Comprehensive Agency Assessment June 2010
From Peace Corps Wiki
Table of Contents
- I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.................1
- A. A VISION FOR THE PEACE CORPS AT FIFTY ......... 1
- B. THE PEACE CORPS’ MISSION AND THREE GOALS ............. 2
- C. THE AGENCY ASSESSMENT........... 2
- C.1. Background .................. 2
- C.2. Assessment methodology....... 3
- C.3. Organization of the report .. 3
- II. VISION ..........................5
- A. VISION FOR THE PEACE CORPS AT FIFTY ............................................................... 5
- B. THE PEACE CORPS’ MISSION AND THREE GOALS ................................................ 6
- C. LESSONS LEARNED: CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF A STRATEGY FOR THE PEACE CORPS.............................................. 6
- C.1. Meaningful work.......................... 7
- C.2. Partner .......................................... 7
- C.3. Niche ............................................ 7
- C.4. Volunteers .................................... 7
- D. THE PEACE CORPS’ SIX POINT STRATEGY ............................................................. 7
- E. NEW STRATEGIES TO MAGNIFY PEACE CORPS’ PRESENCE, IMPACT AND REACH............................................. 8
- F. IMPLEMENTATION..................... 16
- G. PLAN OF ACTION........................ 16
- H. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION..................... 18
- III. BACKGROUND AND ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY ....21
- A. THE PEACE CORPS – A BRIEF HISTORY ................................................................. 21
- A.1. Introduction ................................ 21
- A.2. Volunteer activities by program area .......................................................................... 22
- B. THE PEACE CORPS’ RELEVANCE IN TODAY’S WORLD ..................................... 25
- C. THE IMPACT OF FUNDING ON THE AGENCY’S OPERATIONS........................... 26
- D. THE AGENCY-WIDE ASSESSMENT .......................................................................... 28
- D.1. Introduction ................................ 28
- D.2. Methodology .............................. 28
- D.3. The assessment team .................. 30
- D.4. The agency assessment advisory committee ............................................................... 32
- D.5. The independent review process 32
- A. THE PEACE CORPS – A BRIEF HISTORY ................................................................. 21
- IV. ADJUSTING VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT TO REFLECT PRIORITY UNITED STATES INTERESTS, COUNTRY NEEDS AND COMMITMENT TO SHARED GOALS, AND VOLUNTEER SKILLS..............................................................35
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ........................................................... 35
- A.1. Introduction ................................ 35
- A.2. Overview of the decision making process................................................................... 35
- A.3. Entry or re-entry into a country.. 36
- A.4. Allocating Volunteer and other resources among Peace Corps countries ................... 38
- A.5. Country closures and suspensions in the last ten years ............................................... 39
- A.6. Reflecting priority United States interests................................................................... 40
- A.7. Country need versus Volunteer and other resource allocation .................................... 43
- A.8. Meeting country needs – measuring impact................................................................ 45
- A.9. Conclusions ................................ 45
- B. RECENT CHANGES ..................... 49
- B.1. The Office of Global Operations 49
- B.2. Improvements to the Integrated Planning and Budgeting System (IPBS)................... 50
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION..................... 50
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................... 50
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations................................................. 52
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ........................................................... 35
V. STRENGTHENING MANAGEMENT AND INDEPENDENT EVALUATION AND OVERSIGHT....................55
- PART A: STRENGTHENING MANAGEMENT ....................55
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ........................................................... 55
- A.1. The agency’s Strategic Planning Process .................................................................... 55
- A.2. Resource allocation within the agency ........................................................................ 58
- A.3. Human resources management... 61
- A.4. Consistency in management practices......................................................................... 69
- B. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION..................... 71
- B.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................... 71
- B.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations................................................. 73
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ........................................................... 55
- PART B: THE FIVE-YEAR RULE..........................................77
- A. BACKGROUND ............................ 77
- A.1. Introduction ................................ 77
- A.2. Legislative history...................... 78
- A.3. Benefits and challenges of the five-year rule .............................................................. 79
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 117
- A.6. Improving the application and selection process....................................................... 111
- A.4. Diversity recruitment................................................................................................. 109
- A.2. Offices involved in the Volunteer delivery system ................................................... 106
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ......................................................... 105
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of recommendations .................................................... 103
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 101
- A.4. Office of Chief Compliance Officer.......................................................................... 100
- A.2. Offices engaged in project evaluation and oversight................................................... 98
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT SYSTEM............................................................. 95
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................... 89
- B.4. Changes to implementation of the five-year rule ........................................................ 88
- B.2. Agency efforts to minimize negative impacts ............................................................. 87
- B. RECENT CHANGES ...................................................................................................... 87
- A.4. Tools available to manage challenges of the five-year rule ........................................ 85
- B.1. Legislation................................................................................................................... 87
- B.3. Studies and assessments .............................................................................................. 87
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION...................................................................................................... 89
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations................................................. 91
- A. BACKGROUND ............................ 77
- PART C: STRENGTHENING EVALUATION AND OVERSIGHT.......................................................................95
- A.1. Monitoring and evaluation tools.................................................................................. 95
- A.3. The Inspector General’s oversight .............................................................................. 98
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 100
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 101
- VI. IMPROVING THE RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION PROCESS TO ATTRACT A WIDE DIVERSITY OF HIGHLY AND APPROPRIATELY SKILLED VOLUNTEERS.................................................105
- A.1. Overview of the Volunteer delivery system.............................................................. 105
- A.3. Implementing a new recruitment strategy for skilled and highly skilled Volunteers 108
- A.5. Marketing .................................................................................................................. 110
- A.7. Recommendation for improving the application process .......................................... 116
- B.1. Sector recruitment specialists.................................................................................... 117
- B.3. Volunteer delivery system modernization and re-design .......................................... 117
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ......................................................... 145
- C.2. Strategy for Implementation of the recommendations .............................................. 141
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 139
- B.2. Behavior change intervention.................................................................................... 138
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 137
- A.4. Core technical training across posts .......................................................................... 135
- A.2. Types of training ....................................................................................................... 131
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ......................................................... 131
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of recommendations .................................................... 130
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 129
- A.6. Quality of the Volunteer health system ..................................................................... 126
- A.4. In-Country Volunteer Health Program...................................................................... 123
- A.2. The Office of Special Services.................................................................................. 121
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ......................................................... 121
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations............................................... 119
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 118
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 118
- VII. MEDICAL CARE OF VOLUNTEERS....................................................................................................................121
- A.1. Providing health care to Volunteers .......................................................................... 121
- A.3. The Office of Medical Services................................................................................. 122
- A.5. Volunteer satisfaction with the health system ........................................................... 123
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 127
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 129
- VIII. TRAINING OF VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF........................................................................................................131
- PART A: VOLUNTEER TRAINING......................................................................................................................131
- A.1. Introduction ............................................................................................................... 131
- A.3. Training staff............................................................................................................. 134
- A.5. Providing for quality Volunteer learning .................................................................. 137
- B.1. Training design and evaluation ................................................................................. 137
- B.3. Measuring training effectiveness............................................................................... 138
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 139
- PART B: STAFF TRAINING..................................................................................................................................145
- A.1. Structure of overseas staff ......................................................................................... 145
- A.3. Differences among the three measures...................................................................... 172
- A.1. Types of early termination ........................................................................................ 171
- PART A: VOLUNTEER TRAINING......................................................................................................................131
- X. LOWERING EARLY TERMINATION RATES .....................................................................................................171
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 167
- B.5. The Office of Public Engagement ............................................................................. 167
- B.3. The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs ................................................................ 165
- B.1. A new perspective on partnerships............................................................................ 163
- A.3. The Peace Corps’ management of agreements.......................................................... 160
- A.1. Introduction ............................................................................................................... 155
- IX. COORDINATING WITH INTERNATIONAL AND HOST COUNTRY DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS ..................................................................................................................................................155
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 152
- B.4. Staff development ..................................................................................................... 151
- B.2. The continuum of learning ........................................................................................ 149
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 148
- A.4. Internal Management Assessment of the Center for Field Assistance and Applied Research .................................................................................................................... 147
- A.2. Overseas training for country directors, program and training staff, and administrative officers....................................................................................................................... 146
- A.3. Staff orientation and development beyond OST ....................................................... 146
- A.5. Headquarters staff orientation and training ............................................................... 148
- B.1. Office of Program and Training Support................................................................... 148
- B.3. The Global Online Village ........................................................................................ 150
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 152
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations............................................... 153
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ......................................................... 155
- A.2. Types of agreements.................................................................................................. 155
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 163
- B.2. The growth task force................................................................................................ 163
- B.4. The Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support.................................... 166
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 167
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations............................................... 169
- A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS ......................................................... 171
- A.2. Measurement of attrition ........................................................................................... 171
- A.4. Trends in early termination/resignation rates ............................................................ 173
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 199
- B.4. Plans for outreach and enhancement from the Office of Public Engagement ........... 198
- B.2. Correspondence Match Program ............................................................................... 198
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 197
- A.4. Monitoring and reporting of current third goal mechanisms of Volunteers and returned Volunteers ................................................................................................................. 195 A.2. Interpreting the third goal.......................................................................................... 185
- A. DESCRIPTION OF CURRENT PROCESS.................................................................. 185
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations............................................... 183
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 182
- B.1. Encouraging extensions............................................................................................. 181
- A.11. Previous task force studies on reducing resignation rates ......................................... 180
- A.9. Resignations and Volunteer impact........................................................................... 179
- A.7. Understanding what resignation rates measure ......................................................... 178
- A.5. Volunteer resignations............................................................................................... 175
- A.6. Managing resignations .............................................................................................. 177
- A.8. Resignations and country director and post performance.......................................... 179
- A.10. Controllable resignation rates.................................................................................... 179
- B. RECENT CHANGES .................................................................................................... 181
- B.2. Expectations management......................................................................................... 181
- C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations............................................................. 182
- XI. STRENGTHENING THIRD GOAL ACTIVITIES AND REPORTING MECHANISMS .....................................185
- A.1. Background ............................................................................................................... 185
- A.3. Efforts to achieve the third goal ................................................................................ 187
- .5. Incentives and awards ............................................................................................... 196
- B.1. Significance of the third goal in the coming years .................................................... 197
- B.3. Integrated Programming and Budget System (IPBS) Process................................... 198
- C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION.................................................................................................... 199
- C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations............................................... 201
AO Administrative Officer APCD Associate Peace Corps Director APCMO Area Peace Corps Medical Officer CD Country Director CDA Country Desk Assistant CDU Country Desk Unit CHOPS Chief of Operations CFO Chief Financial Officer CIO Chief Information Officer COS Close of Service CWWS Coverdell World Wise Schools (program) EMA Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia Region ET Early Termination FSN Foreign Service National FY Fiscal Year GAO General Accounting Office GC General Counsel HCN Host Country National HDI Human Development Index HRM Human Resources Management IAP Inter-America and Pacific region IST In-service Training IPA Intergovernmental Personnel Act IPBS Integrated Programming and Budget System IG Inspector General IT Information Technology JCAHO Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations KSA Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities Medevac Medical Evacuation MI Master’s International (program) MOA Memorandum of Agreement MOU Memorandum of Understanding MS Manual Section NGO Nongovernmental Organization OACM Office of Acquisition and Contract Management OCFO Office of the Chief Financial Officer OCIO Office of Chief Information Officer OGO Office of Global Operations OMS Office of Medical Services OPATS Office of Programming and Training Support OPE Office of Public Engagement OPSI Office of Private Sector Initiatives OSIRP Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning OST Overseas Staff Training PCMO Peace Corps Medical Officer PCR Peace Corps Response PCRV Peace Corps Response Volunteer PCT Peace Corps Trainee PCV Peace Corps Volunteer PCVHS Peace Corps Volunteer Health System PCVL Peace Corps Volunteer Leader PEPFAR President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief PSC Personal Service Contractor PST Pre-Service Training PTO Programming and Training Officer QTRS Quarterly Trainee Report Summary RPCV Returned Peace Corps Volunteer RRO Regional Recruitment Office SPA Small Project Assistance S&S Safety and Security STRAT Strategic Recruiter TDY Temporary Duty TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language TESL Teaching English as a Second Language TOT Training of Trainers USAID U.S. Agency for International Development USDH U.S. Direct Hire VAC Volunteer Advisory Committee VAD Volunteer Assignment Description VDS Volunteer Delivery System VRS Volunteer Recruitment and Selection VS Volunteer Support V/T Volunteer/Trainee
Excitement, engagement, and effectiveness are the terms that should characterize the Peace Corps as it moves toward the future. As the agency prepares to turn fifty, the agency needs to be in a position to look less in the rear-view mirror at its rich history, but rather, look forward firmly believing its best days are yet to come. The assessment team asked the question, “If the Peace Corps were created today, what should it look like?” The answer: donor investments at the community level and ensuring that development workers, magnifying the impact of government and Volunteers are America’s best and most cost effective grassroots ministers in dozens of countries credit their start to Peace Corps countries and the American public. Presidents and cabinet The Peace Corps is still very much in demand from both its host A. A VISION FOR THE PEACE CORPS AT FIFTY
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy launched an innovative new program to spearhead progress in developing countries and promote friendship between the United States and the people of the world. Fifty years later, the mission and the three goals that inspired the birth of the Peace Corps are still relevant. The passion that drove the creation of the Peace Corps is still very evident in the lives of the Volunteers who serve around the world today. The Peace Corps at fifty is ready for a strong new beginning—rooted in the vibrant past of those early years, yet ready to harness twenty-first century American intellectual power, innovation and commitment to results. The Peace Corps' mission—to promote world peace and friendship—has three goals: Volunteers who touched their lives at an early age. Peace Corps Volunteers in 77 host nations are kindling a fire in the leaders of 1. Helping the people of interested tomorrow. The fact that requests for Volunteers still far exceed countries in meeting their need for the Peace Corps’ capacity to place them within its budget is a trained men and women. clear and convincing measure of the Peace Corps’ importance to 2. Helping promote a better many nations and its impact around the world. Peace Corps understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. 3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. efforts funded by others are community-owned and sustained. Peace Corps Volunteers are America’s best ambassadors, building relationships with strategic partner countries from the ground up in communities across the globe. “The Peace Corps will be a leader, in partnership with others, in the global effort to further human progress and foster understanding and respect among people.” The Peace Corps is not only still relevant—it is more important than ever in this increasingly complex twenty-first century world. The Peace Corps’ leadership is ready to take the agency to a new level of engagement, with an inspiring new strategy to both revitalize the Peace Corps and achieve even greater impact in the nations it serves.
B. THE PEACE CORPS’ MISSION AND THREE GOALS
As the world has advanced and become more sophisticated through new technologies, as new problems have arisen and old problems have revealed their complexity and intractability, the Peace Corps needs to evolve in order to better prepare and support Volunteers and their partners in addressing community needs. No longer is the Peace Corps the only American volunteer organization operating internationally. Today’s Volunteers have many other options for service and are aware of those options. The agency needs to recognize that it operates in a far more competitive environment and adopt a new recruiting model so that it can continue to attract the very best Volunteers. These messages came through loud and clear in the interviews the assessment team conducted, the reports the team reviewed, and the hundreds of responses the team received from Volunteers, returned Volunteers, agency staff, host country partners, Members of Congress and their staff, and others. If the Peace Corps is to meet the demands of the 21st century, it must develop a dynamic plan of action with clearly articulated strategies to take it into the next 50 years.
C. THE AGENCY ASSESSMENT
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (Public Law 111-117) enacted on December 16, 2009 provided the Peace Corps with the largest year-to-year funding increase in more than a decade. It also included a
provision requiring the Director of the Peace Corps to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations on the findings of a comprehensive assessment in the areas listed below: # Improving the recruitment and selection process to attract a wide diversity of highly and appropriately skilled volunteers;
- Training and medical care for volunteers and staff;
- Adjusting volunteer placement to reflect priority United States interests, country needs and commitment to shared goals, and volunteer skills;
- Coordinating with international and host country development assistance organizations;
- Lowering early termination rates;
- Strengthening management and independent evaluation and oversight; and,
- Any other steps needed to ensure the effective use of resources and volunteers, and to prepare for and implement an appropriate expansion of the Peace Corps.
As stated at the outset, the assessment team believes this is a key moment to renew excitement for the unique experience that Peace Corps service provides, to increase engagement with the international community through creative and innovative partnerships, and to enhance the effectiveness of the Peace Corps worldwide. Finally, Americans hold the Peace Corps accountable for using scarce resources in the most effective ways possible. The agency needs to maximize its impact, and doing so requires a rigorous decision-making process to optimize resource allocation, and an active monitoring and evaluation function that measures progress and strengthens management decisions. Countries worldwide now have university trained leaders and national development strategies. They also have high expectations of the Americans who come to live and work in their communities. No longer can the agency send Volunteers to serve without ensuring that there is important work awaiting them and that they have received the very best training and preparation for completing their assignments. The agency’s mission and three goals have historically provided the framework for defining its vision—and should continue to do so in the future. However, the three goals are not sufficient for setting the agency’s future direction, articulating its role in the world, and establishing the baseline and reference points for strategic decision-making in the future. While the three goals still remain paramount, the Peace Corps needs to clearly articulate its strategies for how it will meet its three goals in a world very different from the one in 1961 when it was founded. The Peace Corps’ new strategy must take into account the changing face of both the United States and the countries it serves. The twenty-first century Peace Corps is fully capable of achieving more than ever before, but needs a better roadmap to strategically guide its future.
C.2. Assessment Methodology
The assessment methodology is described in greater detail in chapter III of this report. A major hallmark of the agency assessment was the outreach effort utilized by the team to gather a large number of diverse opinions from all stakeholders. The observations, conclusions, and recommendations presented in this report are based on this major outreach initiative that generated strong input from multiple sources, including: The Director of the agency also asked the assessment team to address how the agency can best strengthen third goal activities and agency reporting mechanisms. C.2. Assessment methodology * An extensive literature review included internal documents and external documents from both supporters and critics of the agency;
- Meetings and interviews with stakeholders, including current and former Peace Corps staff, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, currently serving Volunteers, and members of Congress and congressional staff;
- Surveys on currently serving Volunteers, returned Volunteers, and newly recruited Volunteers as they prepared to travel to their posts;
- A strong outreach effort soliciting input from currently serving Volunteers and Peace Corps staff through an e-mail address created by the assessment team for this purpose;
- Strategic planning sessions with the agency’s management team; and,
- Participation in agency conferences with country directors, program and training officers, and internal working groups.
The report is divided into eleven chapters that respond to the seven areas listed in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 enacted on December 16, 2009. The outreach effort yielded some important cross-cutting themes that in turn led to the development of the vision, the six supporting strategies, and the implementation plan presented in this report.
C.3. Organization of the report
Each chapter of the main body of the report consists of three sections:
- Observations on the current system;
- Recent changes in the organization; and,
- A summary of findings, recommendations, and a strategy for implementation.
Excitement, engagement, and effectiveness are the terms that should characterize the Peace Corps as it moves into the future. As the agency prepares to turn fifty, the agency needs to position itself to be one that looks less in the rear-view mirror at its rich history, but rather, looks forward firmly believing its best days are yet to come. The assessment team asked the question, “If the Peace Corps were created today, what should it look like?” The answer: donor investments at the community level and ensuring that development workers, magnifying the impact of government and Volunteers are America’s best and most cost effective grassroots ministers in dozens of countries credit their start to Peace Corps countries and the American public. Presidents and cabinet The Peace Corps is still very much in demand from both its host
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy launched an innovative new program to spearhead progress in developing countries and promote mutual understanding between the United States and the people of the world. Fifty years later, the mission and the three goals that inspired the birth of the Peace Corps are still relevant. The passion that drove the creation of the Peace Corps is still very evident in the lives of the Volunteers who serve around the world today. The Peace Corps at fifty is ready for a strong new beginning—rooted in the vibrant past of those early days, yet ready to harness twenty-first century American intellectual power, innovation and commitment to results. The Peace Corps' mission—to promote world peace and friendship—has three goals: Volunteers who touched their lives at an early age. Peace Corps Volunteers in 77 host nations are kindling a fire in the leaders of 1. Helping the people of interested tomorrow. The fact that requests for Volunteers still far exceed countries in meeting their need for the Peace Corps’ capacity to place them within its budget is a trained men and women. clear and convincing measure of the Peace Corps’ importance to
2. Helping promote a better many nations and its impact around the world. Peace Corps understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. efforts funded by others are community-owned and sustained. Peace Corps Volunteers are America’s best ambassadors, building relationships with strategic partner countries from the ground up in communities across the globe. “The Peace Corps will be a leader, in partnership with others, in the global effort to further human progress and foster understanding and respect among people.” The Peace Corps is not only still relevant—it is more important than ever in this increasingly complex twenty-first century world. The Peace Corps’ leadership is ready to take the agency to a new level of engagement, with an inspiring new strategy to both revitalize the Peace Corps and achieve even greater impact in the nations it serves.
A. VISION FOR THE PEACE CORPS AT FIFTY
At the end of each chapter, the recommendations are listed and an implementation matrix is also provided which details the lead and supporting offices responsible for implementation of each recommendation, including a time line for completion.
B. THE PEACE CORPS’ MISSION AND THREE GOALS
The agency’s mission and three goals have historically provided the framework for defining its vision—and should continue to do so in the future. However, the three goals are not sufficient for setting the agency’s future direction, articulating its role in the world, and establishing the baseline and reference points for strategic decision-making in the future. While the three goals still remain paramount, the Peace Corps needs to clearly articulate its strategies for how it will meet its three goals in a world very different from the one in 1961 when it was founded. The Peace Corps’ new strategy must take into account the changing face of both the United States and the countries in which it serves. The twenty-first century Peace Corps is fully capable of achieving more than ever before, but needs a better roadmap to strategically guide its future. Countries worldwide now have university trained leaders and national development strategies. They also have high expectations of the Americans who come to live and work in their communities. No longer can the agency send Volunteers to serve without ensuring that there is important work awaiting them and that they have received the very best training and preparation for completing their assignments. Finally, Americans hold the Peace Corps accountable for using scarce resources in the most effective ways possible. The agency needs to maximize its impact, and doing so requires a rigorous decision-making process to optimize resource allocation, and an active monitoring and evaluation function that measures progress and strengthens management decisions. As stated at the outset, the assessment team believes this is a key moment to renew excitement for the unique experience that Peace Corps service provides, to increase engagement with the international community through creative and innovative partnerships, and to enhance the effectiveness of the Peace Corps worldwide. When the assessment team asked the broader Peace Corps community for opinions on strengthening the agency, there was no shortage of passionate responses. The assessment team analyzed this rich—and abundant—feedback to determine common elements mentioned from varying perspectives and looked to
C. LESSONS LEARNED: CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF A STRATEGY FOR THE PEACE CORPS
These messages came through loud and clear in the interviews the assessment team conducted, the reports the team reviewed, and the hundreds of responses the team received from Volunteers, returned Volunteers, agency staff, host country partners, Members of Congress and their staff, and others. If the Peace Corps is to meet the demands of the 21st century, it must develop a dynamic plan of action with clearly articulated strategies to take it into its next 50 years. No longer is the Peace Corps the only American volunteer organization operating internationally. Today’s Volunteers have many other options for service and are aware of those options. The agency needs to recognize that it operates in a far more competitive environment and adopt a new recruiting model so that it can continue to attract the very best Volunteers. As the world has advanced and become more sophisticated through new technologies, as new problems have arisen and old problems have revealed their complexity and intractability, the Peace Corps needs to evolve as well in order to better prepare and support Volunteers and their partners to address community needs.
THE PEACE CORPS’ SIX POINT STRATEGY
C.4. Volunteers C.3. Niche C.2. Partner C.1. Meaningful work build on these elements to develop a strategy for reforming operations. The assessment report is grounded in these four critical elements, which are the key strengths and understandings learned from 49 years of the Peace Corps’ operations. The Peace Corps’ success and impact is dependent upon the agency’s ability to provide capable, prepared Volunteers to meet defined host country needs (Goal 1). Goal 1 is the engine that pulls the Peace Corps train, and facilitates the achievement of Goals 2 and 3 aimed at building greater understanding between Americans and the world. Therefore, the Peace Corps’ effort and resources should be targeted to improve the quality and professionalism of Volunteer work, ensuring every Volunteer has a meaningful job and is properly trained to effectively carry it out. The Peace Corps is at its best when it works with and complements the efforts of others, including U.S. government partners. Foreign governments, organizations, and communities around the world place confidence in the Peace Corps when requesting a Volunteer. Volunteers are requested by host country partners and marketed by the Peace Corps’ staff as individuals who come to assist their communities and promote mutual understanding. The Peace Corps’ vision should reflect the importance of its role as a partner in supporting locally identified development priorities. The Peace Corps’ impact is minimized and sustainability is limited, when it acts as an independent agent without strong partners. The Peace Corps’ operational model is unique, and it is also its major strength. Volunteers live and work in communities where other service organizations tend not to go, and they do so for extended periods of time. Volunteers learn the local language and culture and their work is driven by respect for their hosts. The relationships that Volunteers build with their partners at the national and community level are based on this unique approach. It also forms the core of the agency’s effectiveness. Very few other organizations make and achieve such commitments—no other U.S. government agency comes close. Approximately 85 percent of the agency’s Volunteers are recent college graduates with little or no professional experience. While the recruitment of individuals with greater professional skills and relevant skill sets has increased in recent years, younger, less experienced Volunteers will continue to form the foundation for the Peace Corps’ operations. The Peace Corps must be committed to providing these less experienced Volunteers with the skills they need to be effective, and to assigning them to communities where their skills and expertise allow them to have meaningful work and a quality volunteer experience. The Peace Corps should continue to recruit higher skilled applicants, but it should resist planning as if the majority of its applicants come already trained. Based on input to the assessment from individuals and groups in the United States and overseas, the assessment team worked with the Peace Corps’ senior leadership to define a set of six key strategies to
The following six strategies are the centerpiece of that effort: guide the agency in the coming decade. These strategies are listed below and then described in more detail in the following section.
- Target the Peace Corps’ resources and country presence across countries according to specific country selection criteria to maximize grassroots development impact and strengthen relationships with the developing world.
- Focus on a more limited number of highly effective technical interventions that will enable the Peace Corps to demonstrate impact and achieve global excellence.
- Embrace generalist Volunteers, recruit them recognizing the competition for their services, and provide them with training and comprehensive support for success in their project areas and community outreach activities.
- Make Peace Corps Response an engine of innovation by piloting new programs to expand the Peace Corps’ presence and technical depth and increase overseas service opportunities for talented Americans.
- Actively engage Volunteers, returned Volunteers and the American public through strong partnerships with private sector companies, schools, civil society, returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups and government agencies to increase understanding of other cultures and generate commitment to volunteerism and community service as a way to “continue service.”
- Strengthen the Peace Corps’ management and operations by using modern technology, innovative approaches and improved business processes that will enable the agency to effectively carry out this new strategic vision.
The Peace Corps must always ensure that two criteria remain paramount in its decision to place Volunteers: a country’s commitment to the Peace Corps, and the assurance that the safety and security of Volunteers and staff can be maintained. Beyond that, some of the criteria that the assessment team recommends the Peace Corps use to conduct a portfolio review include: As described in greater detail in chapter IV, the Peace Corps needs to apply a more coherent strategy in determining the size and distribution of its country portfolio in order to make the most strategic use of its The Peace Corps’ mission and goals remain relevant and the agency continues to be one of the most cost effective U.S. foreign assistance programs, however the agency must do a better job conveying this to the American people. In particular, the Peace Corps needs to demonstrate that it is active in those countries where the Peace Corps’ added value achieves the greatest impact and where the United States will benefit from strengthened relations and increased cross-cultural understanding.
E. NEW STRATEGIES TO MAGNIFY PEACE CORPS’ PRESENCE, IMPACT AND REACH
- 1. Target the Peace Corps resources and country presence across countries according to specific country selection criteria to maximize grassroots development impact and strengthen relationships with the developing world. The United States has many strategic priorities, and the Peace Corps is committed to advancing these priorities in the countries where it serves, as long as they are consistent with host country priorities. Whether these strategic priorities are technical in nature (food security, HIV/AIDS, education) or relate to building friendships and increased understanding, they should be consistent with the Peace Corps’ mission. scarce resources. This analysis should use specific, objective country selection criteria to enable the agency to make resource allocation decisions that will maximize achievement of its three goals and advance the priorities of host country partners and the United States.
- Countries where the Peace Corps has demonstrated its effectiveness or where it can be determined that it can be effective;
- Countries where the need for the Peace Corps’ programs is greatest;
- Countries where the Peace Corps’ presence compliments other U.S. investments and priorities;
- Countries demonstrating cost effective operations and strong management capacity.
While the assessment team did not feel comfortable defining the set of interventions the Peace Corps should select, the team is confident that the Peace Corps has the capacity to determine those technical areas where it can be most effective. By combining agency knowledge with input and strategic thinking from the field, host countries, U.S. government, academia and civil society partners, the Peace Corps can focus the work of its Volunteers, in a way that will most effectively contribute to the national development of the host countries. To assist in the prioritization process, the assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps consider the following selection criteria in making its choices: The agency should commit to excellence in this reduced set of interventions, and orient its training, programming, and management support to that end. These technical interventions will also benefit from improved technical oversight and more rigorous knowledge management to facilitate cross-border sharing. Although the Peace Corps states that Volunteers work in six primary sectors (education, health and HIV/AIDS, agriculture, environment, youth development and business), Volunteers actually work in 211 different projects that can be grouped into fifty different technical programs. The Peace Corps cannot effectively train and support Volunteers in so many different technical programs. Furthermore, projects are currently designed by posts with uneven agency guidance, limited technical oversight, and minimal opportunity for sharing good and promising practices among posts.
- 2. Focus on a more limited number of highly effective technical interventions that will enable the Peace Corps to demonstrate impact and achieve global excellence. In conducting this portfolio review, the Peace Corps must be ready to make the tough choice to reduce Volunteer input or even close operations in some countries. The agency must also proactively seek opportunities to enter new countries or expand programs in existing countries where it can be more effective. The process of conducting this review will be based on existing data sources and input from the agency’s many stakeholders. In the end, the process will reflect the Peace Corps’ best judgment of where it can strategically maximize its effectiveness and impact. The agency has already initiated the process of undertaking this portfolio review and will complete it during the fourth quarter of FY 2010. The agency has also committed to carrying out this portfolio review annually, in the fourth quarter of every fiscal year. A key element of this six point strategy is embracing the fact that 85 percent of the agency’s Volunteers are recent college graduates with little or no professional experience. These generalists are well-educated, highly motivated, and capable of becoming effective agents of change with the right training and support. Training programs must be tailored to the needs of these less experienced Volunteers. If the Peace Corps is to be a leader in the global effort to further human progress, it must be the partner of choice for foreign governments, international organizations, and local partners. The Peace Corps will only achieve this status if it can train Volunteers to deliver highly effective technical interventions that are most critical to addressing the needs in the communities they serve. The Peace Corps needs to identify a smaller set of technical interventions that maximize impact and that can be easily mastered by the Peace Corps’ generalist Volunteers. Once identified, the agency needs to establish technical training programs and support involving far greater vigor and depth to ensure generalist Volunteers are soundly prepared for service. Focus down—train up. A more focused strategic lens will allow the Peace Corps to create partnerships with recognized technical experts from academia, civil society, government and the donor community in each priority sector to better inform Volunteer training, technical support, monitoring and evaluation. Ideally, pre-service training will be complemented with scheduled in-service training, the development of targeted tools and job aids, and regular supervision by the Peace Corps’ training and technical specialists. By working closely with global leaders in the development of rigorous technical training, it may be possible for Volunteers to earn a certificate of proficiency which would certify their attainment of a standard of competence in that subject. Such a certification would strengthen Volunteer motivation and offer a career boost at the end of their service.
- Excellence: What do Peace Corps Volunteers do best?
- Demand: What do the communities and partners served want?
- Synergy: What are the strategic priorities of the host country and of the United States?
- Training: What can the Peace Corps effectively train Volunteers in to achieve a high level of success in their work?
- Impact: What are the technical areas where the agency will have the greatest impact?
Given the importance of training to Volunteer success in the field, the assessment team recommends the Peace Corps allocate greater resources for hiring more full-time training staff at post, ensure greater counterpart participation in training events and provide ongoing investment in key training staff. The rigorous application of effective training programs simply cannot be accomplished at the appropriate level by part-time or consultant training staff. The Peace Corps must be willing to consider new recruitment models, using all of the digital tools and interpersonal approaches that appeal to today’s target applicant. The agency still offers a unique international volunteer experience that American’s continue to seek. The time is now to revitalize the Peace Corps’ recruitment and marketing strategies to capture the imagination of today’s applicants with messages that appeal to them where they are—in their homes, cars, jobs, cell phones, and computers. The Peace Corps began as a revolutionary idea. It captured the imagination of young people in the 1960s and Americans joined en masse. It was the post college experience for adventurous, committed, altruistic young people. Apart from missionary service, it was one of only a few options for people who longed to serve in international destinations.
- 3. Embrace generalist Volunteers, recruit them recognizing the competition for their services, and provide them with training and comprehensive support for success in their project areas and community outreach activities. The process of identifying the targeted interventions and developing stronger technical training programs should move ahead immediately, and must do so with an understanding that not all current projects will continue to operate as they have in the past. The agency should proceed by identifying and rolling out selected interventions sequentially, instead of attempting to implement the full scope of the proposed focusing at this time. In each target area, the agency will also need to determine the most appropriate As the agency targets its program focus and builds stronger technical training programs, the ability of each Volunteer to work with their community partners to address local needs beyond the Volunteer’s primary assignment will continue to be a critical element of the Peace Corps’ contribution. For example, a water systems Volunteer would still be assigned with a host agency partner and a host counterpart to work on water systems. However, the Volunteer will still be encouraged to also start a soccer team or develop an English club. Peace Corps staff overseas would be confident in providing partners with enthusiastic Volunteers capable of integrating and working alongside them, as well as Volunteers with applicable skills to achieve the goals of their assignments. Instead of waiting months for meaningful work in their communities—a challenge expressed by many Peace Corps staff, Volunteers, and returned Volunteers providing input for the assessment—individuals serving within a more focused agency would contribute much earlier. The Peace Corps’ effectiveness and impact would increase, with the spirit of community service and community integration intact. training curriculum and best delivery method for that training, working with staff to scale-up that intervention prior to identifying the next. Despite significant agency efforts over the years to attract Volunteers with greater professional experience, generalists comprise 85 percent of the Peace Corps’ Volunteer force today, and will continue to be the primary target audience for the Peace Corps’ recruitment efforts. However, today’s generalist applicants are very different from their predecessors. They are likely to be technologically savvy and highly focused on building a career. They have different expectations and are not as likely to wait out the agency’s twelve month application process. Today’s generalist applicant has many alternatives to the Peace Corps that did not exist in the past. Many options for international service in various programmatic sectors, geographic locations, and lengths of service are now available. The Peace Corps faces competition from domestic and international volunteer organizations that are successfully tapping into the market for highly motivated well-educated college graduates—traditionally the agency’s focus. Once on board, the Peace Corps must establish a new level of commitment to ensuring Volunteers will receive world-class language, cultural and technical training in preparation for meaningful work that awaits them. Applicants should look to the Peace Corps as the service option of choice, as they know that the Peace Corps’ training provides real skills, valuable for their Volunteer service and throughout their professional careers. Applicants should feel confident that the Peace Corps’ training is followed by an assignment to a community where their skills and expertise are needed, wanted and will allow them to make a difference. After beginning their work, they should know an ongoing training program is in place throughout their service to constantly maximize their effectiveness. Now is the time to offer levels of training surpassing what is currently provided, both in quality and depth, guaranteeing applicants that service in the Peace Corps will provide not only an opportunity to serve others, but skills and training necessary to make an impact and an unmatched opportunity for professional growth.
Response Volunteers can become mentors to the Peace Corps’ Volunteers and their host country counterparts, with assignments that complement the efforts of the traditional two-year Peace Corps Volunteer. An expanded Response program will also rapidly increase the number of Americans who feel kinship with the Peace Corps, enabling the agency to more fully achieve its three goals through broader participation. Peace Corps Response will provide targeted training for Response Volunteers, depending on The assessment team recommends developing an expanded Peace Corps Response program to attract and support more experienced individuals. Breaking from the current mission of Peace Corps Response, assignments would be open to those who could meet qualification criteria, whether or not they had been Peace Corps Volunteers in the past. This program would place experienced and qualified individuals into assignments that draw on their specific skills and experience, with flexible time commitments2. Overseas posts could request a Volunteer with a specific skill set from Peace Corps Response or Peace Corps Response could notify posts of the availability of individuals with specific skills and experience. Peace Corps Response1—formerly known as Crisis Corps—provides returned Peace Corps Volunteers the opportunity to serve in rewarding, short-term assignments in developing countries. To date, more than 1,100 Peace Corps Response Volunteers have served in over 40 countries in Latin America, Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and Eastern Europe and, following hurricane Katrina, 272 Peace Corps Response Volunteers were deployed in the United States. Assignments include enhancing existing agency programs, responding to natural disasters, initiating first-time programs in new Peace Corps countries, or returning to a country where there has not been a Peace Corps presence for some time.
