootCamp designed by Step Up Consulting’s strategy advisor, Michael Canares. He was joined by mentors and facilitators Ben Hur, Frei Sangil, and Vien Suerte to help polish and finalize the research proposals for implementation. The research outputs will be presented in June 2020.

Step Up Completes Regional Cultural Hub Feasibility Study

Step Up Consulting recently completed the feasibility study of establishing a regional cultural hub for the Visayas. The research seeks to determine the viability and sustainability of a permanent center and venue of productions and creative enterprises in the Central Visayas region.

The feasibility study focused on the five key aspects – market, technical, organizational, financial and socio-economic feasibility. Conducted in 2019, it involved different approaches: a combination of survey, focus group discussion or key informant interview, ocular inspection and site visits, and evaluation of documentary evidence.

The research team of Step Up is composed of Michael Canares, Jean Celeste Paredes and Mary Therese Pepito with the support of Marilou Sale. It was funded through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts managed by the Bohol Integrated Development Foundation.

Step Up Managing Consultant Attends Global Data Barometer Workshop

global data barometerMichael Canares, Managing Consultant of Step Up Consulting is one of the participants (and co-facilitator) of the recently-concluded Global Data Barometer Workshop in Washington DC, USA, last January 9-2020.  The workshop was convened to “bring  together key stakeholders to review the research framework, implementation model and sustainability strategy for a new global study of data around the world, set to release its first edition in 2020/2021.”.

Key organizations that were represented in the workshop were the World Bank, Open Government Partnership, Canada’s International Development Research Center, Open Data Watch, Open Data Charter, Carribean Open Data Institute, Land Portal Foundation, Iniciativa Latinoamericana por los Datos Abiertos, Open Contracting Partnership, among others.

The workshop was held at the GovHub in Washington DC and was organized by Tim Davies. Tim Davies was the research lead of the Open Data in Developing Countries project where Step Up Consulting was one of the grantees from Southeast Asia.

Step Up at the 2019 Annual FOI Awards

awarding FOI
Michael Canares flanked by Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan,  Assistant Secretary Policy, Special Concerns, and Freedom of Information Project Management Office, and Undersecretary George Apacible, Undersecretary for Good Governance, Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and Finance during the awarding ceremonies held at the Manila Peninsula Hotel on December 12, 2019.   

Step Up Managing Consultant, Michael Canares, was one of the personalities outside of government recognized in the recent 2019 Annual FOI Awards. His contributions to the Philippine government’s thrust of making government information accessible to the public was a major reason for the award.

Canares has been at the forefront in the advocacy for more transparent and accountable governments in the last five years, starting off with Step Up’s very first research project, “Opening the Gates:  Will Open Data Make Governments in the Philippines More Transparent” a project funded by Canada’s International Development Research Center.  The project was implemented in Bohol, Bulacan, and South Cotabato.  It was followed by  “Enhancing Citizen Engagement with Open Government Data” project implemented in the provinces of Negros Oriental and Bohol.

Since then, Canares has worked in several transparency and accountability projects in the Philippines, including in the areas of open government, open contracting, and more recently, freedom of Information.  Canares leads the  Increasing People’s Access to Public Contracting Information Through the FOI Program funded by HIVOS and implemented in partnership with the Freedom of Information – Project Management Office of the Philippine government.

 

Step Up Consulting Conducts Data Dive on a Global Project on Access to Energy

headingStep Up Consulting signs a contract with a major development organization to conduct a data dive on a global project on access to energy implemented in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The project aims to provide access to modern energy services across 25 countries. Step Up’s team is composed of the following:

OGP profile picMichael  (Miko) Canares, Team Leader

Miko has 23 years of experience in development work primarily in research, results-measurement, data-driven innovation design, and adaptive management.  He has proven expertise in developing and implementing research projects that use a combination of both quantitative and qualitative approaches and in developing robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks and systems that document and analyse results of development interventions in governance reforms, road asset management, labour market, local economic development and internal audit. In the last five years, he has designed and developed data for development projects in Asia on key topics as open government, open data, digital literacy, and open contracting, and its applications in health, education, and natural resource management.

Awarded as the Philippines’ Most Outstanding Finance Educator in 2010 after 10 years of university teaching, Mr. Canares is a skilled adult-learning facilitator and is engaged to build capacity of international organizations, local governments, and non-profits in research, monitoring and evaluation, and organizational management, including financial management and audit.  His accounting and economics background are very useful in efficiency audits as well as value-for-money measurements.

He has solid experience in working with different stakeholders within and outside of government and is skilled at different approaches in adaptive management and reflexive practice. He is also a published academic, an author of three books to date (accounting, natural resource management, and child-focused development) and different articles in referred journals dealing with topics related to local governance.

freiMaria Jihan (Frei) Sangil, Data Science Lead

Frei worked as a cybersecurity professional in multinational cybersecurity giant Trend Micro, handling research and documentation, production of Level three (highest and most detailed) technical documentation which the teams of support engineers and technical managers refer to in handling customer cases and deployment needs. Example of her cases are Advanced Persistent Threats on large-scale enterprise espionage and breach detection and mitigation, Instant Messaging Security (monitoring) and several other malware and enterprise breach-related cases.

Frei started Layertech as a startup in Hong Kong Polytechnic University Global Innovation and

Entrepreneurship Challenge, with flagship innovation: Mileaf Medical Network. She then she used the same technology to create Balangay: A Cloud Based Information System for Disaster and located in Legazpi City Philippines, wherein she founded a corporation of the same name: Layertech Software Labs, Inc. a private Research and Development Company specializing in data analytics and business process optimization (www.LAYERTECHLAB.com).

