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 Develops Guide on Road Asset Valuation

LRMPATStep Up Consulting Services was contracted by the Louis Berger Group, Inc. to draft the guidelines n Provincial Road Asset Valuation based on inputs from the Department of Public Works and Highways,  the Department of Interior and Local Government, and Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia.

Road asset accounting is a problematic practice in the Philippines. The most recent pronouncement in road asset accounting was the New Government Accounting Systems (NGAS) promulgated in 2001 through COA Circular 2001-005. While the NGAS, through the NGAS Manual, prescribes the rules in accounting for road assets, the corresponding effect on financial statements is severe when the time the road assets are completed.  Road assets on construction are debited to a Construction in Progress account but this is eventually closed to Government Equity account upon road asset completion.  As a result, road assets are no longer valued in the financial statements but are only disclosed as Public Infrastructure in the Notes to Financial Statements.

This accounting treatment has several effects. Road assets are no longer treated as assets but expenses, theoretically, as the values are closed against the equity account. Correspondingly, monitoring these assets become virtually impossible because they are not considered as part of the fixed assets inventory, and thus, are not provided with depreciation.  While road condition of the province has improved because of the rehabilitation, the provincial LGU’s value (represented by its equity account) decreased because the assets are technically charged against the equity account.  Under normal circumstances, this could not have been possible.  Asset acquisitions should have increased the net value of a local government unit.

This engagement is critical to ensure that road assets are valued in financial statements of local government units.

Step Up Trains Community Leaders on Enterprise Management

A participant explains the asset and opportunities map during the enterprise development session.
A participant explains the asset and opportunities map during the enterprise development session.

PROCESS Bohol, Inc., commissioned Step Up Consulting to train its community leaders in Ubay, Bohol the basics of financial management.  The training, attended by more than 30 community leaders, was intended to assist the organizations manage their enterprises better and prepare them for eventual phase-out of PROCESS support.

Step Up has more than 10 years of conducting community-based trainings with different audiences – farmers, women micro-entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and local government leaders.  It uses participatory approaches in conducting its capacity building programs and makes use of “games” in order to “teach concepts”.  As one of the women leaders in this training remarked – “It is the first time that I understood complex financial management concepts in an easy, phased way”.

In the training, Step Up taught the community leaders the basics of enterprise management, how credit management is critical to business operations, and the different steps in ensuring that business decisions can be made based on available financial data.

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 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 Facilitates Center for Community Transformation Board Retreat

Board and Staff of the Center for Community Transformation during its Board Retreat.
Board and Staff of the Center for Community Transformation during its Board Retreat.

Step Up consulting was contracted by the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) to facilitate its Board Retreat.  The strategy workshop of the organization was held at the CCT Retreat and Training Center last 21-22 November 2014. The event was attended by around 30 board members of the big CCT Family and approximately 30 members of its senior management. The topic for this year’s board retreat is ‘mentoring’.  A resource person provided the overall context of the event, Mr. Peter Lees of Sharpeting Stone (Australia).

CCT is an organized Christian response against poverty and social injustice. This is carried out through the fusion of social development initiatives and evangelical mission in a uniquely Filipino context. It serves urban and rural poor communities throughout the Philippines, in pursuit of its desire to see changed lives, strong families, and transformed communities centered on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. From a single organization years back, CCT is now a group of 12 ministries or companies focusing on health, education, skills training, and spiritual transformation.

CCT’s board is composed of Christian businessmen who are at the helm key businesses in the country and engaged in property development, pharmaceuticals, car dealership, food and beverage, and retail supermarkets.

Step Up Assists Rural Bank of Loboc

Board and staff of the Rural Bank of Loboc during the business strategy workshop.
Board and staff of the Rural Bank of Loboc during the business strategy workshop.

After five successful and profitable years of operation, the Rural Bank of Loboc, Inc. has grown in an unprecedented pace and achieved a set of financial indicators that speak of the bank’s operational sustainability. To revisit its directions and chart a new set of goals to 2020, the Board of Directors hired Step Up Consulting to facilitate the process to assist them in looking at their bank operations and plan for the next six years.

As a culminating event,  a workshop was held at the bank’s office in Loboc, Bohol on 9 November 2014. The workshop was attended by 5 of its board of directors, one bank consultant, and all members of the staff. The workshop resulted to a strategic plan that the Board will pursue to 2020.

The Rural Bank of Loboc was conceptualized in early 2004 as a major component of The Grand Dreams for the Development of Loboc. This dream, which served as a guide for the administration of Mayor Calipusan, focused on key priority areas labeled as LITHOPE – which stands for livelihood, infrastructure, tourism, health, organizational strengthening, peace and order, and education.  The idea then was to revive a previous proposal of converting the credit cooperative into a rural bank to finance development initiatives in the municipality.  If this would not work, it was planned that local Lobocanons will be organized to set up a bank that would serve the town’s financing needs for agriculture, small and medium-scale enterprises, and other productive activities, with the end view of promoting economic growth and development of Loboc and the economic empowerment of the Lobocanons. The second route was decided as the most viable option.

To date, the Rural Bank of Loboc serves the financing needs of the town of Loboc and nearby municipalities.

Step Up assists Visions of Hope Christian School

VOHCS board and staff during the workshop.
VOHCS board and staff during the workshop.

Step Up assists Visions of Hope Christian School (VOHCS) in its strategic planning exercise conducted last 13 October 2014. The workshop was held at the Ascott Hotel Makati and was attended by the Board members and staff of VoHCS headed by Board President James Tioco.

The Visions of Hope Christian School provides free pre-school education and shares the Gospel to children and youth from poor families. VOHCS has established 27 community based kindergarten schools. VOHCS also runs three residential schools. Two of these schools, in Magdalena and in Puypuy, hoise children from the streets. The third one, in Sarangani Province, houses children from the B’laan and Taga Kaolo tribes.

VOHCS is part of the bigger Center for Community Transformation (CCT) family.  According to CCT’s website, CCT “is an organized Christian response against poverty and social injustice. This is carried out through the fusion of social development initiatives and evangelical mission in a uniquely Filipino context. It serves urban and rural poor communities throughout the Philippines, in pursuit of its desire to see changed lives, strong families, and transformed communities centered on the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

 

It was founded in 1992 by development practitioners who believe that development strategies could best be achieved by enriching the spirituality of a person. Over the years, the Lord has enabled the organization to deliver wholistic, sustainable, and community-based programs and services that cater to the needs of the whole family. These services have opened opportunities for the community partners to grow and reach their full potentials as individuals created in the image and likeness of God