- 4. Make Peace Corps Response an engine of innovation by piloting new programs to expand the Peace Corps’ presence and technical depth and increase overseas service opportunities for talented Americans Peace Corps Response Volunteers bring the skills and experience gained during their previous Peace Corps service to new short-term projects in places where they are needed most. Unfortunately, Peace Corps Response is still very small, and currently lacks the technological capacity to process a larger number of applications. Nevertheless, Peace Corps Response is currently able to meet host countries requests for specific skill sets on a faster turn-around time than traditional Peace Corps programs. The Peace Corps’ new strategy to expand Peace Corps Response to any American who has the requisite technical skills and professional experience to address some of the world’s most critical needs is a bold leap forward. By doing so, the agency will allow more Americans the opportunity to serve overseas with the Peace Corps and bring greater diversity and experience to the Peace Corps portfolio. Opening Peace Corps Response to all qualified Americans will enable those who are not able to commit to two years with the opportunity to serve on shorter-term assignments in a country that desperately needs their skills. It improves the chances that the Peace Corps can successfully and adequately fill requests from host countries for Volunteers with a broader and deeper set of technical skills. This will be particularly important if the Peace Corps begins to focus its traditional program on a more targeted set of technical interventions.
- 1 Peace Corps Response has its roots in an ad hoc and intermittent practice that developed in the 1970s of sending Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on short term assistance assignments, including to countries where there was no Peace Corps presence. In 1996, the process was formalized and Crisis Corps, an office at the Peace Corps dedicated to disaster relief, was established. In 2007, following a gradual change in requests for Volunteers with more technical skills in countries that were not experiencing a disaster or crisis the program was renamed “Peace Corps Response.” Peace Corps Response Volunteers are placed in short-term, high impact assignments ranging from three months to one year.
- 2 Returned Peace Corps Volunteer’s would be able to continue serving in Peace Corps Response for shorter periods of time. The Peace Corps can more effectively mobilize Volunteer passion and commitment with a few small steps, including reinforcing the expectation that “bringing the world back home” is a long-term commitment at every stage of the Volunteer lifecycle—recruitment, training, volunteer service, and return home. The Peace Corps should be proactive in developing a set of tools to assist Volunteers in this effort—both in pre-service training and post-service training. Now known as Completion of Service (COS) training, the assessment team believes that it should be re-positioned as “Continuation of Service” training, with concrete tools and resources to guide and support Volunteer efforts. With that in mind, the assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps pursue a third goal strategy focusing on two main initiatives. At the same time, although the United States remains a dominant power, the country faces numerous social challenges that drain its resources and compromise the country’s national development. Current Volunteers and returned Peace Corps Volunteers know what it is like to “live” community service, and have the tools, knowledge and experience that come from this immersion. They understand that citizen action is key to addressing national priorities from the ground up. They have witnessed the power of individual and collective innovation to transform neighborhoods. There is great potential in the returned Peace Corps Volunteer community to help foster innovation and change in communities in the United States, just as they did in their host countries.
- 5. Actively engage Volunteers, returned Volunteers and the American public through strong partnerships with private sector companies, schools, civil society, returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups, and government agencies to increase understanding of other cultures and generate commitment to volunteerism and community service as a way to “continue service.” the applicant’s previous overseas work experience, language capacity, technical skills and professional experience. The Peace Corps has already begun using Response Volunteers to enter new countries or return to former host countries, particularly those that are recently post-conflict, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. This model has enabled the Peace Corps to test the waters and take the time to build up an infrastructure before committing to a full-fledged two year Volunteer program. The world today is dramatically different from the one in which the Peace Corps was founded. Advancements in information technology, transportation, agriculture, industry, and communication have transformed the world into a fluid global economy. The face of the country is changing. The United States has always been the land of immigrants, and that has never been more true than today. Today’s citizens need to embrace the diversity that is America, and prepare to live in an increasingly interdependent world. Based on their experiences, current Volunteers and returned Peace Corps Volunteers have unique potential to actively promote global citizenship through Internet and school-based programs targeting young people to educate about countries and cultures around the world. To date, however, this potential has been largely untapped by the Peace Corps, as the agency’s efforts have focused more squarely its first and second goals. However, the Peace Corps’ senior leadership is dedicated to bringing the world back home by more extensive partnering with private sector companies, schools, civil society, returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups and government agencies to promote global citizenship and volunteerism as a way to “continue the service” and help address pressing national challenges.
- 1. Increase participation and expand the Coverdell World Wise Schools (CWWS) program and other school-based initiatives to promote global citizenship, while also engaging other non-school audiences;
These efforts must be expanded and more widely promoted. If the Peace Corps is to prioritize third goal activities, it must raise their profile within the agency and increase the proportion of funding directed to their implementation. It must also pursue innovative new approaches, such as establishing a Peace Corps Intern program allowing some of the agency’s top Volunteer talent from overseas to complete a year-long paid internship in the United States with key development partners as well as private and public sector organizations who would benefit from the unique perspective brought to their organization by a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer. 2. Create partnerships to scale up returned Peace Corps Volunteer participation in activities to share their experience and support innovative community service. U.S. educators with returned Peace Corps Volunteers who agree to share their Peace Corps experiences in elementary schools, high schools, and colleges in their communities. These efforts should be continued and expanded to include greater participation from serving Volunteers, wider involvement from American schools and increased utilization of social media and technology. The Coverdell World Wise Schools program is a strong partner in U.S. efforts to teach American school children how to be global citizens. CWWS has three primary activities: first, its classroom resources program, where CWWS develops and distributes lesson plans, educational videos, podcasts and interactive simulations of Peace Corps Volunteer activities to primary and secondary schools around the country; second, its CWWS Correspondence Match program that connects U.S. elementary and secondary school teachers with current Volunteers who share their Peace Corps experiences at least once a month through letters, emails, photos, artifacts, and/or phone calls. Lastly, the CWWS Speakers Match program connects Beyond the CWWS program, the Peace Corps should actively seek partnership with like-minded organizations, universities, foundations, policy groups and returned Volunteer groups to expand support and commitment to global citizenship. There are many opportunities to participate more widely in the global debate about the benefits of volunteer service and the importance of global citizenship through leadership roles in conferences, workshops, professional journals, and popular media. Initiatives such as the Global Service Fellows provide opportunities for greater public discourse on this important topic. More active engagement in the public debate on the role of global citizenship will require a higher level of senior management staff commitment in the future. Agency leadership is firmly committed to the assessment team’s recommendations for the Peace Corps to begin addressing the invaluable domestic dividend of Peace Corps service through a dramatically more structured and engaging approach to third goal efforts. In addition to current agency programs, the Peace Corps is building a network of strategic partnerships with targeted domestic non-profit organizations to connect returned Peace Corps Volunteers with broader opportunities to “continue service” in ways that help address pressing national problems. Over the past nine months, the Peace Corps has entered into formal partnerships with the National Peace Corps Association, the National Association of Community Health Centers, City Year, and The Corps Network, and will continue to build relationships with many other non-profits, businesses, universities and returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups in the future. An important partner in this effort is the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, which works with federal agencies to create tools, such as innovation funds, prizes, and other social capital market structures to drive resources towards community solutions that demonstrate success. All of these partners have strong programs where returned Peace Corps Volunteers can build upon their Volunteer experience to support community solutions to America’s toughest challenges. The National Peace Corps Association has suggested additional innovative ideas to encourage returned Peace Corps Volunteers to participate more actively when they return home, and these should be given
The Obama Administration has prioritized innovation and Open Government, and the Peace Corps is eager to adapt and modernize its systems so that it can provide a much higher level of efficiency, transparency and quality in its operations. The Volunteer Delivery System, currently in development, will streamline the application process for new recruits, improving the timeliness and quality of the recruitment process, and hopefully reducing dramatically the number of applicants lost to drop-out. The Peace Corps is embarking on a new electronic medical records initiative in order to improve the quality of Volunteer health care and streamline the management of Volunteer health services. The strategy described above is exciting and proactive, but its implementation will require continued advancements in innovation and improved management practices. As a government agency, the Peace Corps has significantly less bureaucracy than most. But it has suffered from years of budget cuts, as have many agencies, that have whittled away funding for key functions such as Volunteer training and staff development, and limited its ability to modernize its systems and processes, particularly in the area of information technology. strong consideration. They include a proposal to encourage newly returned Volunteers to plan, conduct and report on third goal activities over an additional period of time following their return home, with a modest financial incentive for doing so. Another idea is to create a small grants program to expand innovative third goal activities using new technologies to reach new audiences. The Peace Corps’ funds for this purpose would be leveraged by a match from the National Peace Corps Association. 6. Strengthen the Peace Corps’ management and operations by using modern technology, innovative approaches and improved business processes that will enable the agency to effectively carry out this new strategic vision. Several areas for substantive work were noted by the assessment team, including the need for a serious look at the human resources necessary at headquarters and (especially) the field to follow through with the rigorous training program and Volunteers support measures described in this strategy. This is an excellent time to focus on strengthening full-time training capacity at the field level, supplementing that with a new cadre of highly skilled technical advisors at the headquarters and/or regional levels to support the Peace Corps’ move to support a more rigorous technical agenda. In recent years, the Peace Corps has much more proactively sought to improve monitoring and evaluation practices, and has conducted a series of country impact studies that provide some valuable results to strengthen country programs and disseminate best practices more widely. The Peace Corps is committed to improving its capacity in this area, and has provided strong leadership in the Office of Strategic Information and Planning who work closely with monitoring and evaluation staff at the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support to improve monitoring and evaluation practices. An improved monitoring and evaluation system would not only strengthen the quality of training and technical support to Volunteers, but it will also lead to better communication of results to all stakeholders. The Peace Corps will need to assess both the human resource and technology requirements of strengthening its monitoring and evaluation capacity to collect, analyze, use and disseminate data for more effective decision-making. The Peace Corps also needs to drastically strengthen its knowledge management capacity using an integrated, systematic approach to identifying, acquiring, storing, disseminating, using, and sharing the Peace Corps’ knowledge.
1. Establish a plan to address the impacts on overseas operations in a collaborative manner with the Peace Corps’ staff in the field:
G. PLAN OF ACTION
In an agency that sees frequent turnover at all levels because of the Five Year Rule and political appointments, the Peace Corps faces a particular challenge to the successful implementation of this strategy. However, the assessment team believes that the Peace Corps is capable of making such a change so that strategic, evidence-based decisions become standard operating procedure regardless of future leadership transitions. The implementation of the new vision and the supporting strategy will not come without challenges to the agency and its current program model. Commitment from the agency’s leadership as well as regular and consistent communication through all levels of the Peace Corps’ operations will be essential. In addition to the inherent challenges associated with making substantive change to any organization, there will be tangible implications in regards to resources, staff, systems and operations. Many of these challenges will require fresh approaches and a spirit of innovation. The assessment team believes the challenges can be overcome, and many provide opportunities for further revitalizing and strengthening the Peace Corps.
===F. IMPLEMENTATION=== The agency must also be prepared to address changes in staffing necessary to support this new strategic vision. New positions will be created; some positions will evolve, and staff training needs will be increased. These new challenges that also present opportunities, including the opportunity for retraining and reinvigorating overseas and domestic staff. The implementation of this strategy will require strong leadership. The Peace Corps is at a turning point, and action taken now will have a tremendous impact well into the future. With the 50th anniversary fast approaching, the Peace Corps must take a quantum leap in strategy and resolve to be ready for the next fifty years, which, if the agency stays the course, holds the promise to be even better than the first half century. The Peace Corps’ leadership plans to establish a team to oversee the implementation of the vision and six key strategies presented in this assessment. Led by a project manager, the implementation team will work under the supervision of the Office of the Director, and in close collaboration with the rest of the agency’s management. While this team will develop the implementation plan, the assessment team believes the cornerstones of the plan must include the following thirteen points: * Communicate changes to current operations and impacts on staff;
- Determine changes to current projects and country programs;
- Determine new country programs and interventions to be pursued;
- Establish a training program for host country staff whose role with the Peace Corps will change; and,
- Deliver regular communication and establish open and ongoing dialogue with the field.
12. Aggressively ramp up school, private sector, civil society, and government agency engagement to achieve third goal of the Peace Corps, while committing agency resources and energy to third goal programs with measurable impact.
10. Establish and strengthen partnerships overseas and in the United States to support the implementation of the plan.
8. Develop a recruiting strategy and a new recruiting model for the Peace Corps and Peace Corps Response to implement the plan.
6. Redesign and enhance Peace Corps Response to implement its new role as defined in this assessment.
4. Assess the adequacy of the Peace Corps’ current management structure and business model and make appropriate adjustments to ensure resources are dedicated for the successful implementation of the vision and its supporting strategies.
This approach should be based on criteria that consider grassroots development needs, interventions in which the Peace Corps would have the greatest development impact, opportunities for strengthened relations between the United States and the host country, Volunteer health and safety, and the likelihood of Volunteers achieving the agency’s three goals. 2. Examine why the agency operates where it operates with the Volunteer levels assigned to each country and geographic placements of Volunteers within each country. Develop a strategic approach to country assignments, Volunteer allocations, and Volunteer placements within individual countries. 3. Determine specific technical interventions through a collaborative process that uses field knowledge, headquarters perspective, and input from leading development organizations and partners. Identify and roll out each intervention sequentially.
5. Develop a dynamic and broad communications strategy that uses technology and social media to support the agency’s new strategic vision. The communications strategy should utilize the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps as an opportunity to deliver the agency’s new strategic vision to the public, agency staff, partners, host governments, Volunteers, potential Volunteers, Congress, and the greater Peace Corps community.
7. Develop a strong communications strategy for Peace Corps Response, highlighting its new innovative approaches and significant changes.
9. Establish a standardized core technical training program in the specific technical interventions identified, and determine the most effective method for such training.
11. Develop a more streamlined and effective monitoring and evaluation system to evaluate the success of the implementation plan.
13. Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the agency by acknowledging the Peace Corps’ history, but focusing most of its efforts on enthusiastically confirming why the best years of the Peace Corps are yet to come.
Recommendation II-1: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps adopt the proposed vision and the six supporting strategies necessary to implement this vision. Over the course of the assessment team’s extensive outreach efforts to solicit input for this comprehensive assessment, no single topic was mentioned with greater frequency than the need for the Peace Corps to identify and articulate a powerful strategic vision to guide the agency in the coming years. As the Peace Corps prepares to turn 50, current and former Volunteers and staff members, advocates, critics, and members of Congress believe the agency needs to reflect on the lessons it has learned in the past 49 years and needs to restructure for a world dramatically different than the one in which it was formed in 1961 to ensure the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps is substantially more forward-looking than reflective. H. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION The assessment team makes two overarching recommendations: Recommendation II-2: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps immediately establish a team to oversee the implementation of the proposed vision and its six pronged strategy and develop an implementation plan with timeline and deliverables to ensure successful adoption of the plan. Specifically, the assessment team recommends:
The time has come for the Peace Corps to not only embrace its rich history, but also clearly define and powerfully articulate why its best years are yet to come: why Americans should be excited to serve; why the Peace Corps is one of the U.S. government’s most strategic investments; and why countries, nongovernmental organizations and communities around the world should pursue partnership with the Peace Corps. With President Obama’s call to service, the 50th anniversary, and the strong development background of the current Director and his staff, the Peace Corps’ is ready to implement a powerful set of new strategies to magnify the Peace Corps’ presence, impact and reach.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, nearly 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 countries around the world. They’ve been teachers and mentors to countless children. They’ve helped farmers grow crops, worked with small businesses to market products, and shown women how to care for their babies. More recently, they’ve helped teachers and students develop computer skills and educated entire communities about the threat of HIV/AIDS.
III. BACKGROUND AND ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY
A. THE PEACE CORPS – A BRIEF HISTORY
While times have changed since the Peace Corps’ founding in 19613, the agency’s mission—to promote world peace and friendship—has not. The three core goals of the Peace Corps are as relevant today as they were 49 years ago: 1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
3 The Peace Corps was initially established by President John F. Kennedy pursuant to Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961. The Peace Corps Act (Public Law 87-293) was enacted on September 22, 1961.4 See Appendices III-1 and III-2 for relevant Volunteer statistics and Appendix III -3 for a description of program activities carried out in these regions. Throughout its history, the Peace Corps has adapted and responded to the issues of the times. In an ever-changing world, Peace Corps Volunteers meet new challenges with innovation, creativity, determination, and compassion. Those qualities have allowed—and continue to allow—the Peace Corps to achieve its mission, whether by responding to recurring droughts and deteriorating conditions in Africa in the 1980s or assisting the peoples of the former Soviet Union in their transition to market-oriented democracies or, more recently, through Volunteer programs around the world that provide hope and meaningful assistance to people with HIV/AIDS. The Peace Corps accomplishes its mission and core goals by sharing the United States’ most precious resource—its people. Volunteers live and work in other cultures and make a significant impact on local communities at the grassroots level in the six main program areas that they work in. The close interaction between Peace Corps Volunteers and local host communities allows the Peace Corps to establish an admirable record of service that is recognized around the world. For nearly 50 years, Peace Corps Volunteers have helped build the path to progress through cooperation with people who want a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities. Today the Peace Corps operates in seventy-seven countries that are grouped into three regions: Africa (Africa Region); Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia (EMA Region); and Inter-America and Pacific (IAP Region). As shown in Figure II-1, by the end of FY 2010, the Peace Corps expects to have a minimum of 7,800 Volunteers serving in these countries4.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Peace Corps Volunteers work in six primary areas: A.2. Volunteer activities by program area * Agriculture
- Business development
- Health and HIV/AIDS
- Youth development
Health program Volunteers work to promote preventive health education and practices with an emphasis on overall health and well-being. The scope of these projects includes hygiene and sanitation; water systems development and enhancement; nutrition and food security; maternal and child health; reproductive health; communicable diseases; chronic illnesses; and healthy lifestyle and exercise decision making. Volunteers and their counterparts address these issues in a variety of ways, including formal classroom instruction from kindergarten to the university level and community-based activities that use radio, television, puppet shows, murals, etc.; educational and training materials development and distribution; training and technical support for health care providers, peer educators, teachers, and non-formal community health volunteers; and sessions using murals, theater, radio, television, and puppet shows. Volunteers working on environmental projects help strengthen a community’s ability to sustainably use natural resources. They work primarily at the grassroots level, focusing on human needs and sustainable alternatives. Environmental Volunteers, for example, identify and train local leaders so they can teach other farmers how to work in environmentally friendly ways to improve the productivity of their fields and gardens in sustainable ways. Volunteers also promote environmental clubs and eco-camps. At some posts, schools and communities are connected as parents and youth work together to identify joint projects, such as bottle recycling or community cleanup days. Volunteers are also making significant contributions to girls’ education and gender awareness. Around the world, Volunteers promote activities that help expand educational opportunities for females in both formal and informal settings. For example, Volunteers conduct summer leadership camps for girls, support community awareness of girls’ achievements and potential, encourage their participation in the classroom, establish safe environments for after-school study, and organize career fairs for women. Similarly, Volunteers are working with boys and men to explore gender roles, expectations, and opportunities in a rapidly changing world. A.2.c Education The business development sector includes four subsectors: community, municipal, business, and organizational development. Volunteers with a variety of business education and professional experiences are assigned to projects that focus on business, organizational, and communication skills in local government offices, nonprofit agencies, and for-profit businesses. Recently, the focus of work in this sector has shifted from business consulting to more community economic development, emphasizing income generation. In response to the needs of a global economy, the number of business Volunteers The Peace Corps’ agriculture projects are designed to promote environmentally sustainable farming practices. Along with Volunteers working in the environment sector, many agriculture Volunteers help farmers focus on long-term productivity by teaching them to maintain and improve soils and to manage water. They demonstrate the importance of working with local, natural inputs to control pests and erosion. Increasingly, Volunteers and their partners are promoting approaches to farming that are both sustainable and organic. Volunteers are also helping their host country communities mitigate the adverse effects of the global food security crisis. Volunteers systematically include women and youth in their agriculture-extension activities. A.2.a Agriculture A.2.b Business development continues to grow as efforts intensify to assist underserved communities and to expand opportunities for women and youth. Education remains the Peace Corps’ largest program sector. Education projects include team-teaching courses in math, science, health, environment, and civics or skills-based courses in English5 and literacy. Education Volunteers strengthen local capacity by training and mentoring teachers in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Based on the needs of host communities, Volunteers support programs for vulnerable, marginalized or other special-needs children. They create after-school programs, clubs, and camps for boys and girls to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills. Education Volunteers also train teachers to expand learning opportunities through information and communications technology. A.2.d Environment A.2.e Health and HIV/AIDS 5 The fastest growing education program in the Peace Corps is English language training (Teaching English as a Foreign Language – TEFL).Health Education Response (HER), software developed by two Peace Corps Volunteers has revolutionized health education in Namibia. HER utilizes software designed to provide health information through mobile phone-based text messaging, permitting the program to operate throughout the country. 6 See Appendix III-4; Volunteers working in HIV/AIDS prevention by country. A.2.f Youth development Many Volunteers work to mitigate the devastating impact that malaria has on many communities, particularly young children. Volunteers fill a needed niche in carrying out grassroots community-based education and salient health education activities focused on malaria control. Health sector Volunteers, working alongside their counterparts, focus on malaria control through improving knowledge and behavior related to malaria transmission, underscoring the importance of intermittent presumptive treatment for prenatal care, and facilitating the distribution and utilization of insecticide treated nets. Many Volunteers focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and care exclusively or as part of a comprehensive community health project. Life skills training continues to be at the center of much of Volunteers’ HIV/AIDS prevention work, particularly when targeting youth. Increasingly, Volunteers are assigned to HIV/AIDS-related NGOs and assist in increasing the technical, managerial, and administrative capacities of such groups. Volunteers are uniquely suited to work in HIV/AIDS prevention because they live and work in local communities and can present information in culturally sensitive ways. The Peace Corps is collaborating with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to support the U.S. government’s commitment to worldwide HIV/AIDS care, prevention, and treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In 2009, Volunteers’ HIV/AIDS activities assisted more than 1,000,000 individuals, over 42,000 HIV/AIDS service providers, and nearly 3,100 organizations6. In water, sanitation, and hygiene, Volunteers help local people build, manage, and sustain their own water supply and sanitation infrastructure. Volunteers also promote hygienic behaviors, such as hand washing with soap, that reduce the incidence of diarrhea and pneumonia. Since the inception of the Peace Corps in 1961, Volunteers have had great success working with youth. Young people in a community are often the Volunteers’ first language coaches and cultural interpreters. In turn, young people value the opportunity to learn from Peace Corps Volunteers. In many of the countries in which the Peace Corps works, nearly 50 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Volunteers in the youth sector are guided by three key principles: promoting positive youth development, facilitating a greater level of youth participation, and approaching community development from an asset-based point of view. Volunteers and their partners integrate these approaches into stand-alone youth development projects and into projects that cross all program sectors. The Peace Corps’ approach to youth development supports effective, sustainable work with young people, their families, and their communities. Projects also aim to build the capacity of youth-serving organizations and of the host country professionals who work with young people. Critical issues affecting youth throughout the world include successfully making the
A literature review on the history of the Peace Corps was useful in helping the assessment team understand the successes as well as the failures during the last five decades. The assessment team also made a special point of identifying, reading and analyzing current articles and blogs that were critical of the Peace Corps. This literature review helped the assessment team focus on key areas of concern, but also led the team to two important conclusions: Most of the work carried out by Volunteers focuses directly on achieving the agency’s first goal: “To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.” However, it is through his or her work in Goal 1 activities, that Volunteers accomplish Goal 2, “To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served” while still in service; and Goal 3, “To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans”, upon completion of service.
B. THE PEACE CORPS’ RELEVANCE IN TODAY’S WORLD transition from school to work, developing relevant skills to prepare them for family life, and becoming engaged and active citizens in their communities. Volunteers are uniquely positioned to provide learning opportunities to girls and boys at the grassroots level. Volunteers also serve a valuable role in reaching special populations, such as children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS, street children, and other vulnerable young people. Volunteers work with their counterparts to improve employment skills of disenfranchised and out-of-school young men and women, and provide support to youth to help them avoid drugs and prostitution. Many Volunteers serve as mentors for young people and as counterparts in youth service organizations. The Peace Corps is meeting the needs of millions of people who are among the poorest segments of the world’s population by providing assistance to host governments and partners in the creation of grassroots initiatives. It is precisely this grassroots focus that makes the Peace Corps unique and extremely relevant. No other program funded by the United States government directly influences the lives of so many of the world’s poor the way that the Peace Corps does, through the hard work and dedication of its Volunteers. The Peace Corps makes it possible for millions of the world’s disenfranchised to see the United States in a positive light—up close and personal. Equally as important, the agency manages to do this in more than seventy countries on a personal level in a very cost effective manner. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has remarked on several occasions that the United States seeks a safer, more prosperous, more democratic world and that development and democracy are two of the three broad areas that are equal in importance in achieving this. The Peace Corps contributes directly to the United States’ efforts in development and democracy, and it does this in a unique way—through people-to-people exchanges aimed at segments of the world’s populations that are otherwise ignored. This is the vision that President Kennedy first articulated fifty years ago, and it is even more relevant today. * While the Peace Corps has made mistakes over the years, the agency is constantly learning from the past and looking for ways to improve its operations. The ultimate goal is to increase both the impact and the cost effectiveness of its programs.
- The Peace Corps’ most ardent critics and proponents all agree on one important area – that the Peace Corps needs to focus on quality growth as it moves forward. The assessment team also echoes that sentiment, as does the Director of the agency and staff at all levels.
The agency was encouraged to grow in the early part of the decade and did receive adequate funding to support growth in FY 2002 through FY 2005. However, in FY 2005 the agency’s budget reached a plateau and then began to decline every year through FY 20097. Unfortunately, while funding was decreasing, from FY 2005 to FY 2007 the agency increased the number of Volunteers in the field, reaching 8,079 Volunteers in service on September 30, 2007. Supporting this increase in Volunteers during a period of declining budgets could only be accomplished by making funding cuts in other areas, many of which directly affected the quality of the Peace Corps’ operations. Funding constraints during those years resulted in reductions in Volunteer training, in-country support staff, headquarters support for the field, and even resulted in an announcement by agency headquarters discouraging third-year extensions for successful Volunteers. Funding constraints also led to reduced investments in necessary equipment and systems in the field and in headquarters, including important investments in technology and in improving the agency’s Volunteer recruiting and selection process.
C. THE IMPACT OF FUNDING ON THE AGENCY’S OPERATIONSThe assessment team believes that the agency can continue to increase its effectiveness as it concentrates its efforts in a greatly reduced number of intervention areas while at the same time providing Volunteers with increased levels of training that will allow them to be more effective. By focusing on quality, the agency will be able to increase the impact of its programs. Figure III-2 below, shows the number of Volunteers at the end of each fiscal year as well as annual funding levels for the Peace Corps adjusted for inflation. After adjusting for inflation, it is interesting to note that funding for the agency increased at a real annual rate of 2.2% from FY 2001 through FY 2010. The inflation adjusted annual growth rate in funding for the agency from FY 2001 through FY 2009 was only 0.3%.
Figure III-2 illustrates the context of the challenges the agency has faced in the last ten years.
- Although funding began to decrease in 2006, the agency, which had been planning for steady growth, did not reduce Volunteer levels immediately. It was another two years before the agency began reducing Volunteer levels.
- Funding decreases at a time when the agency maintained and even grew Volunteer levels led to significant strains on the organization that resulted in cost-cutting measures that directly affected Volunteers and their ability to perform their service (reductions in training times, post staffing levels, travel budgets, etc.).
- The increase in funding for FY 2010 brings funding to a level which is consistent with the current level of Volunteers. The FY 2010 budget has already resulted in significant investments required to strengthen and prepare the agency for growth in FY 2011 and beyond after years of operating with reduced budgets. These investments, plus additional investments in 2011 will pave the way for significant, quality growth in future years as long as funding keeps pace with growth targets.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-117) enacted on December 16, 2009 provided the Peace Corps with the largest year-to-year funding increase in more than a decade. It also included a provision requiring the Director of the Peace Corps to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations on the findings of a comprehensive assessment as well as recommendations in seven specific areas: D.1. Introduction Unfortunately, funding levels have not been consistent in the past. The reality is that the agency has experienced growth spurts that are then followed by funding reductions that have severely damaged operations. In the past decade, Peace Corps staff and Volunteers have received guidance to grow in one year that was then reversed the next year due to a decline in appropriations. As was the case in FY 2006 through FY 2009, this prompted the discouragement of third-year tours by Volunteers and a reduction in training and staff support for all Volunteers. This in turn cut short the aspirations of many service-oriented Americans and has possibly harmed relations with host countries. As Figure III-2 shows, the funding gap began in FY 2003 when increases in Volunteer placements outpaced increases in annual appropriations, and the gap became critical from FY 2006 through FY 2009 as annual appropriations in real terms declined. One of the challenges faced by the agency concerning the allocation of resources is that while funding for the agency is determined annually, most of the agency’s operations are medium and long term in nature. For example, while Volunteers serve for twenty-seven months, the process of recruiting, and placing Volunteers increases the overall Volunteer cycle to more than three years. The time it takes from the decision to enter a new country until the time a new program can be established and is fully functional is also a multiyear process. Furthermore, the large investment that goes into establishing a new program in a country can only be justified if the agency plans to stay in that country for at least ten years. For reasons other than the safety and security of Volunteers, closing down a program in a country is a multiyear process.
D. THE AGENCY-WIDE ASSESSMENT
During his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Peace Corps Director spoke of his intention to carry out an agency-wide assessment of the Peace Corps as a means of strengthening, reforming, and growing the agency. The Director felt that with increased resources and a desire to strengthen operations and grow, the agency-wide assessment would serve as a valuable tool for the agency to better articulate a strategic vision for the Peace Corps for the next ten years. # Improving the recruitment and selection process to attract a wide diversity of highly and appropriately skilled volunteers;
- Training and medical care for volunteers and staff;
- Adjusting Volunteer placement to reflect priority United States interests, country needs and commitment to shared goals, and volunteer skills;
- Coordinating with international and host country development assistance organizations;
- Lowering early termination rates;
- Strengthening management and independent evaluation and oversight; and,
- Any other steps needed to ensure the effective use of resources and Volunteers, and to prepare for and implement an appropriate expansion of the Peace Corps.
The three regions held five-day country director conferences during the first quarter of FY 2010. This was followed by the first worldwide program training officer conference in more than a decade in which all posts sent a program training officer to Washington, D.C. during the second quarter of FY 2010 for a one week conference. At each of these conferences, the participants analyzed the issues that most affect the agency’s ability to achieve quality growth and made specific recommendations to achieve this goal. Recommendations from the three conferences were provided to the assessment team. Assessment team The assessment team conducted an extensive outreach effort with currently serving Volunteers, the Peace Corps’ staff members serving overseas, and with the broader returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. Early on in the assessment process, and at the request of the assessment team, the Director of the agency sent out a communication to all country directors explaining the reasons behind the agency assessment and soliciting input from them and their staff. An e-mail address was created for this purpose ([email protected]), and 31 overseas posts provided input through this mechanism. A similar process was used to reach out to current Peace Corps Volunteers. In this case, country directors were asked to forward a memorandum from the assessment team to their respective Volunteer Advisory Committees soliciting input on the assessment topics. The assessment team received input from 24 Volunteer Advisory Committees. Finally, the assessment team used a similar procedure to reach out to the larger returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. The assessment team randomly asked for input from thirty of the 132 Peace Corps affinity groups throughout the United States and received input from fourteen. The assessment team relied heavily on the Annual Volunteer Surveys8 that are conducted by the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning (OSIRP). The most recent of these surveys was conducted in 2009. OSIRP staff also prepared an analysis of survey results from 2006, 2008, and 2009 that was useful in analyzing trends in response to specific questions. OSIRP staff members were able to run additional analysis on the survey results as requested. D.2.c Surveys and other outreach tools Members of the assessment team conducted more than 100 meetings and interviews to gather information and different points of view on the topics covered in the assessment. The bulk of these meetings were Team members spent the first few weeks reading and analyzing background documents, including previous studies on the assessment topics, Volunteer and returned Volunteer surveys and comments, articles and editorials, Internet blogs and other information sources internal and external to the agency. Team members also sought out and analyzed documents that criticized or suggested changes in the way the agency conducts its operations to ensure that they received as many points of view as possible. All of the major documents consulted are shown in Appendix III-5. The agency assessment was carried out over the five months from January through May of 2010. The methodology used by the team in gathering and analyzing data, reviewing findings, developing recommendations, and drafting and reviewing this document is discussed below. The Director also asked the assessment team to address how the agency can best strengthen third goal activities and agency reporting mechanisms.
D.2. Methodology =D.2.a Review of written documents D.2.b Internal and external interview, discussion and presentation meetings conducted with current and former Peace Corps staff, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and currently serving Volunteers. Additional meetings were held with members of Congress to better understand specific concerns and issues related to the Peace Corps. Almost all of these meetings were in person, however, some telephone interviews were conducted when face-to-face meetings were not possible. To broaden the assessment team’s outreach efforts, a number of other tools were used by the team to solicit input. For example, to gather up-to-date information on the Volunteer recruiting, selection, and placement process, the assessment team designed and administered a survey. This survey was administered to more than 300 new trainees in the United States at their pre-departure orientation. The team also used the National Peace Corps Association survey conducted in October of 2009 on its members. Approximately 4,500 current and returned Volunteers responded to this survey. The association was able to provide additional information on this survey when requested that was very useful in analyzing some of the areas covered in the assessment.
Shortly after the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2009, the Director of the agency appointed the members of the assessment team. The assessment team consisted of five full-time members in addition to the team coordinator. As requested by the Director, two of the assessment team members were external specialists brought in to provide additional points of view. Assessment team members were: Once the assessment team had completed and reviewed a draft of the report, the draft was circulated to all members of the agency assessment advisory committee for review and comment. This generated additional input and validated the findings and recommendations of the report. At different points throughout the assessment, the assessment team coordinated planning sessions with key agency managers and members of the agency assessment advisory committee. These sessions were especially valuable in discussing, developing, and validating some key points and recommendations made by the assessment team. These planning sessions also helped to generate support for key recommendations made by the team, insuring their prompt implementation. The growth task force was created by the Director during the first quarter of FY 2010. This group was asked to identify innovative strategies to facilitate the agency’s goal for quality growth. The growth task force also analyzed existing policies to determine possible constraints to growth. Twelve task force subgroups were formed to research and develop recommendations in key areas, including Volunteer recruitment and placement, training, medical care and partnerships. This task force met weekly for three months and presented their findings to the Director in April 2010. Assessment team members participated in task force subgroups and found these meetings to be a useful forum for exploring new ideas. The assessment team relied on working group meetings as a way to keep all members apprised of the activities carried out by individuals on the team. In these meetings, assessment team members also discussed and refined all of the major topic areas, as well as the conclusions and recommendations presented in this report. These working group meetings were held throughout the study period and at times included members from the agency assessment advisory committee9 or other individuals who were relevant to the topic being discussed. These working group meetings—similar to a peer review process in other applications—were particularly useful in reviewing draft chapters of the assessment. members also participated in the program and training officer conference and explored specific issues related to the assessment. D.2.e Working group meetings D.2.f The growth task force D.2.g Planning sessions with key agency managers D.2.h Final review of the agency assessment report D.3. The assessment team 9 An advisory committee was created to provide direction and guidance in the design and implementation of the assessment and the review of the final report (see section D.4).
Before his time with the Peace Corps, Mr. Goodson served as field manager for an environmental group in Alaska. He holds a B.A. in public policy from Duke University. Ms. Blackburn holds an M.A. from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University and a B.A. from Colby College. In addition to her work with the Peace Corps, Ms. Minutillo has an extensive background in public service and international development. She did volunteer work in Guatemala in a community-based infant nutrition project, and she was a faculty member in the College of Health Sciences in the Kingdom of Bahrain where she co-chaired a project to extend primary health care services to small villages. Her international work also includes extensive experience in teaching and training teachers of English as a second language in levels from kindergarten to university. During her six-year tenure at the Department of State as Director of the Family Liaison Office, she championed educational services for children with learning disabilities and support and training for foreign service families. Maryann Minutillo: Ms. Minutillo served as the coordinator for the assessment team and is also senior advisor in the Office of the Director of the Peace Corps. In this capacity she chairs the policy review board and directs the Peace Corps’ Internal Management Assessment program aimed at strengthening the Peace Corps’ operations worldwide. Prior to this position, Ms. Minutillo was chief of operations and acting regional director for the Inter-America & Pacific region. Before joining the headquarters staff, Ms. Minutillo served as country director for the Peace Corps in Bolivia. Megan Blackburn: Ms. Blackburn has worked for the Peace Corps since December 2007. She is a program analyst in the Office of Overseas Executive Selection and Support focusing on the recruitment and selection of country directors. Prior to coming to the Peace Corps, Ms. Blackburn worked as a policy analyst at the HELP Commission—a Congressional commission—researching U.S. foreign assistance programs and helping compile its final report. Her first job was working for Senator Chuck Hagel as a personal assistant. She has interned at the Chilean American Chamber of Commerce in Santiago and at the United States Agency for International Development (I). Ken Goodson: Ken Goodson has more than 13 years of experience with the Peace Corps. Mr. Goodson first served with the agency as a Volunteer in Bolivia. He then served as a Volunteer coordinator and later as a technical trainer in Bolivia before becoming associate country director in Belize where he led two projects and assisted the redesign of the Peace Corps’ training in that country. Mr. Goodson then returned to the Andes to work as part of the two-person startup team tasked to re-establish the Peace Corps’ program in Peru, where he developed and initiated all of Peace Corps Peru’s initial programs and trained staff to take over the projects he initiated. This was followed by a move to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as country director. Following the tour in Mongolia, Mr. Goodson moved to Romania to serve as country director. Jean Lujan: Jean Lujan is an attorney, recently retired from the Department of Justice. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in southern Chile from 1965-1967. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she returned to Ann Arbor for a semester before moving to coastal Maine. In 1970, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught English as a second language to adults from Latin America. She attended law school at Catholic University and joined the Department of Justice in 1975. She spent approximately 18 years in different offices at the Department of Justice related to immigration, specializing in refugee and asylum issues. She took two leaves of absence from the Department of Justice to work for the Peace Corps, first as co-country director in Costa Rica (1980-1983), and most recently as country director for Panama (2002-2005).
