Step Up Studies FOE Organizations in Malaysia

Protesters marching peacefully on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
(Photo by Hafiz Noor Shams, Available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bersih_2_protest.jpg)

Michael Canares, strategy advisor of Step Up Consulting, was contracted by East West Management Institute to study freedom of expression (FOE) organizations in Malaysia. The research, which began in June 2021, will be completed towards the end of the year, with the aim of arriving at concrete recommendations to strengthen FOE organizations in the country.

The research project is part of EWMI’s activities in the “Promoting Freedom of Expression in Malaysia (ProFoEM)” project. The project seeks to support the development of a more vibrant, effective civil society in Malaysia.  The long-term goal is to enable FOE organizations to participate in the freedom of expression (FoE) reform movement in Malaysia, and to strengthen civil society organizations (CSOs), the media, and public interest legal counsel in their efforts to strengthen FOE, promote right to information, strengthen independent media, and combat censorship. 

East West Management Institute is an organization headquartered in the US, whose aim is “to strengthen democratic societies by bringing together government, civil society, and the private sector – to build accountable, capable and transparent institutions”.

Step Up Strategy Adviser Leads Data-Driven Governance Training for Philippine Public Servants

Step Up’s strategy adviser, Michael Canares, was the resource person in the recently-conducted Data-Driven Governance training for the Philippine government held online last 18-20 May 2021.

Mr. Canares was contracted by the the United Nations Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development. The training was co-sponsored by the Department of Information and Communications Technology of the Philippine government, and the Chief Information Officers Forum.

A total of 62 participants attended the training from different national government agencies as well as electric cooperatives. Among those who attended were representatives from the Department of Budget and Management, Civil Service Commission, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Insurance Commission of the Department of Finance. Officials from electric cooperatives of Zambales, Cagayan, La Union, Palawan, Pampanga, San Jose, and Sorsogon were also present.

Topics discussed include data revolution and data justice, data governance and management, analytics and algorithmic bias, as well as data culture. The training was delivered by Mr. Canares using a mix of lectures, case studies, as well as tech-enabled audience engagement strategies.

Step Up Completes Research on Youth and Technology Use in Mindanao

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.

Figure 1. Overall Approach of the Research

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.

Step Up Strategy Adviser Speaks at Tbilisi Data Fest

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.

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.