Reinvigorating Peace Corps

Sprin 2009 cover

The Winter 2009/2010 WorldView Magazine — a quarterly publication of the National Peace Corps Association — came in the mail recently, and explores questions of how to reinvigorate Peace Corps to fulfill its potential.

The issue features results of a survey of 4,500+ Peace Corps community members: applicants, current Volunteers, and Returned Volunteers; how Peace Corps might focus on “strategic” countries and partner with other organizations; how Peace Corps might strengthen the Peace Corps Fellows USA program (in which partner universities offer funding, field experiences, and special consideration for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers); how Peace Corps can better fulfill its third goal of educating people in the United States about the wider world.

A couple articles to highlight:

• An interview with Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams:

Erica Burman, National Peace Corps Association’s communications director, interviewed new Peace Corps Director, and himself a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Aaron Williams. Williams — who served in the Dominican Republic in the late 60s and early 70s — talks about his first official country visit as the new Director to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. He talks about the diversity of the new Peace Corps trainees, and how technology (blogs and cell phones) help them stay connected with home.

Williams also talks about opening an Office of Innovation and an online platform for Volunteers to share and replicate successes — such as a Volunteer in Nicaragua who developed a new “appropriate technology” oven that will burn compost not just wood. Williams envisions a platform that would allow any Volunteer anywhere in the world to get the blue prints for that oven, and the methods for teaching host country people about it.

Williams also proposes a new listening tour with Returned Volunteers and “the greater community of citizen diplomats” to support Peace Corps’s commitment to fulfilling its Third Goal of educating people in the United States about the world.He pledges Peace Corps’s engagement with coalitions that support global citizenship.

• A reflection on Teach For America’s alumni support networks:

Tracy-Elizabeth Clay, vice president of public affairs and the general counsel at Teach For America (TFA), explains how one of the most famous and highly-regarded AmeriCorps programs has shaped its alumni network and support. Their goal, she says, was to “build leadership pipelines for our alumni in professional sectors where they could have the highest impact on educational inequity.” (Ending educational inequity is the goal of TFA.)

By clarifying the paths to leadership in each sector, and offering corps members skills and connections to alumni, TFA is realizing a broader goal—not just impacting the lives of kids in the classrooms where corps members teach, but also impacting the field of education at every level: policy, administration, advocacy, teaching, even corporate support of educational innovation. By giving corps members roots in experiencing first-hand the reality of educational inequity, and offering them wings to succeed professionally as they become TFA alumni, the organization is blazing new pathways and setting new standards for how all service corps might support their participants.

WorldView magazine is available by subscription — and is free to NPCA members and to current Peace Corps Volunteers. Read archived articles here.

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