===D.5.=== The independent review process An advisory committee provided direction and guidance in the design and implementation of the assessment and the review of the final report. The advisory committee was chaired by the Director of the agency and included the following members: Mr. Torres holds a BA in finance from Babson College and a M.S.M in international business from the Hult International Business School (formerly the Arthur D. Little Management Education Institute). Dr. Schmidt holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley; Master’s degrees in psychology from California State University in San Francisco and business administration from Pepperdine University; and a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. Diana Schmidt: Dr. Diana Schmidt and her husband became Peace Corps Volunteers in 2000 and served in Ukraine. After completing her service, Dr. Schmidt became the deputy director and program and training officer in Ukraine. Then in 2004, she became country director in Macedonia. She was country director in Ukraine in 2006 and served there until 2010 when she returned to the Peace Corps’ headquarters as a roving country director. In addition to her government service, Ms. Lujan has experience in the private sector. From 1987 to 1998, she owned and managed Heller’s bakery in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and Avignon Freres restaurant in Adams Morgan. Prior to the Peace Corps, Dr. Schmidt co-founded an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company, Ista Pharmaceuticals, in 1991. As vice president of development and its chief operating officer, she traveled the world setting up clinical trials and managing subsidiaries. Dr. Schmidt worked in various senior management positions with Allergan Pharmaceuticals for ten years before Ista. Earlier in her career, Dr. Schmidt was a professor and department head at Pepperdine University in California, and she taught at various University of California campuses. Carlos Torres: Mr. Torres is the founder and former president of I Corporation, a company specializing in international consulting, focusing primarily on issues relating to economic development. Mr. Torres has more than thirty years of international business experience. He has primarily worked in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union. His areas of expertise are in international business development, strategic planning, trade and investment, and micro-banking. D.4. The agency assessment advisory committee Esther Benjamin, associate director for the Office Global Operations Suzie Carroll, deputy director of the Office of Congressional Relations Elisa Montoya, White House liaison and senior advisor to the Director Stacy Rhodes, chief of staff Kathy Rulon, senior adviser to the Chief of Staff Carl Sosebee, General Counsel Cathryn Thorup, director of the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning In response to the request by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 joint report to involve external specialists in the review process, the Director also created an independent panel to review the work of the
Ambassador James Joseph: Ambassador Joseph was the former United States Ambassador to South Africa and currently is the Professor of Leadership & Ethics at Duke University and University of Cape Town. He is also the chairman of the board of the Louisiana Recovery Foundation. assessment team. The Director chose two individuals to provide independent comments and critiques aimed at strengthening the agency-wide assessment: William Lane: Mr. Lane is the vice president of government affairs for Caterpillar Corp. and is a former member of the HELP Commission—Commission on Helping to Enhance the Livelihood of People Around the Globe—a presidential committee examining the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid. The commission report was released in December 2007.
In analyzing the decision-making process on country selection, Volunteer placement and resource allocation among countries, the assessment team looked at three related issues: The assessment team found evidence that the agency takes great care to ensure that its programs reflect the development priorities of the countries in which Volunteers serve, complement the priorities of the United States and leverage the traditional strengths of the Peace Corps. The United States has many strategic priorities that perhaps are most congruent with the Peace Corps’ priorities in the development arena. Interventions in HIV/AIDS, food security, safe water, climate change, basic education, and women’s empowerment are all of strategic interest to the United States and are also compatible with the Peace Corps core expertise. Achievement of the Peace Corps’ mission and three goals is meant to guide decisions on where the agency establishes a presence, the number of Volunteers in each country, and the capacity in which Volunteers serve (Volunteer Placement). However, when the assessment team began to research how the agency makes decisions on Volunteer placement, it found little in the way of written procedures. Documentation regarding past decisions was also lacking.
A.1. Introduction UNITED STATES INTERESTS, COUNTRY NEEDS AND COMMITMENT TO SHARED GOALS, AND VOLUNTEER SKILLS
IV. ADJUSTING VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT TO REFLECT PRIORITY
A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS
The Peace Corps’ statutory mission “to promote world peace and friendship” is, by definition, global in breadth. As a result, the Peace Corps’ policy has been to respond favorably to all reasonable requests for assistance from interested countries, provided that funding is available and that basic safety and programmatic conditions are met. On the other hand, the agency over the years has received requests for assistance from more countries than it could hope to satisfy given available resources. As a result, the Peace Corps has always faced the dilemma of how best to utilize its scarce resources to maximize the achievement of its three goals. This does not imply that a rational decision making process does not exist. In interviews with management and staff, assessment team members found that there has always been a process for making rational decisions regarding Volunteer placement. Unfortunately, the process has not been well documented, which has made it difficult for the agency to readily answer questions about what countries it serves and with what level of resources. This has frustrated both critics and supporters of the Peace Corps. Consequently, the first step in analyzing the decision making process about Volunteer placement was to understand it and document it.
A.2. Overview of the decision making process
- The decision to enter or re-enter a country;
- Decisions regarding the allocation of Volunteers and other resources among existing Peace Corps countries; and,
- The decision to depart from a country.
In all cases, three essential conditions must always be met:10
- Country commitment to the Peace Corps – does or will the country support the Peace Corps in a way that will make the agency’s presence in that country a success?
- Safety and Security – does an acceptable, safe, and secure environment exist for Volunteers and staff?
- Resources – does the Peace Corps have a reasonable expectation that it will have the financial resources available to successfully support its program in that country?
Agency staff members look at other variables to determine the anticipated or actual level of success of a program in each country.11 These criteria are examined when the Peace Corps is invited into a particular country and on an ongoing basis once the Peace Corps is operating in a country. They include, but are not limited to:
- The country’s development objectives and their compatibility with the Peace Corps’ core areas of expertise (education, health and HIV/AIDS, business development, environment, agriculture, and youth development);
- The presence and viability of Volunteer projects;
- The cost effectiveness of programs and post management; and,
- The congruence with priority United States interests.
The Peace Corps has letters of request or letters of inquiry on file since 2002 from 27 countries where it has not established a program. The assessment team found adequate records regarding the status of recent country assessments and pending country requests and letters of inquiries. The assessment team also was told that the regional directors carry out periodic informal reviews of the countries that have pending requests or letters of inquiry to determine if there should be any follow-up, however, there was no documentation of these reviews. As discussed in section A.10 of this chapter, the assessment team recommends that the agency review existing country requests within the framework of a broader process that considers new country entries, departures from countries, and the reallocation of resources among Peace Corps countries.
“Strengthening Management and Independent Evaluation and Oversight.”A.3.a The decision to conduct a country assessment The sections that follow provide a detailed description of the decision-making process that drives country selection, Volunteer placement and resource allocation. In subsequent sections, the assessment team has also documented how the agency ensures that it is responsive to United States interests and makes specific recommendations to improve the overall decision-making process. A.3. Entry or re-entry into a country The process to determine which countries will be considered for new agency programs (or the reestablishment of a program) starts with an official letter of request from the country. When the Peace Corps receives a letter of invitation, the Office of the Director requests a preliminary review to determine if the next step—a formal country assessment—should be conducted. At this stage, the Peace Corps’ staff members make a very early determination of the proposed program’s viability, prior to committing the resources needed to carry out a country assessment. The preliminary review is based on a quick analysis of the three essential conditions (the country’s level of interest, safety and security and availability of financial resources), along with additional criteria, such as the compatibility between the requesting country’s development objectives and the Peace Corps’ core areas of expertise.
- The country assessment was completed in the third quarter of FY 2007. The assessment concluded that the Peace Corps should launch a program in Liberia with Peace Corps Response Volunteers in a first phase.
- A budget for the program was prepared and approved in the fourth quarter of FY 2007.
- The Peace Corps began to staff the program in Liberia in the second quarter of FY 2008.
- The country director arrived at post in the third quarter of FY 2008.
- The first Peace Corps Response Volunteers arrived in-country in the first quarter of FY 2009.
- The first Peace Corps Volunteers will arrive in-country in the fourth quarter of FY 2010.
Of the 23 program closures or suspensions listed in the appendix, seventeen were due to serious concerns regarding the safety and security of Volunteers. The security and safety of Volunteers is of the utmost importance to the agency, and safety and security are constantly monitored and evaluated by the agency’s Office of Safety and Security.15 A.5. Country closures and suspensions in the last ten years The review process in Washington, D.C. adds a regional perspective to the process, and the new Office of Global Operations strengthens the global perspective. Headquarters staff has access to a broad range of tools and information that can be used to measure the performance of a country program and that assists in making decisions on country plans and budget requests. These include formal and informal tools such as the quarterly reports prepared for headquarters by the posts, independent inspector general audits on posts, impact studies, and the Annual Volunteer Surveys carried out by Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning, Project Status Reports, country level surveys, the Volunteer Reporting Tool, country management’s meetings with staff, the Volunteer advisory committees, and project counterparts.14 This information strengthens the process and helps ensure that increasing levels of resources are channeled towards the most productive countries and programs. The Integrated Planning and Budgeting System (IPBS) is the Peace Corps’ primary program and resource management planning mechanism. It is the principal tool used to allocate resources across the entire agency. A more detailed discussion of the IPBS process is provided in chapter V of this report, “Strengthening Management and Independent Evaluation and Oversight.” 13 Peace Corps: New Country Entry Guide, March 2007 A.4.a Introduction A.4. Allocating Volunteer and other resources among Peace Corps countries The allocation of Volunteer and other resources among the countries where the Peace Corps has a presence is driven by a multilevel decision process as well. As in the case of a new country entry, the decision to increase, decrease, or maintain the size of an existing program is driven by the following question: Does the country, and the specific program in that country, contribute significantly to the achievement of the Peace Corps’ mission and three goals? The process also begins with a management review of the three primary conditions: host country commitment, safety and security of Volunteers and staff, and the availability of funding within the agency. How these questions are answered, however, varies significantly from the decision process described in the new country entry section, primarily because of the experience that already exists in managing a program in that country. A.4.b The Integrated Planning and Budgeting System The IPBS process provides a great deal of latitude to country directors and their staff, allowing them to propose how they best can utilize resources and Volunteers. Posts’ staff members are the agency’s main point of contact with Volunteers and their programs, as well as with the host country counterparts. As a result, they are the most effective resource available to the agency to carry out the planning and budgeting process in each country. After reviewing the IPBS process for posts, the assessment team found that the overall process could be improved if it were implemented on a much more interactive basis. For example, after submitting the country strategic plan in their IPBS submissions at the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year, some country directors stated that they received little immediate feedback. Furthermore, when final guidance was provided to posts several months later—which can translate into significant changes in the country program for the next fiscal year—the original country strategic plan is not modified. The assessment team also found some differences among the three regions in the methodology used to analyze the individual country IPBS submissions. In the last ten years, the Peace Corps has closed or suspended operations in 23 countries. A list of the countries and the dates that they were closed or suspended is provided in Appendix IV-3. 14 A more detailed discussion of these management and reporting tools is included in chapter V “Strengthening Management and Independent Evaluation and Oversight.”15 The Office of Safety and Security was established in March 2003 to foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability for all Peace Corps safety and security efforts. The office is responsible for Volunteer safety and overseas security; information and personnel security; and emergency preparedness, plans, training, and exercises. The office also monitors crime statistics to identify trends and highlight potential safety risks to Volunteers.
The Peace Corps provides frequent updates to Congress regarding ongoing agency initiatives. The agency regularly consults with authorizing and appropriating committees and other congressional stakeholders on issues related to the Peace Corps’ operations, including the opening, closing, and expansion of the Peace Corps’ programs. In the Senate, the Peace Corps falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, the Peace Corps, and Narcotics Affairs. In the House of Representatives, the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have jurisdiction over the Peace Corps. Senior management appointees at the agency work closely with offices in the White House to better serve the American public. These include, but are not limited, to Cabinet Affairs, Presidential Personnel, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Congressional Affairs, and the Office of Social Innovation within the Domestic Policy Council. The Peace Corps also participates in a variety of administration task forces, such as the White House Task Force on Women and Girls. A.6.a Relationship and interaction with the White House A.6. Reflecting priority United States interests In addition, the Peace Corps closed operations in six countries after finding that initial objectives for opening a program in these countries had been accomplished and that the country no longer required the types of skills that the Peace Corps could offer. Most of these countries had also begun receiving large levels of assistance from the European Union, further reducing the demand for the Peace Corps’ programs. Poland, Slovakia, and the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—were among the countries where the Peace Corps’ programs closed down after a decade of significant progress during a critical period. All had shown significant progress in their levels of prosperity and, consequently, the decision was made to shift agency resources elsewhere. In all of these countries, the Peace Corps left behind a legacy of service, community development, and cross-cultural exchange in line with the agency’s mission and objectives. The Peace Corps relies on three major sources of information for input on priority United States interests— The White House, Congress, and the Department of State. All three entities influence the countries in which the agency has a presence and how resources are allocated among countries. As set forth in the Peace Corps Act, the Director of the Peace Corps reports to the President of the United States. Senior staff within the agency are appointed by the executive branch. The agency also has an appointed White House liaison, who was the first political appointee within the agency and who began shortly after the inauguration of the President in 2009. The liaison works closely with Presidential Personnel and other White House offices to coordinate and advance the Peace Corps agenda. A.6.b Relationship and interaction with Congress The Office of Congressional Relations at the Peace Corps coordinates activities related to all legislative issues and interests and serves as the official liaison between the Director of the Peace Corps and members of Congress and congressional staff. Consultations with Congress occur on an ongoing basis through meetings between the Director and Members of Congress, as well as meetings between the Peace Corps’ staff and congressional staff. Additionally, the Peace Corps regularly receives congressional inquiriesThe Peace Corps maintains on-going dialogue with the Department of State and has done so since its inception. The Peace Corps’ country directors form part of the U.S. Embassy’s country team and have ready access to the Chief of Mission and embassy staff. Embassy personnel coordinate with the Peace Corps’ staff on many fronts, including safety and security and health issues. When conducting a new country assessment or when reviewing ongoing operations, the Peace Corps’ staff members rely heavily on the U.S. embassy in gathering information. “3. Relationship between the U.S. Mission and Peace Corps Staff:” These cables clarify the independent nature of the agency along with the need for coordination and support. Appendices IV-4 and 5 contain copies of two examples. The first of these cables was sent in March 1963 by then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and the most recent example of these cables was sent by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February 2009.
- Mobilizing Volunteers in the Dominican Republic immediately after the earthquake to assist in a hospital for refugees in Jimani and to assist in organizing and loading relief supplies for shipment across the border.
As stated in the beginning of this chapter, the agency’s statutory mission “to promote world peace and friendship” is, by definition, global in breadth. As a result, the Peace Corps’ policy has been to respond favorably to all reasonable requests for assistance from interested countries, provided that funding is available and that basic safety and programmatic conditions are met. However, due to limits on funding, the number of countries requesting assistance has been greater than the number of countries that the agency has been able to assist. The Volunteer surveys, input from country directors and regional managers, and the impact studies described above provide the agency with important feedback that can be used to monitor and evaluate program impact and adjust programs accordingly. The Peace Corps has been working on tools to measure program impact since it began periodically to survey active Volunteers in 1973. The most of important of these is the Annual Volunteer Survey that asks specific questions about work toward Goals 1 and 2. To complement the Volunteer surveys, the Peace Corps under the direction of the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning launched a series of studies to measure the impact of Volunteer activities with regard to the Peace Corps’ first two goals. As described in further detail in chapter V, the country-level studies evaluate the impact of Volunteers on the host country nationals with whom they live and work, as well as the organizations with which they are assigned to cooperate. The studies focus on Volunteers’ efforts to transfer needed skills to host country counterparts (Goal 1) and to promote a better understanding of Americans among host country nationals (Goal 2). The agency reviews its programs in every country and allocates resources across programs, countries and regions as part of the annual IPBS process introduced in section A.3 of this chapter, which is discussed in greater detail in chapter V. Utilizing the Integrated Planning and Budgeting System (IPBS) process, the agency has closed programs, particularly when the agency faced resource constraints. However, the assessment team found that the agency does not have a periodic formal review process to verify that its programs in high HDI countries are meeting the needs of an underserved population and verify that those needs will not be met if the Peace Corps were to terminate its programs in that country. The assessment team feels that Office of Global Operations should perform such a review annually and document the results. Recommendations on how this review would be carried out are discussed in section C of this chapter that the agency’s documentation in these situations communicated its rationale adequately. The Peace Corps needs to do a better job of articulating why it continues to allocate resources in countries that rank relatively high on the HDI. A.8. Meeting country needs – measuring impact The impact studies, introduced in 2008, provide the agency’s management with an independent assessment of the Peace Corps’ programs by host country counterparts and beneficiaries. In just a short time, the impact studies have become an important tool that enhances the decision process used to allocate Volunteer and other resources among countries. These studies, carried out by independent, host-country nationals, are also relatively inexpensive to conduct. A.9. Conclusions In analyzing funding options for expanding into new countries, the agency has been reluctant to look at reducing or even closing programs in existing countries. This may be because the agency’s mission
The proposed portfolio review analysis would greatly enhance the current IPBS process. As noted in section A.4 of this chapter, one of the greatest strengths of the IPBS process is that it provides a great deal of latitude to country directors and their staff to propose options for their posts. Posts’ staff members are the agency’s main point of contact with Volunteers and host country counterparts and as a result are best positioned to make recommendations on the programs in their respective countries. By carrying out the analysis prior to the start of the annual IPBS process, the Office of the Director could provide the regions and individual posts with clearer guidance on how to prepare their respective IPBS submissions. This additional guidance would provide country directors with a greater level of guidance than is currently provided, injecting a greater level of strategic thinking into the overall IPBS process. The assessment team also observed that most decisions on new country entries, country closures, and resource allocation among existing countries are made in a series of independent decisions. For example, the agency makes a decision on whether to establish a program in each country upon completion of the country assessment. This decision is made independent of decisions on other possible country entries or future country assessments, and is made independent of decisions that affect resource allocation among existing countries. supports a broad global presence. This may also be because a decision to reduce operations or close a country does not free up resources immediately. It takes several years to reduce the size of a post given that Volunteers are at post for 27 months. It can take up to five years to totally withdraw from a country. The assessment team believes that the decision process on country selection, Volunteer placement, and resource allocation among existing countries would be greatly enhanced by an analysis of all possible options concurrently. This portfolio review, which should be conducted annually prior to the start of the annual planning and budgeting cycle, would provide the agency’s decision makers with a comprehensive view of all possible options regarding potential new country entries, country closures, and existing countries and would lead to better resource allocation decisions. The assessment team recommends that the agency carry out the annual portfolio review utilizing specific criteria. These criteria would include a country’s ranking on the Human Development Index and a measure of programmatic impact as described in sections A.7 and A.8 of this chapter. The Office of Global Operations has already begun to gather the information required to undertake the first review. A description of each of the criteria, as well as the source for the information and responsible office is provided in the matrix following the recommendations below.
Recommendation IV-1: The assessment team recommends that the agency modify the existing process used in analyzing what services it provides to countries and at what levels. The agency needs to make decisions on potential new country entries, possible country departures, as well as the level of resources allocated among all countries in one integral process. This analysis should take place annually and should be prepared for the Office of the Director by the Office of Global Operations with the support of the regions and Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning. Specifically, the analysis should review:
Recommendation IV-3: The assessment team recommends that the agency clearly document and better communicate the overall country selection and resource allocation process described in recommendations IV-1 and IV-2 above. Additionally, the agency needs to improve the documentation of individual decisions made as part of the overall process (e.g. decisions to carry out country assessments, enter into a new country, country closures, etc.). Recommendation IV-2: The assessment team recommends that the agency add two new criteria to those currently used in the country review process described in IV-1: HDI and Impact. The criteria to be used in carrying out the annual analysis would include existing criteria, as well as the addition of two new criteria: a measure of need or development status, which would be HDI; and a measure of impact, which would be quantified primarily through the agency’s impact studies, the Annual Volunteer Survey, and Project Status Reports. Finally, as pointed out in the earlier sections of this chapter, the agency has not been consistent in documenting the decisions made about new country entries, program closures, or how resources are allocated among countries. The assessment team also recommends that the overall resource allocation process needs to be articulated, documented, and divulged more openly. CRITERIA – ANNUAL PORTFOLIO REVIEW
CRITERIA – ANNUAL PORTFOLIO REVIEW (CONTINUED)
The assessment team believes that the resource allocation process used by the Peace Corps to decide which countries it serves, and at what levels, can be significantly improved. Specifically, the current process: C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION The Peace Corps has embarked on a project to implement new budgeting software for the agency that improves the overall budgeting process. The agency has purchased the software rights to Hyperion Planning, a leading budget planning and analytics software application recently acquired by Oracle. This system will be integrated with the Peace Corps’ current financial management system, which will also automate part of the budgeting process that in the past was handled manually. The system is expected to roll out in July 2010. The assessment team believes that the creation of this office, charged with overseeing the departments that are directly responsible for the placement of Volunteers and the programming and training support that these Volunteers require, will further strengthen decisions on Volunteer and other resource allocation. In October 2009, the Office of Global Operations was established to provide overarching strategic support and management to several aspects of the agency’s direct Volunteer operations. This new office aims to encourage efficiencies by streamlining agency operations, disseminating best practices across the regions, providing an organized and cohesive voice to agency leadership, and by coordinating the activities of all overseas operations. In the last twelve months, the agency has made some important changes in the overall resource allocation process. The most important of these revolve around the creation of the Office of Global Operations and improvements that are currently being made to the agency’s Integrated Planning and Budget System. B. RECENT CHANGES B.1. The Office of Global Operations The Office of Global Operations provides leadership, staffing, and resources to foster alignment, manage development, coordinate initiatives, and track the progress and the impact of the Peace Corps’ overseas operations. In addition to the Peace Corps’ three geographic regions (Africa; Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia; and Inter-America and the Pacific), the Office of Global Operations also includes the Office of Overseas Program and Training Support, the Office of AIDS Relief, and Peace Corps Response. B.2. Improvements to the Integrated Planning and Budgeting System (IPBS) The agency has also refined the Integrated Planning and Budgeting System (IPBS) process for FY 2011 planning. Because posts received guidance almost six weeks earlier than in previous years, posts had additional preparation time. The Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning also held a workshop with members of all the regional country desk units about information that can provide context for the IPBS submission development. This workshop demonstrated ways in which Volunteer survey data, early termination data, and other information can be used to guide planning and development of future IPBS submissions by posts. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations * Is not well documented, not transparent, and difficult to justify;
- Is carried out through a series of discrete decisions as issues surface and opportunities arise rather than as one integral process; and,
- Can be strengthened by analyzing potential new country entries and potential country closures in one process and by introducing additional selection criteria in the decision process.
also should make a preliminary recommendation on possible actions to rectify the problem, provide a preliminary recommendation on possible new country entries for the current and next countries that have expressed an interest in the Peace Corps and where an assessment would need Recommendation IV-1: The assessment team recommends that the agency modify the existing process used in analyzing what services it provides to countries and at what levels. The agency needs to make decisions on potential new country entries, possible country departures, as well as the level of resources allocated among all countries in one integral process. This analysis should take place annually and should be prepared for the Director’s office by the Office of Global Operations with the support of the regions and Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning. Specifically, the analysis should review: 1a New entry opportunities in countries where an assessment has been carried out, as well as for to be updated, or where an assessment would need to be carried out. The review would need to fiscal years, as well as on country assessments to be carried out in the next six to twelve months. 1b Programs in existing countries where the agency is not achieving the desired impact. The review including reorganizing, reducing or terminating the program in that country.
Recommendation IV-3: The assessment team recommends that the agency clearly document and better communicate the overall country selection and resource allocation process described in recommendations IV-1 and IV-2 above. Additionally, the agency needs to improve the documentation of individual decisions made as part of the overall process (e.g. decisions to carry out country assessments, enter into a new country, country closures, etc.). The revised country review process described above will provide the Director of the agency with the global perspective required to make rational resource allocation decisions among countries and regions. The process will also result in greater guidance to the different units within the agency during the annual IPBS process, strengthening resource allocation decisions across the entire agency. Recommendation IV-2: The assessment team recommends that the agency add two new criteria to those currently used in the country review process described in IV-1: HDI and Impact. C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
52 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
5. Implement the Peace Corps’ mission in an effective and efficient manner through the provision of high quality Volunteer support with optimal health care, safety and security support, and effective management of resources.
20 The three-year performance plan is required under the Government Performance and Results Act, P.L. 103-62 (1993). The three-year plan details the strategies and tactics for accomplishing strategic goals and specifies a method for verification and validation.OSIRP monitors the implementation of the strategic and performance plans at the end of each quarter. Upon completion of the first quarter of the fiscal year, for example, OSIRP staff members solicit inputs from all of the operating units with responsibility for specific performance indicators on each of the performance goals to make sure that performance goals are understood and to identify any problem areas early in the year. OSIRP staff members compile information on each of the performance goals and lead the midyear review of agency progress against performance goals. A similar review is conducted at the end of the third quarter. Upon completion of the fiscal year, OSIRP staff members and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer prepare the Performance and Accountability Report for the year as required by the Office of Management and Budget. This report reviews the fiscal year’s operations, as well as analyzes the actual strategic outcome and performance goals and indicators.
Over the past few years, the agency has made many reforms to its financial operations. Sophisticated new tools for financial management are available, internal controls have been strengthened, and there is little opportunity for posts to stray from the process. After reviewing the IPBS cycle, the assessment team agreed that the IPBS is an excellent tool for resource and management planning. The following aspects of the IPBS are particularly valuable: The three regions also experimented with ways to improve the analysis of strategic plans and funding requests from posts and the feedback that is provided to posts by headquarters. One of the regions developed a system that integrates all of the analyses of each country’s IPBS, so that they can be viewed and compared more easily than in previous years. It also allows for inclusion of post indicators of performance and specific guidance to the desk officer analyzing the individual submissions, resulting in an improved and more consistent analysis of the IPBS submissions. The agency refined the IPBS process for the FY 2011 planning process, tying funding decisions more closely to the IPBS. In previous years, posts were reluctant to plan for first quarter activities because of the likelihood that the agency would be operating under a continuing resolution. This year, the guidance included budget numbers for the remainder of this fiscal year and for the next fiscal year. Posts were given the opportunity to make funding requests for this fiscal year and for the first quarter of FY 2011. Posts received guidance almost six weeks earlier than in previous years, allowing for additional preparation time. A change from the previous year’s IPBS process was that country directors were instructed in the second quarter of FY 2010 to present Requests for Agency Resources to cover the investments that were required in FY 2010 to prepare for growth in FY 2011. These requests defined additional resource needs not included in their current fiscal year budgets. The requests were reviewed in April 2010 by the Director’s office, and many were approved once the final FY 2010 appropriation was made in that same month. As country directors began to prepare their Post Strategic Plans FY 2011-FY 2013, they were again instructed to include any additional requests for FY 2010 resources to support post expansion projects in their plans. OSIRP also held a workshop with members of all the regional country desk units on the topic of available data and information that can provide context for the IPBS submission development. This workshop demonstrated ways in which Volunteer survey data, early termination data, and other information can be used to guide the planning and development of future IPBS submissions by posts. OSIRP prepared country specific charts that compared performance over time and compared countries within a region. OSIRP also created country and region specific charts on the strategic plan indicators for post use. A.2.c Overall Review of the Process * The IPBS process provides a great deal of latitude to country directors and their staff members to propose how they best can utilize resources and Volunteers. Posts’ staff members are the agency’s main point of contact with Volunteers, their programs, and host country counterparts. As a result, they are the most effective resource available to the agency to carry out the planning and budgeting process in each country.
- IPBS provides posts with an opportunity to step back and review the roles they play in host country development plans, to develop and refine their strategies, and to identify program strengths and weaknesses. The IPBS provides a similar opportunity for headquarters staff members to review their role in supporting the overall Peace Corps program.
- Headquarters staff members have access to a broad range of tools and information that can be used to measure the performance of country programs to assist in making decisions on country plans and budget requests. These include formal and informal tools, such as the quarterly reports prepared by the posts, impact studies, the Annual Volunteer Surveys, and Project Status Reports23. This information could strengthen the process and ensure that resources are channeled toward the most productive countries and programs.
“Regional Management: Getting to Ideal”, Peace Corps IMA, September 2007.
Recommendation V-4: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps conduct an agency-wide analysis of the business functions of overseas posts’ staffing patterns based on the operational activities required to support each function. These concepts are not new. In 2007, an Internal Management Assessment (IMA) was completed of Regional Management26. The IMA recommended the Peace Corps undertake an analysis of staffing levels and structures at overseas posts and within the regions, with an eye for developing agency-wide standards. The report recognized that “the resistance against standards may be rooted in concern over who would set the standards rather than the standards themselves.” In the view of the assessment team, the 2007 analysis by the IMA team and their subsequent recommendations for addressing them were thorough, comprehensive, and practical. A review of this document would provide a strong first step for agency leadership. With respect to the programming and training functions at post, there is less support for a similar undertaking. The job of providing volunteer support is viewed as more of an art than a science and the decisions regarding staffing are seen as those best left to each post. However, in order to provide consistency in the Peace Corps experience across 77 countries, criteria are needed to ensure the overseas post staff is appropriate in profile and sufficient in number to provide the optimum level of Volunteer support. To establish such criteria, there is a need for agreement on what constitutes the basic level of support that Volunteers can expect when serving in the Peace Corps—in training, in project supervision, in administrative matters, in health care, safety and emergency response. On the basis of that understanding, agency leadership can decide whether the current organizational structure at post is the most effective and whether the number of staff is adequate. Decisions would be informed by analysis and a consistent, agency-wide set of Volunteer support expectations. Supervisors could better select staff and give the staff the tools and training they need to perform their work. Before making any decisions regarding staff levels, there is a need for a better accounting of the business functions of the office or post and the operational activities required to support each function. This need is intensified in an agency that has a high rate of turnover of USDH staff, due in part to the five year rule discussed below. A.3.c Observations on staffing patterns and human resource allocations Currently there is little consensus as to the ideal staffing pattern of an overseas post. Consistent job titles in overseas operations are also lacking. For example, APCD, Program Manager, Sector Manager and Regional Manager are all titles to describe the staff person responsible for identifying site placements for Volunteers and managing Volunteers in those placements. Recently, an effort has been undertaken to provide such analysis for the administrative functions of an overseas post, an effort receiving widespread support. Of particular note to those who contributed to this assessment, especially Volunteers and overseas staff, the ratio of Volunteers to APCD/Program Manager is fundamental to ensuring excellence in volunteer support. An optimum APCD/Volunteer ratio should be identified that guarantees a level of Volunteer support world-wide, with flexibility provided for post specific conditions. Within the Peace Corps’ headquarters and regional recruitment offices, there is a similar need for analysis of the business practices, followed by an analysis of staffing needs. As new offices have been created, i.e., Office of Global Operations, Office of Public Engagement, and Office of Innovation, there is confusion and lack of clarity regarding each office’s business practices and staffing needs. It also is essential to assess what are the staffing needs to perform the tasks required to implement the new strategy set out in this report. New activities will be undertaken, new responsibilities assigned. Just as financial resources will have to be redirected, human resources will also need to be deployed differently to achieve the Peace Corps’ vision. 26
27 Peace Corps Manual Section 743.10.3. 28 8 U.S.C.S1101(a)(27)
The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps move to create a single category of host country national staff. The category should include job titles and should set standards for position descriptions, pay grades, and award opportunities under a system similar to that which applies to the U.S. direct hire workforce. The Peace Corps should examine current authorities, and if deemed necessary, analyze proposals to provide its personal service contractors with the ability to perform such functions of supervision, procurement, and cash handling when deemed necessary for overseas operations. Once such authority has been determined, the agency should consider moving through attrition to make all host country national staff personal service contractors and should solidify agency-wide guidelines and policies to manage the personal service contractors in a more coherent and consistent manner. Such policies and guidance should be informed by field experience, should be flexible to adjust to local laws, and should be capable of providing the Peace Corps’ personal service contractors with recognition that they are integral to the agency’s success. The Peace Corps may also consider other approaches to standardizing host country national staffing. U.S. direct hires overseas make up approximately 10 percent of the agency’s overseas personnel and fall within the agency’s human resource management system. Foreign service nationals account for approximately 10 percent of overseas staff as well, however, they fall under the human resource management system of the U.S. Department of State. Personal service contractors, who make up the majority of the agency’s overseas personnel base (80 percent), are managed with limited consistency by the individual posts using the policies provided by sections 743 and 744 of the Peace Corps Manual. As a result, overseas supervisors administer two separate personnel systems for host country national staff (foreign service nationals and personal service contractors). The system applicable to foreign service nationals is generally viewed as more transparent, fairer and consistent. Documentation of overseas staff development, performance management, and awards and recognition policies is also inconsistent. Such documentation is a performance indicator from the agency’s Strategic Plan FY 2009-FY 2014,29 with an FY 2009 target that 70 percent of overseas posts would perform such documentation, but in FY 2009 only 56 percent performed this documentation. Recommendation V-6: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps explore options to create a single category of host country national staff. As a first step, the Peace Corps should:The assessment team supports the agency’s recent efforts to identify and attract a diverse group of strong country director candidates. Similar efforts should be made to recruit other U.S. direct hire candidates for overseas positions and to prepare current high-performing staff to qualify to serve as programming and training officers, administrative officers, associate Peace Corps directors, and country directors. The assessment team encourages the Peace Corps to give authority for final selection of U.S. direct hire programming and training officers, administrative officers, and associate directors to the country director.
- 40.4 percent responded positively to the statement: In my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve;
- 23.3 percent responded positively to the statement: Pay raises depend on how well employees perform their duties;
- 44.9 percent responded positively to the statement: Awards in my work unit depend on how well employees perform their jobs; and,
- 50.1 percent responded positively to the statement: Creativity and innovation are rewarded.
30 “Regional Management Getting to Ideal”, Peace Corps IMA, September 2007. The assessment team identified the lack of consistency in management practices as an overarching observation of the report. There are numerous examples of variances in the management practices of the Peace Corps overseas posts and the regional offices that manage overseas posts. For example, among the overseas posts, there are differences in job titles, job assignments, expectations for levels of volunteer support, pay grades for the same jobs, and staff award practices. Among the three regions, there are differences in the organization of the desk units, in the review process for budgets, and in the duties assigned to staff members with the same job titles. Headquarters offices providing support to regions are required to negotiate individually with each region on requests that cross regions, e.g., overseas staff training, project review analysis. Recommendation V-11: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps adopt a new performance award model and create a uniform award system that includes personal service contractors. More can be done in regards to defining performance expectations, especially in regards to operations overseas. The 2007 Internal Management Assessment of Regional Management indicated that communications of expectations by regional management for country director performance were deficient in specificity and clarity as well as consistency30. Specific performance goals and measurement tools should be agreed upon. Previously mentioned management tools are available to assist in appraising performance, such as the Annual Volunteer Survey, visits of headquarters staff to a post, and audits from the Office of Inspector General. In the view of the assessment team, these are valuable tools for agency leadership. However the assessment team suggests the Peace Corps take additional steps, such as measuring progress towards the goals identified in Integrated Planning and Budget System submissions to inform performance evaluation. With respect to the performance appraisal system, the evaluation period should be changed to correspond to the fiscal year in order to report progress on the agency’s goals contained in the strategic plan. Additionally, the pass/fail appraisal system may not be adequate to communicate the level at which the employee is expected to function or to inform decisions to extend an employee’s service. The assessment team suggests a more descriptive rating system be adopted.
The assessment team also observed that there are few standards or requirements for: technical training as ineffective. However, 93 percent of Volunteers in Cambodia rated their pre-service technical training as adequate to effective. * Insuring that expectations are documented, other than in performance appraisals, private conversations, or Integrated Planning and Budget System documents;
- Maintaining accessible records of prior performance to illuminate decisions about new tours; and,
- Keeping a central file of key information about a specific post history.
