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’s Strategy Advisor Attends Training in South Africa

sout africa trainingOn 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 Conducts Risk Management Training

Risk Management Training for BUSWACC
Risk Management Training for BUSWACC

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.

Step Up Managing Consultant speaks at GDI Conference

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Canares, Loewe, Perch, and Schafer in the panel on Effects of Poverty-Oriented Policies on the Environment

Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting, was one of the few invited speakers in the recently concluded conference on Green and Social: Managing Synergies and Trade-offs at the Deutsche Well, Bonn, Germany last 12-14 March 2014.  The conference, jointly sponsored by the German Development Institute and the Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth Network (PEGNet), aims to bridge the gap between environmental and social perspectives on development. Mr. Canares represented the HNU Center for Research and Publication as editor of its academic journal, the Lumina.

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.

He was in the same panel as Leisa Perch of the World Center for Sustainable Development in Brazil.  The panel was moderated by Markus Loewe of the German Development Institute while George Schafer of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) was the panel discussant.   According to one of the organizers of the conference, Carmen Richerzhagen, there were a total of 90 paper submissions received, and only 14 were accepted for presentation at the conference.

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.

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 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 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.

Canares speaks at the 67th PICPA Annual Convention

4673877Michael 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 complex accounting information needs of corporate businesses. To a large extent, students become involved in discussions 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 can participate in a process of ‘development’ that widens the range of human choices (Gasper 2002), on the concept that clearly distinguishes means and end (Sumners 2003), on that which expands the real freedoms that people enjoy (Sen 1999). In effect, accounting as a practice seems to serve only the interests of those who have the capacity to hire accountants. However, accounting knowledge and skills are important whatever be the size of business, and probably even more to those enterprises struggling to survive, to those engaged in non-profit work, and to those who depend on informal entrepreneurship for 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 the poor, these are mostly necessity entrepreneurs and are informal in nature(Siba and Serrano 2006) with less 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 for lack of knowledge and professional personnel. While stricter financial controls are imposed on profit enterprises, lesser attention is drawn on non-profit organizations implementing ‘development’ projects that 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 must contribute to a rather unexplored area in the profession – engaging in the development discourse and in helping build a country. The Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants in the country recognizes that the distinguishing mark of the profession is its responsibility to the public and that accountants accept their “duty to society as a whole”. This will provide concrete examples on how accountants in government, in education, and in public practice can fully respond to the current challenges of good governance, growth, poverty, and inequality.

Step Up Assists PCW

PCWStep Up Consulting Services assisted the Philippine Commission on Women in refining the results chain of one of the components of a project it implements with the support of AECID.  This activity was done in a training workshop held in Manila last 19-21 November.

The training workshop was attended by representatives from 6 provinces, namely, Aklan, Albay, Iloilo, Mindoro, Saranggani, and Surigo del Norte as well as by representatives from the Project Management Office and the Philippine Commission on Women.

The objectives of the training-workshop were to make participants understand the  basic concepts and principles of RBM as a tool in project development and management; practice the use of the RBM tools using the three-year project target for LGUs; arrive at clear indicators for the 3 year-targets and provide an overview of project development and management including its planning methodologies and tools.

The participatory, inter-active, and activity-based learning sessions proved productive with the adult learners.  The participants were able to efficiently assimilate new concepts better because of this approach.  Likewise, the RBM workshops helped crystalize ideas of participants and made more explicit their theories of change in so far as the project is concerned.

The diversity of outputs is impressive in terms of sectors and themes.  Saranggani concentrated on indigenous communities and indigenous women, Aklan on VAW victims, Albay on disaster-prone communities.  Surigao del Norte and Mindoro focused on women entrepreneurs while Iloilo tried to cover several marginalized women groups.

Step Up will continue to assist PCW in this project.