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 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 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 Produces Book on Natural Resource Management

nourishing book coverStep Up Consulting Services was contracted in 2015 by Soil and Water Conservation Foundation to document and publish into a book the natural resource management practices that its projects in Bohol implemented.

The project began with a participatory book conceptualization workshop that was facilitated by Step Up in order to define the details of the book, including proposed title, theme, concept, content, length, writers, among others. The intention was to ensure that the book represents the project, including the views of those who were impacted by it.

The book was finally completed with SWCF’s Executive Director Bill Granert writing part of the chapters and reviewing the whole book content.  Publication was done in the middle of 2016 and printed copies was distributed to SWCF partners.

If you want a hard copy of the book, please contact Marilou Sale at marilou.sale@steupconsultants.com.

If you want to read an online copy, please visit

 

 

Step Up Will Write SWCF’s Book on Best Practices

Step Up Consulting Services was contracted by Soil and Water Conservation Foundation (SWCF) to write its book of best practices in natural resource management.

SWCF writeshop
SWCF management team and staff in a book concept writeshop last September 2015.

SWCF has been in existence for more than thirty years now.   SWCF began in 1985 as an informal network of persons of several nationalities concerned with the global ecological challenge and the necessity of broad-based local initiatives to respond.

It started small-scale support of existing projects by providing inputs to farm-based species trials and consultancy services to hone the technical and management capabilities of project staff and extension workers.  Convinced that the geo-physical eco-system called the watershed is the operative planning and implementation unit, the Foundation embarked on its first three comprehensive, integrated and cooperative ventures to rehabilitate three watersheds in Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental. Since these three initial projects, the Foundation has completed implementation of almost a hundred environment projects in at least four regions in the Philippines for the last three decades.

The initial title of the book was “Nourishing the Earth, Nurturing the Soul”. The title speaks volumes of what SWCF wanted to do, and is still trying to do since the time it started – to nourish the earth, and nurture the soul – two processes that feeds into each other and articulates SWCF’s development philosophy.  SWCF does not only intend to change the landscape but also the people. This involved understanding deeply why people and communities lose appreciation of God’s creation and finding ways on how collectively stakeholders are able to restore this. This book narrates how these processes evolved in the communities in Bohol, how people were touched, and how it led helped restore the environment.

Mr. Canjura Joins Step Up

Mr. JoseJCanjura-profile Canjura is one of the latest addition to Step Up’s roster of consultants. He joins Step Up this year as one of the researchers of the project on open data and governance funded by the Southeast Asia Technology and Transparency Initiative implemented by Hivos .

Mr. Canjura is a Canadian urban planner and governance specialist. Since his arrival in the Philippines Mr. Canjura has worked extensively in local governance, with a focus on building mechanisms and tools that foster greater local economic development and a more competitive business enabling environment. He recently completed a study on the human resource and organizational development interventions that lead to greater local competitiveness, and collaborated in an assessment of Local Economic and Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO) competencies. Prior to his involvement in this project, Mr. Canjura also worked on several other open government initiatives: he conducted a study on the state of advocacy for budget transparency; and worked on an assessment on open contracting data in the Philippines. Mr. Canjura holds a Master’s Degree in Urban and Strategic Planning from Dalhousie University in Canada; a Diploma in Project Management and an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Geography, both from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

 

Step Up Presents at ICEDEG Conference in Ecuador

The Panel Members and ICEDEG 2015 Ecuador
The Panel Members and ICEDEG 2015 Ecuador

Managing consultant of Step Up Consulting Services joins the panel of four speakers conducting a tutorial on Open Government and Open Data at the International Conference on E-Democracy and E-Government.  The conference was held at the Universidad de Las Americas in Quito, Ecuador, last 8-10 April, 2015.

Michael Canares spoke about Open Government and Open Data in Asia and joined Sandra Elena and German Stalker of the Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (Argentina) , Francois Van Schalkwyk of African Minds (South Africa), and Carlos Jimenez (Spain), founder of the IEEE e-government initiative.

The participation of Michael Canares in the conference was funded by a paper dissemination grant from the International Development Research Center through World Wide Web Foundation.

Step Up Team Wins Research Grant

encite OGD logoStep Up is among the five researchers/research teams granted with research funds by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to undertake a study on the best method to build the capacity of civil society organizations on open government data. The action research entitled “Enhancing Citizen Engagement with Open Government Data” will be implemented in the next three months and is aimed at identifying the best approach to use in increasing citizen engagement with local governments through data sets published online.

The Step Up proposal was one of the more than 80 proposals screened by the OGP’s Open Data Working Group.  Among the proposals submitted, Step Up made it to the top five, together with Open North, Inc of Canada, Mitrovic Development and Research Institute of South Africa, Mark Frank of the United Kingdom, and Sunlight Foundation of the United States. Step Up is the only research team from Asia.

The announcement from OGP can be found here.

Step Up Presents Research in 8th ICEGOV – Portugal

Michael Canares with other members of the ODDC network
Michael Canares with other members of the ODDC network

Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting Services, presented his research entitled – “Full Disclosure Policy and its Impact on Local Governance in the Philippines”, in the recently concluded International Conference on the Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance held in the historic city of Gumaraes, Portugal. The research paper was one of the outputs of the Open LGU Research Project which Step Up implemented in 2013.

Mr. Canares also facilitated the session on Open Data Intermediaries together with Sumandro Chattapadhyay of Data Meet India. The study on Open Data intermediaries is one of the Web Foundation-funded synthesis papers on Open Data in Developing Countries research that Step Up manages together with a team of researchers from India and South Africa.  In the session, Mr. Canares was joined by other members of the Open Data Research Network – Leo Mutuko of Ihub (Kenya), Sandra Elena of CIPPEC (Argentina), and Ricardo Matheus of Brazil.

ICEGOV is a series of International Conferences on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance taking place annually around the world. The series focuses on the use of technology to transform the working of government and its relationships with citizens, businesses and other non-state actors in order to improve public governance and its contribution to public policy and development (EGOV).

The ICEGOV conference series is coordinated by the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), based in Guimarães, Portugal, in continuation of the work of the Center for Electronic Governance at UNU-IIST in Macao, China, which founded the ICEGOV series.