Recommendation V-8: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps facilitate the end of service transitions of overseas staff, expanding the activities of the Office of Overseas Recruitment, Selection and Support to include post-Peace Corps transition support. opportunities. necessary, proposed legislation; and, 6b Solidify agency-wide guidelines and policies to manage personal service contractors in a more coherent Recommendation V-5: The assessment team recommends that the agency develop worldwide standards of excellence for volunteer support to inform staffing decisions. Recommendation V-3: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps provide consistent guidance and use consistent methodology for the analysis and prioritization of budget submissions. The Peace Corps should post final IPBS plans on the intranet so they are readily accessible to agency staff throughout the organization. Recommendation V-1: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps update the current six year strategic plan to incorporate the vision and key strategies necessary to implement the proposed vision, strategy, and recommendations presented in this assessment report. Once completed, the agency should ensure the updated strategic and performance plans are disseminated widely, both inside and outside of the agency, and the agency should ensure their purpose is fully understood by agency staff. The Peace Corps is a unique government agency with a unique management system. This system provides the agency with many benefits, as well as with some significant challenges. Based on input from those who contributed to this study, the assessment team has identified several opportunities for strengthening the management of the Peace Corps and for mitigating the negative impacts of the management challenges the agency faces. B. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION Recommendation V-12: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps work with the regions and overseas staff to determine the best practices for post and regional operations and move to implement them across posts and regions. The country programs and the regional operations should improve over time—not be subject to reversals and setbacks because of lack of information about the learning that has already taken place. The agency needs to implement procedures for knowledge sharing to ensure a smooth transition between leaders. It needs to continue its efforts to collect and manage the data on the Peace Corps’ activities, including post specific history.
B.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
73 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
74 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
75 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)“First, if the Peace Corps is to continue to succeed, its staff must maintain rapport with a constituency in the United States which is wholly unlike that of any other Government agency. That constituency is its Volunteers and potential Volunteers. That constituency is young. Its ideas and ideals are rapidly changing. The Peace Corps staff must understand and be able to respond to the changing ideas and ideals of successive generations.” As Volunteers were limited to a two-year assignment, the founders of the Peace Corps intended to design a new kind of management system that was dynamic and reactive to the needs of the countries served. The hallmarks of the organization were to be innovation and creativity, not just in the Volunteer population, but also in how the Peace Corps was to be led and managed. One of the keys in laying the foundation for this management system was the decision to enact into law term limits for all U.S. Peace Corps employees, also known as direct hires. The terms of appointment for employees were to be thirty-month blocks and limited to a maximum of five years, making the Peace Corps an “Excepted Service Agency.” There were to be no exemptions and no exceptions, resulting in a Peace Corps that would always be evolving and innovating, avoiding the inherent problems of stagnation so often associated with government agencies. 33 Senator Harris Wofford captured the spirit of the Peace Corps’ uniqueness within the U.S. government, stating: A.1. Introduction PART B: THE FIVE-YEAR RULE
A 1981 statute made it an independent agency of the Executive Branch, as well as provided for an infusion of additional career appointees, the majority of which remained subject to the five-year rule, with In the beginning of the Peace Corps, there was no five-year rule. With respect to U.S. Peace Corps personnel, the original Section 7 of the 1961 the Peace Corps Act provided for permanent Civil Service employment in the United States, not to exceed 275 persons, with a limited number exempted from certain limits of the Act. The Act authorized the use of Foreign Service personnel rules concerning the Peace Corps’ employees serving abroad.37 Over the years since its inception, justification of the five-year rule has also extended to include the agency’s desire to provide opportunities for U.S. direct hires at headquarters to apply the skills and knowledge gained of the Peace Corps to overseas operations. “Second, overseas the Peace Corps goes about its business in a way that no other United States Government agency does. Peace Corps/Washington has a critical need for people who can translate the values and the methods of the Peace Corps’ overseas audience into Washington decision making. The Peace Corps’ main source of such person is its former overseas staff and Volunteers. To make sure that at all times there are places for significant numbers of former overseas staff and Volunteers in Peace Corps/Washington, a Peace Corps with a stable total level of Washington employment cannot get clogged up with career employees.” 34 The intent of the rule was to help the agency remain responsive to young Americans and ensure there were always positions at headquarters for returned Volunteers and overseas staff members with the fresh knowledge and understanding of field conditions. It also was envisioned that the rule would ensure the Peace Corps was constantly infused with new life and energy—“the Peace Corps will always have room for new talent”—and that as many Americans as possible would be provided the opportunity to contribute toward the Peace Corps effort. 35 The rule would reduce the distinction between Volunteers and staff, making the Peace Corps a more closely-knit and effective organization where people worked for the agency who were “in search of a challenge and not just a job.”36 A.2. Legislative history In 1965, because of the vision established by the agency’s founders, the approach defined in Section 7 of the Peace Corps Act was transformed into a unified system that relied upon the authority of the Foreign Service Act of 1946 for the appointment of all of the agency’s personnel. The most significant feature of the personnel system developed in 1965, was its establishment of a five year limit on the duration of appointments (the “five-year rule”), subject to a possible one-year extension in unlimited number, but only under special circumstances (the “sixth year”). This limit was reinforced by a related statutory prohibition against reappointment until the expiration of a period of not less than the duration of a former Peace Corps employee’s previous service (the “in and out rule”).38 34 “How to Keep the Punch in the Peace Corps”, Memorandum to Mr. Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President, from Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps. March 5, 1965. 35 “How to Keep the Punch in the Peace Corps”, Memorandum to Mr. Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President, from Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps. March 5, 1965. 36 “How to Keep the Punch in the Peace Corps”, Memorandum to Mr. Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President, from Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps. March 5, 1965. 37 Public Law 87-293, section 7, 75 Stat. 616 (September 22, 1961). The former Classification Act is now codified as chapter 51 of title 5, United States code, 5 U.S.C. 5101-5115. 38 Public Law 89-134, 79 Stat. 549 (August 24, 1965).
In 1985, legislation further relaxed the five-year rule by permitting one additional appointment of up to thirty months (the “third tour”), subject to certain limitations as to the purpose of appointments beyond five years: possibilities for a sixth year.39 A limited number of the Peace Corps’ employees were not subject to the five-year rule and remained with the agency on unlimited appointments.40 * To permit individuals who have served at least 2 ½ years abroad to serve in the United States;
- To permit individuals who have served at least 2 ½ years in the United States to serve abroad;
- To permit individuals who have served at least 2 ½ years in a recruitment, selection, or training activity to serve in an activity other than the one to which they have most recently been assigned; and,
- To promote the continuity of functions in administering the Peace Corps. 41
According to prior assessments and studies of the rule, as well as input from current and former Peace Corps staff and Volunteers who contributed to this assessment, perceived benefits of the five-year rule include: The assessment team found numerous studies and assessments of the five-year rule have been conducted and would encourage the agency to review these assessments prior to launching new studies. Studies by current and former Peace Corps employees Bill Bull and Charna Lefton were particularly insightful and merit review. A September 22, 2004, report by Dr. William Bacchus and Dr. James Michel entitled, “Analysis of the Peace Corps Workforce and Employment Related Authorities and Regulations,” warrants particular consideration. This analysis, contracted by the Peace Corps, was conducted by two individuals with extensive experience with U.S. government foreign assistance operations, but neither of whom had worked for the agency nor were impacted personally by the implications of the five-year rule, which adds valued objectivity in comparison with other studies, assessments, and analyses that have been undertaken.46 39 Public Law 97-113, Section 601, Title VI, (December 29, 1981). 40 These were employees who worked at Peace Corps during the years the Peace Corps was under the umbrella of the federal agency, ACTION. 41 International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985, Public Law 99-83, section 1103, 00 Stat. 272 (August 8, 1985). 42 International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985, Public Law 99-83, section 1103, 00 Stat. 272 (August 8, 1985). 43 Consolidated Appropriations Resolution 2003, note 5, supra. 44 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004, note 5, supra 45 Memorandum for the Director, “Five-year rule Exemptions for Positions Involving Safety”, dated April 2, 2003 by General Counsel Tyler Posey. A.3. Benefits and challenges of the five-year rule After 1985, the legislative basis for the Peace Corps personnel system remained essentially unchanged. Then in 2003, Congress granted authority to the Peace Corps Director to exempt from the time limitations of Section 7 of the Peace Corps Act, any U.S. citizen employees, “whose appointment or assignment, such as the regional safety and security officers and employees with the Office of Inspector General, involves the safety of Peace Corps Volunteers ….”43 That authority was repeated and made expressly permanent by legislation enacted in 2004.44 42The 1985 legislation created a ceiling that limited the maximum number of third-tour appointments to 15 percent of the agency’s U.S. direct hire personnel. The legislation also confirmed the existing authority of the Peace Corps Director “under special circumstances” to extend any Foreign Service appointment up to an additional year, thus making possible the employment of U.S. citizens in the Peace Corps for up to 8.5 years.Both the language of the new statutory exemption for safety related positions and its legislative history suggest that Congress intended to grant the Director broad discretion as to the identification of appropriate positions and the extent of exemption that should be granted. At the same time, Congress gave no indication that this legislation, focused specifically on positions related to the safety of Volunteers, was intended to authorize a general abandonment of the five-year rule, which is a basic tenet of the Peace Corps personnel system and applies to virtually all other U.S. direct hire employees. 45 Few topics draw as many strong and diverse opinions within the agency and the greater Peace Corps community as the five-year rule. Supporters site its historical role in the founding of the Peace Corps and speak to numerous benefits gained through fresh energy and perspectives. Critics question whether the historical intention of the five-year rule in 1965 is applicable for managing a larger, more complicated organization 49 years later and whether its negative consequences outweigh its perceived benefits. The assessment team found there was no consensus among those who contributed to the assessment in regards to the five-year rule. A.3.a Perceived Benefits * More individuals can apply for and work in the Peace Corps, including Volunteers from the field who have a current perspective on issues and challenges that enhance agency effectiveness. Of the 860 positions with the Peace Corps today for U.S. employees, 659 positions support operations in the United States (536 at Headquarters and 123 in regional recruitment offices) and 201 are overseas. Of the 860 positions, 56.6 percent are currently filled by returned Volunteers. Below is a more detailed breakdown of the agency’s current use of returned Volunteers, indicating agency practice does indeed allow for returned Volunteers to contribute to agency operations.
- There is an un-bureaucratic, energized, “can do” organizational culture in which employees are committed to making the most of their employment tenure with the Peace Corps. Working for the Peace Corps is a unique opportunity that is made all the more special by the limited time frame. Every day counts. Employees are committed to doing the best they can for the agency during their five years, knowing they have a limited time to make their contribution. The Peace Corps today is characterized by a capable and dedicated work force, which is solid evidence of this organizational culture. In the most recent Employee Viewpoint Survey, 99.7 percent of employees state they are “willing to put in the extra effort to get a job done.”47 In the view of a former country director,
Chief of Staff, and Deputy Director of the agency, “the five-year rule is the single biggest asset that Peace Corps has” and the reason for “Peace Corps’ unique organizational spirit.”48 46 Analysis of the Peace Corps Workforce and Employment Related Authorities and Regulations. Contract No. PC-04-8-061. Dr. William I. Bacchus and Dr. James Michel, September 22, 2004 (see Appendix V-3). 47 2009 Peace Corps Annual Employee Viewpoint Survey * The Peace Corps’ employees are less tied to ownership of ideas and initiatives, allowing them to be the Peace Corps’ ideas, instead of belonging to any one individual or group of individuals.
- Less effective American employees cannot work at the Peace Corps indefinitely.
- Re-engineering and restructuring efforts tend to be easier to accomplish than at other government agencies. It is relatively simple to launch new initiatives and projects, since new employees are less entrenched in particular procedures or vested in projects that are no longer viable.
- The Peace Corps is unlike any other U.S. government agency in its spirit of innovation and openness to new ideas. Given that approximately 85 percent of the Peace Corps’ employees have never been with another U.S. government agency, the risk aversion commonly attributed to government operations, is far less at the Peace Corps.
- If new workforce skills are needed, the Peace Corps can recruit and fill positions accordingly. High turnover resulting from the five-year rule creates opportunities to bring employees with different skill sets into the agency, and there is active interest in working for the Peace Corps. The overall number of applications consistently and dramatically outnumbers available positions.
* Unique – Applicant counted once regardless of number of vacancies and grades applied for. ** All Grades – Applicant counted once for each vacancy and grade applied for. * There are fewer long-term employee relations problems. Both supervisors and employees are willing to forge satisfactory working relationships, realizing the short-term nature of their relationship.
- While the agency has both entry-level and management-level positions, there are fewer mid-level positions within the Peace Corps. As a result, developing a career path with the Peace Corps naturally requires employees to leave the agency before returning to pursue a higher level of responsibility. Many employees do return and bring valuable new skills and fresh outside perspective with them.
- Overseas, the frequent transition of U.S. employees promotes opportunities for leadership among host country staff members in succession management, a reality consistent with the Peace Corps’ mission as an agency.
This lack of institutional memory is highlighted when analyzing the years of Peace Corps experience of current agency staff, where only country directors on average have been with the agency for more than three years. According to prior assessments and studies of the rule, as well as input from current and former Peace Corps staff and Volunteers who contributed to this assessment, perceived challenges of the five-year rule include: • The five-year rule facilitates the Peace Corps’ status as an independent agency of the U.S. government. 48 Jody Olsen, April 22, 2010 A.3.b Perceived Challenges • There is a lack of institutional memory to support decision-making, strategic planning, and operations. This lack of institutional memory exists on all organizational levels, from secretaries to associate directors, making work at the Peace Corps what one programming and training officer recently called, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Re-Invent.”49 Combined with the turnover associated with having political appointments in the agency, the vast majority of which are in decision making positions, this lack of continuity and strategic thinking in operations is further heightened.
• While the agency benefits greatly from having the perspective of former Volunteers and overseas staff at Headquarters, as well as fresh energy and ideas, not all positions necessitate such perspective when compared to the value of capacity, continuity, business function, and institutional memory. For example, the country desk officer positions in each of the regions and the recruiter positions in regional recruitment offices benefit from the perspective and enthusiasm of returned Volunteers. However, key business functions performed by medical professionals, contract specialists, and human resources staff for example, may not equally necessitate such field perspective and currently suffer from frequent staff turnover and lack of continuity in a core business function of the Peace Corps (See Figure V-9 below). 49 March 2010 Programming and Training Officer Conference, Washington, D.C. 50 From the Office of Human Resource Management, Peace Corps Washington
The challenge associated with turnover is heightened in cases where the position is one in limited supply within the job market, requires specialized professionals, or both. While it is accurate to say the Peace Corps receives a large number of applicants for vacancies, those applications are not evenly distributed across the agency. Human resource management, highlighted as an area in need of strengthening by many current and former employees, receives only a small number of qualified applicants to run a key operational business function. The same holds true for the Office of Acquisition and Contract Management. By contrast, the Peace Corps reports receiving a high number of applications for all overseas positions, as well as for information technology jobs, country desk officer positions, and administrative assistant assignments stateside.51 * Worthwhile projects or programs may suffer when key personnel supporting or managing them leave. The current lack of handover notes, overlaps, or other transition management approaches, further exacerbates this challenge.
- Managers and supervisors have limited to no options to retain the highest performers and to pursue what they perceive to be the best interest of operations of their units or overseas posts.
- At times, personnel turbulence caused by the five-year rule creates a frenetic, reactive, work environment instead of a more stable one. This is particularly evident in smaller units of headquarters or in overseas operations where all U.S. staff at a post may turnover within a matter of weeks or months. For example, turnover in the Peace Corps Response office, which only recently had more than ten staff members, averaged 39.8 percent a year from 2005 to 2009.52 Furthermore, poor management by the Peace Corps of staff transitions, as a result of the five-year rule, causes frequent and often lengthy gaps between employees, slowing operations significantly.
- Managers, employees, and the agency’s Human Resources Office spend an inordinate amount of time on the selection, orientation, and processing of new employees, time that could be better spent on other responsibilities. Given the five-year period is subdivided into two, thirty-month blocks, the work load in administering the five-year rule is further increased. This workload may be unnecessary given that the number of employees seeking a second tour who do not receive one is miniscule.55
53 According to March 31, 2010, statistics from Peace Corps’ Human Resources Office, the average age for Peace Corps staff overseas is 46.4, compared to 42 at Headquarters and 36 in regional recruitment offices.54 Devex International Development Career Fair, Washington, D.C., March 12, 2010. 55 Peace Corps Human Resources Office
- Supervisors are challenged to manage work units with constantly changing staff members, and employees must adapt to frequently changing leadership and their priorities.
- The “in and out rule” results in some of the Peace Corps’ more proven and talented staff members having to stay away from the agency for an excessively long period of time.
- Positive contributions of the five-year rule toward the Peace Corps’ operations overseas are often offset by the host country national staff of the agency, who can serve with the Peace Corps indefinitely and who rarely undergo a thorough performance evaluation process as a part of the Foreign Service management system.
- Poor management of staff transitions as a result of the five-year rule causes frequent, and often lengthy gaps between employees, resulting in a lack of continuity and consistency in operations. Such gaps are also a tool used by the agency to save resources during times when budgets are tight.
- Overseas, the frequent transition of U.S. employees results in some host country staff being reluctant to undertake new efforts or initiatives, instead preferring to wait out the American employee.
- The Peace Corps’ commitment to providing training to a constant flow of new employees joining the agency, potentially requires a financial investment higher than what the agency would invest if it were not restricted by the five-year rule.56
In the case of sixth years and third tours, the assessment team found there is room for greater utilization by the agency. As shown in figure V-11 below, while all staff are eligible to serve a sixth year, in the last five years, the percentage of staff serving a sixth year has never exceeded 6 percent. The percentage of staff serving a third tour reached a high of 12 percent in 2008, although the ceiling is 15 percent. While the agency has a series of tools to help manage challenges of the five-year rule, the assessment team found that such tools were utilized inconsistently. A.4. Tools available to manage challenges of the five-year rule A.4.a Sixth years and third tours
The assessment team found the use of experts is increasing. (See Figure V-12 below.) However, experts and consultants are unable to serve in a supervisory or direct management capacity, a limitation diminishing their ability to directly address operational concerns. Additionally, the majority of the Peace Corps’ current experts and consultants serve on an intermittent appointment, making them part-time or limited-time employees. However, this is not required. The Peace Corps’ experts and consultants can be appointed full time and their appointments (twelve months) can be renewed indefinitely. In addition, retired federal employees can be appointed as experts and consultants at the Peace Corps without having to forfeit their retirement pay, a considerable incentive.59 A.4.b Experts and consultants The Office of Inspector General plans to study this point in greater detail during FY 2010
The original Section 13 of the Peace Corps Act established the President’s ability to contract experts and consultants outside of the limitations of permanent Civil Service employment,57 a function that was delegated to the Director of the Peace Corps in 1963.58 This authority has remained unchanged since.
The revised Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) mobility program, effective May 29, 1997, allows federal agencies to receive staff on details or assignments from a broader network of organizations. IPA employees can come to the Peace Corps on assignments of up to four years from state and local governments, Indian tribal governments, institutions of higher education, and other organizations that are: A.4.c Details and assignments from other organizations Section 14 established the Peace Corps’ ability to both assign and receive personnel from other U.S. government agencies on “detail,” providing the Peace Corps a mechanism by which an employee could work for the agency with the assurance of having a job to return to upon completion of their term limit. The arrangement also served as a way for Peace Corps to consider receiving talent from other government agencies.60 These authorities have remained unchanged. * A nonprofit organization that is certified as offering, as one of its principal functions, professional advisory, research, educational, or development services, or related services, to governments or universities concerned with public management as certified;
- An association of state or local public officials;
- A national, regional, statewide, area-wide, or metropolitan organization representing member state or local governments; or,
- A federally-funded research and development center.61
• Guidance regarding the “Country Director End of Tour HQ Consultation,” a pilot program from 2006 in which the Peace Corps “began the practice of flying country directors to Washington,
In December of 2006, Marie Wheat, former Chief of Staff and then Expert Consultant in the Director’s Office, provided regional directors with a set of documents that had been developed to facilitate the debriefing of country directors as they completed their tours to ensure a smooth transition in overseas leadership. These documents included: There have been no legislative changes in regards to Section 7 of the Peace Corps Act since 2004. B. RECENT CHANGES Unlike experts and consultants, employees on detail to the Peace Corps can perform any of the duties of a federal employee, including supervision, and can be assigned to a regular Peace Corps position, including overseas. As IPA assignments are made under the authority of the IPA, not the Peace Corps Act, they are not subject to the five-year and “in and out” rules. Thus, an employee who has left the Peace Corps can come back to the Peace Corps as an IPA employee without regard to the “in and out rule.” (See Appendix V-4). 62 57 Public Law 87-293, section 13, 78 Stat. 2512 (September 22, 1961). The former Classification Act is now codified as chapter 51 of title 5, United States code, 5 U.S.C. 5101-5115. 58 Sec. 6(a) of Public Law 88-200 (77 Stat. 360). 1963. 59 Office of the General Counsel, Peace Corps Washington. 60 Public Law 87-293, section 14, 78 Stat. 2513 (September 22, 1961). The former Classification Act is now codified as chapter 51 of title 5, United States code, 5 U.S.C. 5101-5115. 61 Law. 5 USC sections 3371 through 3375. Regulations. 5 CFR Part 334 The agency does not typically use its authority to send and receive employees through details from other government agencies or through the far more expansive network defined by the revised Intergovernmental Personal Act mobility program. The Office of Human Resource Management was only aware of three such employees as of April 14, 2010. None came through IPA assignments. The reasons are not clear for the agency’s decision not to utilize these authorities. B.1. Legislation B.2. Agency efforts to minimize negative impacts * A country director exit report, designed to “provide departing country directors the opportunity to give feedback which may assist the Peace Corps in the future management of the agency, the region and specifically their country programs” that were to be “reviewed by the Director, Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff and Regional Director;”
- A template for handover notes for country directors finishing tours;
D.C. as they are ending their Peace Corps service for the purpose of an exit interview” and to “provide country directors a sense of completion of their valued service to the agency;” and,
- A list of key questions to be utilized for conducting exit interviews with departing country directors.
and attended the worldwide programming and training officer conference. The task force generated three recommendations related to the five-year rule, all of which were consistent with views expressed at the recent country director and programming and training officer conferences, as well as through input provided to the agency assessment team through our outreach efforts. One of the recommendations was within the current authority of the Peace Corps and two require changes in statutory authority. Those recommendations were: In the first quarter of FY 2010, the Director of the agency established an agency-wide growth task force to identify strategies to facilitate the agency’s goal of quality growth. A subgroup of that task force concentrated on administration, including the five-year rule. Over two months, the administration subgroup—including staff from headquarters and overseas—consulted with posts, reviewed documents, These documents and practices have not been adopted across the agency. B.3. Studies and assessments 62 Office of General Counsel, Peace Corps Washington * Offer new hires a sixty-month appointment instead of a thirty-month appointment;
- Look at identifying positions where the agency has a hard time finding and retaining qualified applicants and seek the same exemption for those positions as has been given to Safety and Security positions. These positions include human resource specialists, contracting specialists, and screening nurses;
- Seek legislative changes to allow a percentage of U.S. direct hire employees to become eligible for a fourth tour.63
However, in reviewing the five-year rule, the assessment team asked, “Would I run my business this way?” The answer was a unanimous, “No.” In the view of the assessment team, the current implementation of the five-year rule restricts the Peace Corps from reaching optimal operational potential. Specifically, the assessment team believes the five-year rule restricts the Peace Corps’ need for: C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations 63 Growth Task Force, Management Working Group, Peace Corps, 2010 64 FY 2010 Peace Corps Office of the Inspector General Annual Plan On January 20, 2010, the Chief of Staff issued a memorandum for all agency staff to provide guidance about “Requesting Third Tours or One Year Extensions.” As a result of this guidance, extensions beyond five years can now be requested at the four-year point. Prior to this change, such extensions could only be submitted six months before the five-year period ends, creating challenges for high-performing employees who wished to continue with the Peace Corps but often found other opportunities prior to receiving confirmation from the agency. The change also served employees who hoped to remain with the agency but learned that their extension would not be supported until a minimum of six months prior to their end of tour. In the second quarter of FY 2010, a poll of 398 employees in the Peace Corps labor union asked members to prioritize ten management issues facing agency employees. Based on input from 101 respondents, eliminating or modifying the five-year rule is the top priority. The Peace Corps’ Office of the Inspector General is planning an assessment of the five-year rule during 2010 to determine the financial implications of agency term limitations.64 It should be noted that staff in the Office of Inspector General have positions that are currently interpreted as falling under the five-year rule. However, those staff members have a single sixty-month term instead of two separate thirty-month terms. B.4. Changes to implementation of the five-year rule In addition to being more employee friendly, the assessment team believes the Chief of Staff’s guidance helps provide clarity about the decision making process, a concern expressed by some current and former staff members contributing to the assessment. C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION The assessment team found both support and criticism of the five year rule to have many valid considerations. After 49 years, including 45 years with the five-year rule, the agency’s unique personnel system, with a principal reliance on a core U.S. direct hire staff serving under limited appointments, has been instrumental in helping the agency complete the two justifications for which it was originally designed: remaining responsive to young Americans serving as Volunteers or potential Volunteers and ensuring there were always positions at headquarters for returning Volunteers and overseas staff. * Better management of key business functions, specifically in areas where it has difficulty finding qualified applicants and retaining qualified applicants in areas such as human resources, contract management, and screening nurses;
- Institutional memory concerning its strategic vision and the implementation thereof; and,
- Seasoned hands to assist in managing challenges, establishing new country programs, and successfully implementing the proposed strengthening and growth of the agency.
Recommendation V-20: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps pursue legislation to allow employees moving from positions stateside to positions overseas, and vice versa, a one-time opportunity to have their five-year clock reset. Recommendation V-18: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps pursue legislation to establish a “4th Tour.” The team recommends a “4th Tour” to permit 5% of U.S. employees to assist with key operational functions at headquarters necessitating specialized professionals and/or to support operations overseas requiring seasoned Peace Corps professionals with management authority. 4th tours should be reserved for individuals with extensive Peace Corps management experience in both headquarters and the field, or by high performing specialized professionals in positions with a limited number of applicants and/or with particularly high turnover. Employees in a 4th tour should be provided 30 month appointments. C.1.b Recommendations for changes to the current legislation Recommendation V-16: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps consider greater utilization of its authority for experts, consultants, interagency details, and Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments to provide continuity with key operational functions at headquarters that need specialized professionals and to support operations overseas requiring seasoned Peace Corps professionals. Recommendation V-14: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps give consideration to staff members serving core business functions where the Peace Corps has a difficult time attracting and retaining qualified applicants. The team recommends the Peace Corps use the special authority granted in 1985 for sixth-year tours and begin offering the sixth year upon successful completion of the one-year probationary period. Positions in the Office of Human Resource Management, the Office of Acquisition and Contract Management, and the Office of Medical Services are recommended for such status. C.1.a Recommendations for change within the confines of the current legislation Legislative changes aside, the assessment team believes improved administration of the five year rule can allow the Peace Corps to better leverage the strengths of term limitations and to minimize the negative impacts associated with the rule. There are changes that can and should be made to increase the effectiveness of the agency, to provide employees a longer employment horizon, to better manage employee transitions, and to free up supervisors and the human resources department at the Peace Corps to focus on more important issues than managing the paper load associated with administering the five-year rule. While these changes will require stronger performance management throughout the agency, the assessment team felt this could be achieved with strong leadership, starting at the top of the agency. In the opinion of the assessment team, the steady increased use of experts clearly demonstrates the desire and need of those in leadership and management positions of the agency to retain the services of prepared staff to help ensure quality operations. The assessment team makes nine recommendations: five within the current legislative framework and four requiring changes to statutory authority. In the view of the assessment team, these changes both maintain the spirit of the five-year rule, while mitigating the negative impacts associated with its implementation. Recommendation V-13: The assessment team recommends altering the agency practice of allocating tours in thirty-month blocks. Instead the agency should begin making sixty-month appointments, including an increase in the probationary period from six months to one year. Recommendation V-15: The assessment team recommends the agency consider greater utilization of its authority for sixth years and third tour extensions, targeting positions filled by specialized professionals, positions with a limited number of applicants, and those with particularly high turnover. Recommendation V-17: The assessment team recommends improving transition management by implementing the use of previously designed handover notes and exit reports for country director transitions, developing templates for handover notes for other overseas and domestic positions, and providing overlap for staff serving in positions of critical function. The assessment team recommends that the Director also consider the following changes to the current legislation: Recommendation V-19: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps pursue legislation to place a limit on the “time in, time out” clause of the five-year rule to establish a “five years out” maximum. Recommendation V-21: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps pursue legislation to increase the percentage of employees eligible for a third tour from 15 to 30 percent, utilizing the current criteria of the Peace Corps Act and targeting positions filled by specialized professionals, positions with a limited number of applicants, and those with particularly high turnover.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
91 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
92 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
93 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)The Annual Volunteer Survey, which was biennial prior to 2009, also provides helpful information to management on a wide range of subjects, including Volunteer satisfaction with assignments, Volunteer expectations versus reality, and Volunteer input on the future of the Peace Corps’ operations in their country of service. In addition to the worldwide results, country-specific results are also available for use by staff at posts and at headquarters and regional recruiting offices. The survey may be used for multiple purposes, including identifying trends and best practices, planning office and post priorities, and appraising performance. The second monitoring tool used by the Peace Corps is the Project Status Report developed for each of the Peace Corps’ approximately 220 projects. The data from the Volunteer Reporting Tool serve as input to the report. The report65 measures the progress of projects toward meeting their goals. Annually, each post submits a report for each of its projects to the three regional offices and the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS) at headquarters. The report contains data on that year’s progress toward each objective in the project plan, as well as data on other programmatic elements of the plan, such as the total participants reached by the Peace Corps activities that year. The Project Status Report is used at the post-level to monitor and evaluate the progress of projects and to make changes to project plans when needed. Project plans are designed and implemented in collaboration with host country partners, and the Project Status Report provides the data and analysis needed for the Peace Corps and local partners to discuss and evaluate progress toward mutual development goals. A.1. Monitoring and evaluation tools PART C: STRENGTHENING EVALUATION AND OVERSIGHT
The process of carrying out an impact study begins with a joint decision between OSIRP and the region’s management in Headquarters on the country and the program in that country to be evaluated. OSIRP secures the funding for the study, provides overall methodological consistency, and guides staff through the process of implementing the post specific research. Specifically, OSIRP staff members take the lead in: The fourth tool is Results Based Field Evaluation (Impact Studies). Under the direction of the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning OSIRP, the agency has undertaken a series of country level studies to evaluate the impact of Volunteers on the host country nationals with whom they live and work, as well as the organizations with which they are assigned to cooperate. The studies began at three posts during FY 2008 and continued in FY 2009 and FY 2010 at nine posts. These studies collect information from host country counterparts, beneficiaries, host families and stakeholders to help inform Peace Corps on the impact of the Peace Corps’ work primarily focusing on goal one and goal two activities. * Developing the scope of work to contract the local firm that will carry out the work in-country (in conjunction with post staff);
- Supervision in the development of the questionnaire, the random selection of sites to visited, and the selection of the respondents to be interviewed at each site (in conjunction with post staff);
- Supervision of the data entry and analysis of the report; and,
- Reviews and augments the country report prepared by the local firm, providing a standardized reporting structure and the ability to compare reports across posts.
The management and analysis of the Annual Volunteer Surveys and the Impact Studies are managed by OSIRP. OSIRP reports directly to the Office of the Director, and performs three key agency-level functions: These evaluations of the Peace Corps’ first two goals are taking place across many cultures and in three main program sectors: business development, education, and health and HIV/AIDS. They are conducted by third-party research teams, under OSIRP’s direction. They use a multi-method approach to gather information and include outreach to counterparts, host families, community members, host ministries, and other partner organizations. They assure greater objectivity than the data compiled by the Peace Corps’ staff as they are conducted by host country nationals not associated with the Peace Corps. Country directors and programming and training officers have welcomed these studies for the helpful third-party data they provide. The management and analysis of the first two tools, the Volunteer Reporting Tool and the Project Status Report is managed by OPATS. As explained in Part A of chapter VIII, OPATS’ primary mission is to engage in field staff capacity building and to support overseas programming and training of Volunteers and staff. Using these two tools, OPATS collects and analyzes data that is specific to Volunteer and project activities to measure project performance and collect information on “best practices”. It is important to note that these two tools serve as monitoring tools and are not designed to measure impact. OPATS uses this information to develop Volunteer and staff training and better support Volunteers and staff in the field. * Performance planning and reporting;
- Evaluation and measurement; and,
- Data management
Internal Management Assessments have been well-received and present a model for assisting the agency to make the changes needed to implement the new strategic plan for Peace Corps. In 2005, the agency worked to provide direct management support to individual posts through the creation of the Office of the Director’s Internal Management Assessment program, which was tasked with conducting Internal Management Assessments. The program is based on the concepts of collaborative interaction and a peer approach. Internal Management Assessments bring a team of experienced, Peace Corps-savvy people to review operations and develop suggestions for strengthened performance. They can be conducted both overseas and domestically. A management assessment could help country directors, post staff members, and Volunteers address specific challenges; strengthen the post operations; streamline or improve administrative functions; review the relevance or quality of programs and training; improve Volunteer performance, standards, and satisfaction; or address other issues. At headquarters, the Internal Management Assessment team could review the operations of an individual management unit, or a specific operational function of that unit, to determine relevancy, improve systems, or re-design the unit for maximum performance. Both the Annual Volunteer Surveys and the Impact Studies fall under OSIRP’s evaluation and measurement functions, and helps the agency to meet reporting requirements and better articulate the impact of the work of the Peace Corps. While these two tools capture some information on Volunteer activities and projects, their purpose is much broader than that, and the information collected from these two tools is used across the agency to objectively measure the agency’s performance and improve overall agency operations. In addition to these four primary project monitoring and evaluation tools, the agency has developed management tools to monitor performance. The Administrative Management Control Survey is a tool provided to country directors and designated staff to conduct periodic self-appraisals of administrative, financial, training, and program management practices at post. It provides a snapshot of risk levels at post to help identify management areas in need of improvement and gives headquarter offices the information they need to improve their support to posts. It needs to be continually updated with data from other sources, such as volunteer surveys and Inspector General audit reports, and post managers should be trained and required to use it. It is a tool that offers great potential for monitoring management but is underutilized. In keeping with the collaborative nature of the visit, the team discusses their observations with a country director or headquarters staff throughout the visit. Before leaving an overseas post, the team presents a draft of their findings and recommendations to the country director and senior staff. Upon return to headquarters from an overseas post, the team reports informally to the regional director and to the Internal Management Assessment project coordinator on the findings and proposed recommendations. They then send a draft report to the country director, regional director, and project coordinator for comments and input. The final electronic version of the report is printed and distributed to the post and to the agency and regional directors. The same process is used with domestic Internal Management Assessments. Finally, the Peace Corps also draws on the research findings of a wide range of external sources: NGOs, other U.S. government agencies, donor agencies, and, to a lesser extent, academia. The Peace Corps is regularly involved with researchers on development, international volunteerism and service learning. In addition, a number of the Peace Corps’ staff are members of a variety of professional evaluation associations and participate in InterAction’s Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Group. The Peace Corps’ technical specialists synthesize these research findings for application at the Peace Corps’ country
The IG Act, as amended, establishes the Office of the Inspector General as an independent entity within the Peace Corps. The inspector general reports directly to and is under the general supervision of the Peace Corps Director. In addition, the inspector general reports directly to Congress, keeping it fully and currently informed concerning the programs and operations of the Peace Corps. The OIG is organized into three functional units: Audit, Evaluation, and Investigation and is authorized by law to review all programs and operations of the Peace Corps. A.3. The Inspector General’s oversight Most of the agency’s institutional learning is derived from this type of research. This material has been consolidated into manuals and guides over the years. Many of these documents are well-recognized among practitioners and contain key finding on various aspects of grassroots development. Many of the documents, however, merit additional testing to verify and update their findings. A.2. Offices engaged in project evaluation and oversight posts. The Peace Corps also benefits from the countless number of Ph.D. dissertations, M.A. theses, and academic studies on various aspects of the Peace Corps’ work. The Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS) conducts applied research through on-site Volunteer project reviews and the analysis of Project Status Reports. The research focuses on continuous learning through application, assessment, and redirection—learning by doing. It is inherent in all of the Peace Corps’ programming, training, and evaluation and is done at the field-level by individual Volunteers and at the project level by the Peace Corps’ field staff members. The lack of independent evaluators in the process has diminished its credibility, as has the prevalence of soft indicators as opposed to quantifiable results. Increasingly, this work is done in conjunction with host country partners, contributing to the value and credibility of the results. There is growing emphasis on outcome indicators and the development of more sophisticated outcome assessment tools than those traditionally used by the Peace Corps. With the creation of the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning (OSIRP) in 2007, the agency now has the capacity to conduct impact evaluations of the Peace Corps’ sector projects. Experienced staff is now in place and working closely with all offices to enhance existing data collection efforts and develop new means to collect the data necessary to inform evaluation efforts and demonstrate the impact of the Peace Corps. OSIRP is responsible for data content and for ensuring the consistency, reliability, and validity of the data provided by the agency to the public. Additional agency surveys are fielded by OSIRP, including the survey of the experiences of 50+ Volunteers and the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Survey and focus groups. Through passage of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (IG Act), Congress established an Office of the Inspector General in large federal agencies with the mission to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement and to promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency in government. In 1988, Congress extended the law to most other federal agencies, including the Peace Corps. In February 1989, the Peace Corps established its Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Independent audits by the OIG provide independent oversight of the Peace Corps’ functional activities, such as contract compliance and financial and program operations, to ensure accountability and to recommend improved levels of economy and efficiency. In their on-site visits, OIG staff members encourage post self-evaluations, identify problem areas, and recommend corrective actions. They conduct inspections focused on administrative compliance with rules and regulations. In addition, they review the
Some overseas staff contributing to the assessment expressed concerns about the OIG’s program evaluations overseas, citing the lack of overseas, grassroots development expertise, or the Peace Corps’ experience of the evaluators, as well as a perceived tendency of evaluators to formulate conclusions of posts programmatic operations based exclusively on interviews with an often limited number of Volunteers. This concern appears to have decreased as the OIG is increasingly focused on completing program evaluations by measuring posts against agency or post-specific guidelines and policies and through an objective process with post management. Additionally, the assessment team found that OIG’s Evaluation Unit is increasingly seen by overseas staff as a possible tool in strengthening overseas operations. The Evaluation Unit analyzes the management and program operations of the Peace Corps at both overseas posts and domestic offices. The four OIG evaluators identify best practices and recommend program improvements and the means to comply with the Peace Corps’ policies. Evaluations are conducted under the direction and guidance of the assistant inspector general for evaluations and in accordance with the Quality Standards for Inspections published by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. safety and security of Volunteers and staff. More broadly, OIG staff members identify common problems and trends from post to post and offer guidance for quality improvements agency-wide. The Audit Unit focuses primarily on the agency’s programs, financial and administrative operations, and personnel who support the Peace Corps’ mission and its Volunteers serving around the world. With a team of four auditors, the unit conducts audits of the agency’s field activities at overseas posts and the agency’s administrative support functions at headquarters and domestic recruiting offices. For some highly technical audits, OIG contracts with independent auditing firms and engages individual experts. Audit staff members also perform additional related activities in support of the overall agency, including providing technical assistance to the Peace Corps’ managers on issues related to financial and administrative policies, procedures, and effective internal controls. The Audit Unit also conducts training sessions to strengthen the level of competence of overseas administrative staff. The Office of the Inspector General explains that it approaches program evaluations from the perspective that the mission of the overseas post is to develop projects that address goal one of the Peace Corps: to meet the country’s need for trained manpower. This means that Volunteers arrive at their sites understanding what they are expected to do, are met by people—counterparts, colleagues, local officials— who are expecting them and have the same understanding of what they are expected to do, arrive with the skills they need to do what is expected of them, and find a local context conducive to doing their work. Their experiences as Volunteers should give them a reasonable opportunity to feel productive and to complete their service with a sense of satisfaction about what they have accomplished. The experiences they have in accomplishing their work should show results in the form of goal two and motivate them to carry out goal three. The Office of the Inspector General has conducted numerous program evaluations and in January 2007 issued a report entitled, “Peace Corps, A Case Study of Effective Peace Corps Programs— A Blueprint for Success,” that is utilized in management training. The Investigation Unit assists the Peace Corps in maintaining integrity in its programs and operations by investigating allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, and employee misconduct. Matters investigated include grant, contract, and procurement fraud; violations of law and agency policies committed by the Peace Corps’ personnel, contractors, and vendors; and Federal Employees’ Compensation Act claimants. The unit’s investigations have resulted in criminal prosecutions, civil monetary penalties, sanctions, and
B. RECENT CHANGES A.4. Office of Chief Compliance Officer It should be noted that the OIG is increasingly using a more systematic approach to addressing challenges in the management of the Peace Corps. For example, instead of conducting reviews of contract management at a series of overseas posts, the OIG instead began with an audit of the headquarters office responsible. The assessment team strongly supports this approach. personnel actions, including verbal counseling, suspensions, and termination from service in the Peace Corps. The Office of the Inspector General recently issued a report on the audit of the Office of Acquisitions and Contract Management’s Process for Soliciting, Awarding, and Administering Contracts. The report on the audit of the Office of the Chief Information Officer Budget Formulation and Management, which was issued in a preliminary form in late FY 2009, will be finalized and issued in FY 2010. The Program Audit of the Peace Corps’ Volunteer Safety and Security Operations, begun in FY 2009, will be completed in FY 2010. The Office of the Inspector General also has plans for an audit of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer Budget Formulation and Management in the third and fourth quarter of FY 2010, as well as an audit of a regional recruiting office (location to be determined). It should be noted the OIG can only recommend corrective actions, but does not have the authority to enforce such recommendations. This authority lies with the Chief Compliance Officer. The Chief Compliance Officer is a member of the Director’s senior staff. Among the responsibilities of the office is to collect, track, and monitor reports that require compliance and follow-up, including Inspector General audits and program evaluations. The position has been vacant since January 2009. The job vacancy has been posted. The ongoing lack of a Compliance Officer is a significant obstacle to performance enhancement of the Peace Corps. With the creation of the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning (OSIRP) in 2007, the agency now has an entity specifically charged with enhancing the agency’s strategic planning and reporting, evaluation and measurement, and data governance efforts. Impact studies offer objective impact data. OSIRP has experienced, qualified staff with the capacity to provide the data managers needed to manage effectively. The creation of the office represents a major step forward in gathering, analyzing, and disseminating the data the agency needs to make decisions. OSIRP has successfully compiled data in formats that are useful to posts and headquarter offices, and it has conducted training sessions for staff members, including those in-country desk units, on how to understand and use the data it has collected. OSIRP also plays a critical role in providing documented accountability to OMB, Congress, and the public at large.
