Michael Canares, Step UP strategy adviser was invited by the Open Contracting Partnership to speak on a team webinar on open contracting and inclusion last 27 January 2021. The Open Contracting Partnership is a “collaboration across governments, businesses, civil society, and technologists to open up and transform government contracting worldwide”.
Step Up Consulting just recently completed a research project entitled “Analysing Social Media Use and Preferences of Young People in Mindanao” that sought to better understand social media use and preference amongst young people in the region as input into the design of initiatives that use technology and social media in engaging with young people. The research was commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The research, implemented from December 2020 to January 2021, was designed to collect basic information about the target users in four regions in Mindanao to test assumptions onuser attitudes regarding social media use. It underwent three phases as illustrated in Figure 1 below.
Phase 1 – Exploring was about getting a preliminary understanding of the users that the program would like to reach out to, generating necessary demographics to have a better sense of who target users are, where they live, what their preferences, are how they use technology, and what their experiences in using internet and social media have been like. This phase of the research is largely quantitative made possible through an online survey.
Phase 2 – Focusing was about initiating conversations with key personal, or fictional character types that represent user needs, feelings, and behaviors, that arose from the exploring phase. This phase sought to have a deeper understanding of key users to inform the design of the use of technology in engaging with young people. Because of limitations in mobility due to COVID-19, the conversations were held online.
Phase 3 – The Harvesting phase was about generating insights from both quantitative and qualitative data to inform the GIZ, as it embarks on the process of using technology to reach out to young people, and the designers of the proposed initiatives on how to best approach the systems development process.
The project team was led by Step Up’s strategy advisor, Mr. Michael Canares. Frei Sangil and Ica Fernandez are team members. The team is also supported by Hedz Paredes and Tet Pepito.
Michael Canares, Step Up’s Strategy Adviser, speaks at the annual Datafest Tbilisi on the topic “Data Empowerment”. As can be recalled, Canares is one of the authors of the blog Data Empowerment hosted at Medium (see https://medium.com/data-empowerment).
DataFest Tbilisi 2020 is the 4th edition of the annual conference in Georgia about data, science, communications and technology. Due to the pandemic, the conference is moved online and was held on 15 to 17 December 2020. The goal of the conference is to connect professionals working with data from different industries in order to encourage cross-sector collaboration. Conference attendees usually come from the media, civil society, business, and public agencies from around the world.
The conference has 5 parallel tracks: (1) Communication (Journalism, Design, Art); (2) Activism (Human Rights, Politics, Elections, Open data); (3) Technology (Data Science, AI, Tools); (4) Business (Analytics, Finance, Products, Policies); and (5) Life (Healthcare, Mobility, Education, etc.). Mr. Canares spoke at the main stage on 15 December 2020.
Michael Canares, strategy advisor of Step Up Consulting, completed a four-month contract beginning September 2020 with the Transport Sector Support Program Phase 2 (TSSP2), a project implemented in Papua New Guinea with funding support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Mr. Canares works with the team based in Papua New Guinea to assemble the Program Implementation Plan for 2021, the Annual Program Report for 2020, as well as review the Monitoring and Evaluation Learning Plan. TSSP2 is currently being managed by the international engineering company GHD.
The Papua New Guinea – Australia Transport Sector Support Program 2 (TSSP2) continues the Australian Government’s long-term commitment to the PNG transport infrastructure sector. The shared long-term goal of TSSP is a safer, more reliable transport system in place enabling economic and social development in PNG.
Step Up Consulting was contracted by the Bohol provincial office of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to conduct organizational management trainings to at least 10 cooperatives assisted by the agency the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP).
INREMP is a joint project of the Philippine Government and Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ultimate goal of the project is to address unsustainable watershed management issues affecting the Wahig-Inabanga Upper River Basin, and at the same time support poverty reduction in the communities.
The trainings were conducted to a limited set of participants, given current regulations issued by the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force in the management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (BIATF) and was held in 21-24 October, with another session conducted two weeks after. The topics discussed were on leadership, effective communications and business management. All trainings were held at JJs Seafood Village, Tagbilaran City.
Two months prior, Step Up Consulting was also the one contracted by DTI
Step Up Consulting was hired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to train cooperatives and community associations on gender and development. The trainings were conducted in September to October 2020 in the municipalities of Sierra Bullones, Pilar, Inabanga, Danao, and Buenavista. These benefitted 10 community associations in several rural barangays.
