Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor at Step Up Consulting is part of the implementation team of the Roads for Development Program Phase 2 (R4D2) currently implemented in Vanuatu by Adam Smith International, with funding support by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
R4D2 will support the Government of Vanuatu’s Public Works Department (PWD) under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU). The program commenced in June 2019 and will run to the end of June 2022, with an option to extend by two years, subject to DFAT approval. The program aims to contribute to the achievement of the Government of Vanuatu’s (GoV) National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2030 (NSDP) goals, more particularly the following:
A dynamic public sector with good governance principles and strong institutions delivering support and services to all citizens of Vanuatu
Sustainable and well-maintained infrastructure and services for all, through inclusive and effective partnerships
Mr. Canares is R4D2’s short-term Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser.
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.
On 27-31 July 2015, Step Up’s Strategy Advisor, Mr. Michael Canares, joined seventy other scholars from around the world to attend the Social and Solidarity Economy at the International Development Corporation in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The theme of the academy was Social Innovation in the World of Work and is the 5th edition of the academy since it started in 2011. The academy is sponsored by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.
Mr. Canares’ participation was sponsored by the ILO.
Step Up Consulting was contracted by the Bohol United Sectors Working for the Advancement of Community Concerns (BUSWACC) to conduct a risk management training for its assisted entrepreneurs and entrepreneur groups last 28-29 November 2014. The training was conducted at the FCB Foundation Training in Tagbilaran City and was attended by more than 20 participants coming from different organizations and from different parts of Bohol.
Risk management is one of the key expertise of Step Up’s financial management division. As a process to ensure achievement of company objectives, risk management is about the identification and evaluation of company risks with the intention of avoiding these risks or managing them to minimize impact. In recent years, risk management is at the core of management function and has been used also in ensuring better internal audit and internal control.
The training was conducted by Arlen Salgados-Canares, Step Up’s lead consultant for financial services.
Mr. Canares presented his paper entitled “Making Conditional Cash Transfers Green: Opportunities for a Welfare and Environmental Agenda in the Philippines.” It looks at the potential and trade-offs of adding environmental conditions to the Philippine government’s cash conditional transfer program – the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, otherwise known as 4Ps.
The conference was attended by roughly 200 people from all over the globe. Marianne Fay, chief economist for sustainable development and climate change at the World Bank, and Ernst Ulrich Von Weizsacker of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) were the keynote speakers.
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 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;
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.
Agricultural and non- agricultural enterprises for the local residents, especially those who are now below the poverty line are newly created and strengthened.
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.
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:
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.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the projects in view of their objectives and to analyse the sustainability of the project results
To assess the roles and contributions of the different stakeholders in the implementation of the project
Step 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.
Step Up Consulting Services held its pre-New Year party last 29 December 2012 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.
Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting services served as one of the plenary speakers in the recently concluded 67th Annual Convention of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants held Butuan City. Mr. Canares spoke at the sectoral forum on Education, Commerce and Industry, and Public Practice.
Mr. Canares’ talk was entitled ‘Beyond Accounting: What can CPAs do to contribute to development?”. The abstract of Mr. Canares talk which was well received by the audience is reproduced below:
Accountancy curriculum in the Philippines is developed to prepare students to handle complexaccounting information needs of corporate businesses. To a large extent, students become involved indiscussions that highlight their role to the growth of businesses as a major contributing factor to the economic growth of a country and the world. But little attention is made on how accountants canparticipate in a process of ‘development’ that widens the range of human choices (Gasper 2002), on theconcept that clearly distinguishes means and end (Sumners 2003), on that which expands the realfreedoms that people enjoy (Sen 1999). In effect, accounting as a practice seems to serve only theinterests of those who have the capacity to hire accountants. However, accounting knowledge and skillsare important whatever be the size of business, and probably even more to those enterprises strugglingto survive, to those engaged in non-profit work, and to those who depend on informal entrepreneurshipfor daily existence.
Literature is replete with a multitude of cases that require the attention of accountants. For example,while entrepreneurial condition in the country is high (GEM 2007) which in turn creates jobs for thepoor, these are mostly necessity entrepreneurs and are informal in nature(Siba and Serrano 2006) withless technical support (Habito 2007) especially in the context of finance and financial knowledge(Canares 2011). While cooperatives constitute more than 10% of the Philippine domestic economy(OCDC 2010), several fledgling cooperatives are unable to hire auditors. While it is legislated that local government units should create internal audit departments, most LGUs in the country do not comply forlack of knowledge and professional personnel. While stricter financial controls are imposed on profitenterprises, lesser attention is drawn on non-profit organizations implementing ‘development’ projectsthat even resulted to questionable transactions of high-profile NGOs in the country.
This paper argues that there are different avenues where accountants should be able to, and mustcontribute to a rather unexplored area in the profession – engaging in the development discourse and inhelping build a country. The Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants in the country recognizes thatthe distinguishing mark of the profession is its responsibility to the public and that accountants accepttheir “duty to society as a whole”. This will provide concrete examples on how accountants ingovernment, in education, and in public practice can fully respond to the current challenges of goodgovernance, growth, poverty, and inequality.