To maximize the effect of the Internal Management Assessments, the senior leadership of the Peace Corps should assign responsibility for the implementation of their recommendations and make the implementation of the recommendations a priority. Recommendation V-24: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps dramatically expand the impact study program with the target of carrying out a greater number of impact studies across posts. Recommendation V-23: The assessment recommends the Peace Corps require posts to complete the administrative management control survey (AMCS) prior to completing the IPBS process. The Peace Corps’ methods for measuring recruiting, training, and supporting volunteers has significantly improved over the past several years, but determining the Peace Corps’ demonstrated impact has remained elusive. The agency has seen major improvements in its project monitoring and evaluation processes since the creation of the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning (OSIRP). The challenge for the agency is to coordinate and integrate the work of OSIRP—and the data it collects—with the decision-making processes in posts and headquarters offices. The Peace Corps needs to standardize the use of the data to inform management decisions. With the creation of the Office of Global Operations it is anticipated that there will be more consistent use of the data provided by OSIRP and the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS). C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations Recommendation V-22: The assessment team recommends using the monitoring and evaluation tools currently in place and highlighted in the report to more effectively make management and strategic decisions. In the view of the assessment team and overseas agency staff contributing to the assessment, the impact study program developed by OSIRP provides a promising tool to evaluate agency impact. The assessment team recommends that the impact study program should be dramatically expanded so that the agency can expand its access to objective third party information regarding performance of programs. By focusing the Peace Corps’ project areas to a limited number of specific technical interventions, the agency can more easily replicate the studies and measure impact worldwide. The assessment team further suggests the agency share this data with Congress to better articulate the impact of the Peace Corps and highlight the return the American taxpayer is receiving on their investment in the agency. The Office of the Director’s Internal Management Assessment program assists posts and headquarters offices to make changes needed to strengthen operations, and presents an opportunity for greater monitoring and oversight. The peer nature of the program makes it a valuable tool that is appropriate for expansion. The Internal Management Assessment program could be used as the agency works to implement the new strategic plan highlighted in this assessment. However, a process for tracking the implementation of the recommendations made by the Internal Management Assessments is needed. Recommendation V-25: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps expand the internal management assessment program and increase its use. Furthermore, the team recommends the Peace Corps ensure internal management assessment recommendations are adopted or that documentation is provided as to why recommendations were not implemented.
Finally, the Project Status Report process is generally considered by post to be a valuable undertaking at the local level. It serves as an opportunity to review the year’s activities, take stock of what happened and why, and celebrate project successes. It serves as a snapshot headquarters can use when referring to specific post operations. However, based on input from current and former overseas staff contributing to the assessment, OPATS review and feedback on Project Status Report submissions is viewed as not providing operational value to the field. Specifically, feedback is often very limited, generally vague, and slow in coming. The program and training review process is far more energy intensive for a post than its value can justify. The 2008 Internal Management Assessment on the Center for Field Assistance and Applied Research (the former name of the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support) recommended that the current OPATS review process of post Project Status Reports be discontinued. It is anticipated, however, that, once the agency is working in the greatly reduced number of projects targeted to specific interventions, it will be necessary to review the Project Status Report process and make modifications to standardize the data. Progress on the project goals will need to be evaluated by posts and headquarters on a regular schedule, using the data obtained from impact studies and Project Status Reports.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
During the interview, a recruiter explores an applicant’s suitability for Peace Corps service using a standard set of question to assess: * productive competence;
- social sensitivity;
- emotional maturity; and,
- motivation and commitment to Peace Corps service.
Placement Unit The unit collects trainee requests from the Peace Corps’ posts overseas and conveys those requests to the regional recruitment offices. The unit works to supply Volunteers to meet the demands of posts. In addition, the unit conducts the final application review to determine applicant eligibility based on legal guidelines and then makes the final matching and selection decision. A.2.c The Office of Volunteer Placement and Staging Diversity Recruitment and National Outreach The unit supports the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection in its efforts to attract, recruit, and retain a diverse cadre of Volunteers. The unit supports the regional recruitment offices’ efforts to educate and inform the public about the benefits of service in the Peace Corps. Regional recruitment offices There are nine regional recruitment offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Rosslyn, Virginia. They are often the first point of contact for individuals interested in Peace Corps service and have primary responsibility for planning regional recruitment campaigns that attract qualified individuals. The initial applicant screening assessment also takes place in these regional recruitment offices. The Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection is the primary office responsible for processing applications through the system. The office recruits, selects, and places qualified U.S. citizens to meet the need for Peace Corps Volunteers overseas. The Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection is organized into two sub-offices—the Office of Recruitment and the Office of Volunteer Placement and Staging—each with different functional responsibilities. In addition to the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection, a number of offices share responsibility for either processing applications or supporting aspects of the selection process. A.2. Offices involved in the Volunteer delivery system A.1.c Selection and placement A nomination triggers the medical history review process. The medical review is conducted by nurses in the Pre-Service Unit to ensure that the Peace Corps can support the Volunteer for 27 months without unreasonable disruptions because of health problems. Based on an applicant’s responses to medical questions—a set of questions submitted with the initial application—a customized medical kit is generated and mailed to the applicant. The medical kit outlines the requirements for physical, dental, and eye exams. At the minimum, the medical evaluation includes a visit to a physician and lab work, a visit to a dentist and X-rays, and the completion of a comprehensive medical history. Most of the costs incurred during this process are at the expense of the applicant. See Section A.6.e of this chapter for additional information on the costs associated with the medical clearance process. After the interview, some candidates are counseled to gain more experience or are rejected. Qualified and suitable applicants are nominated (recommended) for a general work assignment area, a geographic region of the world, and an approximate departure date. For example, an applicant would be nominated for a youth development assignment in a francophone, sub-Saharan African country that would start in June 2011. After nomination, the paper file and all of the notes and supporting documentation are mailed to the Placement Unit in Washington, D.C. A.1.b Medical clearance After the evaluation, applicants are either medically qualified for service, medically qualified with restrictions on where they can serve, deferred until a health condition has been resolved and deemed stable for a period of time, or disqualified. Once an applicant is medically qualified for Peace Corps service, with or without restrictions, the Placement Unit begins reviewing the application. Applications are reviewed to ensure that all legal requirements are met, and a final skills and suitability assessment is done by a placement officer. The assessment involves a final paper review. Occasionally, a placement officer will counsel candidates to seek additional experience to become more competitive or will reject them if they are not competitive. Candidates who are deemed qualified are mailed an invitation to serve. The applicant has ten days from the date they receive the mailed invitation kit to accept or decline. Invitations are typically issued two to three months prior to departure, although they can be issued as early as six months or as late as six weeks prior to departure. The Volunteer delivery system is a complex process that spans numerous offices and delivers qualified and motivated Volunteers in support of the Peace Corps’ programs overseas. The Peace Corps’ staff members involved in the selection process do a remarkable job processing large numbers of applications and placing Volunteers overseas, especially given that the process is largely paper driven and is not fully automated. A.2.a The Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection A.2.b The Office of Recruitment Recruitment Support Unit The unit’s mission is to support the regional recruitment offices and to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of Volunteer recruitment and nomination by providing program analysis, monitoring, and recruiter training. Master’s International Program This unit partners with graduate schools to meet the increasing demand overseas for Peace Corps Volunteers with high levels of education and technical expertise. The Office of Volunteer Placement and Staging is made up of two units described below. Staging Unit This unit schedules and manages the pre-departure orientation known as staging for trainees in the United States.To recruit the best Volunteers, overseas programming staff should define the personal attributes and desired nontechnical skills that Volunteers need to perform each targeted intervention. These will be standardized, although posts will still be able to request Volunteers with additional skills that are necessary to perform assignments in a particular country. This will inform the new recruitment strategy, because once the Peace Corps identifies the personal attributes and non-technical skills necessary for a Volunteer, regional recruitment offices can target recruitment efforts to finding these individuals. A.3.a Generalist volunteers A.3. Implementing a new recruitment strategy for skilled and highly skilled Volunteers Overseas Peace Corps posts Posts throughout the three geographic regions and the Office of Global Operations drive the entire Volunteer delivery system by requesting Volunteers.
Diversity recruitment is a priority of the Peace Corps, and the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection is identifying a number of activities that will have a positive impact on diversity recruiting. The office is considering providing incentives for recruiters to visit more Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges; participating at professional conferences with a diversity focus; and increasing marketing outreach to diverse groups. The Peace Corps is also hiring an additional diversity recruitment specialist who will be based at the headquarters office and who will work with the diversity liaison recruiters at each of the regional recruitment offices to develop tools, resources, and training for recruiters. Staff members at the regional recruitment offices noted that the Peace Corps does not have brand recognition in many racially diverse communities and said that to generate applications from diverse populations in the long run, the Peace Corps needs to raise its visibility in these communities through a marketing campaign. A.4. Diversity recruitment Often these applicants have greater personal and professional commitments that affect their ability to remain flexible during the application process. The Peace Corps needs to be able to provide them with information regarding what type of job they will be performing and the departure date farther in advance than would be the case with generalist Volunteers. Skilled Volunteers have different expectations and needs that need to be addressed during the application and selection process. As part of the review of the Volunteer Delivery System conducted in 1999, the review team noted: A.3.b Skilled volunteers Although the Peace Corps is primarily comprised of Volunteers with limited professional experience, skilled Volunteers are also in demand at overseas posts. Skilled Volunteers have significant professional work experience and technical expertise. These skilled Volunteers are often more mature and bring a unique and desired technical skill set that enhances and complements the work of generalist Volunteers at posts. The Peace Corps can be more effective in leveraging the skills and experience that technically skilled Volunteers have by being more creative in designing their projects, by being more flexible about the length of service, and by recruiting an placing them through Peace Corps Response. See chapter II. “Virtually all the organizations that the review team visited actively recruit and search for hard-to-fill positions. They in turn spend a lot of time, effort, and money searching and recruiting theses individuals – and they treat them differently in the application and selection process.” 67 Posts will develop project descriptions that will be used to write a job announcement that would contain information regarding the nature of the work, necessary skills, an application deadline, and an exact departure date that would be posted on the website. Peace Corps Response will work with posts to select the most qualified and suitable individuals to be Peace Corps Response Volunteers. The Peace Corps recruits Volunteers who reflect the gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, racial, and socioeconomic make-up of the people of the United States. The second goal of the Peace Corps—“to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of peoples served”—is best achieved by a diverse cadre of Volunteers who have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. In FY 2009, 74 percent of all Volunteers identified themselves as Caucasian, 16 percent identified themselves as Hispanic, Asian, African-American, mixed ethnicity, or Native American, and additional 10 percent of people chose not to identify their ethnicity. 67 Review of the Volunteer Delivery System Final Report, Office of the Director. September 1999. p. 11
A.5. Marketing Using Strategic Recruiters (STRATS) could be an effective recruiting resource at low-producing colleges and universities. The Peace Corps uses STRATS primarily at colleges and universities that have historically produced a high number of Volunteer applications and Volunteers. The Peace Corps contracts with colleges and universities to hire a part-time Returned Peace Corps Volunteer student on campus. The STRATS plan recruitment events and recommend applicants to move forward to the next step. STRATS are supposed to nominate at least thirty applicants, twenty of whom are supposed to be skilled applicants. The Peace Corps should eliminate the nomination quotas for skilled applicants, and STRATS should focus on raising awareness and on generating applications from diverse candidates. Currently there is one contract in place at a Hispanic Serving Institution, with plans to place three to four STRATS at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges. The Peace Corps should increase the number of STRATS at select colleges and universities that have not traditionally yielded high numbers of applications. Because regional recruitment offices and recruiters’ performances are primarily based on how many applicants are nominated or recommended to move forward in the process, recruitment efforts are primarily directed at colleges and universities that have historically produced a high number of Volunteers. This creates an incentive to repeatedly invest time, energy, and resources at colleges and universities and within departments, clubs, etc. where the Peace Corps has already established a relationship. Spending time at schools that produce fewer Volunteers is viewed unfavorably by recruiters. The Peace Corps needs to more effectively balance time spent at high-and low-producing schools. Currently, recruiters are also asked to recruit highly skilled applicants, applicants who are 50 years old and older, as well as applicants with general skills. Recruiting these individuals requires different marketing and advertising approaches. In effect, the Peace Corps recruits every interested American, which means that resources, time, and energy are dispersed. By focusing on recruiting young Americans with limited work experience, specific personal attributes, and non-technical skills, recruiters can spend more time and resources on diversity recruiting within this defined group. In other words, if the Peace Corps clearly articulates and defines the attributes and skills required to be a Volunteer, the agency can identify where to recruit those Volunteers and can focus more resources on recruiting a diverse cadre of applicants. To be effective at schools that have not traditionally produced many Volunteers—including many Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges—recruiters will need to do more than visit the school once or twice a year. Recruiters have to spend a significant amount of time cultivating relationships with administration and faculty, explain what the Peace Corps is and what it does, and demonstrate that the agency is an involved partner. In addition to directing regional recruitment offices to focus time and energy on building relationships with schools and organizational groups that have not traditionally yielded high numbers of applications, the Peace Corps needs to reform the application and selection process. Earlier reports on the Volunteer delivery system have suggested that the cost of the medical clearance process and the length of time it takes to process applications impacts socioeconomic diversity. These ideas are discussed more in section A.6.e. The assessment team recommends that the Office of Communications use the new recruitment strategies to develop a marketing plan to attract Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Response Volunteers. The 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps is a unique opportunity to build upon the legacy of the Peace Corps and make an emotional appeal to the public.
Additional sources of information for this report include a number of reports examining the Volunteer delivery system, including a 1989 Peace Corps Organizational Study conducted by Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc.; a 1995 Cross-Organizational Review of the Volunteer Delivery System by the Office of the Inspector General at the Peace Corps; a 1999 internal Review of the Volunteer Delivery System; and a 2003 Evaluation of the Volunteer Delivery System also conducted by the Office of the Inspector General. Although there have been numerous improvements since 1989, the older reports contain insight that remains relevant today. Another source of valuable input came The application and selection process needs to be improved to continue to attract and retain the most qualified applicants throughout the process. The staff involved in processing applications does an excellent job overcoming the limitations of the operating systems, and every year thousands of qualified Volunteers are placed in the field because of their efforts. However, the process needs to be improved to be more competitive, reduce processing time, improve communication, provide greater transparency about trainee selection and placement, and reduce the cost of the medical expenses related to applying to the Peace Corps. Improving the application and selection process is critical to ensuring that the Peace Corps continues to provide countries with exceptional Volunteers who are energetic, excited, and committed to fulfilling the three goals of the Peace Corps in communities around the world. The Volunteer delivery system modernization and re-design, which is discussed in section B.3. is intended to address these issues. Recommendation VI-3: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Communications develop a new marketing plan based on the two recruitment strategies. Recommendation VI-2: The assessment team recommends that Peace Corps Response develop a new recruitment strategy for Peace Corps Response Volunteers that focuses on recruiting individuals with professional experience to complement the efforts of Peace Corps Volunteers. The Peace Corps Response recruitment strategy also needs to have an integrated diversity recruitment component. To do this, the Office of Communications will need resources to raise the visibility of the Peace Corps and to convey the relevance of the agency today. The Peace Corps can accomplish this through free and paid media, including public service announcements and print, television, and radio advertisements. Recruiters will continue to host public events, including general information meetings for prospective applicants and should target large national and local events that are attended by potential applicants with the personal attributes and skills that the Peace Corps has identified. These events should be aimed at increasing the visibility of the Peace Corps. In 2009, the Peace Corps began using social media, including You Tube, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. As of June 2010, nearly 34,000 people had become fans of the Peace Corps on Facebook. The Peace Corps also should be sending email messages on a variety of Peace Corps related topics to prospective and current applicants on a regular basis. Recommendation VI-1: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection develop a new recruitment strategy that has an integrated diversity recruitment component. The new recruitment strategy should focus on recruiting individuals with limited work experience but who have the personal attributes and non-technical skills necessary to be successful Peace Corps Volunteers. A.6. Improving the application and selection process One of the sources of input for this section was a survey designed by the assessment team in collaboration with the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning. The survey was given to nine groups of Volunteers who departed March 3-31, 2010, and 324 individuals responded to the survey. 68 68 A copy of the survey is provided in Appendix VI-1, and survey results are provided in Appendix VI-2.
The time that it takes the Peace Corps to process an application (from time of submission to entering on duty) is lengthy. In 2009, the median length of time it took to process an application was twelve months, a one month increase from the median processing times in 2008, 2007, and 2006. For the applicants at the nine pre-departure orientations in March, the average application processing time was 15.5 months. There are numerous, valid reasons why the processing time increased recently, including a surge in applications in 2009, fewer available Volunteer slots available in FY 2009, allowing staff positions to go unfilled because of budget cuts, and an increase number of applications from those 50 and older, who often have more complicated medical histories that take longer to process. To ensure a competitive process, applicants should be evaluated and rated according to a set of defined criteria. This would make it easier to compare applicants, which is the ideal way to select the most qualified applicant. The Peace Corps needs to develop more rigorous criteria for selecting and de-selecting applicants, and applicants should be rated during the initial assessment and interview conducted by recruiters. Recruiters should receive standardized training on how to evaluate applicants according to established criteria. Placement officers should always receive thorough evaluations that require virtually no additional assessment. Placement officers could use the ratings to invite exceptional applicants to serve in the Peace Corps, not those that just meet the minimum qualifications. The Peace Corps depends on energetic, talented individuals who are committed to service overseas. To ensure that quality Volunteers are being selected, the Peace Corps must continue to ensure that the selection process is competitive and that only the most qualified applicants are invited to serve in the Peace Corps. Currently, applicants are not evaluated and rated according to defined, objective assessment criteria. Applicants that meet the minimum qualifications move forward at each stage because the system is essentially pass/fail. from the people that process the Peace Corps’ applications, including staff members of the regional recruitment offices, the Pre-Service Medical Screening Unit, and the Placement Unit. A.6.a Ensuring a competitive selection process While recruiters and placement officers noted that they have rejected applicants who did not meet minimum qualifications, they felt less comfortable rejecting applicants who just barely met minimum requirements. Instead of rejecting applicants, recruiters and placement officers often counsel such applicants to withdraw and gain more experience. Applicants are selected based on the discretion of a single recruiter and placement officer. The 1999 Review of the Volunteer Delivery System echoed this sentiment and went on to mention that part of the reason for subjective selections is the “lack of consistent, objective assessment criteria” and the “lack of real guidelines for ‘deselecting’ applicants.”69 The Volunteer delivery modernization and re-design is focused on addressing this issue. The application process affects competition in another way. Each regional recruitment office is allocated a number of slots when nominating a training group for a particular program. Most regional recruitment offices discuss which applicants to nominate, especially for areas where there is an abundance of applicants who meet the qualifications for that assignment area. However, regional recruitment offices and recruiters have a limited view of the entire applicant pool and have no way of comparing the applicants they nominate to applicants being nominated by other regional recruitment offices. After nomination, applicants move to the medical clearance phase, and barring any medical restrictions or processing delays, placement officers evaluate applicants before inviting them to become Peace Corps trainees in the programs to which they were originally nominated. A.6.b Length of time 69 Review of the Volunteer Delivery System Final Report, Office of the Director. September 1999. p. 15
Final Program Evaluation Report Peace Corps’ Medical Clearance System. Office of the Inspector General. March 2008. p. 34.
Recommendation VI-4: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps analyze alternative recruitment models and consider selecting another model or making significant changes to the existing model. The agency should conduct an analysis of other recruitment models and make recommendations about how to make the process more competitive, reduce the time that it takes the Peace Corps to process an application, improve communication during the application process, provide greater transparency about how trainees are selected and placed in an assignment area, and reduce medical expenses related to applying to the Peace Corps. A.7. Recommendation for improving the application process The costs associated with the medical screening process may prevent applicants from applying and the Peace Corps needs to share a greater portion of the costs incurred by applicants. The Peace Corps should conduct a study to determine costs incurred by applicants during the selection process and should develop a cost-sharing plan that is reduces the financial cost of applying. was no procedure for evaluating the cost sharing maximums on a periodic basis.73 A third party contractor tracks applicant claims, and in FY 2009, the firm reported that 10,987 claims were submitted for a total of $2.7 million in charges. The average claim submitted was $246.55; the average reimbursement was $55.22, although applicants can receive more than one reimbursement. By comparison, in FY 2006, applicants submitted 11,501 claims for roughly $2.5 million in charges. The average reimbursement was $63.14.
The new system will not simply automate the old system; it will reform and integrate business processes. One key function of the new system will be an applicant matching system that will collect information from applicants-including technical skills, soft skills, and basic medical criteria-and produce the best possible matches based on country, project, and assignment requirements from overseas posts. B.3. Volunteer delivery system modernization and re-design B.2. Field based recruiters B.1. Sector recruitment specialists B. RECENT CHANGES Because of openings throughout the year for applicants with specific skills in the Education, Environment, and Agriculture sectors, the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection has intensified its efforts to recruit and attract more highly skilled candidates. Five sector recruitment specialists have been hired as sub-contractors and work closely with the director of the Office of Recruitment. They are knowledge experts tasked with building a pipeline of highly skilled prospects by developing strong institutional, organizational, and association relationships. These specialists work out of their homes and cover defined territories across the United States where skilled populations in agriculture, environment, and education exist. Their primary focus is to provide outreach and marketing expertise in identifying untapped relationships and partnerships (e.g., professional/trade associations, unions, NGOs, non-profits, and federal agencies). The agency should review the work of the sector recruitment specialists, and, if the work is successful, it could form the basis for the Peace Corps Response recruitment strategy of highly skilled Volunteers. To maintain the continuity of recruitment activities after the Minneapolis and Denver regional recruitment offices were closed and consolidated, the Minneapolis office merged with the Chicago office and the Denver office merged with the Dallas office. To continue to have a presence in Minneapolis and Denver, the agency used field-based recruiters in a pilot. In January 2009, three experienced recruiters began working as field-based recruiters, two in Colorado and one in Minnesota. The assumption was that recruiters who were based closer to their recruitment base would spend less time traveling, would be able to attend more recruitment events, would do more in-person interviews, and would be able to nominate more people to move to the next stage in the application process. Additional field-based recruiters are being added in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The initial pilot was too small to evaluate, but initial findings are that field-based recruiters are more productive and have higher nomination rates. There should be more conclusive evidence at the end of FY 2011. For many years, the Peace Corps has recognized that the technology systems and programs used to move applicants through the recruitment and selection process need to be improved. To position the agency for future growth, the Peace Corps is investing in modernizing and redesigning the Volunteer delivery system and has solicited bids from contractors for commercial off-the-shelf software that will integrate all formal and informal Volunteer-related business processes now residing on disconnected databases across organizational divisions and business systems. The Peace Corps will select a vendor in July 2010 and hopes to roll out the system in the spring of 2011. The modernization and redesign will enable the Peace Corps to more effectively and efficiently manage the entire Volunteer lifecycle, from recruitment through completion of Volunteer service to becoming a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. The redesigned system also will include a separate electronic health records system that will manage pre-service medical screening records, in-service health support, and post-service medical processing. The new system will eliminate redundant manual data entry, increasing efficiency and productivity as many of the clerical functions performed by recruiters, pre-service screening nurses, and placement officers will be automated.
Recommendation VI-3: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Communications develop a new marketing plan based on the two recruitment strategies. Recommendation VI-1: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection develop a new recruitment strategy that has an integrated diversity recruitment component. The new recruitment strategy should focus on recruiting individuals with limited work experience but who have the personal attributes and non-technical skills necessary to be successful Peace Corps Volunteers. The application and selection process needs to be improved to attract and retain the most qualified applicants and to ensure that the Peace Corps continues to provide countries with exceptional Volunteers who are energetic, excited, and committed to fulfilling the three goals of the Peace Corps in communities around the world. The Peace Corps will need to articulate the two new recruitment strategies for generalist and skilled Volunteers in accordance with the new strategic vision. From those recruitment strategies, the agency needs to develop a new marketing strategy. The agency also needs to evaluate whether the current recruitment model is sufficient to meet applicants’ expectations and the needs of overseas posts and whether these needs can be addressed by improvements to the current system. Attracting and retaining exceptional applicants is a critical first step to ensuring the success of Peace Corps Volunteers. C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION Increased efficiency will result in more applications being processed in the same amount of time, but it will only nominally shorten the application process. The application process will only be significantly shortened if the agency changes how it processes applications. There will be a more consistent look and feel to the recruitment and selection process, better enabling the Peace Corps to coordinate messages to prospective Volunteers throughout the selection process. Customer service functions will be improved, because the new system will allow the Peace Corps to send automated messages to large numbers of individuals. In addition, the system will allow the Peace Corps to better analyze and use data to better address workflow problems and bottlenecks. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations The assessment team makes the following recommendations: Recommendation VI-2: The assessment team recommends that Peace Corps Response develop a new recruitment strategy for Peace Corps Response Volunteers that focuses on recruiting individuals with professional experience to complement the efforts of Peace Corps Volunteers. The Peace Corps Response recruitment strategy also needs to have an integrated diversity recruitment component. Recommendation VI-4: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps analyze alternative recruitment models and consider selecting another model or making significant changes to the existing model. The agency should conduct an analysis of other recruitment models and make recommendations about how to make the process more competitive, reduce the time that it takes the Peace Corps to process an application, improve communication during the application process, provide greater transparency about how trainees are selected and placed in an assignment area, and reduce medical expenses related to applying to the Peace Corps.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
119 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)The Office of Special Services is staffed by an administrative assistant, four special services officers and an expert consultant. During 2009, the special services officers consulted with approximately 200 Volunteers by telephone, assisting them with adjustment and behavioral challenges, as well as providing emergency response support to posts dealing with critical incidents and evacuations. Additionally, the Office of Special Services participated in overseas new staff training and continuing education for Peace Corps medical officers, as well as providing consultation services to posts and country directors. “The Office of Medical Services provides pre-service medical screening, in-service health care, and post-service medical benefits to V/Ts, and is the liaison with the Department of Labor’s Federal Employees’ Compensation Act program on behalf of employees and returned V/Ts. OMS also provides training for Peace Corps Medical Officers and other Peace Corps staff. The office supports its services, regions, and posts, through systematic quality improvement and epidemiology studies. ” According to the Peace Corps Manual: Under Section 2504(e) of the Peace Corps Act, the Peace Corps is required to provide health care to Volunteers during their service as the agency deems “necessary and appropriate.” Additionally, the Peace Corps’ Manual Section 262.5 states that Volunteers and trainees (V/Ts) will be provided with all necessary and appropriate medical care during the course of their service. A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS
The core functions of this unit are to provide oversight to surveillance of health conditions among Volunteers, to conduct studies to analyze health conditions and identify risk factors, and to assist in the design of prevention strategies. This unit develops health system policies, monitors the effectiveness of health care, and provides information and analysis on health conditions and programs. The unit also prepares and updates the Technical Guidelines. The Clinical Programs Unit provides clinical oversight and management of the Volunteer health system by providing guidance, direction, and support to Peace Corps medical officers and country directors. It also assists with new country assessments and provides medical consultations to other units. This unit is responsible for Peace Corps medical officer training, preparing pre-service training materials for Volunteers, and coordinating the hiring process for Peace Corps medical officers. The core functions of the In-Service Unit are to consult with Peace Corps medical officers, authorize medical evacuation, provide case management for Volunteers medically evacuated to the United States and Volunteers on medical hold, provide 24-hour medical duty officer coverage, and participate in Peace Corps medical officer performance evaluations. The Office of Medical Services is organized into nine functional units, five of which provide direct support to posts and currently-serving Volunteers. A.3. The Office of Medical Services several posts to conduct mental health site assessments, including patient chart reviews, to assess the quality of mental health services provided by the post, as well as an evaluation of referral sources (if any) used by the post. Technical Guidelines issued by the Office of Medical Services cover post health unit administration, Volunteer training and support, and monitoring and evaluation, as well as providing guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions. A.3.a In-Service Unit: A.3.b Program and Training Unit: A.3.c Clinical Programs Unit A.3.d Quality Improvement Unit A.3.e Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit Other units reach a determination on medical clearance of applicants, manage all health benefits for returned Volunteers, develop and support the information systems infrastructure, and manage Volunteer health records.
According to Office of Medical Services Technical Guideline 110, the core functions of the In-country Volunteer Health Program are to: A.4. In-Country Volunteer Health Program * Support Volunteers in assuming responsibility for their own health;
- Promote the health of Volunteers and prevent disease;
- Provide health services to Volunteers overseas in as safe, efficient, and timely a manner as possible within the particular host-country environment; and,
- Provide medical evacuation (medevac) to Volunteers who require medical care beyond the care available in-country.
Performance Goal 5.1.2 establishes the level to which the agency needs to provide quality medical and mental health services to trainees and Volunteers. The performance indicators are: As part of the Peace Corps’ Performance Plan for Fiscal Years 2009-2014, Strategic Goal 5 indicates that the Peace Corps will: Area Peace Corps Medical Officers are assigned to the Africa Region to provide clinical and programmatic support to the in-country Volunteer health programs. Area Peace Corps medical officers are based in a host country and are responsible for providing assistance to the Volunteer health program in each country of their sub-regional area. The Peace Corps’ medical officers are personal services contractors, selected by the country director with concurrence of the Office of Medical Services. The Peace Corps currently employs the services of 128 medical officers in 69 countries. At this time, about 15 percent are Americans, while 85 percent are host country nationals or third-country nationals. Of all Peace Corps medical officers, 58 percent are licensed physicians, 12 percent are licensed physician-assistants and nurse practitioners, and 30 percent are registered nurses. The Peace Corps’ medical officers are responsible for administration of the post health program, prevention and health education of Volunteers, clinical care, mental health support and counseling, and quality improvement. The Peace Corps’ medical officers are required to operate according to the Technical Guidelines issued by the Office of Medical Services. “The provision of health care services to Volunteers should conform to U.S. medical standards and norms within the limitations imposed by local conditions.” Technical Guideline 110 also states that: A serving Volunteer receives health care through a health care program implemented in-country by Peace Corps medical officers under the management and supervision of the country director and with professional guidance and oversight from the Office of Medical Services at the Peace Corps’ headquarters. Each post has at least one medical officer, with the number of Peace Corps medical officers at post determined by the country and regional directors. Volunteers receive their health care primarily through the medical officer at post and through local health care providers in each country as necessary. Except in the case of an emergency, prior authorization from a Peace Corps medical officer is required for all medical and dental care not directly provided by the Peace Corps medical officer. When the health care needs of a Volunteer cannot be met in-country, the Volunteer may be medically evacuated to the United States or to a regional medical evacuation site. A.5. Volunteer satisfaction with the health system “Implement the Peace Corps mission in an effective and efficient manner through the provision of high quality Volunteer support with optimal health care, safety and security support, and effective management of resources.” * Percentage of Peace Corps Volunteers reporting their satisfaction with health care received from Peace Corps medical officers as adequate or better. The target was set at 90 percent annually for FY 2009 to FY 2011.
- Percentage of Volunteers reporting the emotional support they received from the Peace Corps’ staff as adequate or better. The target was 70 percent in FY 2009, rising to 80 percent in FY 2011.
- Percentage of Peace Corps Volunteers reporting adequate or better support in coping with stress from issues such as food insecurity, HIV/AIDS, and other stressors in their community. The target was 60 percent in FY 2009, rising to 70 percent in FY 2011.
The Peace Corps measures Volunteers’ satisfaction with the health care they receive as part of the Annual Volunteer Survey. In the 2009 survey, a core set of questions was asked of all Volunteers, including 29 questions asking Volunteers for their comments. For the first time, Volunteers were asked questions relevant to their time in-country. Four questions asked Volunteers to indicate their satisfaction with their health care, both physical and emotional.
