Step Up is Finalist at U4 Proxy Competition

u4 workshopStep Up Consulting Services is one of the five finalists at the U4 Proxy Competition launched by the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center based in Bergen, Norway.  Mr. Michael Canares, Managing Consultant of the firm, presented his idea in front of scholars, aid agency representatives, and students, of how corruption at the local level can be measured using locally-generated tax and fees as a proxy indicator.

U4 is one of the leading think tanks focusing in anti-corruption.  It concentrates its efforts in assisting donor practitioners to address corruption challenges more effectively through their development support.  The centre is operated by the Chr. Michelsen Institute – an independent centre for research on international development and policy – and is funded by AusAID (Australia), BTC (Belgium), CIDA (Canada), DFID (UK), GIZ (Germany), Norad (Norway), Sida (Sweden) and The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The proxy challenge competition was launched last year “to address the perennial problem of assessing whether anti-corruption efforts are successful. “The Proxy Challenge” calls for greater use of bespoke proxy indicators. To assemble a body of promising ideas, U4 selected 5 finalists coming from development practitioners, monitoring and evaluation professionals, and researchers and convened these researchers in Bergen to present their work.

The five finalists were  (1)Integrity Action; (2) Bernard Gauthier (HEC Montréal), Frédéric Lesné (CERDI), Joël Cariolle (CERDI); (3) Mihály Fazekas (University of Cambridge and Corruption Research Centre); (4)  Joël Cariolle (CERDI), Frédéric Lesné (CERDI), Elise S. Brezis;  and Michael Canares (Step Up Consulting). Mihaly Fazekas was the winner of the competition.

Michael Canares said that having been selected as one of the five finalists was already an honour in itself. In his presentation, he thanked the panel for giving him the opportunity to present his idea. Mr. Canares is the only presenter and finalist coming from the global south.

Open LGU Research Team presents research findings in Good Governance Summit

The Open LGU Research Team presents initial findings of its research “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?” in the recently concluded Good Governance Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center last 15-17 January 2014.  The summit, sponsored by the Philippine Government featured the initiatives towards making the government more transparent and accountable – from the use of cards for cashless transactions to open data and e-procurement.

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De Guia’s presentation
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Canares’ presentation

Mr. Michael Canares and Mr. Joseph de Guia, team leader and research associate of the project respectively, presented the results of the study in two provinces – Bohol and South Cotabato in the session on the Promise of Open Data.  They were joined by Andreas Palweke of the World Wide Web Foundation, Dr. Sherwin Ona of the De La Salle University, Paolo Agloro of the Ateneo de Manila University, and Gia Banaag of the Open Data Task Force. Estefanie Ulit of the De La Salle University moderated the session which was held on the second day of the Summit.

The panel got a warm reception of the audience, comprising of around 300 people from different national agencies, local government units, media, academia, non-government organizations, and IT practitioners.  Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism made insightful comments on the work of the research team, more particularly on how to sustain the Full Disclosure Policy and whether DILG penalizes local government units who do not disclose their data.

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(L to R). Mr. Pawelke (Web Foundation), Mr. Canares (Open LGU), Ms. Ong (Open Data Task Force), Secretary Lacierda, Ms. Ulit (DLSU-Manila), Mr. De Guia (Open LGU), and Dr. Ona (DLSU).

The second day of the summit was also the launch of data.gov.ph, the Philippine data portal which serves as the repository of all government data that has so far been made public. It was also the same time the launch of the revised Full Disclosure Policy portal (see  http://fdpp.blgs.gov.ph/).  Secretary Lacierda led the ceremonial launch of data.gov.ph while Undersecretary Austere Panadero led the launch of the Full Disclosure Policy.

Open Data Team Holds Analysis Workshop

IMG_00000451_hdr (2) The Open Data Team of Step Up Consulting held a data analysis workshop last 21-22 December 2013 at the Dao Diamond Hotel. The workshop aimed at synthesizing fieldwork results of two case studies of the research project “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?”. (For more details of the project, please see http://www.lguopendata.ph/.