Apart from being CEO of Layertech Inc., Frei is practicing as a professional data scientist and analyst, working with government officials, local government units, civil society organizations, the academia, and private businesses and corporations as a consultant on cybersecurity, data processing and analysis, and business process optimization.

icaMaria Carmen (Ica) Fernandez, Development Programming Expert

Born on 14 May 1987, Maria Carmen (Ica) Fernandez is a spatial planner working on the intersections of space, place, culture, sustainability, good governance, and armed conflict.

Ms. Fernandez has spent the last decade specialising in the implementation and evaluation of peace agreements and other issues related to violence, vulnerability, and social cohesion in conflict-vulnerable areas. In the last five years, she has designed and implemented projects related to open governance and open geospatial and statistical data for decision-making in transitional contexts and post-crisis reconstruction.

As a former worker in the Philippine ministry overseeing peace negotiations, Ms. Fernandez presently consults with governments, communities, and international development organisations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, British Council, JICA, and The Asia Foundation. She has a keen interest in interdisciplinary action research, specifically the use of alternative platforms such as visual art, music, movement, and community activities for participatory engagement.

Step Up Attends Outcomes Harvesting Workshop and Data Security Training

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Step Up Research Manager, Jean Celeste Paredes, attends the Outcome Harvesting Workshop and Data Security training organized by HIVOS last October 15-17, 2019 at the Bellevue Hotel, Ortigas.  The activity is part of the series of activities that HIVOS offer to its partners in the Philippines.

Outcome Harvesting is an evaluation approach in which evaluators, grantmakers, managers and staff identify, formulate, verify, analyse and interpret ‘outcomes’ in programming contexts where relations of cause and effect are not fully understood. Through Outcome Harvesting, organizations collect (“harvest”) evidence of what has changed (“outcomes”) for HIVOS grantees, and then, working backwards, determine whether and how HIVOS interventions (grant allocation and linking and learning) have contributed to these changes.

On the other hand, the Digital Security Training aims to introduce and understand the communications model as a framework for digital security and to identify areas how each partner, including Step Up Consulting, can strengthen digital security within each  organization.

The training was attended by HIVOS partners in the Philippines, including LayerTech Labs, Bantay Kita, CODE-NGO, among others.

Step Up Attends WIKA Workshop in Germany

wika workshop

Step Up’s Strategy Advisor, Michael Canares, spoke at the recently concluded WIKA-Workshop 2019 that focused on “The Role of Civil Society in Cultural Relations”. The workshop was held at the WeltRaum at the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) in Stuttgart, Germany on 25-26 September 2019.

The rationale of the workshop is best described by the workshop organizers below:

“Civil society actors are gaining influence and are becoming political change-makers. Their local embedding and engagement at the grassroots level and the strength of internationally working NGOs who use their cross-border cooperation as a means of empowerment make them attractive partners for state-involved actors. The WIKA Workshop seeks to reflect on interdisciplinary topics such as “Cultural Cooperation and Shrinking Spaces”, “Youth as Civil Society Actors” and “Civil Society and Statehood” to relate them directly to fields of action of cultural relations and education policy.”

Mr. Canares presented his work on advancing digital literacy for girls in Indonesia funded by Goethe Institut Indonesien when he was still working as Senior Research Manager of the World Wide Web Foundation stationed at the Open Data Lab Jakarta.  For more details of this work, please visit the lessons learned paper written by Mr. Canares for the Jakarta Lab.

Cultural Programming Design Workshop for Region VII

70226646_10158288536284041_3947478212388323328_oStep Up Consulting Services facilitated a cultural programming design workshop for the Regional Cultural Hub of Central Visayas at the Metro Centre Hotel on 16-17 September 2019.  The workshop was organized by the Bohol Integrated Development Foundation in cooperation with the Provincial Government of Bohol.

The workshop was attended by Silliman University Vice President for Academics and historian Dr. Earl Jude Cleope, UP Visayas Arts Studies specialist Jay Jore, Boholano artists and cultural leaders Architect Nino Guidaben, Architect Franz Labad, theater artist Engr. Jerrey Aguilar, Holy Name University history professors Cenon Agbayani and Agnes Bustrillos,  Artist Rama Marcaida, and Natatanging Gawad Buhay awardee Gardy Labad.  Bingbing Casenas of the Provincial Planning and Development Office of the Provincial Goverment of Bohol also attended. The workshop was supported by the Bohol Arts and Cultural Heritage team composed of Jose Nazareno and Charo Mae Apipe.  

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Present the vision of the cultural hub/regional cultural complex and how it desires to promote cultural, social, and economic development of the region
  2. Present initial findings from the cultural inventories of the provinces in the Central Visayas region
  3. Discuss the importance of cultural inventories in the preparation of cultural programming for the regional cultural hub/regional cultural complex
  4. Draft a cultural program for the regional cultural hub/regional cultural complex for at least 3 year

 

Step Up Conducts Training of Trainers on Local Road Asset Management

ToT for LRAM

Step Up Consulting facilitated the conduct of a Training of Trainers on Local Road Asset Management (ToT on LRAM) sponsored by the United Nations Development Program‘s Roads2SDGs Project in partnership with the Department of Interior and Local Government.  The ToT on LRAM was held at the Bellevue Resort – Bohol  last August 19-23 2019.

The training gathered together close to 20 experts that are envisioned to become a resource pool for local road asset management in the country. The training aimed to enable the participants to (1) understand the basic principles underpinning the Local Road Asset Management (LRAM), as well as the different processes in ensuring that local government units achieve better road service delivery for its constituents; (2) learn the necessary knowledge and skills in rolling-out the local road asset management manual to local government units; and (3) realize the importance of asset management principles and practices to properly manage local road assets. 

The ToT was designed to enable participants to actually design and implement LRAM training sessions for local government officials.Those who performed well in the ToT will be asked to apply their skills in an upcoming run of the LRAM for provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.