A set of thirteen recommendations was developed “in the spirit of further improvement.” These recommendations included: • The organizational structure of the health system is not optimal for ensuring quality; and, • Volunteers expressed good to high satisfaction with the care provided by the Peace Corps medical officers, however, Volunteers were less satisfied with the care they received from local medical providers; • Older Volunteers and those who have conditions that need to be accommodated (such as food allergies, asthma, or previous mental health issues), create new challenges for the health system; • Not all Peace Corps medical officers operate at the same level of expertise and experience, and many lack training to support the mental health of Volunteers. * Create a more effective Peace Corps medical officer organizational structure with tighter linkage to the Office of Medical Services;
- Improve the Office of Medical Services field review process;
- The Office of Medical Services should develop assessment criteria to guide Peace Corps medical officers in evaluating local resources;
- Improve pre-service health training, transparency, and the setting of expectations for Volunteers;
- Explore establishing additional medical evacuation centers to serve remote areas; and,
- Provide additional training and support for Peace Corps medical officers in the area of mental health support and counseling.
Recently, the Peace Corps Director held a series of conference calls with country directors worldwide. In these calls, he generally outlined the changes planned for improving quality and oversight of medical services provided to Volunteers. Shortly after that call, a memorandum was sent to all country directors outlining the most recent changes to the processes for Peace Corps medical officer recruitment, management, and accountability. The Director indicated that all changes be implemented immediately. These changes include the following: • Ensure that adequate professional resources are available to accommodate both current and expected growth. • Implement a “scope of practice” directive to ensure that clinical care is provided only by caregivers who are practicing within an appropriate scope given their professional credentials; • Establish a Peace Corps medical officer credentialing and recredentialing unit to assess and ensure the initial and ongoing qualifications of health care providers; “In order for Peace Corps to support growth, there must be adequate organizational infrastructure in place to support the safety and health, both physical and mental of Volunteers. Volunteers are in general satisfied with the health care they receive while in service, but there are many instances in which performance could be improved.” B. RECENT CHANGES After the publication of the Pugh report, a number of changes were made in the Volunteer health system. Pre-service training was improved with the addition of session outlines, videos, and other support from headquarters, and the Peace Corps began establishing additional medical evacuation centers, resulting in new centers in Bangkok, South Africa, and Panama. The Peace Corps medical officer evaluation process was strengthened and the Office of Medical Services assumed greater involvement in Peace Corps medical officer hiring and Volunteer care. The new leadership of the Office of Volunteer Support began work in August 2009 and immediately started to assess both business practices and the Peace Corps’ ability to adequately support Volunteers. As a result, the Office of Volunteer Support developed a number of recommendations and proposed actions to “transform the Peace Corps Volunteer Health System (PCVHS) into an accredited health care organization in which a culture of continual quality improvement and data analysis drives all processes.” The Office of Volunteer Support concluded that: The Office of Volunteer Support, with the support of the Director of the Peace Corps, proposes to: • Establish a mechanism to monitor, measure, and improve the quality of care delivered through the Volunteer health system; • Develop, in collaboration with the Office of Global Operations, a plan to realign clinical quality and accountability at posts; • Implement an expanded regional medical officer structure to provide more direct oversight of Peace Corps medical officers and encourage a mentoring model; and, Some of the recommendations above are currently being put into place, while others are still in the development stage. For example, the site assessment process has been significantly enhanced to incorporate additional direct observation of clinical care and documentation. A new assessment tool is the use of tracer methodology, which is used to assess and evaluate the Peace Corps’ compliance with standards and systems of providing care and services by tracing the experiences of patients during their care encounters. Additionally, the assessor will visit and evaluate high-volume consultants used by the posts and will evaluate Peace Corps medical officers. A detailed protocol has been written, so that all assessments are conducted in an identical manner and so that all items are covered. Site assessments are ongoing and are planned for all Africa region posts and a number of posts in the other two regions. * Medical contractors will be hired by and report to the Office of Volunteer Support but will work closely with, and under the direction of, country directors;
- The Office of Volunteer Support will be responsible for screening and hiring medical contractors with the advice of country directors;
- The Office of Volunteer Support will implement a more rigorous screening process, including an evaluation of credentials and a test of the candidate’s clinical knowledge;
- Medical contractors will be contracted for three years, and, prior to contract renewal, they will be re-credentialed and re-evaluated;
- Country directors should report any concerns they have about the performance of a medical contractor to the Office of Volunteer Support; and,
- Medical contractors are expected to keep country directors fully updated on medical, safety, or security issues as they arise.
Recommendation VII-1: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Support develop an action plan to increase support offered to Volunteers dealing with mental health and stress concerns. The Office of Volunteer Support should consider establishing a regional mental health officer structure, similar to the current regional safety and security officer structure, to provide direct care for Volunteers and to provide oversight and training for Peace Corps medical officers and other post staff members. Under the leadership of the associate director of the Office of Volunteer Support, the Peace Corps has developed a comprehensive plan to improve the health care of serving Volunteers. The proposed actions are congruent with a variety of recommendations made by earlier assessments and, when realized, will significantly improve the quality of care that Volunteers receive. C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION The Office of Volunteer Support is working to develop policies and procedures to implement additional aspects of their recommendations, including establishment of a credentialing unit, implementing a scope of practice directive, and expanding the regional Peace Corps medical officer structure. Recommendation VII-2: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Services continue to pursue improvements to the quality of health care for Volunteers. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations The following recommendations are made by the assessment team: Recommendation VII-2: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Services continue to pursue improvements to the quality of health care for Volunteers.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIXA.2.a Pre-departure training Staff members at post most often conduct the actual training. Some posts have a full time training staff supplemented by part time staff when training events are underway while others use part time staff almost exclusively. Post staff members provide language training, cross cultural, safety and security, health training, and job-related training for both Volunteers and sometimes their host country colleagues. At this time, the roles, responsibility and authority of OPATS and the regions have not been clearly defined. There is sometimes confusion and a lack of coordination between the two groups. Their mission and relationship to one another as well as their task, need to be clarified. Two organizations at headquarters have responsibility for supporting Volunteer training. The Field Assistance Division of the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS), and the regions. OPATS works with regions and posts to design, implement and evaluate training systems and activities. OPATS staff members collaborate with post staff to train Volunteers in new developments in community integration, cultural sensitivity, capacity building and technical assistance in health, education, environment, small enterprise development, and youth development. A.1. Introduction PART A: VOLUNTEER TRAINING
• An analysis to determine minimum and optimum full-time training staffing for posts; The growth task force recommended a phased approach to increasing the number of full time training staff at posts. The strategy includes: In their analysis of Volunteer training, the growth task force indicated that the majority of posts do not have year-round key training staff. Thus, significant resources are spent on repeatedly recruiting and training new part-time staff at each post when a training event such as PST is scheduled. When the training event is over, many of the part-time staff members find more permanent jobs and are not available for the next PST, requiring post to recruit and train new staff. Not only are resources needlessly spent, Volunteers are then trained by inexperienced staff. Posts in all three regions (63 percent of Africa posts, 50 percent of IAP posts and 38 percent of EMA posts) reported significant training staff limitations and turnover as one of the greatest challenges to designing and delivering successful training. This contributes to why Volunteers rated technical training the lowest of the five training areas on the 2009 Annual Volunteer Survey. A.3. Training staff A.2.d Close of Service Conference Approximately three months before their service ends, Peace Corps Volunteers attend a Close of Service Conference with their cohort that lasts two to four days. Normally, this conference is time to wrap up Volunteer service with reflection on accomplishments and is time to plan not only the final months of service but re-entry into life after the Peace Corps. It is a time of looking back and looking ahead, a time of celebration and reflection. Each post is required to submit a training status report in October of each year. The Office of Overseas Programming and Training (OPATS) reviews the reports and summarizes key data into an analysis of how posts are analyzing, designing, implementing, and evaluating training events. In preparation for quality growth, the Director of the agency established an agency-wide growth task force during the first quarter of FY 2010. A subgroup of that task force concentrated on Volunteer training. For two months, the training subgroup, composed of training staff from OPATS and the regions consulted with posts, reviewed documents, and attended the worldwide programming and training officer conference. Their recommendations were consistent with those expressed at the country director conferences and centered on four main areas: improvement of technical training, institution of a year round training staff at each post, improved training for post training staff, and additional training days for Volunteers. If a minimum number of full-time training staff members were hired and trained at each post, they would be able to design, deliver, and evaluate Volunteer training during the entire 27-month continuum. They could provide additional targeted training, perhaps sub-regionally, to Volunteers and their host country colleagues. Additionally, training staff members are the key people to reinforce newly learned knowledge and skills through ongoing Volunteer support and coaching. Finally, full-time training staff members could assist posts with site visits and site development, so that posts can make Volunteer training more relevant, as well as provide additional staff to engage in these critical activities. • An analysis of consistent job titles and scopes of work;
Posts also report, in their training status reports, challenges in implementing quality training because of their inability to hire, train and retain language and technical trainers for PST. At the majority of posts, new training staff members are given a short (often one week or less) training for trainers workshop before PST begins. Due to budget restrictions in the past few years, posts have had to reduce the training given to their newly hired and often inexperienced training staff. The growth task force recommends, and the assessment team agrees, that three to four weeks of training would provide more in-depth knowledge and skill building. The growth task force points out the steps the Peace Corps needs to take to build capacity of language and technical training staff members: • A decision as to next steps. • Agency support for posts in developing a process for the recruitment, training, and retention of year-round training staff; • An analysis of the impact of more year-round training staff; and, Recommendation VIII-2: The assessment team recommends hiring and training key full-time training staff members at posts. * Develop training of trainers modules;
- Train post staff to deliver these modules; and,
- Roll out longer and more effective workshops for trainers.
The growth task force recommended that teaching English as a foreign language training be standardized first and that other priority areas follow. The task force recommended developing a tool kit, including a curriculum for covering the basic methodologies and approaches, sample session designs and guidelines for practice teaching, suggested topics for in-service training, and guidance for site visits and observation of Volunteer classes. All field staff would receive the materials in a series of workshops. According to the growth task force: Another reason quality is lacking in some areas is due to the number of technical areas in which a post may need to train Volunteers. Currently the Peace Corps has fifty distinct projects that are divided into six sectors in the three regions. For example, the thirteen projects in the health sector include community health, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and child health. The fifteen distinct projects in the environment and agriculture sectors range from environmental management to aquaculture and from green agriculture to urban agriculture. Six projects dominate the small enterprise development sector, while eleven projects are carried out in the education sector. The youth development sector has five projects. A number of factors can account for this relatively poor showing. Survey results partially are related to the amount of technical training posts provide to Volunteers, as well as the quality of the training. The amount of technical training has decreased in the past ten years, and now a significant number of posts currently report a lack of time to do adequate technical training. This decrease in time can be attributed to two factors. As safety and security concerns have increased, the amount of time devoted to safety and security has increased, eating into the amount of time available for technical training. Also, as budgets have been cut, training time in general has decreased. in working with counterparts and community partners and their job-related technical training was not effective or poor. In 2009, the Annual Volunteer Survey for the first time asked Volunteers a tailored set of questions relevant to their time in-country. Volunteers in-country for 18 months or less were asked “How effective was your pre-service training (PST) in preparing you to…” Responses were tabulated for 2,972 Volunteers in the form of “not effective,” “poor,” “adequate,” “effective,” “very effective,” and “NA/No training.” The agency requested input on the Peace Corps’ operations from overseas staff at recent country director conferences and at the worldwide programming and training officer conference held in March 2010. Volunteer training was the focus of a number of recommendations from both country directors and programming and training officers. Recommendation VIII-3: The assessment team recommends building the capacity of training staff by developing appropriate Training of Trainer workshops for training staff. A.4. Core technical training across posts Both groups said that technical training, while improved in the past five years, is still not meeting expectations of post staff and Volunteers. They developed a set of recommendations that included increasing funding for more training days, additional funding for training host country counterparts with Volunteers, developing basic standardized technical training modules for various projects, and instituting year-round training staff at each post. Appendix VIII-1 shows the global results for the Volunteers in-country for 18 months or less who answered the questions about PST. In general, safety and security training, cross cultural training, dealing with adjustment issues, and health training were rated the highest, with only 3 percent to 7 percent of Volunteers rating these items as not effective or poor. However, 25 percent of Volunteers felt their training When all Volunteers were asked to rate their in-service training, 16 percent of 4,079 Volunteers felt their technical training was poor or not effective, and 17 percent felt their training in working with counterparts and colleagues was poor or not effective. A second issue is that the quality of technical training at some posts is less than adequate. One reason is this is that many posts do not have full-time key training staff, so materials are not updated on a regular basis and, as noted above, inexperienced training staff are less effective than those who have experience and substantial training. Since each post is responsible for developing the content of their technical training, the wide scope of the projects and the variation in skill levels and preparation of training staff members can lead to inconsistent quality of technical training for Volunteers. “All aspects of training can be supported by providing up to date, standardized, quality materials-manuals, guides, session plans, accompanying audiovisuals, etc. that allow for cultural and contextual adaptation and save the staff time, energy and money from having to design their own from scratch.” The growth task force recommended developing standardized technical training in core areas with the collaboration of experienced field staff. Field staff worldwide would then learn to do the training. Other
According to the growth task force, a global Peace Corps survey found that 38 percent of posts felt they needed one additional week of PST to deliver quality training while 6 percent felt they needed at least two to three additional weeks. Similarly, 43 percent of posts indicated they needed four to six additional in-service training days and 14 percent needed ten additional days. The growth task force recommends the Peace Corps: A.5. Providing for quality Volunteer learning approaches to delivering standardized training have been advocated including contracting with an organization in the United States to provide core technical training to all Volunteers in a sector before they arrive at post or contracting with sub-regional training centers outside of the United States to provide standardized technical training with additional training provided at post. Recommendation VIII-4: The assessment team recommends standardizing core technical training materials for targeted intervention areas while giving posts the option of adding country specific information to the core material. Since different methods of delivering standardized technical training to Volunteers have different cost and staffing implications, the assessment team recommends testing two or all three of the proposed methods of delivering training—at post, sub-regionally, and in the United States. Due to tight budgets in the past few years, training days often have been cut to meet budget restrictions. Most posts cut PST from historical levels of twelve weeks to nine to ten weeks and have cut in-service training as well. Also, as safety and health concerns have increased over the years, training time has been diverted to these areas at the expense of language, technical, and cross-cultural training. * Analyze training needs to justify additional training time;
- Provide budget support for increased training time when indicated; and,
- Evaluate the effects of increasing training time
• Level 2: Learning: Did the participants learn the skills? B.3. Measuring training effectiveness The goal is to bring about a “tipping point,” where the behavior change being promoted becomes a “social epidemic” that spreads quickly to a larger population. Based on the book, “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell, Behavior Change Intervention postulates that change usually comes about because of the influence of a few select messengers who convince early adapters who then influence others. The key is to find the few key early messengers, a “sticky” message and ways to help people put into practice their new knowledge and behavior. These techniques not only sell potato chips and jeans, but also promote positive social behaviors. While the Peace Corps has traditionally concentrated its technical training on content (i.e. how to do a needs assessment, how to write a marketing plan, how to teach English using the communicative method, etc.), recently, the agency has increased efforts in helping Volunteers learn methods to change behavior in a positive direction. Based on training status reports turned in to headquarters, 97 percent of posts are using project plans to identify learning needs, 86 percent have developed competencies and 75 percent submitted learning objectives. While 92 percent of posts report having sequenced the content of their training continuum based on learning objectives, 64 percent report having lesson plans for their learning objectives. • Training content is sequenced along the 27-month continuum. • Assessments and evaluation are conducted in a fair and participatory manner; • Criteria for success are clear and there is a system for measuring attainment of learning; • Collaboration is essential to training design and evaluation; Over the past few years, OPATS and regional training staff members have worked hard to standardize the training methods across posts (as distinct from the content of training which is not standardized). The Peace Corps introduced a model for training design and evaluation, based on best practices in instructional design, that is now in use across all regions and at all posts, with varying levels of sophistication. The underlying training design and evaluation include the following principals: B. RECENT CHANGES Feedback from Volunteers and post staff members also indicates a need for increasing the number of training days, and the country directors and programming and training officers agreed and made similar recommendations at their conferences. Recommendation VIII-5: The assessment team recommends that the agency refrain from cutting training as a method of meeting budget reductions. B.1. Training design and evaluation • The project plan is the basis for training and determines the content of training; • Proper methods are used to train to each learning objective; • The process for training design and evaluation is iterative; and, The training design and evaluation system consists of a set of activities including needs assessment, development of competencies and learning objectives, as well as a plan for training and evaluation. B.2. Behavior change intervention Behavior Change Intervention is a strategy that uses behavioral, communication, social marketing theory, and research to provide a systematic framework to influence individual behaviors. Key elements include identifying and segmenting target audiences, involving these audiences in developing materials and key messages, and using multiple communication channels to transfer those messages. Using the above principles, the agency has developed a course in behavior change intervention for Volunteers and is rolling it out in a series of “train the trainer” workshops. The Peace Corps uses Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model74 to assess training effectiveness. In this model, there are four levels of measurement: • Level 1: Reaction: Did the participants like the training? • Level 3: Behavior: Did the participants use the skills?
• Level 4: Results: Did the participants make a difference because of what they learned?
74 Kirkpatrick, D. L. (1994). Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels. San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler.
In the past few years, posts have reported on the extent to which they evaluate learning at the four Kirkpatrick levels. Posts have reported the following: Historically, the Peace Corps has relied on Level 1 to evaluate training. This level is measured by the Annual Volunteer Survey and post surveys at the midpoint or end of training. In the past few years, the agency has been training posts to use Level 2 and even Level 3 in evaluating training effectiveness. The Peace Corps gauges Level 2 through tests, assessments, and interviews before and after training. Posts can measure Level 3 when they observe Volunteers at their work sites or interview Volunteers’ counterparts or colleagues. Level 4 is the most difficult to determine, but the Peace Corps is making gains in using this form of evaluation. In the Peace Corps, Level 4 evaluation may include an assessment of students’ test scores, an increase in the number of women attending a prenatal clinic, or an increase in the number of community projects due to the work of participants who attended a project design and management workshop. Impact studies organized and led by the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning will provide Level 4 information. To learn more about impact studies, see chapter IV A.8. * Level 1 (Did the participants like the training?): 72 percent report always evaluating whether participants like the training.
- Level 2 (Did the participants learn the knowledge, skills, and attitudes?): Only 59 percent of posts report always assessing whether learning took place, although another 34 percent of posts report often assessing at Level 2.
- Level 3 (Do participants use the knowledge, skills, and attitudes on the job?): Twenty-six posts (41 percent) report often evaluating to Level 3, and 24 posts (38 percent report only sometimes evaluating to Level 3.
- Level 4 (Does the Volunteer make a difference due to learning?): This level is the least often evaluated, with 30 percent of posts reporting sometimes evaluating it and 17 percent reporting never evaluating to Level 4.
Recommendation VIII-4: The assessment team recommends standardizing core technical training materials for targeted intervention areas while giving posts the option of adding country specific information to the core material. Since different methods of delivering standardized technical training to Volunteers have different cost and staffing implications, the assessment team recommends testing two or all three of the proposed methods of delivering training—at post, sub-regionally, and in the United States. Recommendation VIII-2: The assessment team recommends hiring and training key full-time training staff members at posts. The assessment team recommends the following five recommendations to improve Volunteer training: quality, professionalism, and impact and will simplify core technical training. However, reducing the number of technical areas is only the first step to improving training for generalist Volunteers. While the Peace Corps has, historically, done an excellent job of training mostly young professional or generalist Volunteers in language, safety, health, cross-cultural, and job-related (technical) skills, the past few years’ worth of budget cuts hurt the ability of posts to hire, train, and retain training staff and thus to provide crucial training for Volunteers. Additionally, the sheer number of projects and because each post develops its own training content contribute to a need for improved technical training for Volunteers. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION One of the cornerstones of Volunteers’ effectiveness is the training they receive before they begin their service and during their two years of service. During the past few years, the agency has made significant advances in standardizing training (training design and evaluation) and, with the behavior change intervention model, is forging new territory in helping Volunteers be more effective at their jobs. When the Peace Corps focuses the agency’s efforts on a limited and targeted number of specific technical interventions, as recommended by the assessment team, it will dramatically improve the Peace Corps’ Once the technical areas are identified, technical training in each area must be designed and established to achieve global excellence. When the agency consistently commits to providing resources to support training, the Peace Corps can once again assume prominence in this area. Recommendation VIII-1: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps’ leadership clarify both the mission and the responsibilities of the office of Overseas Programming and Training Support and the regions in supporting Volunteer training. Recommendation VIII-3: The assessment team recommends building the capacity of training staff by developing appropriate Training of Trainer workshops for training staff. Recommendation VIII-5: The assessment team recommends that the agency refrain from cutting training as a method of meeting budget reductions.
C.2. Strategy for Implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
141 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
142 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
Each post has an administrative structure in which the administrative officer manages the work of financial analysts, a cashier, a general services manager, an information technology specialist, a variety of administrative assistants, and, in some cases, guards, drivers, gardeners and cleaning staff. In general, most of the positions—except the administrative officer, cashier, and possibly one financial analyst—are personal service contractors. Training staff members vary from post to post and can be full-time or part-time, depending on the number of training events sponsored by the post. In almost all cases, training staff members are personal service contractors. While the organizational structure and number of staff varies among posts, there are some similarities. In each of the three regions, each post has a U.S. direct hire country director and U.S. direct hire or foreign service national administrative officer. The programming and training officer position is standard for two of the Peace Corps regions, while in Africa, twelve posts have programming and training officers and others are supported by a sub-regional programming and training coordinator. Most of the programming and training officers are U.S. direct hires while a few are foreign service nationals. U.S. direct hires are subject to the five-year rule while foreign service nationals and personal service contractors are not. Many foreign service nationals and PSCs have been working for the Peace Corps for more than ten years, some for more than 30 years. A.1. Structure of overseas staff PART B: STAFF TRAINING A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS In the last few years, the Peace Corps’ staff size has ranged from 2,000 to 2,200 staff members, approximately 10 percent of whom are United States direct hires. The rest are host country foreign service nationals (approximately two at each post) and host country personal services contractors. See chapter V for more information about personnel. Only U.S. direct hires and foreign service nationals are considered by the Peace Corps to be employees. However, in practice little distinction is made at the post level between foreign service nationals and personal service contractors. Associate Peace Corps directors, often called program managers or project managers, are occasionally U.S. direct hires but are most often host country personal service contractors. Associate Peace Corps directors have project management and Volunteer support responsibilities. All posts have a full-time personal service contractor safety and security coordinator, reporting to the country director. Posts also have medical staff members who oversee the Peace Corps health plan in-country. Staff size varies with the number of Volunteers in-country and ranges from less than twenty members to more than seventy members per post.
Additionally, each region develops its own approaches to ongoing staff development, and regions vary their policies and resource allocations. Annual or bi-annual conferences for country directors and administrative, programming, and training officers are common, as is support for staff exchanges, temporary duty assignments, and mentoring or shadowing models. Only a limited number of post staff members are eligible for OST. Beyond OST, opportunities for training and development have been unsystematic and have fluctuated greatly as agency and post budgets have fluctuated. Staff development funds enable posts to provide training opportunities for local staff members, but there is no transparent process for allocating the funds and no agency-wide process for requesting funds. Depending on the urgency of filling a position and the availability of resources, some U.S. direct hire staff members report to their posts first and return later for OST. Other U.S. direct hires, usually those who have been Peace Corps staff previously, go through a brief headquarters orientation and may or may not return for OST. Host country staff members usually wait at least one year, and more frequently several years, to attend OST in Washington. Throughout the years and across the regions, various permutations of these patterns have existed, and there are no data to suggest that one approach is better than another is. Traditionally, the Peace Corps has used Overseas Staff Training (OST) for country directors, senior programming and training staff, and administrative officers. OST is a Washington, D.C.-based program of orientation and job preparation. Ideally, U.S. direct hires get OST in the beginning of their employment, and host country staff members get OST within the first 18 months of employment. The length of OST has varied from three to five weeks, and content has been revised over the years. A.2. Overseas training for country directors, program and training staff, and administrative officers OST is scheduled three times a year—in January, June, and October—and lasts for approximately three weeks. Three separate tracks are held concurrently: the country director, administrative officer, and programming and training tracks. The primary focus of OST is on building awareness and knowledge of responsibilities and challenges at post and on networking and resource identification. All sessions are linked to competencies and learning objectives. Each participant leaves OST with a list of recommended and required activities at post to extend training into application. A.3. Staff orientation and development beyond OST Through its Field Assistance Unit, the Office of Programming and Training Support (OPATS) provides staff development through specialists and training staff who assist overseas staff in improving their performance in programming and training. In the Inter-America and the Pacific (IAP) Region, a programming and training officer conference is held yearly, while the program and training officers meet in conjunction with the training managers every other year. The region sponsors one or more sector conferences each year, bringing together associate Peace Corps directors. Sometimes, a specialist will visit a number of posts to conduct training, such as sessions for language and culture coordinators. Regional and sub-regional conferences have been held for administrative officers, financial assistants, and general services coordinators. Posts turn in their staff development plans and requests for staff exchanges during the development of their operating plans. The exchanges are funded as the budget allows. In addition, the IAP Region uses its sub-regional programming and training officer to carry out staff development training throughout posts in the region.
An Internal Management Assessment of the Center for Field Assistance and Applied Research (now the Office of Programming and Training Support) conducted in the spring of 2008, succinctly and plainly described the overseas staff development situation in the agency: Recently, several headquarters offices—including the Office of Acquisition and Contract Management, the Chief Financial Office, and the Safety and Security Office—have initiated efforts to provide online training to overseas staff to address job requirements that are the purview of their offices. The majority of staff development occurs through on-the-job experience. Depending on budgets and the interest of the country director and the region, some posts develop ongoing staff development plans and support a variety of activities, such as all-staff retreats, outside courses, and learning sessions held at lunch time for post staff. Again, there is little to no data about the effectiveness of these various approaches, and posts’ activities are not centrally tracked or evaluated. The Africa Region employs four sub-regional program and training coordinators, each responsible for six to eight countries. These coordinators hold staff retreats and team building and skills training sessions for their countries when invited by the country director. Staff exchanges are common, and a roving administrative officer is responsible for on-going administrative staff development activities. The twelve program and training officers also have staff development responsibilities in their countries. In 2010, the Africa Region is requesting funds for two new staff training opportunities: (1) a twelve-day conference for training managers and language and culture coordinators on the issue of maintaining quality during growth and (2) two mini-OSTs events to be held in Africa and facilitated by headquarters staff members and the sub-regional program and training staff members. The Europe, Mediterranean and Asia (EMA) Region has also encouraged staff development through a variety of programs. Two sub-regional workshops were held in 2009, including a workshop for trainers. At the conclusion of the workshop, the attendees were asked to return to their posts and train staff there. Then, three sets of trainers, who had been trained at the original workshop, went to other posts to train representatives from neighboring countries. Finally, a chat group was set up for post staffs to share their thoughts and concerns. Staff development was also organized through a monthly series of WebEx conferences. Such conferences dealt with Volunteer learning assessment methods, conflict transformation, and collaboration between administrative and programming staff, among other things. The region also supported staff exchanges, as well as a weekly newsletter containing links, information and staff development resources. Exceptions to this pattern have been the training of medical officers, safety and security coordinators, and information technology specialists. In addition to annual headquarters training for all new medical officers, the Office of Medical Services provides training each year to all of the medical officers, who are mandated to earn annual continuing medical education credit. The Safety and Security Office and the Chief Information Officer’s office also deliver beginning and ongoing training for their field staff in regularly scheduled coaching and training events. A.4. Internal Management Assessment of the Center for Field Assistance and Applied Research “There is basic agreement that the agency has long undervalued and under-invested in professional development for all its staff, but particularly for its host country national staff….staff training and development remains relatively static, narrowly defined and ad hoc in terms of scheduling.”
Following the Internal Management Assessment, the Center was reorganized and renamed the Office of Program and Training Support (OPATS), with the mission of: B. RECENT CHANGES Staff members working at headquarters as political appointees are in key and senior positions. They receive similar training to that provided to any newly-hired individual: security procedures, time sheets, etc. After several months, they are invited to attend a three-day management training course. They do receive an overview of the Peace Corps’ approach to development, policy challenges, structure of the agency, and other overarching themes. This assessment focuses on overseas staff training. While the predominant emphasis of the Peace Corps’ training should be on our Volunteers and overseas staff members, the agency needs to ensure that headquarters staff also is engaged in continuous learning. “Organize and staff a unit tasked with developing and continuously updating a knowledge base that informs staff professional development options…expand e-learning courseware…recognize staff who complete training goals.” The assessment proceeded to make a number of recommendations to alter the situation, including encouraging the use of new technologies to address field needs for skills enhancement, information sharing and collaboration. A number of the recommendations centered around reorganizing the core function of the unit to refocus on overseas staff capacity building and to redefine staff members’ primary focus from specialists to broad resource people who not only have technical backgrounds, but are conversant with the Peace Corps’ core business practices. The assessment made significant recommendations concerning staff training and professional development. For example, the team recommended: A.5. Headquarters staff orientation and training Staff development at headquarters is done on an ad-hoc basis and is not currently seen as an agency priority. An individual staff member may take a course, and various events are arranged for headquarters staff at lunch time. Computer training is offered on an on-going basis. However, an organized approach to continuous learning is lacking, as is an agency-wide approach to staff development that is tied in with performance evaluations. While not a formal recommendation, the assessment team strongly urges the agency to extend the learning continuum (as discussed in the next section) to headquarters staff members and to develop an orientation program for political appointees. B.1. Office of Program and Training Support “Engaging in field staff capacity building and to support overseas programming and training staff at every opportunity.”
Work on the continuum of learning began about eighteen months ago with the question: How can one apply the concepts of training design and evaluation to staff development? In answering this question, the OPATS team developed a framework for a continuum of learning that includes the following: B.2. The continuum of learning OPATS includes two major units: the Field Assistance Division and the Knowledge Exchange and Professional Development Division. The second division, composed of the Knowledge Exchange Unit and the Overseas Staff Development Unit, is responsible for providing reference, technical information, learning materials, and training to overseas staff members, both U.S. direct hires and host country staff. The Overseas Staff Development Unit’s purpose was “to develop an initial training orientation for field staff and to create, implement, and evaluate a continuum of learning for field staff.” Growing recognition of the importance of overseas staff training led to a recommendation that the Peace Corps develop a continuum of training. Over time, the term “continuum of training” has morphed into the “continuum of learning” to reflect the strong emphasis in the Internal Management Assessment on the creation of a staff unit tasked with professional development of overseas staff. * A job analysis for each overseas staff position will lead to a set of job competencies;
- Learning objectives can be developed from the competencies;
- Courses and learning events can be sequenced to meet the increasing job demands;
- A wide range of learning modalities, such as face-to-face instruction, online learning, webinars, peer-to peer-learning, coaching, and regional or sub-regional meetings should be employed;
- Assessments determine competencies; and,
- Learning management and content management systems allow staff access to a bank of resources.
The OPATS staff, with the assistance of regional and field staff, has made a strong beginning to initiate the development of a continuum of learning for overseas staff members. While progress has been made, as detailed above, it has slowed due to a variety of factors: “Further development, review and testing … Each track has used a different method for developing the … competencies and learning objectives. Each product is at a different level of detail and contains different components … Moving from the job competencies and learning objectives to a clearly defined curriculum of courses and other sequenced learning events reflecting a wide range of delivery modalities is a journey just begun. Streamlined processes that produce these desired results are required.” As described above, the fundamental building block of a continuum of learning is a clearly defined set of job competencies and learning objectives derived from a job analysis. So far, competencies and learning objectives have been developed for three positions: country director, program and training officer, and administrative officer. In addition, OPATS staff has developed a preliminary sequence of learning events for the staff positions that are eligible to attend Overseas Staff Training (OST). These learning events include attendance at OST, shadowing, structured activities at post, coaching, and attendance at specific training events and conferences. A summary document, published about a year ago, indicated that OPATS would take the lead in developing and implementing the continuum of learning and would have responsibility for developing the analyses and content for programming and training staff, as well as some administrative staff. Offices such as Safety and Security, Medical Services, Special Services, and the Chief Financial Office would develop specialized training, working with OPATS to coordinate course development. Regional staff members would provide input on development of elements and would adopt uniform approaches to using the continuum. Regional conferences would provide opportunities for integrating development activities either during or before post conference events. B.2.a Accomplishments to date The OPATS summary document indicates that the competencies and learning objectives need: B.2.b Current status of the continuum of learning * The complexity of the task;
- Competing demands on staff time; and,
- Lack of clarity about the scope of work and requirements of the task.
The growing complexity of managing a large and diverse organization indicates a need for on-going staff training and development. As discussed above, at this time, posts have little capacity to train staff. Orientation programs, as well as direct training, have received little attention in the past. It is crucial that posts be prepared to orient and train staff, so posts can provide quality support to the Volunteers. Recommendation VIII-7: The assessment team recommends completion of the two courses under development and continued efforts to license or use already developed online courses in leadership, management, and communication skills as a way of providing immediate access to development for overseas staff. Additionally a concerted effort will need to be made to establish a culture of learning, so that overseas staff is motivated and rewarded for completing courses and is given time during working hours to do so. When overseas staff is comfortable with using online courses for development, then it may be useful to continue the development of additional in-house designed e-courses. While the learning management system platform is scheduled to be introduced this spring, content is scarce. Courses under development include “Introduction to Peace Corps” and “Cross Cultural Communication.” The Office of Safety and Security has plans to develop additional courses, and the Peace Corps is beginning to develop partnerships to share various online courses currently available. This past year, the Peace Corps has developed a prototype for online applications using a free learning management system called Moodle, which is an open source platform. OPATS is now poised to instruct headquarters staff to use the system, and the system will be launched for field staff later this year. The genesis of the learning management system began in late 2007 when the Staff Training and Development Council was formed as a “forum for developing an organization-wide staff training and development vision and mission.” Staff from thirteen departments met, with support from the Director’s office, to develop plans for a hosted learning management system and a content management system. B.3. The Global Online Village Recommendation VIII-6: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support redefine the continuum of learning to make it simpler, more focused, and adaptable. Partly in recognition of the importance of informal, just-in-time learning, the Knowledge Exchange Unit has begun to focus on development of learning and content management systems to support a Peace Corps Global Online Village that would allow Volunteers, staff, and partners to share information, training, informal learning, and discussions worldwide. The Global Online Village could provide the means to support self-directed learning as well as online mentoring and peer-to-peer support. A learning management system, analogous to an online classroom, is software for developing, delivering, tracking, and managing training. A content management system, analogous to an online library, is a web-based software program used to create, edit, publish online, manage, and effectively search for various kinds of digital media. See Appendix VIII-2 for a more thorough discussion of the learning and content management systems and the Global Online Village. A pilot program was conducted in 2009 to test the interest in online courses. For five months, a bank of off-the-shelf courses was offered to staff at posts with very limited announcement of their availability. In general, there was enough interest to justify proceeding with further development of online courses. While the number of people completing a course was small, those who did so indicated that these types of courses are important (78 percent) and are helpful in carrying out their current jobs (56 percent) or are helpful in developing their careers (41 percent). Seventy-four percent indicated that they wanted a course on leadership skills, while 70 percent indicated that management courses and communication skills courses would help them do their jobs better. B.4. Staff development Recommendation VIII-8: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support develop a basic orientation for all overseas staff. Posts develop training plans for current and new staff members.
Recommendation VIII-7: The assessment team recommends completion of the two courses under development and continued efforts to license or use already developed online courses in leadership, management, and communication skills as a way of providing immediate access to development for overseas staff. Additionally a concerted effort will need to be made to establish a culture of learning, so that overseas staff is motivated and rewarded for completing courses and is given time during working hours to do so. When overseas staff is comfortable with using online courses for development, then it may be useful to continue the development of additional in-house designed e-courses. The following three recommendations are made concerning staff training: Additionally, the team recommends that the two courses under development—“Introduction to the Peace Corps” and “Cross Cultural Communication”—be finished and sent out to the field for use. They can be refined and, if necessary, improved based on feedback from posts. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION A number of initiatives have been partially developed to support ongoing training for overseas staff. These initiatives have been delayed or even temporarily abandoned due to shifting priorities and budget concerns. The assessment team recommends that progress resume on development of a continuum of learning for overseas staff but that the project be considerably simplified. A simplified version can be deployed, tested and improved over time. Finally, it is crucial that each post has in place an orientation and training plan to support the on-going development needs of current and new staff. This will ensure the posts are able to provide quality support for Volunteers. Recommendation VIII-6: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support redefine the continuum of learning to make it simpler, more focused, and adaptable. Recommendation VIII-8: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support develop a basic orientation for all overseas staff. Posts develop training plans for current and new staff members.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
153 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)Since its inception, the Peace Corps has coordinated with thousands of organizations in support of its operations at the local, national, and international levels. The coordination of the agency’s activities with international and host country organizations is defined in a variety of ways and includes formal and less formal agreements, verbal collaborations, and, in some cases, may involve an exchange of funds. Traditionally, the Peace Corps has entered into these agreements75 for the following reasons: A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS
- To support the Peace Corps’ Volunteer recruitment efforts and to assist returning Volunteers in carrying out the Peace Corps’ third goal activities; and,
- To obtain grants and donations.