The Open Data team composed of Jare Arawiran, Marilou Sale, Marijoe Narca, and Joseph de Guia discussed the findings of the fieldwork conducted in Bohol and South Cotabato and reflected on the answers to the research questions gathered from the two sites as well as from documents review.  The research will still have to visit the third case study site (Bulacan) in the first quarter of 2014.

This research project is one of the 17 case studies across the globe and is part of the Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC).  This project aims to to establish practical and actionable knowledge about effective strategies for employing open data as means to achieve greater quality of openness in government, support citizens’ rights, and promote more inclusive development in developing countries.

The funding for this work has been provided through the World Wide Web Foundation ‘Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries’ research project, supported by grant 107075 from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (web.idrc.ca). Find out more at www.opendataresearch.org/emergingimpacts

Step Up Launches Open LGU Research in Bohol

ImageThe Open LGU Research Project was formally launched in Bohol on July 23, 2013 at MetroCentre Hotel  and Convention Center in Tagbilaran City. The activity was attended by a vibrant mix of representatives from the civil society organizations, business sector, academe, government, church groups, and media. Invited speakers from the government, namely, Atty. John Titus J. Vistal, CPA of the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) and Ms. Mary Ann Aparece-Verga of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) – Bohol presented the situation of open data in the province, while Dr. Emmanuel C. Lallana, Chief Executive of Ideacorp and mentor for the project explained how open data is a tool for citizen participation which brings us to the goal for democracy and citizen empowerment.

The project is a research study entitled “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent” that will look at how online sharing of governance information is making an impact on local government systems and on how data and information are being accessed and used by civil society and intermediary groups. The funding for this work has been provided through the World Wide Web Foundation ‘Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries’ research project, supported by grant from Canada’s International Development Research Centre. The research will be conducted in three provincial sites, as, Bohol for Visayas, Bulacan for Luzon and South Cotabato for Mindanao – these provinces being among those awarded with DILG’s Best Governed Province.

This research study is being done by Step Up Consulting Services, a local social enterprise serving local and international clients, managed by Mr. Michael P. Cañares who is leading the research team. During the launch, Mr. Canares gave a lightning talk on the project. Other experts composing the team are Ms. Mariejoe F. Narca, Ms. Jaremilleta M. Arawiran and Mr. Joseph de Guia. The audience’s interest and appreciation for the project, during the launch, gives the research team the right boost and momentum as it takes further steps for project implementation. Mr. Canares noted in jest that at this stage of the study the team is already getting recommendations even before the findings are presented.

For more information on the project, visit http://www.lguopendata.ph/

Step Up Evaluates SWCF Project in Batuan

Mrs Marcela Dapar
Mrs. Marcela Dapar, a beneficiary of the SWCF project. Image courtesy of DISOP.

Step Up Consulting Services was contracted by the Soil and Water Conservation Foundation (SWCF) to conduct the terminal evaluation of a three–year project on income generation, community organization strengthening, and environmental management funded by DISOP and Misereor, two European-based NGOs.  The project, “Employability and Capability Building of Farmes in Selected Barangays of Batuan Bohol” aims, that by the end of 2013, the livelihood and sustainable income of members of the communities in 7 barangays along the Makapiko River and its tributaries in Batuan Municipality of Bohol is secured for the long term.  It also strengthens previously assisted organizations of SWCF in the Eskaya communities in Sierra Bullones, Pilar, Garcia Hernandez, and Guindulman.

All seven barangays directly assisted have people’s organization, mostly in the form of cooperatives and associations. The five of the organizations are considered weak in their structure, have limited membership, and are not very stable as a potential source of income, training, reasonable credit and entrepreneurship development for the community. In most areas there is poor implementation of environment laws that has led to environmental degradation in terms of chemical pollution (pesticide and commercial fertilizer), solid waste pollution, removal of forest cover, biodiversity loss through hunting and collection of flora and fauna and disturbance of local caves and their resources.  All these activities are magnified when done on karst because of the very nature of the geological formation itself.