The trainings were part of the activities implemented by DTI in the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP). The objective was to help community associations address gender inequality issues through mainstreaming gender and development principles and practice in policies, programs, projects and activities of the associations.
The trainings were conducted in project areas by lead gender advocate and trainer Esther Espinosa with a training design formulated by strategy advisor Michael Canares. Both have worked together in the first phase of the GREAT WOMEN project implemented by the Philippine Commission on Women.
Strict protocols were implemented in the conduct of the trainings.
The tool, developed with funding support from HIVOS, is used to assess whether the conditions within an agency are appropriate for FOI mechanisms to be effective. It assesses whether the agency possesses the critical elements that will enable it to perform proactive disclosure of agency data. For purposes of the assessment, the AID-FOI Tool draws heavily from the work of the Carter Center’s Rule of Law Program that specifies a set of indicators to assess FOI implementation. These indicators revolve around five essential components, namely, leadership, rules, systems, resources, and monitoring.
Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan of the FOI Project Management Office (FOI) was able to champion the use of the tool across national government agencies when he promoted the tool during the Freedom of Information (FOI) Annual Summit. A total of 200 agencies were able to use the tool to assess their information disclosure practices. As a result, of these initiatives, the AID-FOI tool was included as part of the Compendium on the Innovation and Productivity Initiatives in the Public Sector, which aims to provide an inventory of best practices on public service delivery in the Asia- Pacific region.
Transparency in the procurement process and 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 Provincial Government of South Cotabato, in partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, implemented an open contracting program to 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 centralised portal in compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).
HIVOS has conducted similar initiatives in the Philippines. The publication of data, however, is not sufficient to fully realise the value of open contracting. It is critical and important that users are trained to use open contracting data for different purposes as advocacy, research, and development projects.
Researchers are one of the potential users of contracting data. But only very few are trained in this area. This research module is intended to help guide organisations wanting to train researchers in open contracting data.
Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor of Step Up Consulting, was contracted by the Build for Skills Project to help design and facilitate a lessons-harvesting workshop to reflect on the two-years of project implementation in Mongolia and Pakistan. Build4Skills is a project jointly implemented by GIZ and the Asian Development Bank to sustainably improve vocational education and training in countries. It aims to integrate technical and vocational education and training as a standard in public invitations to tender for infrastructure projects over the long term.
The workshop was conducted over two days – from September 14 to 15, via MS Teams. In attendance were representatives from GIZ operating units in Germany, Mongolia, Pakistan and the Philippines, together with their ADB counterparts from the Philippines, Mongolia and Pakistan. The first day workshop was organized as an internal learning event while the second workshop was designed as a sharing event to other development partners who may be interested to use Build4Skills as an approach in promoting employment through technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in partnership with country governments, funding agencies, private companies, and TVET institutions.
Five case studies that were part of the research paper on Open Contracting and Inclusion were published by HIVOS. The research project, managed by Step Up Consulting, was led by Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor of Step Up Consulting and Francois Van Schalkwyk of Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
As can be remembered, Miko (Michael) and Francois wrote the research paper “Open Contracting and Inclusion – A Synthesis Study” published by HIVOS two months ago. The five case studies that were the basis of the synthesis papers are as follows (click on the link to access the case studies):
Bandung, Indonesia: an open contracting pilot project implemented the City of Bandung with the support of the World Bank and the National Procurement Agency. The citizen engagement component of the project was implemented by World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab Jakarta, the aim of which is to cultivate use of published contracting data by the city government of Bandung, Indonesia. (download here)
Bantay Kita, Philippines: Open mining governance to increase access, understanding and use of mining contract data in Cebu and Palawan provinces in the Philippines. (download here)
Budeshi, Nigeria aims to ensure that public service delivery in Nigeria is opened to public scrutiny. Budeshi also requires that data across the budget and procurement processes are structured enough to enable various stages to be linked to each other and, eventually, to public services. (download here)
Preferential Procurement, South Africa: Public procurement regulations introduced by the national government in 2017 stipulating that at least 30% of the value of all government contracts of ZAR30 million or more must be subcontracted to specified disadvantaged groups, including youth and women. (download here)
Access to Government Procurement Opportunities, Kenya: Public procurement regulations introduced by the national government in 2013 stipulating that at least 30% of all government contracts must be subcontracted to specified disadvantaged groups, including youth and women. (download here)