- The Peace Corps in Mongolia has assigned Volunteers to work with Mongolian NGOs that partner with Mercy Corps in provincial centers. In addition to covering housing expenses for Volunteers placed at these NGOs, Mercy Corps also participates in pre-service and in-service training for Volunteers.
- In Benin, the Peace Corps has worked with Population Services International on health projects in that country. Through a tripartite arrangement between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Population Services International, and the Peace Corps, a third-year Volunteer has been assigned to work with Population Services International to increase coordination among the various organizations implementing the President’s Malaria Initiative.
- The Peace Corps in Niger has placed Volunteers to work with and support the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization irrigated land project. Volunteers work with the organization’s staff members to support irrigation projects, grain banks, and improved gardening in the community.
- In Costa Rica Volunteers are coordinating with NGOs working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in cooperation with the Government of Costa Rica’s agency on children’s issues and child protection.
In addition to the host government and local NGO partnerships described above, in FY 2009, the agency also partnered with more than 160 international partners (see Figure IX-2 below), the most important of these being USAID. More than half of all posts (42), reported some sort of collaboration with USAID, making this agency the most frequently reported partner for the Peace Corps. The Volunteer has recently applied for a fourth year of service. During his third-year, this Volunteer developed a series of programs that were national in scope. One of these programs was the Ambassador’s Build, a program in which foreign Ambassadors came together to work with community members, Peace Corps Volunteers, and other staff members to build houses for poor families in rural communities. In addition to his work with Habitat for Humanity during this third-year, the Volunteer also assisted the Peace Corps Romania post in providing training and support to incoming Peace Corps trainees, as well as the currently-serving Volunteers and host country counterparts.
Individuals and organizations can also choose to donate resources directly to support Volunteer projects, third goal activities, and other headquarters and regional activities through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, a tool through which Volunteers can promote and receive funding for projects they are working on. All donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of donations made to the partnership program are used for project purposes. In FY 2009, more than 10,000 donors contributed $1.8 million through the partnership program that in turn leveraged another $1.6 million in local monetary and in-kind support. Those donations benefited more than 640,000 individuals. The Peace Corps also receives financial support from USAID through Participating Agency Program Agreements and Small Project Assistance grant funds. Currently, three Peace Corps posts have negotiated five different Participating Agency Program Agreements with USAID under this framework. Two of these are in the Philippines ($350,000 from FY 2004 to FY 2010 for the environment and $1.8 million from FY 2003 to FY 2010 for education), two are in Mali ($1.1 million from FY 2010 to FY 2013 for food security and $300,000 from FY 2009 to FY 2011 for education), and one is in Senegal ($1.6 million from FY 2010 to FY 2013 for food security). A.2.c Agreements and collaborations for funding and donations The partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers offers the Peace Corps an opportunity to target applicants with relevant health experience and provides Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with job placement opportunities at the National Association of Community Health Centers. Both City Year and the National Association of Community Health Centers receive funding from AmeriCorps, and these agreements reflect the agency’s goal of strengthening ties with AmeriCorps-funded programs to attract a more diverse Volunteer base. The Peace Corps hopes to attract City Year's diverse members and alumni to continue their service internationally with the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps also has signed an important agreement with the National Peace Corps Association, which offers transition support to Volunteers returning to the United States after their service through a mentoring program. In addition, the Peace Corps and the National Peace Corps Association collaborate on third goal activities—bringing the world back home—through speakers programs and member groups.81 The Peace Corps is an important participant in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and coordinates activities in this area with the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. PEPFAR currently funds the Peace Corps’ activities in 46 posts and provides resources for some of the activities of the Office of AIDS Relief at headquarters. It is the largest supporter of the Peace Corps’ programs in dollar terms (approximately $13 million in funding in FY 2010 and cumulative funding of approximately $89 million from FY 2004 to FY 2010). While nearly two-thirds of current posts receive funding from PEPFAR, the largest Peace Corps programs receiving such funding are in southern and eastern Africa.82 The Small Project Assistance program is designed to provide small grants to communities within developing countries and training of host country nationals through Peace Corps-organized, in-service training activities and technical workshops. Volunteers assist communities in identifying projects and applying for these small grants. Volunteers also work with their communities in implementing the projects. USAID provided approximately $2.5 million for Small Project Assistance activities in FY 2010 in more than forty countries. Since the inception of the current Small Project Assistance agreement in September 2007, USAID has obligated approximately $7.8 million for Small Project Assistance grants and training activities. 81 The agreement with the National Peace Corps Association is discussed in greater detail in chapter XI.A.3. 82 See Appendix III-4; Volunteers working in HIV/AIDS prevention by country.
Partnership development OPATS staff members organize and attend meetings with organizations, write proposals for funding and other agreements, and prepare draft agreements and concept strategy papers (some focused on specific partnerships, some more general policy pieces on partnerships). This work is done in conjunction with several offices, including the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs, the three Peace Corps regions, the Office of the General Counsel, and others. A.3.c Overseas Programming and Training Support The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs is responsible for developing and implementing the Director’s policy and strategy for building and maintaining relationships with other U.S. government agencies, with particular focus on agencies with missions that intersect most directly with the Peace Corps’ mission. The office also contributes to the Peace Corps by identifying potential partners and synergies to maximize the Peace Corps’ contribution to ongoing international development efforts. The Director’s office has the lead role in exploring how innovative partnership strategies can assist the Peace Corps in placing Volunteers in new types of assignments in countries in which the Peace Corps already has operations. The office also develops NGO partnership strategies that can be used for launching Peace Corps programs in new countries. At the time of the writing of this report, discussions were underway between senior Peace Corps staff and leaders of NGOs—including the World Wildlife Fund, Save the Children, and the Cooperative Housing Foundation—to explore possible worldwide partnerships. As discussed in the previous section, the vast majority of all agreements are developed, implemented, and managed at the post level. However, several offices within the Peace Corps’ headquarters also have the responsibility of developing and managing agreements with outside organizations. They are the Office of the Director, the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support, the Office of Public Engagement, the Office of AIDS Relief, the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs, and the Office of Private Sector Initiatives.83 A brief description of each of these offices and the role that they play in developing and managing agreements and collaborations with other organizations is presented below. A.3. The Peace Corps’ management of agreements A.3.a The Office of the Director A.3.b The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs As discussed in section A.2 of this chapter, USAID has historically been one of the Peace Corps central interagency partners. One of the primary goals of the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs is to support and enhance the Peace Corps’ relationship with USAID at headquarters and at post levels. The office also coordinates with and supports the other units discussed in this section in developing a criteria and structure for partnership development, with a focus on the agency’s four key growth areas: agriculture and food security, health (HIV/AIDS and malaria), education (teaching English as a second language and girls education), and energy and environment. The Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS)—through its Partnership Development Unit, sector specialists and other staff—develops and manages partnerships with U.S. government agencies, international organizations, and NGOs that are beneficial to programming and training. OPATS’ activities concerning partnerships fall into three general areas. 83 The Office of General Counsel, the three regions, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Office of Contracts and Acquisitions also have some responsibilities regarding partnerships (e.g., ensuring the legality and suitability of partnerships).
Attainable goals are established in the area of HIV/AIDS, with a clear framework of accountability. Much of this direction comes through the agency’s participation in PEPFAR. The Office of AIDS Relief reviews, interprets, and recommends policies related to PEPFAR and provides guidance for post participation in interagency teams, utilization of funds, and compliance with requirements. To attain its goals, the Office of AIDS Relief works in close collaboration with the Peace Corps’ three regions and the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support. A.3.e Office of AIDS Relief A.3.d The Office of Public Engagement Partnership implementation OPATS staff manages and implements active agreements for the agency. For now, this is primarily the Small Project Assistance agreement with USAID’s Office of Development Partners, which is managed by the Partnership Development Unit in OPATS. For sector-specific agreements that are currently in development, OPATS sector specialists and Partnership Development Unit staff members will work together to manage and promote the agreements. This management involves ensuring that the Peace Corps meets its obligations under the agreements, disbursing funds to posts, tracking use of funds, providing guidance to posts, writing and submitting programmatic reports, and coordinating with other agency offices and units to implement activities. OPATS, the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs, and others are currently working on finalizing an Energy/Climate Change Agreement for Latin America with the U.S. State Department and a Global Education Framework Agreement with USAID. Partnership tracking, data analysis, and information dissemination OPATS collects, analyzes, and shares information on partnerships and collaborations. An important aspect of this is the collection of data on all field collaborations; the data are maintained in a partnership database. OPATS also collects and shares information on agency-level partnerships. Currently, OPATS is upgrading the partnership database to expand its usefulness by providing a central location for information on meetings and partnership developments between the Peace Corps and external organizations. The Office of Public Engagement, formerly the Office of Domestic Programs, manages initiatives that help the Peace Corps in achieving its third goal activities (to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans) and in supporting Peace Corps Volunteers as they return to the United States. The office is currently working on new partnerships with domestic organizations in support of both of these areas. The office manages the agreement with the National Peace Corps Association. The Office of Public Engagement most recently has worked with the Office of Volunteer Recruiting and Selection to develop the partnerships with City Year and the National Association of Community Health Centers signed earlier this year (discussed earlier in section A.2.b of this chapter). The Office of AIDS Relief provides agency-level policy, overall leadership, and general supervision, direction, and coordination of all domestic and foreign HIV/AIDS activities relating to the Peace Corps’ programs. The Office of AIDS Relief is also responsible for coordinating the agency’s participation in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). While the agency will receive approximately $89 million in PEPFAR funds from FY 2004 to FY 2010, it is still a relatively small partner—only 0.3 percent of the overall PEPFAR budget. At the same time, Peace Corps Volunteers excel in the areas that are currently being emphasized by PEPFAR: prevention, capacity building, and country ownership. Peace Corps Volunteers have demonstrated that they play a unique role in the fight against HIV/AIDS at the grass-roots level. Consequently, the Office of AIDS Relief, in coordination with the Office of
A.3.g Peace Corps Response Office staff members manage the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which began in 1964 as the “Schools to Schools” program, connecting American school children to school children abroad. Today, the Peace Corps Partnership Program continues to connect interested groups and individuals with Volunteer-led, community-initiated projects worldwide. Although many Volunteers are able to undertake projects utilizing local resources and skills, the partnership program provides a critical alternative for projects that require additional funds. The partnership program is available for Volunteers at every post. A.3.f Office of Private Sector Initiatives Inter-Governmental Affairs and the Director’s office, is currently looking to expand the agency’s role within PEPFAR. The Office of Private Sector Initiatives supports the first and third goals of the Peace Corps and serves three distinct customer groups: Peace Corps Volunteers and the host-country communities they serve, donors to the Peace Corps, and the agency itself. The office oversees and manages all cash and in-kind donations to the Peace Corps. The Office of Private Sector Initiatives offers a transparent mechanism for the private sector—which includes family and friends of Volunteers, returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups, schools, foundations, trusts, corporations, businesses, faith-based organizations, and civic groups—to be part of the Peace Corps experience by donating to the important work of Peace Corps Volunteers and agency initiatives. The office also accepts in-kind donations made to the Peace Corps and directly to Volunteers.84 The Peace Corps Partnership Program projects have made an important contribution to communities across the globe since the program was launched in 1964. In FY 2009, the partnership program received donations from 10,595 donors totaling $1.8 million. These funds were applied to 639 community-initiated projects in 60 countries. A minimum 25 percent community contribution is required for a project to receive partnership program assistance, and in FY 2009, the actual community contributions were nearly 45 percent of project costs, with approximately $1.6 million in cash and in-kind community contributions. In 2010, Peace Corps Response expects to work with at least 75 different organizations as shown below:
The Director has stated that through strategic partnerships, the Peace Corps intends to: B. RECENT CHANGES Peace Corps Response typically does not work with many partners in multiple countries. Catholic Relief Services works with Response Volunteers in three countries. The majority of the 200 Response Volunteers serving in FY 2010 are located in the Eastern Caribbean, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, and the Philippines. These five posts have approximately half of the all Response Volunteers in the field and consequently are where Peace Corps Response has entered into most of its agreements and collaborations. 84 As defined by the Peace Corps Act (Pub. L. 87-293, as amended: 22 U.S.C. §2501 et seq.), gifts or bequests to the Peace Corps are tax-deductible as charitable contributions under section 170(c) 1 of the Internal Revenue Code.85 May include several government agencies within one host country government. B.1. A new perspective on partnerships * Gain greater access to enhanced training opportunities for Volunteers and counterparts;
- Add levels of technical and financial resources to enhance community projects in the field;
- Expand the agency’s network and clientele;
- Promote the exchange of best practices and lessons learned between the Peace Corps and other development organizations; and,
- Further integration into the larger development community within host countries.
• The Peace Corps should promote the development of partnerships with the goal of encouraging a greater number of third-year extensions, targeting a doubling of the number of third-year extensions in FY 2011 from FY 2009 levels; The international partnerships subgroup made the following three recommendations to the Director regarding international NGO partnerships: Recommendation IX-1: The assessment team recommends that roles and responsibilities concerning the development and management of strategic partnerships within the agency be clearly defined. Headquarters should focus on identifying strategic partners and negotiating and formalizing partnership agreements that facilitate and support the development and management of field-level partnerships between the strategic partner and Peace Corps posts. The responsibility for developing and managing a country-level collaboration under a global partnership agreement that meets the specific needs of the country should rest with local staff members of the strategic partner and of the agency. “A mutually beneficial agreement signed by headquarters in which all of the parties share a common goal, contribute resources (either financial or in-kind), have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and share in the overall decision making process. To be considered a partnership, the agreement would need to be of sufficient size and scope to allow for activities in a large number of countries or, if the purpose is to support the agency’s domestic activities, across a significant region of the United States.” Historically, all agreements and collaborations that the Peace Corps enters have been considered partnerships, whether they are at the local, national, or international level. As a result, there was some initial confusion within the agency when the Director introduced the concept of working through strategic partnerships to accomplish the agency’s goals. This became apparent when the growth task force’s subgroup on international partnerships began its work on international partnerships. At the Director’s request, the international partnerships subgroup was asked to provide a clear definition of “partnership.” The international NGO partnership subgroup focused on NGOs that support the Peace Corps’ programmatic efforts in the field. This subgroup was not tasked with analyzing the types of agreements that the agency enters into with other organizations. B.2. The growth task force The Director also believes that in addition to those partnerships that support Volunteers and their counterparts in the field, strategic partnerships will also enhance the Peace Corps’ initiatives in the United States. Specifically, the Director has asked staff to identify and develop strategic partnerships to enhance the agency’s efforts in attracting a larger and more diverse group of Volunteers, to support third goal activities, and to support returned Peace Corps Volunteers as they integrate back into their communities in the United States. Partnerships could also play a greater role in the Peace Corps’ operations by facilitating site development and providing supervisory technical support, complementing staff capacity. The Director also recognizes that strategic partnerships must benefit all parties in the agreement or they will not be successful in the long run. The Peace Corps’ partners would gain increased access to individuals, organizations, and service providers at the grassroots level, where the Peace Corps has a strong presence and where other organizations work on a very limited basis. This unique Peace Corps strength provides potential partners with sustainable support to expand their reach of services and implement national and regional activities at the community level. The development sector as a whole would benefit through the coordination of efforts and the elimination of overlapping activities, thereby increasing the number of beneficiaries reached and the overall impact in countries served by the Peace Corps. The Director created the growth task force86 in the first quarter of FY 2010 to identify innovative strategies to facilitate the agency's goal of quality growth. An international NGO partnerships subgroup was one of twelve task force subgroups formed to research and develop recommendations in key areas. Assessment team members participated in all of the international partnerships subgroup meetings, which provided the assessment team with valuable input for the preparation of this chapter of the assessment report. More than twenty individuals participated in the partnership subgroup, including representatives from posts (country directors and program and training officers) and headquarters. In addition, representatives from two international NGOs that the Peace Corps has worked with in recent years provided insight. 86 See chapter II.D.2.f. for additional information on the growth task force. The subgroup on international partnerships defined a partnership as: The partnership subgroup made two important observations in developing and proposing three recommendations that specifically concern international NGO partnerships but that also apply to partnerships in general. The first relates to the roles and responsibilities of headquarters and field staff in the development and management of partnerships and is echoed in the assessment team’s recommendation below. The second observation was that the development of strategic partnerships was seen primarily as a mechanism to improve program quality rather than as a mechanism to support rapid growth. This observation was made during a partnership subgroup discussion on the willingness of the agency to assign Volunteers to a strategic partner to quickly expand into a new country or into a new area of an existing Peace Corps country. The international partnership subgroup concluded that strategic partners can and should play an important role in supporting the agency and its Volunteers but that the Peace Corps was not willing to delegate the overall responsibility for Volunteers to the strategic partner. For example, while a strategic partner might provide funding for housing or assistance in site selection, the Peace Corps is not willing to delegate the overall housing and site selection process, nor could the agency delegate the responsibility for the medical care or safety and security of Volunteers to another organization. The assessment team agrees with this observation. • The Peace Corps should consider partnerships with international NGOs as a way to facilitate new country entries; and,• Health – HIV/AIDS and malaria (The primary partners are the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, the President’s Malaria Initiative, USAID, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs was established in the first quarter of FY 2010 to strengthen the agency's coordination with U.S. government initiatives such as the inter-agency task forces on food security and alternative energy. It is responsible for developing and implementing the Director’s policy and strategy for building and maintaining relationships with other U.S. government agencies to cultivate new agreements and partnerships. Additionally, this office pursues broader collaboration with United Nations agencies, such as the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization. The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs played an instrumental role in negotiating an agreement with USAID following the earthquake in Haiti to assign Peace Corps staff and Volunteers to support U.S. government relief efforts there. The international NGO subgroup also noted that the agency currently does not have a partnership strategy focusing on quality growth and recommended the establishment of such a strategy to guide the development of strategic partnerships with international NGOs to better support the agency’s programmatic efforts in the field. As discussed in section C of this chapter, the assessment team agrees with this recommendation and has expanded the recommendation to include all types of partnerships pursued by the agency. The international NGO subgroup observed that in the past, the agency has worked with international NGOs to successfully support new country entries using Peace Corps Response or third-year transfer Volunteers. These partnerships can speed regular Volunteer assignments and help establish a permanent Peace Corps presence in a country more quickly than it could otherwise. The international NGO subgroup recommended that the agency identify best practices through case studies on recent new country entries and that the agency compare and contrast those experiences with experiences in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Based on this analysis, the agency should determine the best way to work with international NGOs to support future new country entries. The assessment team agreed with all three of these recommendations as discussed below and in section C of this chapter. • The Peace Corps needs to develop an overarching strategy to guide the development of strategic partnerships. Recommendation IX-2: The assessment team recommends promoting the development of strategic partnerships on an ongoing basis with the goal of encouraging a greater number of third-year Volunteers, providing new opportunities for Volunteers while growing the impact of the Peace Corps.
The third initiative will establish an education framework agreement with USAID. By structuring the agreement to allow buy-ins by USAID headquarters, bureaus, and field missions, this mechanism will allow collaboration both for broader agency-level education initiatives, as well as specific interventions in interested countries. This agreement likely will be signed in the fourth quarter of FY 2010. The Peace Corps is currently establishing significant partnerships in three programmatic areas. The first of these initiatives is a proposed agreement for $1 million over three-years to support the Peace Corps’ renewable energy and climate change efforts in Latin America. That partnership would be supported through an interagency agreement between the Peace Corps and the Department of State Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. This initiative will advance the goals of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. The agreement likely will be signed in the third quarter of FY 2010. B.4. The Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support • Energy and the environment (The primary partners are the State Department’s Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and USAID.) The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs also supports the work of other offices within the Peace Corps to help develop headquarters-level umbrella agreements that posts can use in establishing country-level agreements and to encourage more third-year Volunteers. The office is also working to facilitate the employment of returned Peace Corps Volunteers by federal agencies and to raise awareness of non-competitive eligibility within the executive branch agencies. The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs also intends to engage USAID on greater involvement of returned Volunteers in that agency’s Development Leadership Initiative new entry program. The Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support (OPATS) has refocused partnership development efforts. OPATS’ management, the Partnership Development Unit, and sector specialists within the Field Assistance Division have worked to re-establish and enhance relationships with U.S. government agencies and NGOs. In these efforts, OPATS has collaborated with several agency offices, including the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs and the three Regions. OPATS is actively pursuing partnerships in all of the Peace Corps’ programming sectors, with an emphasis on developing partnerships that will meet programming and training needs at posts. OPATS seeks relationships that will provide personnel, financial, and technical resources that will allow OPATS to deliver a wider array of support to the field, such as subregional programming and training workshops, technical experts to review and design projects, materials, and in-kind resources to distribute to posts. The second programmatic area where there has been significant partnership activity is in food security. Through a partnership with USAID’s Africa Bureau, the Peace Corps hosted a workshop in December 2009 in Dakar, Senegal, at which programming and training staff from all Africa posts convened to learn about and exchange information about programming in food security. USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are currently supporting, for at least one year, a full-time senior food security advisor in OPATS. In addition, the Peace Corps is exploring an interagency agreement with USAID to promote both headquarters and field-level collaboration on food security.87 This will enable the Peace Corps to effectively mobilize its field resources to promote the objectives of the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative by expanding training and technical assistance in the fields of agriculture, food, and nutrition security. 87 Discussions between the Peace Corps and USAID are also exploring the possibility of a broader interagency agreement that would state shared intentions for partnerships on Global Climate Change, Global Health, and other Administration initiatives. Both USAID and the Peace Corps believe that there are other opportunities for closer collaboration in the future.
The assessment team believes that the above recommendations, in conjunction with the recommendations made in previous sections of this chapter, will provide greater focus to the Peace Corps’ efforts to develop the types of partnerships that will better enable the agency to accomplish its mission and three goals. The team makes five recommendations: The vision and strategy discussed in chapter II has implications for the development of future strategic partnerships, which will need to focus on the small number of intervention areas that the agency will work in. This focus, and the emphasis on impact, will help guide the development of an agency-wide partnership strategy, which currently does not exist. As described in the previous sections, six offices within the Peace Corps’ headquarters are directly involved in the identification, promotion, development, and management of agreements and partnerships for the agency. Several offices are also involved in the collection and analysis of data on these agreements and partnerships. Although these offices coordinate with each other, the assessment team observed that to a large degree, these offices work independently within their focus areas. Furthermore, while these offices currently hold weekly meetings to exchange information on the status of their efforts, the agency lacks a coherent, overall partnership strategy. C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION As explained in section A.3.d, the Office of Public Engagement manages initiatives that help the Peace Corps in two areas: third goal activities and support of returned Peace Corps Volunteers as they transition back to the United States. The shift of the Office of Public Engagement out of the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection to now report directly to the Director’s office reflects the importance the Director has attached to strengthening third goal initiatives within the agency. B.5. The Office of Public Engagement Although, no longer a unit within the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection, the Office of Public Engagement continues to support that office in the development and implementation of agreements with domestic organizations in support of the agency’s recruitment efforts. In addition to the agreements negotiated with the National Association of Community Health Centers and City Year (discussed in section A.2.b of this chapter), the Office of Public Engagement has just negotiated an agreement with The Corps Network—an association of 143 environmental and conservation non-profit organizations—to help the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection identify potential Volunteers for environment and conservation assignments. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations Recommendation IX-4: The assessment team recommends that all activities within the agency’s headquarters related to agreements and partnerships be coordinated by the Director’s office. Recommendation IX-5: The assessment team recommends developing an agency-wide partnership strategy. The partnership strategy would guide the agency’s efforts on the promotion, development, and management of all agreements and partnerships and should reflect the strategic vision for the agency as presented in chapter II of this report. Recommendation IX-1: The assessment team recommends that roles and responsibilities concerning the development and management of strategic partnerships within the agency be clearly defined. Headquarters should focus on identifying strategic partners and negotiating and formalizing partnership agreements that facilitate and
Recommendation IX-4: The assessment team recommends that all activities within the agency’s headquarters related to agreements and partnerships be coordinated by the Director’s office. Recommendation IX-2: The assessment team recommends promoting the development of strategic partnerships on an ongoing basis with the goal of encouraging a greater number of third-year Volunteers, providing new opportunities for Volunteers while growing the impact of the Peace Corps. support the development and management of field-level partnerships between the strategic partner and Peace Corps posts. The responsibility for developing and managing a country-level collaboration under a global partnership agreement that meets the specific needs of the country should rest with local staff members of the strategic partner and of the agency. Recommendation IX-3: The assessment team recommends reviewing recent new country entry experiences with international NGOs to develop a strategy for working with international NGOs in the future on new county entries. Recommendation IX-5: The assessment team recommends developing an agency-wide partnership strategy. The partnership strategy would guide the agency’s efforts on the promotion, development, and management of all agreements and partnerships and should reflect the strategic vision for the agency as presented in chapter II of this report.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
169 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (continued)A.2. Measurement of attrition Administrative separation Pursuant to the Peace Corps Act, 22 U.S.C. 2504(i), the service of Volunteers or trainees may be terminated at any time at the pleasure of the President. The authority of the President to terminate service has been delegated to the Director of the Peace Corps. Accordingly, the Director, or anyone to whom the Director delegates such authority, may separate Volunteers or trainees at any time, purely at the discretion of the deciding official. In practice, administrative separation is the involuntary exit of Volunteers due to violations of the Peace Corps’ policy. Volunteers are given the option of resigning in lieu of administrative separation. Resignation A resignation is a decision made by Volunteers and trainees who no longer wish to continue in the Peace Corps. “However, there are circumstances under which a particular [Volunteer or trainee] cannot or should not remain in service until his or her completion of service (COS) date. In these circumstances, the V/T's service will be subject to "early termination." There are four types of early termination, each discussed separately in this Manual Section.” According to the Peace Corps Manual, Section 284: A. DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT PROCESS
The cohort method, as the name suggests, measures a cohort of trainees and the percentage of those individuals who have terminated early as compared to the total number of individuals in the cohort. The advantage of using this method is that the information is complete and there is no ambiguity. The disadvantage is that complete analysis on the cohort can be delayed for as long as 27 months, because analysts need to wait and see what happens to Volunteers of the cohort who are still active. A.3. Differences among the three measures A.2.c The length of service measure Dividing the number of trainees who terminated early in a given fiscal year by the number of trainees who entered service in that fiscal year gives the cohort early termination rate. To calculate the annual resignation rate, divide the number of resignations in a twelve-month period by the number of Volunteers who have been active within the same twelve-month period. In FY 2009, there were 844 resignations and 11,549 active Volunteers; the annual resignation rate was 7.3 percent. A.2.a The annual method The annual method uses the number of early terminations within twelve months, starting October 1 of a given fiscal year and ending September 30 of the following year. The annual early termination rate is calculated by dividing the number of early terminations within a twelve-month period by the number of all Volunteers who have been active within those twelve months. For example, in fiscal year 2009, starting October 1, 2008, and ending September 30, 2009, there were 1,155 early terminations. There were 11,549 Volunteers active during that period. The annual early termination rate for FY 2009 was 10 percent. A.2.b The cohort method The cohort method requires collecting data for the entire 27 months of a Volunteer cohort’s service, so cohort early termination rates for FY 2008 or later cannot be calculated because those Peace Corps Volunteer cohorts have not yet ended their service. In FY 2007, there were 4,077 trainees who entered on duty, and there were 1,247 early terminations, including 1,001 resignations. The FY 2007 cohort early termination rate was 30.6 percent. The FY 2007 cohort resignation rate was 24.6 percent. In addition to the two measures of early terminations and resignations, the Peace Corps reports the Volunteer average length of service in a fiscal year. OSIRP analyzes the months of service for Volunteers leaving during the twelve months (resignations, other types of early termination, and Close of Service). This measure, one of the Peace Corps’ strategic plan indicators, summarizes the time Volunteers serve on average. In this measure, credit is given for extensions, as Volunteers who extend raise the average length of service. The cohort and annual methods differ fundamentally, because they measure different sets of Volunteers. The annual method was developed as the Peace Corps realized there was a need for more current data than the cohort method could provide. The advantage of the annual method is that analysis can be conducted as soon as a fiscal year ends, providing actionable data to posts. The Peace Corps conducts an analysis of annual termination and resignation rates on a rolling basis that gives the agency a fresh look at trends every quarter. The disadvantage of this method is that it does not allow a comparison among cohorts.
The Peace Corps has measured early termination rates since its inception, as shown in Figures X-1 and X-2. Many studies have offered recommendations for reducing attrition. OSIRP has recently finished a review of studies done since 1969 on early termination and, in that review, identified more than 90 memos, studies, research papers, task force documents, and concept papers dealing with attrition88. Recommendation X-1: The assessment team recommends that the agency continue to collect and analyze early termination/resignation rates using all three methods. However, the assessment team recommends that these rates begin at the time a trainee swears in and becomes a Peace Corps Volunteer. The length of service measure indicates how much opportunity Volunteers had to impact their communities. It provides additional information to the annual early termination/resignation rate and the cohort early termination/resignation rate. Consider the difference between an annual early termination rate of 10 percent with a length of service measure of fifteen months, versus an annual early termination rate of 10 percent with a length of service measure of 22 months. In the second case, Volunteers served longer in their communities and, it is assumed, would have had a better chance to impact those communities. Comparing the two methods is like comparing high school dropouts in a given year (annual method) to dropouts of a graduating class, in which the count would start in the freshman year and end four years later (cohort method). The Peace Corps’ two methods measure two different sets of Volunteers over different periods of time. However, both have specific and valid uses. It is important to note that all three measures begin measuring attrition at the time a trainee enters on duty at staging. Thus, if an individual leaves the first day and does not even get on the airplane for his/her country of service, that person is considered as someone who has terminated service early. Trainees who leave during training are also considered to have “early terminated.” Measuring attrition in this way ignores the fact that pre-service training is designed to be a period when trainees can make an informed decision about their continued participation in the Peace Corps and the Peace Corps staff can make an informed decision about the suitability of the trainee for service. At the end of training, both the Trainee and staff have decided that the individual is suitable for service and the trainee is sworn in as a Volunteer. It makes sense to begin counting attrition at that time: when an individual becomes a Volunteer. A.4. Trends in early termination/resignation rates 88 See Appendix X-1 for a list of these documents.
60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
- Personal Health;
- Personal Safety;
- Peace Corps Program/Work Assignment;
- Country Assignment/Adaptation;
- Personal/Family Related; and,
For example, two posts may have the same resignation rate. However, at one post, Volunteers are resigning primarily for reasons related to their emotional and mental health due to the hardships associated with serving at that post. At the other post, Volunteers are primarily resigning to pursue further education or for other career opportunities. The resignation rates mean very different things for the two posts. A.7. Understanding what resignation rates measure The agency sometimes uses ET and resignation rates as synonyms for each other. Actually, the two are distinct. The ET rate refers to all types of early termination, and the resignation rate refers only to those Volunteers who resigned. The way the agency uses the terminology can be confusing. Thus, the assessment team makes the following recommendation: Under the section called “Ideas and Resources,” country directors are asked to think about adaptation problems, job problems, and unrealistic expectations and are given strategies to help Volunteers deal with these concerns. “The early termination rate among Volunteers is within worldwide Peace Corps norms. Volunteers basically like the host country, their jobs, and their lives as Volunteers. The country director and staff work to reduce unnecessary resignations.” strategies for achieving the standards. This handbook is used extensively during Overseas Staff Training, and country directors are encouraged to use it as a resource when they are at their posts. In this handbook, the indicator for ET is: The handbook then goes on to list questions to think about such as, “What was your early termination rate among Volunteers last year? How would your ET rate break down by time in service and primary reason? How prevalent were job-related problems or job dissatisfaction among the reasons for leaving?” Host country staffs have indicated, in discussions with the assessment team, that a Volunteer’s decision to resign is not taken lightly. Post staff members counsel Volunteers and seek to remedy the problems that lead Volunteers to contemplate resigning, if it is within their ability to do so. Country directors indicated that they use the ideas and strategies laid out in the handbook when counseling Volunteers who are contemplating resignation. Additionally, country directors mentioned that they periodically review their early terminations with host country staff to determine if programmatic changes or policy changes need to be made to reduce their in-country resignation rates. Recommendation X-2: The assessment team recommends that the agency clarify which rate it is using and should focus on monitoring resignation rates, which put the focus on attrition that is perceived to be controllable by the agency. Some have argued that resignation rates represent a direct measure of the agency’s performance, including recruitment, placement, site development, training, and Volunteer support. Resignation rates are only an indirect measure of the quality of recruitment, placement, and post management. They can be viewed as indicators of what is happening at headquarters or at a post, but resignation rates do not indicate why. While the absolute resignation rate may tell us little directly about the agency’s performance or post management, changes in resignation rates may indicate that something is happening at headquarters or post that should be investigated.
Rather than set a specific goal of lowering resignation rates, it makes more sense to work on the activities that directly affect a Volunteer’s service. In September 2007, an Internal Management Assessment concluded that well-managed and efficient posts shared several fundamental characteristics, including: A.8. Resignations and country director and post performance If excessive attention is placed on viewing resignation rates as a direct measure of post management, there are a variety of ways that the rate can be lowered while, at the same time, decreasing the quality of the program. For example, a decision can be made to relax enforcement of policies such as number of hours a Volunteer is expected to teach or the amount of time a Volunteer can be away from site. Those actions may make Volunteers more likely to stay but will lead to a decrease in their impact and ability to fulfill the Peace Corps’ three goals. * A well qualified, experienced, and trained country director with strong leadership ability;
- A motivated and well-trained staff;
- A system designed to meet safety and medical needs;
- A sufficient budget;
- A transparent management system; and,
- Well trained Volunteers engaged in meaningful projects and assignments at well developed sites.
The task force produced a table summarizing problems and 26 recommendations that fall within critical areas of managing expectations. The table listed offices that would take the lead on refining and developing specific recommendations. The offices included communications, recruitment, staging and posts. The task force also noted that some posts currently practice many of the recommendations and that these best practices should be used agency-wide. While many of the recommendations have been implemented, it is useful to review them again for current relevance. A 2006 Peace Corps task force reviewed resignation reason data and a sampling of resignation form comments to “brainstorm solutions that may help reduce resignations.” The task force identified one overriding problem: expectations. They concluded that: A.11. Previous task force studies on reducing resignation rates When the reasons for resignation are categorized into controllable by the agency and uncontrollable, the controllable cohort resignation rate for 2007 was approximately 6.6 percent (24.6 percent cohort resignation rate multiplied by 27 percent controllable resignations). Using the same reasoning, the annual resignation rate for 2009 was less than 2 percent. Also as discussed above, the agency perceives some of the reasons for resignation as controllable, while others are seen as uncontrollable. A review of reasons for resignation indicates that, according to the latest figures, 73 percent fall into the uncontrollable category (such as health or family-related issues) while 27 As mentioned above, the Peace Corps has reduced its cohort ET rate from 55 percent in 1969, its apex, to Recommendation X-3: The assessment team recommends continued review of resignation data and the development of action items at headquarters and at post, when indicated by high resignation rates or an increase in resignation rates. A.9. Resignations and Volunteer impact When the agency and posts achieve those characteristics, the stage is set for a minimum and appropriate resignation rate. While the resignation rate may be a good indicator of Volunteers’ resiliency, the measure is not a direct indicator of the impact that Volunteers have on their communities. It is possible that ambitious and effective Volunteers can complete significant projects and leave early to pursue further education or careers. On the other hand, less effective Volunteers may provide just adequate value to their communities yet stay for the full term of service. A.10. Controllable resignation rates 30.6 percent in 2007, the agency’s lowest cohort rate since 1961 (24 percent) and 1996 (29 percent). Since 2000, the cohort resignation rate has ranged from 28 to 24 percent and in 2007, the cohort resignation rate was 24.6 percent. Similarly, the annual ET rate for 2009 was at a low rate of 10 percent with a 7.3 percent resignation rate, down from a high of 9.8 percent in 2001. percent fall into the controllable category (such as concerns over the Peace Corps’ support, work assignment, etc.). Even if the figures err on the side of classifying reasons as uncontrollable when they are in fact controllable, the cohort resignation rate that can be managed by the Peace Corps certainly is less than 24 percent and most likely ranges from 8 to 15 percent. While the Peace Corps should work to reduce its resignation rate, and in fact does so, the problem of high resignation rates may not be as much of an issue as some have indicated. Many of the studies done since 1969 have made recommendations on how to reduce ET or resignation rates. In fact, 97 discrete recommendations appear in these studies, many of which have been adopted over the years. “When expectations differ from reality, it causes problems at all levels from recruitment throughout a Volunteer’s service. These expectations are held by the Volunteer, staff and/or host country personnel. The task force submits that managing these expectations could help reduce resignations.” Recommendation X-4: The assessment team recommends that the Early Termination task force findings of 2006 be reviewed and implemented.