To respond to these concerns, the project aims to achieve three objectives, to wit;

  1. Associations/NGOs are capacitated to manage their affairs and link among themselves and other stakeholders to create a sustainable and conducive environment for securing their livelihoods.
  2. Agricultural and non- agricultural enterprises for the local residents, especially those who are now below the poverty line are newly created and strengthened.
  3. Project beneficiaries are better capacitated to deal with adverse affects of climate, political and social disturbances as well as able to reverse the environmental degradation of their natural resources.
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Alvin Luis Acuzar, Evaluation Team Leader

Mr. Alvin Luis Acuzar, former associate of Step Up manages the evaluation project.  Alvin is currently the Executive Director of the Bol-anon United Sectors Working for the Advancement of Community Concerns (BUSWACC).  He is joined by Doreen Lerin, Marilou Sale, Lorebien Lagapa, Arlen Salgados-Canares, and Edaline Bolotaulo, all seasoned community researchers of Step Up with more than five years of experience in development evaluation.

This evaluation has three objectives:

  1. To evaluate the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and outcomes of the project to the situation of targeted people and groups in the community, with particular focus on farmers and their families.
  2. To evaluate the effectiveness of the projects in view of their objectives and to analyse the sustainability of the project results
  3. To assess the roles and contributions of the different stakeholders in the implementation of the project

Project evaluation is one of the core services of Step Up.  In the past, Step Up has been engaged by Kindernothilfe Germany, World Vision Philippines, Fundacion Ipade (Spain), and SABIC (Belgium), Simag Foundation, Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water, and other organizations engaged in development work in the country and elsewhere.

The project evaluation started in July and will end in September this year.

Step Up Represented in ODDC Meeting in London

MPC with Tim Berners LeeMichael Canares, Team Leader of the Open LGU Research Project attended the first network meeting of the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC Project)  Research Project in London.  In this photo, Michael Canares is with Tim Berners-Lee and the researchers from De La Salle University, Manila, who are also part of the ODDC project.  Tim Berners Lee invented the world wide web in 1989 and is the founding director of the World Wide Web Foundation, the implementer of the ODDC project.

The network meeting was held at the Open Data Institute in London, United Kingdom last 24-25 April, 2013.  It was an an opportunity for project leaders of the 17 projects to get to know each other, and to explore shared research issues in understanding emerging impacts of open data.

 

The participants also attended an evening reception prior to the meeting at the Lancaster House co-hosted by the Open Government Partnership steering committee.  At this reception, Web Foundation founder, and Web inventor, Sir Tim Berner-­Lee formally launched the ODDC project and expressed the importance and potential contribution of the research to the work of the Open Government partnership, more particularly in exploring issues related to the use of open government data across the globe.

While in London, Mr. Canares also took the opportunity to attend the symposium on Data Driven Public Services hosted by Future Gov and sponsored by Capita. In this symposium, examples of how data can be effectively used to deliver services on the part of governments, or demand for better service delivery, on the part of citizens and neighborhoods.

 

 

Step Up Implements Open LGU Research Project.

logoStep Up Consulting Services is one of the implementers of a global research project “Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries”.  The project is a “multi-country, multi-year study led by the World Wide Web Foundation to understand how open data is being put to use in different countries and contexts across the developing world.”

Step Up’s proposal was one of the 17 research projects conducted across the world, and the second in the Philippines. The research project is entitled “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?” or otherwise known as the “Open LGU Research Project” looks at how the sharing of governance information online has impacted on local government systems, and how the information and data has been accessed and used by civil society representatives and intermediary groups. The project will identify policies and processes that could support the Philippines to more fully realise an open government data agenda for local government, and will identify challenges currently faced in the supply and use of local government data.

The project expects to contribute to the Department of Interior and Local Government’s efforts regarding the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP), as this would be the first time that a study of this scale will be conducted to know how local government compliance to the FDP has impacted on local governance, more particularly in three provinces across the country.

