Comprehensive Agency Assessment June 2010 Part II Vision

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United States Peace Corps
Comprehensive Agency Assessment June 2010 Part II Vision
Link to PDF Report

Intro: Table of Contents and Acronyms
Part I: Executive Summary
Part II: Vision
Part III: Background and Assessment Methodology
Part IV: Adjusting Volunteer Placement
Part V: Strengthening Management and Independent Evaluation and Oversight
Part VI: Improving the Recruitment and Selection Process
Part VII: Medical Care of Volunteers
Part VIII: Training of Volunteers and Staff
Part IX: Coordinating with International and Host Country Development Organizations
Part X: Lowering Early Termination Rates
Independent Assessments & Reform Plans


[edit] II. VISION

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


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.


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


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 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.

[edit] C.1. Meaningful work

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.

[edit] C.2. Partner

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.

[edit] C.3. Niche

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.

[edit] C.4. Volunteers

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 guide the agency in the coming decade. These strategies are listed below and then described in more detail in the following section.

The following six strategies are the centerpiece of that effort:

  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.”
  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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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:


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.


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: 1. Establish a plan to address the impacts on overseas operations in a collaborative manner with the Peace Corps’ staff in the field: • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 6. Redesign and enhance Peace Corps Response to implement its new role as defined in this assessment. 7. Develop a strong communications strategy for Peace Corps Response, highlighting its new innovative approaches and significant changes. 8. Develop a recruiting strategy and a new recruiting model for the Peace Corps and Peace Corps Response to implement the plan. 9. Establish a standardized core technical training program in the specific technical interventions identified, and determine the most effective method for such training. 10. Establish and strengthen partnerships overseas and in the United States to support the implementation of the plan. 11. Develop a more streamlined and effective monitoring and evaluation system to evaluate the success of the implementation plan. 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. 13. Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the agency by acknowledging the Peace Corps’ history, but focusing mmost of its efforts on enthusiastically confirming why the best years of the Peace Corps are yet to come.


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.

The assessment team makes two overarching recommendations:

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.

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