Step Up completes almost 3 months of strategy sessions with Sinar Project of Malaysia to finalize the organization’s five-year strategic plan. The final Strategy Session with Sinar was conducted on 28 April 2022 online, with key officers of the organization.
Sinar Project was formally established in 2014 as a limited liability partnership in Malaysia. From its very inception, the organization aimed to promote transparency, accountability, and openness in government by improving people’s access to public information and data that impact people’s lives. Sinar Project believes that when citizens have greater access to data and information they are able to demand accountability from the government, better participate in decision-making processes involving public welfare, and contribute to the overall well-being of society.
Step Up’s strategy advisor, Michael P. Canares, was the lead consultant hired by East West Management Institute to undertake the strategy planning process.
Step Up’s strategy advisor, Michael Canares, was contracted by Common Ground Consulting to train civil society organizations (CSOs) on monitoring, evaluation, and learning. The training, which was held on 15-18 February 2022 via Zoom, is part of the various training programs conducted for Ugandan CSOs by the Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA) training program funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
Twenty-two CSOs attended the training. The cohort included representatives from the Uganda Women’s Network, the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders, White Ribbon Alliance, Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group, ICT Policy Center for Eastern and Southern Africa, among others.
Synchronous sessions took place from 1 to 5 pm Uganda time (5 to 10 pm Philippine time). Asynchronous sessions, on the other hand, took place every morning of each day through organization-based assignments that are required to be presented during the synchronous sessions each day.
The participants appreciated the training design and delivery. At the end of the training, most of them were excited to use their knowledge to improve the M&E systems of their organizations.
Mr. Michael Canares, Step Up Consulting’s strategy advisor was invited by the Indonesian Ministry of Home Affairs to speak at their workshop on “Leading Innovation in a Digital World”. The workshop was held online, attended by more than 200 participants – leaders of MOHA across Indonesia, last 24 November 2021.
Mr. Canares spoke about data-driven governance. He was invited through the Ford Foundation, once a partner of the Open Data Lab Jakarta where he was the Senior Research Manager for digital citizenship for almost three years. Mr. Canares spoke about concrete examples were governments across the world use data to improve public service delivery, strengthen effective public management, increase accountability mechanisms for public officials, and enhance citizen participation in governance.
Step Up Consulting strategy advisor was invited by the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental to conduct a training on Local Road Asset Management for the members of its local road network management committee. The training was conducted online last October 29-November 5, 2021.
The participants comprised of representatives from the provincial offices of engineering, accounting, planning and development, budget, treasury, internal audit, general services, and assessor. The training was based entirely on the Local Road Asset Management Manual (see picture above) prepared by Mr. Michael Canares for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with funding and technical support from the United Nations Development Program.
On 16 November 2020, DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano issued DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-155 mandating the adoption of the Local Road Asset Management Manual by local government units. This aims to improve the valuation and recording of local road assets for better local road management.
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.
Michael Canares, strategy advisor of Step Up Consulting was invited by the Municipality of Catigbian to facilitate the Gender and Development (GAD) planning and budgeting workshop for 2022. The activity was held at the Bohol Bee Farm Resort in Dauis, Bohol last March 3-5, 2021, and was attended by department heads and key officials of the municipality as well as representatives from civil society groups.
The workshop was held after a series of sessions on gender sensitivity, the Magna Carta of Women, Gender Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, and Gender Analysis Tools facilitated by several resource persons, including Step Up’s gender expert, Ester Espinosa.
In the workshop, Mr. Canares emphasized the essential elements of GAD Planning and Budgeting, namely, GAD focal point system (GPFS), GAD capacity development, gender audit, and GAD database and sex-disaggregated data. He advised the municipality stakeholders that if these elements are not yet present, they should invest considerable resources to have these in place. For example, he emphasized that without a GAD database, the identification and analysis of gender issues will be difficult.
Vice Mayor Esteban Angilan Jr. in his closing remarks, encouraged the stakeholders present to consciously monitor the plans and programs they were able to identify during the workshop to ensure that this will result to concrete benefits to the people of the municipality.
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
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, Step Up’s Strategy Advisor, was the keynote speaker of the PICPA-UAE sponsored leg of the 2020 PICPA Middle East E-Conference held last 14 August 2020 via Zoom. Mr. Canares spoke about the topic, “Thriving in The Current Normal: Agility and Adaptability During Times of Uncertainty”, to over 150 attendees.
His key messages focused on the following key points:
Point 1: The PANDEMIC affects ALL OF US. But it will not affect EACH ONE OF US IN THE SAME WAY.
Point 2: Our AGILITY and ADAPTABILITY matters.
Point 3. The PANDEMIC invites us to REINVENT OURSELVES.