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Step Up Celebrates 2013 with renewed optimism

Step Up Consulting Services held its pre-New Year party last 29 December 2012New Year Party at the Villa Alzhun Tourist Inn and Restaurant.  The party, attended by Step Up pool of consultants, their kids, and the trainees of the firm in the summer of 2012, was intended to celebrate the accomplishments of the firm in 2012 and also thank its main stakeholders within the firm in its contribution for the upcoming projects of the organization in 2013.

Step Up is now on its 9th year and its pool of consultants has significantly grown.  Its pool of consultants are researchers, local government practitioners, development workers, and professors who are committed to the the development of organizations, institutions, and communities.  Established as a social enterprise, Step Up is dedicated to assisting local communities, people’s organizations, local government units, non-profits, and business enterprises, in the delivery of services that benefits the society in general.

Step Up is also committed to training future leaders. As a strategy, it accepts five trainees each summer, selected from several applicants, to be trained in the provision of capacity building, financial management, and development research services to clients; these are the firm’s core services. Previous interns later became CPA board exam placers while majority now holds successful jobs within the country and elsewhere.

Step Up thanks its previous clients for believing in the capacity of the firm to provide quality services.  In 2013, Step Up plans to launch two programs that will benefit communities as well as children.

Step Up Managing Consultant Speaks at Yuchengco Museum

Michael Canares, Managing Consultant of Step Up Consulting Services spoke on the topic “Planning, Constructing, Maintaining A Beach Resort in Paradise”. He shared the panel with Marcel Brunner, Swiss architect who built Alona Palm Beach Resort and Restaurant in 2000.

Mr. Brunner talked on the his dream of constructing a beach resort in Panglao, Bohol which he later implemented while Mr. Canares walked the audience through the challenges of maintaining the resort to standards, given the larger problems on spatial planning, environmental condition, and uneven development.

It can be recalled that Mr. Canares was Alona Palm Beach’s management consultant until the time that the property was sold to Hennan Resorts.

The lecture was held last 24 November at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati City.  It was attended by more than 150 people – architects, architecture students, investors, and academics.  The lecture is part of the lecture series that the Swiss embassy sponsors at the Yuchengco Museum in line with the 15oth celebration of Swiss-Philippine Relations.  An exhibit, Swiss Positions: 33 Takes on Sustainable Approaches to Building is also on-going the the museum and the lectures  that come with it runs until the first week of December.

The audience was challenged by Mr. Canares when he argued that much of the built environment in the next 100 years will be shaped by planners, architects, engineers. Mr. Canares challenged the architects in the audience to help society build a sustainable world.

Step Up in 2nd M&E Network Forum in Manila

Michael Cañares, Managing Consultant of Step Up Consulting Services attended the 2nd M&E Network Forum held at Bayleaf Hotel, Intramuros, Manila on 7-8 November 2012.

The forum, attended by more than 100 M&E practitioners, was the second series of the annual forum sponsored by the National Economic Development Authority and UNICEF. This year, the theme of the forum was EVALUATION POLICY: A GATEWAY TO IMPROVED PERFORMANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY, and it opened with the Keynote Address of Mr. Colin Kirk, the Director of Evaluation of UNICEF in New York. The first M&E Network Forum was held last year, on the same date, in Ortigas (please see photo).

There were four interesting sessions in the forum – In-Country Processes and Procedures for National Evaluation Framework, Evaluation Approaches and Methodologies, Innovations on M&E Approaches, and Evaluation as Undertaken by Stakeholders. Presenters coming from the development organizations as the Asian Development Bank, NEDA, Ibon Foundation, the National Statistical Coordination Board, the Department of Interior and Local Government, USAID Philippines, GIZ, UNICEF, and DBM, made the sessions interesting and insightful.

An interesting information was shared in the forum by NEDA Deputy Director Rolando Tungpalan regarding the updating of the Philippine Development Plan and the corresponding M&E framework that is expected to be publicly available by the first quarter of 2013.  The participants expressed appreciation for this new development as this would serve as a guide to various stakeholders in their work towards a better Philippines.