Step Up Publishes AID-FOI Tool

The FOI Research Team at Step Up Consulting , in collaboration with the FOI Project Management Office of the Government of the Philippines, released the latest version of the Assessing Information Disclosure Practices for FOI Compliance (AID-FOI) Tool.

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.

Step Up Consulting Publishes Open Contracting Research Training Module

Step Up Consulting recently released its new publication, the Open Contracting Research Training Module, a product of a 5 month-long research mentoring and training with researchers from Notre Dame of Marbel University funded by HIVOS and implemented in coordination with the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines. To download the file, click on this link.

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.

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.

Step Up’s 5 Case Studies Published by HIVOS

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):

  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.  (download here)
  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. (download here)
  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. (download here)
  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. (download here)
  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. (download here)

Step Up Strategy Advisor Keynotes PICPA Middle East E-Conference

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.

Mr. Canares also talks about the concept of “Low Touch Economy”, an analytical frame created by the Board of Innovation, that refers to the “the way businesses across the globe have been forced to operate in order to succeed as a result of Covid-19”.  He also talked about five essential tips on gliding through the crisis as a professional, based on the work of Hermina Ibarra of the London Business School.

Step Up Managing Consultant Assists NCCA in the Nationwide Study on the Impact of COVID-19 on Culture and the Arts

Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up consulting, joins a team of experts tasked by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to assess the impact of COVID-19 on culture and the arts. The study involved a survey of culture and arts practitioners, consumers and institutions and businesses involved in the promotion of culture and the arts in the country.

The results of the study will be used as inputs in the development of a Cultural Response and Resiliency Plan (CRRP). The information collected will assist NCCA and other government agencies prepare and implement immediate and medium-to-long-term measures to sustain the culture and arts sector of the Philippines given the pandemic.

For  organizations/offices that are involved in culture and arts, regardless of whether they are of a public, civil society, or business nature, please click on this link to access the survey.

For individuals working in creative industries and those engaged in or practicing different art forms, please click on this link to answer the questionnaire.

Step Up Launches its First Online Training on Local Road Asset Management

Step Up Consulting launched last 29 July 2020 its first online training offering on local road asset management. The training consists of two synchronous online learning sessions of three hours each and 8 hours of asynchronous learning activities over a span of five days. The recipients of this first online training were the provincial governments of Bohol and Siquijor.

The training started off with an online survey and pre-test of all 30 participants, half of which come from Siquijor and the other half from Bohol. The survey intended to gauge the knowledge and skills of participants in local road asset management while at the same time collect their views and expectations of the training. The results of the survey were used by the learning facilitator, Mr. Michael Canares, in designing the course content and schedule.

Mr. Canares , strategy advisor of Step Up Consulting, is also the author of the book, “Local Road Asset Management for Local Governments: A Manual for Local Government Units”, that will soon be published by UNDP in the Philippines and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The first session was successfully conducted last 29 July 2020. The second session will be conducted on 6 August 2020. In the meantime, participants are busy completing their Session 1 post-test and their work assignments that include the preparation of asset booking requirements and definition of service standards and road sub-sector performance targets.

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.

Mentoring for Open Contracting Research

On 24 June 2020, Step Up Strategy Advisor Michael Canares facilitated a research presentation of seven researchers from Notre Dame of Marbel University who used open contracting data to analyse procurement performance of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato. Mr. Canares led a team of mentors who trained and coached the researchers in undertaking research projects on public procurement. The project, dubbed as the First South Cotabato Open Contracting Research Challenge, was implemented by the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines with funding support from HIVOS.

The research projects were as follows:

Team 1-Forecasting Contractors’ Slippage for Infrastructure Projects in South Cotabato, by Cubort Bulanon and Chucky Marie Fernandez

Team 2- Finding Areas Underserved by High Schools in South Cotabato Using Network Analysis by Elisha Alvarado

Team 3 – Analysing Cost Efficiency of Procurement by Lot, by Michelle Capistrano

Team 4 – Profiling Contractor Performance of Contractors in the Province of South Cotabato, by Denver John Acebedo, Neiljan Raborar, and Fritz Tuazon

The research teams were identified in February this year and were trained through a Research Boot Camp held in General Santos City on March 11-13, 2020. The researchers then conducted research implementation from March to May this year, despite the pandemic. Luckily, the province of South Cotabato was least affected by COVID 19, allowing the researchers to conduct field implementation using both offline and online means.

Mr Canares mentored Teams 3 and 4, while Team 1 was mentored by Layertech Software Labs CEO Frei Sangil and Team 2 by Ben Hur Pintor, geospatial generalist, open-source and open data advocate, and maptivist.