In recognition that expectations influence Volunteers’ behavior and satisfaction with their Peace Corps experience, the agency in 2008 developed a set of core expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers. These core expectations are seen as the first step of in program to manage expectations, not only on the part of Volunteers but on the part of staff and host country counterparts as well. The assessment team reached out to currently serving Volunteers through the Volunteer Advisory Committees at posts and asked them to send us their ideas concerning improvement of the Peace Corps’ operations. One Volunteer wrote: One way to increase the length of service rate and to capitalize on the resources spent recruiting, placing, and training Volunteers, as well as capitalizing on the professionalism of current Volunteers, is to increase the number of third-year extensions. The agency is working to develop initiatives to encourage Volunteers to extend for a third-year and is collecting information about incentives for extension. Suggestions have been collected at the recent worldwide program and training officer conference and at the three country director conferences. Posts and agency staff members have contributed their ideas for encouraging extensions. For example, one study done at a post indicated that a significant number of Volunteers would be interested in serving an additional year if a number of incentives were put in place. A summary of this survey appears in Appendix X-4. B. RECENT CHANGES B.1. Encouraging extensions B.2. Expectations management “Each Volunteer makes a 2 year-long term commitment and I believe most begin with a real dedication to service even if they fail to complete the time in entirety. As a Volunteer, I have personally known others who leave their service for a variety of reasons, some of which could not be predicted or changed. However, there are those who terminate early due to discomforts, discontent, disappointment and misbehavior. These are the cases in which there are possibilities of reform in the Peace Corps at an agency-wide level. The root of many of these cases is related directly to expectations.” The core expectations are presented in Appendix X-5. These expectations are currently used in recruiting materials and discussions and at posts during training and other events. Informal reports from posts indicate that the core expectations do clarify, for Volunteers and post staff members, the behaviors and attitudes expected of all Volunteers, and the expectations serve as the basis for fruitful discussions regarding what it means to serve.
Recommendation X-3: The assessment team recommends continued review of resignation data and the development of action items at headquarters and at post, when indicated by high resignation rates or an increase in resignation rates. Recommendation X-1: The assessment team recommends that the agency continue to collect and analyze early termination/resignation rates using all three methods. However, the assessment team recommends that these rates begin at the time a trainee swears in and becomes a Peace Corps Volunteer. The current resignation rate, measured by both the cohort method and the annual method, is at one of the lowest levels since the 1969 and 1996 fiscal years. Partially due to efforts to develop a growth strategy that ensures quality, additional attention is being placed on reviewing individual country resignation rates and on ways to encourage third-year extensions. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION The Peace Corps has been concerned with and attentive to ET rates since its inception. The agency currently collects and analyzes ET and resignation data using cohort, annual and length of service rates, and the agency uses this information to discuss with posts ways to improve Volunteer retention. The assessment team makes four recommendations concerning ET and resignation rates. Recommendation X-2: The assessment team recommends that the agency clarify which rate it is using and should focus on monitoring resignation rates, which put the focus on attrition that is perceived to be controllable by the agency. Recommendation X-4: The assessment team recommends that the Early Termination task force findings of 2006 be reviewed and implemented.
C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
183 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (continued)A.2. Interpreting the third goal Over the agency’s history, the third goal has also extended to include a variety of initiatives, from promoting political participation in the United States to conducting and promoting volunteerism. This flexibility challenges the Peace Corps to meet the objective of its third goal even as it allows it to the agency to evolve to meet current global conditions. When Volunteers, returned Volunteers, and friends of the Peace Corps support and engage in third goal activities, they provide opportunities for Americans to gain a greater understanding of the world, foster a spirit of world peace and friendship, and provide a first-hand perspective into nations and cultures that are either unknown or have limited representation in the United States. Creating a “domestic dividend” is an integral part of the agency’s spirit and encourages the Peace Corps’ unique status of never having “former” Volunteers. Instead, “returned” Volunteers are expected to engage in a lifelong commitment of representing their country of service. A.1. Background XI. STRENGTHENING THIRD GOAL ACTIVITIES AND REPORTING MECHANISMS
Then-Peace Corps Director Loret Miller Ruppe expanded support for the third goal and launched the Volunteers in Development Education program, which sought to send returned Volunteers for six weeks at a time into local communities to participate in community and primary and secondary education efforts that focused on their service. Because of Director Ruppe’s focus on the third goal, working groups identified third goal activities, as well as plans for evaluating and tracking such activities. The ideas from the 1980’s formed the genesis of the Peace Corps’ current third goal efforts. They included the following: In the 1970s, third goal efforts were common for returned Volunteers, although somewhat less of a priority for the agency and suffering from clear definition. While a 1977 report conducted by the Peace Corps showed that 98 percent of returned Volunteers polled were participating in some third goal activities, the report goes on to state that “definitions of those activities are murky and largely characterized by the returned Volunteers’ career choices.”91 In the 1960s, leadership spoke of the third goal in terms of promoting opportunities for returned Volunteers to contribute to the United States through citizenship and governance. Indeed many early publications on the third goal indicate an expectation that returned Volunteers would bring home to the United States a passion and energy for political change. These returned Volunteers were expected to answer the country’s needs for community development, improved civil rights, and individual capacity building. In urging Vice President Hubert Humphrey to serve as Chairman of the National Advisory Council of the Peace Corps, President Lyndon Johnson wrote, “The Great Society requires first of all Great Citizens, and the Peace Corps is a world-wide training school for Great Citizens.” 90 During the 1980s, a more expansive view of the third goal emerged that was more educative and was accompanied by a renewed focus on the goal. During this time, the agency fielded a survey for new activities and ideas for the third goal, resulting in the initial conversations on the Peace Corps Partnership Program; development of educational materials, curriculum and resources for American teachers; and the establishment of returned Peace Corps Volunteer Resource Centers. * Establishment of the Peace Corps Partnership Program;
- Publication of the Peace Corps Times;
- Enhancement of the Close of Service manual to include materials promoting third goal commitment;
- Establishment of the Returned Volunteer Services office;
- Initiation of a speakers bureau program; and,
- Emphasis of the relationship between returned Volunteers and the Peace Corps’ recruitment offices.
The assessment team’s analysis indicated that current efforts to achieve the third goal of the Peace Corps can be divided into four categories: The frequent redefining and multiple interpretations of the third goal provides strength and flexibility to allow the Peace Corps to best speak to the needs of the current world, as well as a source of confusion from the lack of clarity. The historical focus of the third goal—as being something returned Volunteers are tasked to complete—has limited the ability of the agency to strive fully to meet the goal and has overlooked the ability of currently serving Volunteers, their family members and friends, and the Peace Corps’ staff members to contribute in this area. 90 Letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Vice President Asking Him To Serve as Chairman, National Advisory Council of the Peace Corps, January 26, 1965 91 A Survey of Returned Volunteers, E.A. Winslow, Office of Special Services Action, Peace Corps Since the 1980s, levels of attention and direction have decreased. Stewardship for the third goal was moved from the agency as a whole, to almost completely under the Office of Domestic Programs. An Inspector General’s report from 2004 evaluating domestic programs’ success in achieving performance goals, acknowledged a lack of structure defining third goal efforts as well as a lack of resources allocated to offices supporting the third goal. Outside of the agency’s own interpretation of the third goal, the National Peace Corps Association and the returned Volunteer community it represents, have presented the third goal as ‘bringing the world back home” and as an ongoing commitment to community service, both international and domestic. A.3. Efforts to achieve the third goal * Peace Corps headquarters driven;
- Overseas post and Volunteer driven;
- National Peace Corps Association and member group driven; and,
- Independently initiated by an individual or small group of persons.
Many of these challenges were both recognized and addressed during the Director’s testimony to Congress on March 18th, 2009: Overall, the assessment team found the Coverdell program and its three operations to be reactionary, largely due to limited financial resources which could be used for the Peace Corps to promote and market returned Volunteers as a source of unique global education. For example over the course of 2009, the Peace Corps’ staff participated in a total of four teacher conferences nationwide to present the Coverdell program. The Coverdell Speakers Match program connects U.S. educators with returned Volunteers who agree to share their Peace Corps experiences in elementary and secondary schools. Returned Volunteers incorporate photographs, artifacts, and music into their classroom presentations, which are aimed to increase awareness and understanding of countries and cultures where Volunteers have unique experience and insight. Twelve thousand returned Volunteers are currently in the Speakers Match database. The program could be expanded through the inclusion of family members and friends of Volunteers, as well as the Peace Corps’ staff. While the program could potentially be expanded to non-school audiences, this would move the Peace Corps away from a clearly defined niche it can excel in, as well as result in a conflict with the National Peace Corps Association’s Speakers Bureau program. This conflict could be mitigated through collaboration and communication between the Peace Corps and the National Peace Corps Association. The Correspondence Match program connects U.S. elementary and secondary school teachers with current Peace Corps Volunteers who share their Peace Corps experiences through letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. In 2009, 57 percent of Volunteers participated in the program. Presently, 3,300 Volunteers are participating; the target is to have 5,000 participating by the end of FY 2010. The number of interested schools is greater than the number of participating Volunteers, indicating an opportunity for Peace Corps to enhance its third goal impact through the program or by revising the program to capture greater Volunteer participation. The Peace Corps has recently begun an analysis of the Correspondence Match program to understand why a significant percentage of Volunteers do not participate in the program, to ensure the agency is capturing matches made outside the program, and to determine appropriate incentives for participation. The assessment team recommends that this analysis incorporate input from overseas staff and current Volunteers. Agency-driven, third goal efforts are largely led by the Office of Public Engagement, which works with other departments within the Peace Corps to establish and implement policies and procedures that help engage as many Peace Corps Volunteers and returned Volunteers as possible. The office houses the Coverdell World Wise Schools Program, Fellows/USA, the Third Goal Program, and Returned Volunteer Services. A.3.a Efforts led by Peace Corps headquarters Coverdell World Wise Schools The Coverdell World Wise Schools program was established in 1989 to help America’s schoolchildren learn about the world’s diverse peoples, cultures, and geography through standards-based classroom resources and educator partnerships with current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers. It achieves this mission through three programs: Correspondence Match, Speakers Match, and through the development of classroom resources. Some currently serving Volunteers establish relationships similar to those formed through Correspondence Match using their own initiative, without going through the agency-structured process. Input gained for the assessment and through the 2009 Annual Volunteer Survey of the Peace Corps indicates this may in part be due to the increased technology capabilities of incoming Volunteers, as well as the increasing access to modern technology in some counties of assignment. Ensuring those matches are also captured in the analysis will further enhance the Peace Corps’ ability to track and report on third goal participation. Finally, Coverdell develops classroom resources including country-specific videos with accompanying teachers’ guides, Volunteer-written literature supported by standards-based lesson plans, podcasts, and narrated slide shows. While the agency does not currently have the ability to monitor the usage of these resources, the 2.5 million hits on the third goal section of the agency’s website, combined with the fact that the number of hits has been steadily growing over recent years, are positive indicators. Financial limitations restrict Coverdell’s ability to have a more substantial impact. The team believes a more proactive posture for Coverdell could greatly strengthen its impact and relevance as a core function of the agency, as well as raise the public profile of the Peace Corps. For example, following the recent earthquake in Haiti more than 60 percent of American adults donated to relief efforts. Enhancing the capacity of the Speakers Match program to more aggressively market returned Volunteers and former agency staff who worked in Haiti to speak about the country and its culture during a time of crisis, could have served as an exceptional opportunity for the promotion of the third goal, as well as the promotion of relief efforts in Haiti. While Haiti is obviously a unique and dramatic case, the global perspective of returned Volunteers available through Coverdell programs, merits marketing. “I plan to utilize funds from the proposed fiscal year 2011 budget to bolster the operations of the Office of Public Engagement, which manages our third goal efforts. The funds will be used, among other purposes, to promote educational opportunities that place returned Peace Corps Volunteers with schools to share their overseas experiences and to develop educational curriculum materials for American classrooms.”
Overseas Peace Corps staff members and currently serving Volunteers were less aware of these resources, perhaps as they are housed under resources for returned Volunteers on the agency website. Raising awareness of third goal materials beyond the returned Volunteer community, specifically targeting currently serving Volunteers and new enrollees in the Coverdell Correspondence Match Program may help expand the use of these resources, as would having a standard agency approach to third goal training for trainees and Volunteers. The Third Goal Program Operating within the office of Returned Volunteer Services, the Third Goal Program aims to develop and implement several initiatives for returned Volunteers, notably the third goal section of the agency website, the Peace Corps Week campaign, third goal videos, promotion of the Peace Corps’ third goal efforts in the National Peace Corps Association’s Worldview Magazine, and an ongoing email campaign encouraging returned Volunteers to engage in the Peace Corps’ programs, including those related to the third goal. Returned Volunteer Services Returned Volunteer Services offers career and transition support services for returned Peace Corps Volunteers, working directly and indirectly with current Volunteers, returned Volunteers, staff, National Peace Corps Association staff, and public and private sector leaders to develop career conferences, bulletins, and publications that help Volunteers upon their return to the United States. During these career conferences, Returned Volunteer Services encourages third goal efforts for returned Volunteers. The assessment team believes this course of action will be critical if the Peace Corps is to successfully enhance its third goal impact. In 2009, 1,665 individuals participated in Returned Volunteer Services career-based events. The assessment team believes expansion of career-based events, perhaps leveraging regional recruiting offices in their delivery, would assist returned Volunteers in their post-Peace Corps job searches and provide motivation and direction for third goal engagement and reporting. Returned Volunteer Services has recently begun creating a series of online webinars to help deliver career-related services, a positive step that will further enhance the Office of Public Engagement’s ability to communicate with the returned Volunteer community. The Peace Corps website provides “Third Goal Activity Suggestions for Returned Volunteers” and their family members and other interested groups or individuals. Included are draft templates for letters to a newspaper editor, contacts for regional Peace Corps offices and National Peace Corps Association member groups, and information on how returned Volunteers can be involved in the Peace Corps’ annual anniversary celebration (Peace Corps Week), as well as the coming 50th Anniversary Celebration. The website also includes a “How To Toolkit” for generating third goal efforts and offers an opportunity for participants to register their involvement. A free “Third Goal Resource Packet” of materials is provided to returned Volunteers who register. The Peace Corps follows up with returned Volunteers who request a resource packet to solicit information on the activity implemented. The celebration of the Peace Corps’ anniversaries provides a focal point for third goal activities by the Peace Corps. “Peace Corps Week” commemorates the anniversary of the agency in March of each year. In 2011, the Peace Corps will celebrate its 50th anniversary. To commemorate these 50 years of service, the Peace Corps is helping organize events and exhibitions in cities across the United States and in each country in which Peace Corps Volunteers currently serve. While continued promotion of agency anniversaries as a focal point for third goal initiatives is logical, increased allocation of financial resources
Additionally, the team concluded financial constraints have limited the ability of the Peace Corps to effectively market its third goal programs. Having historically received such small allocations from the annual budget of the Peace Corps, third goal efforts will be difficult for the agency to promote, market, accomplish, monitor, and report without increased financial commitment. Bringing the invaluable overseas experience and perspective of recently returned Volunteers to the U.S. operations of international NGOs, federal agencies, and private businesses would allow the Peace Corps to share some exceptional talent with potential partners. It would also provide an incentive for high-performing Volunteers to extend their service in-country. Such a program would have multiple benefits as the Peace Corps works to strengthen partnerships with leading development organizations, the private sector, civil society, and U.S. government agencies. It would also contribute to third goal objectives. The assessment team supports the establishment of a Peace Corps intern program. On May 1, 2010, Fellows/USA issued a call for participation in the program to graduate schools around the country. The assessment team believes the Peace Corps would benefit from continued expansion of the Fellows/USA partnerships into new universities as well as identifying new programs at universities currently in partnership with Peace Corps Fellows. and a more aggressive and proactive promotion of the Peace Corps’ third goal programs will extend beyond agency anniversaries and could create opportunities to reach new audiences, such as youth groups participating in summer camps or service activities. Fellows/USA Through the Fellows/USA program under the office of Returned Volunteer Services, participating graduate schools provide financial assistance to returned Volunteers enrolled in various advanced degree programs. At the same time, the returned Volunteer makes a commitment to work in an underserved local community as they pursue their degree. Returned Volunteers are eligible to participate in the Fellows/USA program at any point after they finish their Peace Corps service. Initiated in 1985 with the Institute of International Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University, today there are 52 Fellows/USA programs nationwide. The Office of Public Engagement is expanding to 54 programs by the end of FY 2010. The program is viewed favorably by Volunteers and returned Volunteers who contributed to the assessment. The Fellows/USA model gives inspiration for an innovative third goal program that establishes positions within international NGOs, U.S. government agencies, and possibly private businesses. Through a new program managed by the Office of Public Engagement, and with the involvement of the offices of Private Sector Initiatives and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Volunteers completing three years of service could apply and compete for year-long Peace Corps internships within organizations that would provide the returned Volunteer with housing and a stipend to cover their cost of living. Overarching themes discovered by the assessment team concerning the Peace Corps’ third goal efforts include the lack of appropriate database systems for managing contact information of returned Volunteers and matching programs. Not having a working database also means the agency cannot effectively monitor and report on third goal contributions. The Peace Corps’ systems lack the sophistication to identify types of participants and lack the ability to run reports. Furthermore, offices within headquarters maintain separate databases, tracking limited portions of third goal information but lacking the ability to communicate across systems. Finally, the team concluded the Peace Corps’ third goal efforts would benefit from the development of a comprehensive agency third goal strategy. As it stands now, third goal efforts at the Peace Corps are
It is also apparent that the majority of currently serving Volunteers are actively engaged in third goal efforts, whether they are aware of it or not. Contributions include developing blogs, sharing insights about life in any given country of service, and conducting monthly video conference calls with students at schools in the United States—all serve to share the overseas experience and educate others about Volunteers’ countries of service. Posts have developed templates to help Volunteers returning to the United States deliver presentations on their countries of service. Training sessions and modules have been created and implemented by overseas staff. Family and friends are actively engaged during Volunteers’ time in the field, visiting countries of service and financially supporting Volunteer efforts through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. A.3.b Post and Volunteer driven in the field Recommendation XI-4: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps develop a returned Volunteer portal for collecting and maintaining contact information and third goal contributions, as well as establishing databases for managing the multiple Office of Public Engagement programs. Recommendation XI-2: The assessment team recommends continued expansion of the Fellows/USA partnerships into new universities, as well as identifying new programs at universities currently collaborating with Peace Corps Fellows. implemented, but not guided by an overarching agency strategy to achieve the third goal. A strategy featuring goals and objectives for third goal achievement, including an assessment of the financial resources necessary to implement the strategy, should be developed. Recommendation XI-1: The assessment team recommends an increased allocation of resources to undertake a more aggressive and proactive promotion and implementation of the Peace Corps’ third goal programs. Recommendation XI-3: The team recommends establishing a Peace Corps intern program to develop competitive, year-long positions with international NGOs, U.S. government agencies, and private businesses for exceptional Volunteers who have completed three years of service. Recommendation XI-5: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps develop an agency-wide third goal strategy. The strategy should establish goals and objectives for third goal achievement, including an assessment of the financial resources necessary to implement the strategy. In reviewing input from a variety of overseas posts, it became apparent that individual Peace Corps country programs around the world address the third goal in a variety of ways and with a varied level of commitment. Some posts introduce the third goal as part of a Volunteer’s job description as soon as they arrive in-country. Other posts do not introduce the third goal until Volunteers participate in their Close of Service Conference, viewing the goal more as a post service assignment. The list of third goal accomplishments is long and impressive. However, it appears that such efforts are often the result of an individual Volunteer or post’s own initiative. Sometimes these efforts are not necessarily perceived by the Volunteer as an overall part of their Peace Corps service, nor does the agency monitor or track such successes in the way Volunteers’ first goal contributions are monitored and tracked.
The team believes such consistency can be achieved through measures such as: Additionally, much of the high quality third goal work being done today is isolated and not shared across posts or regions, nor institutionalized as agency practice to maximize impact. The assessment team encourages the Peace Corps to strive for consistency across the agency in terms of how the third goal is incorporated into Volunteer service overseas. The team further encourages the agency establish a formalized commitment to the third goal at all levels, worldwide. * Establishing third goal performance expectations and training for trainees, Volunteers and returned Volunteers;
- Capturing promising third goal practices from around the world to share amongst posts, as well as institutionalizing the most dynamic practices to heighten impact; and
- Changing the name of the agency’s end of service process from Close of Service to instead reflect, the concepts of “Continuation of Service” or “Close of Overseas Service,” indicating the agency’s commitment to third goal efforts once a Volunteer has concluded their overseas commitments.
The mission of the NPCA is to “lead the Peace Corps community and others to foster peace by working together in service, education, and advocacy.” Their mission is achieved through goals that indicate a recognition and desire to accomplish the third goal of the Peace Corps: A.3.c National Peace Corps Association driven In 1979, returned Volunteers from across the United States came together to create the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, which was incorporated in 1981. In 1993, the Council changed its name to the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). Through an elected board of directors and a small Washington, D.C., staff, the NPCA has grown to a community of 30,000 returned Volunteers and more than 140 member groups who are engaged in community service and global education in the United States and advocacy and community-building efforts in many communities in the developing world. * Promote the vitality of the Peace Corps and the application of its values;
- Establish the NPCA as the essential resource for and about the Peace Corps community; and
- Enable NPCA members to build upon and extend the Peace Corps experience and values by facilitating their engagement in global issues.
- Recognizing that many recent Hispanic immigrants to Northern Ohio had limited English language skills, the Northern Ohio Returned Volunteer Association teamed with a local Latino advocacy group to form an English as a Second Language program. The partnership provided local Hispanic immigrants free English instruction, a bilingual GED program, and life skills classes.
- The returned Volunteers of Northeast New York organize an annual Thanksgiving dinner for more than 100 international students living in the region.
- The Friends of Turkmenistan’s Buddy Program matches returned Volunteer members with Turkmen high school exchange students studying in the United States.
The previously mentioned returned Volunteer portal (Recommendation XI-4), could potentially be a tool to assist the Peace Corps in capturing both formal third goal contributions, as well as a tool to better track the types of careers returned Volunteers pursue as they share their global perspective in the United States. The ability to measure the ongoing impact Volunteers have once they complete their overseas tours would be a powerful addition to the discussion regarding the impact of taxpayer investment in the Peace Corps. A third goal summary report completed by the NPCA for the Peace Corps in September 2007 concluded, “Some of the best Third Goal activities are those that are carried out quietly—but extremely effectively— outside of the limelight, either purposely or inadvertently.”93 In reviewing information on third goal contributions of Volunteers and returned Volunteers in the past 49 years, the assessment team found this to be an accurate statement. Continued communication with the NPCA to maximize third goal efforts, coordinate tracking and reporting, and minimize unnecessary overlap in third goal efforts will be essential in the future. The need for regular communication and coordination is essential, so efforts are not unnecessarily duplicated and to ensure that all third goal efforts, whether led by the Peace Corps or NPCA, are counted as contributions towards the goal. Each organization appears aware of this potential, and the assessment team found evidence of cooperation between the two to reduce possible overlaps. For example under a FY 2008 cooperative agreement with the Peace Corps, NPCA designed and developed a web-based mentorship program among returned Volunteers and Volunteers soon to finish their tours overseas. In addition to facilitating the adjustment back home, the mentorship program increased the likelihood of long-term participation in third goal activities. By the end of FY 2008, 175 mentors, 106 mentees, and 25 groups had signed up for the program. By the end of FY 2009, 618 mentors, 493 mentees, and 35 groups were participating in the program. 92 “Peace Corps’ Bringing the World Back Home/Third Goal”, A Concept Paper for Creating a Comprehensive and Innovative Program, In Partnership with the National Peace Corps Association. The assessment team found overlaps between the NPCA and the Peace Corps’ Office of Public Engagement. Both organizations run programs matching returned Volunteers with audiences for public speaking (NPCA’s Speakers Bureau and the Coverdell Speakers Match Program). They differ somewhat in that the NPCA’s Speakers Bureau has a more broad target audience, while the Coverdell Speakers Match focuses exclusively on students from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Both organizations express challenges in their ability to monitor, track, and quantify the number of beneficiaries reached in their programs. The NPCA has recently suggested additional innovative ideas to encourage returned Peace Corps Volunteers to participate more actively in third goal activities when they return home. These include a proposal to encourage newly returned Volunteers to plan, conduct and report on third goal activities over an additional period of time following their return, with a modest financial incentive for doing so. Another idea is to create a small grants program to expand innovative third goal activities using new technologies to reach new audiences.92 Peace Corps funds for this purpose would be leveraged by a match from the NPCA. The assessment team believes these suggestions should be given strong consideration. Additional overlap is evidenced as each organization maintains its own database of returned Volunteers participating in their public speaking programs. The Peace Corps aims to focus more on collecting requests for speakers, while the NPCA focuses on maintaining and managing a list of available Volunteers. Each organization also maintains a general database of contact information for returned Volunteers. Given the complexity of collecting and maintaining this information, as well as the fact that the Peace Corps is still entering such information and updates the information manually, coordination and information sharing provide an opportunity for efficiency and improved performance. In 2010, the NPCA has agreed to provide the Peace Corps with an additional 750 returned Volunteer contacts for the Coverdell Speakers Match Program. A cooperative agreement between the organizations is in place, in part to manage these roles, minimize overlap, and foster communication. The agreement also formalizes monthly meetings between NPCA and the Peace Corps Office of Public Engagement. A.3.d Independently initiated and informal efforts The impact of Peace Corps service in motivating and inspiring the more than 200,000 individuals who have served as Volunteers to share their global perspective over the course of their professional careers and lives is often an underestimated and underappreciated component of the taxpayers’ investment in supporting the agency. Returned Volunteers have become leaders in community service and community development efforts in the United States and overseas, become school teachers bringing a global perspective to American youth, and enter a variety of other professional paths, always with a unique and valuable optic gained through their service as Volunteers. Returned Volunteers are active financial supporters of projects in their countries of service, either through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, or by providing direct financial support to organizations and communities with which they once lived and worked. 93 Third Goal Summary Report, prepared by the National Peace Corps Association for the Peace Corps, September 28, 2007
The Peace Corps has fewer mechanisms for monitoring and reporting third goal work of returned Volunteers. Those are: Questions regarding the numbers of beneficiaries are not presently incorporated into the form, but would provide the Peace Corps a greater sense of the third goal impact of currently serving Volunteers. Agency tools and mechanisms for monitoring and reporting third goal contributions have been limited but are increasing. The collection of specific third goal activities is incorporated in the Volunteer Report Form used by Volunteers to monitor their accomplishments during service, through the following question: A.4. Monitoring and reporting of current third goal mechanisms of Volunteers and returned Volunteers “If you have done something to promote more understanding among Americans (e.g., friends, family, former colleagues, classmates, acquaintances, or the American public in general) about aspects of life in your community or host country, please describe below what you did.” Additionally, the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning (OSIRP) currently implements the Annual Volunteer Survey. Completed by Volunteers, the Annual Volunteer Survey collects information from currently serving Volunteers worldwide regarding a variety of issues. As of 2009, the survey now collects information regarding participation in third goal activities. In the 2009 survey, 98 percent of Volunteers reported participating in third goal work. The survey also collects information on whether Volunteers think Americans have “gained a greater understanding of host country nationals” as a result of their Peace Corps service and the types of third goal activities in which the Volunteers are engaged. * Returned Volunteers receiving an Office of Public Engagement Third Goal Resource Packet can voluntarily respond to a follow up email from the office asking them how they had used the materials. The office reported that few returned Volunteers responded to the email request.
- In 2008, OSIRP convened seven focus groups in Washington, D.C., with returned Volunteers currently employed by the U.S. government about their how their current positions related to their Peace Corps service, including their third goal efforts.
- In 2010, OSIRP convened a series of eight focus groups in the cities of San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., with returned Volunteers to collect information about third goal efforts. Summary reports are currently being prepared.
- In 2010, OSIRP plans to conduct an Office of Management and Budget approved survey of returned Volunteers, the fourth decennial survey.
The Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service The Ruppe Award is presented by the NPCA to an outstanding member group for work that promotes the third goal or continues to serve host countries, build group spirit and cooperation, and promote service. Biennially, or in major Peace Corps anniversary years, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) presents the following awards for third goal excellence: On November 18, 2010, the agency’s Director honored a returned Volunteer with the President’s Volunteer Service Award through the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, which recognizes exceptional service of Peace Corps Volunteers abroad and in the United States, including third goal activities. To promote the third goal, the Peace Corps provides the Lillian Carter Award biennially. The award was established by the Atlanta Regional Office in 1986 to recognize an “outstanding senior returned Volunteer who demonstrates a commitment to the Peace Corps' third goal.” In memory of Miss Lillian Carter, who served in the Peace Corps as a senior in the 1960s, the award is limited in scope, as well as in potential recipients, as only senior Volunteers are eligible. A.5. Incentives and awards Given the rich contributions returned Volunteers make to “promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans,” the assessment team recommends the Peace Corps consider options for better monitoring third goal work. As returned Volunteers are no longer directly a part of the Peace Corps system, the agency cannot be held accountable for their reporting. Increasing the challenge, a sophisticated and accurate system may not be immediately attainable. However, the assessment team believes the mere establishment of reporting mechanisms for returned Volunteers—perhaps through the previously recommended returned Volunteer portal (Recommendation XI-4)—would be a significant accomplishment, allowing the Peace Corps to better tout its “domestic dividend” to the Congress and the American taxpayer. The NPCA could be an additional source for monitoring and reporting third goal work, but the NPCA’s 2007 report stated, “No comprehensive system exists to record every group’s activities.” Recommendation X-6: The assessment team recommends continuing to increase the collection of information regarding third goal participation amongst Volunteers, as well as beginning to monitor and track the number of beneficiaries reached by Volunteers’ third goal activities using the standard Volunteer Report Form. A.5.a The Peace Corps Additionally, the Peace Corps also provides the Franklin H. Williams Award, recognizing ethnically diverse returned Volunteers for their continued commitment to community service and ongoing civic contributions. The award has been offered at least biennially since 1999. It differs from the Lillian Carter Award in that it is less directly tied to the third goal, but it similarly has a more limited scope of potential recipients. A.5.b National Peace Corps Association The NPCA Electronic Media Award This award honors those groups that have labored to create and maintain effective services for "bringing the world back home" and enhancing the returned Volunteer community through innovative use of electronic media, such as websites, blogs, discussion forums, and RSS feeds. The Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service This award is given by the NPCA to a returned Volunteer who continues to make a sustained and distinguished contribution to humanitarian causes at home or abroad or is an innovative social entrepreneur whose actions will bring about significant long-term change.The third goal’s present definition, as well as the goal’s role as part of the Peace Corps’ strategic vision for the future, has been articulated. Concerning how the goal will be interpreted, Director Williams speaks of sharing experiences of countries and cultures, as well as the concept of “citizen diplomacy,” best defined in his Winter 2009/2010 interview in WorldView Magazine. He further defines his vision for the third goal, which he has classified as one of his three priorities as Director of the Peace Corps: B. RECENT CHANGES Furthermore, the assessment team found many opportunities for greater engagement with, and recognition of, third goal efforts of returned Volunteers. Highlighting the third goal achievements of returned Volunteers through agency-wide awards, recognizing third goal excellence of NPCA member groups, and creating regional or statewide awards to draw attention to the contributions of returned Volunteers would cause the Peace Corps to place greater value on its third goal, as well as raise the public profile of the agency and highlight the accomplishments returned Volunteers make in the United States. Such efforts could also prove beneficial to the Peace Corps in better engaging returned Volunteers in recruiting new candidates for overseas service.
• Increase the number of Volunteers and U.S. educators enrolled in the Coverdell Correspondence Match program; • Increase public awareness of Coverdell curriculum resources and programs by increasing the number of local, state, regional, and national education conferences attended by Office of Public Engagement staff members; Through the current Integrated Programming and Budget System process, the Office of Public Engagement has developed a plan to increase outreach efforts to enhance agency third goal efforts. Specifically, the office plans to: Along with the suggestions mentioned in section A.5 about the need for consistency in terms of how the third goal is incorporated into Volunteer service overseas, the assessment team believes institutionalizing the third goal in Volunteer service and at all levels of agency operations is essential for maximizing impact. B.3. Integrated Programming and Budget System (IPBS) Process B.2. Correspondence Match Program “We're going to put some real dynamic leadership to support the third goal. We're going to be present and accounted for in the wide ranging discussions and various forums regarding the third goal and what I would call citizen diplomacy. We're going to be engaged.”94 Given the historical confusion surrounding the definition of the third goal and what third goal activities are or should be, increased and emphatic messages about the third goal are needed. Additionally, further detail and guidance is needed from the agency to help the entire Peace Corps community (Volunteers, returned Volunteers, friends and families of Volunteers, and Peace Corps staff members) maximize third goal potential. To bridge the gap between schools interested in partnering with a Volunteer in the Correspondence Match Program and Volunteer participation, the director of the Office of Global Operations spoke with all country directors on March 2, 2010, encouraging Volunteer participation. The director also announced a new quarterly review process for monitoring participation in Correspondence Match. Given the strong interest from American schoolteachers, the low numbers of participating Volunteers should be analyzed, understood, and subsequently addressed. The Director of the agency, in discussing strategic planning at posts and headquarters in March 2010, specifically asked for Integrated Programming and Budget System submissions to consider and incorporate the third goal in planning at all levels of agency operations. The assessment team saw this development as important in both institutionalizing the third goal, as well as raising the profile of the goal in terms of operations worldwide. B.4. Plans for outreach and enhancement from the Office of Public Engagement • Increase public awareness of Coverdell curriculum resources and programs by increasing the number of local school districts and state education agencies visited by Public Engagement staff members; • Increase the number of returned Volunteers participating in career conferences;
• Increase the presence of the Speakers Match program by beginning work in tertiary classroom settings; and, • Encourage accredited U.S. graduate schools to enroll in the Fellows/USA program by issuing a national request for proposals that will be distributed throughout the United States to increase the number of returned Volunteer Fellows; • Launch a “Back to School Campaign” to communicate with returned Volunteers to encourage them to make a third goal presentation during the coming school year.
94 WorldView Magazine, Winter 2009/2010
Recommendation XI-1: The assessment team recommends an increased allocation of resources to undertake a more aggressive and proactive promotion and implementation of the Peace Corps’ third goal programs. However, the team believes achieving this vision and prioritization cannot be done without increasing third goal messaging, modifying current operations, institutionalizing third goal procedures, establishing incentives and increasing resource allocation for third goal efforts. Furthermore, the aggressive engagement of returned Volunteers, key stakeholders, and the American public to more effectively bring the world back to America through strong partnerships with schools, private and civil society sectors, and government agencies will be essential. C.1. Summary of findings and recommendations Recommendation XI-10: The assessment team recommends an analysis of the low Volunteer participation rate within the Correspondence Match program. Recommendation XI-8: The assessment team recommends continued and increased communication from agency leadership regarding the third goal’s present day definition, as well as guidance for the Peace Corps community to fulfill the goal. Recommendation XI-9: The assessment team recommends institutionalizing the third goal in Volunteer service and agency operations. C. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND STRATEGY FOR IMPLEMENTATION The assessment team concluded that achieving the Peace Corps’ current vision for the third goal, to increase understanding of other cultures and generate commitment to volunteerism and community service, as well as the prioritization of the third goal within global Peace Corps operations is possible. The assessment team makes eleven recommendations: Recommendation XI-2: The assessment team recommends continued expansion of the Fellows/USA partnerships into new universities, as well as identifying new programs at universities currently collaborating with Peace Corps Fellows.
Recommendation XI-9: The assessment team recommends institutionalizing the third goal in Volunteer service and agency operations by: Recommendation XI-7: The assessment team recommends enhancing third goal recognition from the Peace Corps and establishing awards for Volunteers and the entire returned Peace Corps Volunteer community recognizing third goal excellence. Recommendation XI-5: The assessment team recommends the Peace Corps develop an agency-wide third goal strategy. The strategy should establish goals and objectives for third goal achievement, including an assessment of the financial resources necessary to implement the strategy. Recommendation XI-3: The team recommends establishing a Peace Corps intern program to develop competitive, year-long positions with international NGOs, U.S. government agencies, and private businesses for exceptional Volunteers who have completed three years of service. Recommendation XI-4: The assessment team recommends that the Peace Corps develop a returned Volunteer portal for collecting and maintaining contact information and third goal contributions, as well as establishing databases for managing the multiple Office of Public Engagement programs. Recommendation XI-6: The assessment team recommends continuing to increase the collection of information regarding third goal participation amongst Volunteers, as well as beginning to monitor and track the number of beneficiaries reached by Volunteers’ third goal activities using the standard Volunteer Report Form. Recommendation XI-8: The assessment team recommends continued and increased communication from agency leadership regarding the third goal’s present day definition, as well as guidance for the Peace Corps community to fulfill the goal. * Establishing third goal performance expectations and training for trainees, Volunteers, and returned Volunteers.
- Sharing promising third goal practices amongst posts, as well as institutionalizing the most dynamic practices.
- Changing the name of the agency’s end-of-service process, Close of Service, to instead reflect concepts such as “Continuation of Service” or “Close of Overseas Service,” indicating the agency’s commitment to third goal efforts once Volunteers have concluded their overseas commitments.
Recommendation XI-10: The assessment team recommends an analysis of the low Volunteer participation rate within the Correspondence Match program. C.2. Strategy for implementation of the recommendations IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX
201 IMPLEMENTATION MATRIX (CONTINUED)
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