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 Consulting was contracted by the Provincial Roads Management Facility to conduct mentoring activities for the Provincial Internal Audit Office (PIAO) of Misamis Occidental on audit communications and audit recommendations monitoring from August to October 2014. The highlights of the engagement were the conduct of mentoring workshops on the two topics.
The mentoring activity was intended to enable participants to understand the importance of monitoring and tracking internal audit recommendations; learn how to establish an effective internal audit monitoring system; and know the importance of communication and writing skills in providing effective and persuasive management advise. As part of the outputs of the mentoring process, the PIAO was able to draft an Audit Recommendations Monitoring process, and a draft Audit Communications Plan.
Step Up was greatly appreciated by the participants for the topics they learned and for the process the mentors used in conducting the mentoring activity. The participants rated the Step Up 9.33 out of 10. The Step Up team was composed of Alvin Luis Acuzar, Jean Celeste Paredes, and managing consultant Michael Canares.
Step Up Consulting facilitated the capacity building activities for the Aklan Provincial Internal Audit Office (APIAO) through a series of on-site and online mentoring sessions intended to strengthen the capacity of APIAO in audit report writing and compliance monitoring. Lead consultant Michael Canares facilitated the mentoring session on audit report writing in Kalibo last 2-3 April 2014 while Administrative Assistant Marilou Sale of Step Up coordinated the benchmarking visit of APIAO in Bohol last 9-11 April.
The APIAO team visited the office of the Provincial Administrator, AE Damalerio and Provincial Governor Edgar Chatto to learn about the support extended by the provincial government to Bohol’s internal audit team currently headed by May Limbaga. They spent the whole day last 10 April 2014 to learn from the experience of Bohol’s Provincial Internal Audit Office, one of the very first local internal audit offices established in the country with the assistance of the Australian government. The team also visited the Provincial Engineer’s Office and met with Engr. Gabino Redulla to learn about the road maintenance practices of the province. At day’s end, they were given a short lecture on the role of internal audit in local governance in the road sector by Provincial Road Management Facility (PRMF) Bohol Manager Rosalinda Paredes.
The APIAO team expressed their appreciation to the provincial government of Bohol and to Step Up Consulting for a very productive benchmarking visit. It can be recalled that Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting was the first consultant who assisted Bohol’s internal audit office in crafting its audit charter, in finalising its internal audit plan, and in conducting risk analysis using process-based approach sometime in 2010 when the office was still starting. Currently, Bohol’s internal audit office is one of the few strong internal audit teams among the 10 provinces supported by PRMF.
The team of Step Up Consulting chose to celebrate Christmas 2013 in a simple but meaningful gathering held at Dao Diamond Hotel in Tagbilaran City last 21 December 2013. The activity gathered the consultants, researchers, and administrative staff of the firm who were involved in its various projects in 2013.
It has been a tradition of Step Up Consulting to gather its team every end of the year to say thank you to the people that has contributed to the achievements of the firm. For ten years now, Step Up Consulting has benefited from the competence and commitment of its pool of consultants, researchers, and administrative staff who, despite their work commitments elsewhere, contributed expertise and dedication to the firm’s projects.
From a company that started offering services by using computers at internet cafes, Step Up Consulting has grown into a firm that earned the respect not only of Philippine companies but also organizations based abroad. Originally, it offered management consulting services to for-profit institutions but now, the firm’s portfolio is largely composed of government agencies and non-governmental organizations. Step Up’s services also as expanded to research and evaluation, and capacity building.
Despite the natural calamities that affected the province of Bohol and the country in the last quarter of the year, the company is still thankful because its team members delivered its commitments to clients and share resources to those affected by the calamity.
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 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.
Two consultants of Step Up Consulting Services attended the Open eGovernance Research Network Meeting held last 10-11 November 2012 at the Potter’s Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay. The meeting was sponsored by IdeaCorp, a non-stock non-profit corporation with Dr. Emmanuel Lallana as head.
Resident statistician of Step Up Ms. Jare Arawiran and Managing Consultant Michael Cañares attended the meeting. Mr. Canares presented the research proposal on open egovernance for local government units developed by the firm which initially got the nod of the World Wide Web Foundation and IDRC. Dr. Lallana is the Step Up’s appointed mentor.
The research network meeting was attended by researchers from across the globe, more notably Uganda, Canada, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, who are at the forefront in researching topics related to eGovernance.
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.