Step Up Completes Evaluation of DRRM Project

Step Up Consulting conducted the midterm evaluation of a disaster risk reduction and management project implemented by the Bohol Integrated Development Foundation in three municipalities in Bohol. The project, Disaster Risk Reduction Initiatives in Vulnerable Areas Toward Effective Governance and Resilient Communities in the Municipalities of Loay, Loboc and Sevilla, Bohol Province, Philippines, is now on its third year and is funded by MISEREOR.

The project aims to increase the knowledge and capacities of the individuals and to comprehensively formulate a plan and budget for disaster risk reduction and management. The project intends to capacitate local communities especially those located in high-risk areas, to become more aware and active in disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

The evaluation involved triangulation of approaches: a combination of survey, focus group discussion, key informant interview and evaluation of program traces or documentation.

A review and analysis of documents specifically on project documentations, minutes of meetings, photographs, progress reports, ordinances and other relevant data were made to evaluate the extent of effectiveness in the other variables identified.

A survey was conducted to gather relevant data more particularly on two aspects included in the evaluation framework.  This investigated areas of interventions versus need and results versus objectives. The survey included the barangay officials and members of the volunteer groups. The questionnaire was developed, validated and pilot tested prior to the actual conduct. 

Jean Celeste Paredes, Step Up’s research chief, led the team that conducted the evaluation. The final report was submitted to BIDEF in February 2021.

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 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 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 Presents Research on the Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 onTagbilaran City

Step Up Consulting presented the results of its recently conducted research on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on Tagbilaran City to stakeholders from government, civil society, and the private sector last 17 July 2020.

The research was fully funded by Step Up Consulting, with the technical support of the City Government of Tagbilaran and Dr. Rosalinda G. Paredes, city coordinator of USAID SURGE. It seeks to answer the following questions:

a. What are the key socio-economic impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic more particularly to the businesses, employees, and informal and on-account workers?

b. What is the level of economic vulnerability of the groups mentioned above to withstand a prolonged enhanced community quarantine?

c. What policy measures and programs are needed to be in place to protect the most vulnerable from the adverse economic impacts of the COVID crisis? 

During the public presentation held via zoom, Step Up also launched the research website that will communicate research findings in digestible chunks. You can find the website on this link – https://covidimpactresearch.com/

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