Step Up Strategy Advisor Facilitates ADB-GIZ Workshop

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.

Working on Systems Mapping with Indonesia NGO Network

Step Up strategy advisor, Michael Canares, works with Konsil LSM Indonesia (Indonesian NGO Council) on a systems mapping research together with Open Data Lab Jakarta to develop a deep understanding of the systemic challenges in affecting gender-inclusive development in the cities of Jakarta, Banda Aceh, Bandung, and Pontianak in Indonesia.

The  system  mapping  research  consist  of  three  main  components:  1)  desk  research,  2) interviews with key civil society and government stakeholders in each of the target cities, and 3) system mapping workshops. Mr. Canares was engaged by the project implementation team to design the online workshop using different online tools.

Mr. Canares designed the different workshops aimed at (a) identifying and validating priority issues related to gender-inclusive development in each city; (b) recommending strategies or solutions to gender-inclusive development issues in each city and identify ways in which open data can be part of the solution; (c) identifying and prioritizing skills gaps and data gaps needed in implementing the solutions; and (d) identifying key actors and validating coalitions between actors within and inter-city, including support needed to strengthen the collaboration.

The workshops started in June 2020 and will wrap up in the next three weeks.

Step Up Journeys with CCT Group of Ministries in Planning for the New Normal

Step Up Consulting will accompany the CCT Group of Ministries in their planning journey for 2021-2025, adjusting their ways of working to the changing realities brought about by the pandemic and other factors impacting on individuals, families, and communities. The planning process will commence in July with 30 online workshops planned for the local area offices of CCT across the country that will run until October this year.

The Center for Community Transformation Group of Ministries (CCT) is committed to creating lasting wholistic change among the poor. Founded in 1991, CCT has implemented programs and projects directed towards change individual lives, strengthening families, empowering communities and helping transform the nation. 

The CCT GROUP is composed of 16 ministry cooperatives and non-government organizations, each with its own Board of Trustees/Directors, management and staff.  The ministries serve specific poverty groups:  street families, children, youth, micro-entrepreneurs, landless and small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, factory workers, informal workers, tribespeople and the communities-at-large.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Step Up has been conducting online workshops, consultations, as well as training for different clients globally. However, this is one of the longest online journey commitment that Step Up’s strategy advisor, Michael Canares, will lead this year, using different online tools to create a memorable and productive online workshop experience.

Mr. Canares has worked with the CCT Group of Ministries in the past, more particularly during the Board leadership retreat as well as with the Visions of Hope Christian School, one of CCT’s ministries. Ms. Ruth Callanta, CCT’s multi-awarded president, requested Mr. Canares to lead this process along with a team of committed experts from within CCT family.

HIVOS Publishes Step Up’s Paper on Open Contracting and Inclusion

hivos book cover

Hivos, a development organization based in the Netherlands recently published a research it commissioned to Step Up Consulting. The research, done by Michael Canares and Francois van Schalkwyk, interrogates whether open contracting reforms can or can not lead to increased equality and inclusion in public contracting processes.

Open contracting has been adopted by more than 35 governments worldwide and has received significant attention from advocates and researchers alike. According to the organisation Open Contracting Partnership, open contracting has become “a new global norm, recommended and endorsed by global bodies such as the G7, the G20, OECD, the European Commission, the World Bank, and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development”. However, evidence of the concrete benefits that open contracting delivers derives from a limited sample of case studies or single-country research pilots.

The research made use of a case study approach covering 5 low and middle-income countries.  The cases covered are as follows:

    1. 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.  
    2. Bantay Kita, Philippines: Open mining governance to increase access, understanding and use of mining contract data in Cebu and Palawan provinces in the Philippines.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

If you are interested to learn more about the research, please download the file from this link.

 

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 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 Wins HIVOS Contract to Study Open Contracting in 4 Countries

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Open Contracting and OCDS (Image taken from https://openprocurement.io/en/ocds

Step Up Consulting was awarded a research contract by HIVOS, a development organization headquartered in the Netherlands, to undertake a research project to understand how open contracting reforms and increased availability of contract data can be used to realize results and benefits for specific, historically marginalized groups external to government.

Step Up Consulting is one of the several firms considered to undertake the research but got the final nod of the HIVOS review panel based on the strength of its proposal and the quality of the composition of its research team. The research will be conducted in Kenya and Nigeria in Africa, and Indonesia and the Philippines in Asia.

For this research, Step Up’s team is composed of Michael Canares, strategy advisor, as research lead and Francois Van Schalkwyk, a long-time collaborator of Mr. Canares, along with Fiona Smith and Ana Brandusescu as review panel.  The research will run from July 2019 to January 2020.

The research, using a case study approach, aims to identify and assess ways in which key aspects of open contracting reforms did or did not lead to circumstances where open contracting resulted in increased equality and inclusion in public contracting processes. More particularly, the research would like to answer the following questions:

  1. How can open contracting reforms and increased availability of contract data be used to realise results and benefits for specific, historically marginalised groups external to government? 
  2. What contextual and programmatic aspects in open contracting contribute to achieving meaningful results and benefits for these marginalised groups? 
  3. What do specific, historically marginalised stakeholders experience as significant barriers/impediments to achieving the desired results and benefits?

Step Up Writes Labour Market Assessment for the Rakhine State

ILO reportMichael Canares, Strategy Advisor of Step Up Consulting was tasked by the International Labour Organization to write a consolidated report that looks into the opportunities and challenges of labour market development in the Rakhine State in Myanmar.  The report that Mr. Canares wrote, together with his team at Step Up was based on primary field work that was conducted by Synergia Consulting and Training and Myanmar Survey Research.

The report, entitled “Rakhine State Labour Market:  Assessing Assets, Projecting Demands, and Identifying Areas for Intervention” looked into current and projected demand for labour skills in the Rakhine state, quality and quantity of labour supply in the area, and potential areas for intervention to strenthen labour market quality and labour to industry matching processes.

Labour Markets Project Design Workshop for Indonesia

miko in action day 2Step Up Managing Consultant Michael Canares led the design for the Labour Market Information Systems exploratory workshop for Indonesia and facilitated the same last April 9-10, 2019 at the GIZ Headquarters in Jakarta Indonesia. The primary question that the workshop tackled was whether non-traditional data sources can help overcome information deficits in labour market development programs.

The workshop brought together policy makers from relevant education and labour market related institutions, providers of relevant data and technical experts across Indonesia, more particularly those in the food processing sector, the current test case. The workshop aimed to initiate an in-depth discussion with respect to the following overarching questions:

  1. On which basis are education and labour market policies currently formulated in Indonesia?
  2. Are the currently used data sources enough to serve as a basis for informed policy formulation?
  3. What are known data/information gaps that may lead to sub-optimal policy decisions?
  4. Can non-traditional data sources, in particular, data from job-platforms and social networks, be used to enrich the existing information base and strengthen the evidence base in order to allow for more informed policy decisions?
  5. What gains can be expected from the use of non-traditional data sources?
  6. What are the related prerequisites and the costs related to the use of non-traditional data sources?
  7. What process needs to be in place to develop a system of integrating new data sources to existing systems?

outputThrough intensive workshops and meaningful conversations designed primarily to harness different ideas, the workshop resulted to at least four experiments in the use of different data sources – big data, open data, thick data, and citizen-generated data – to be able to capture traditionally unavailable information that are critical to labour market decision making processes.

The workshop was sponsored by GIZ and was part of GIZ’s efforts to harness new data sources for development projects.