Expanding the Peace Corps

In Career Development, International Development, Organizational Development, Peace Corps on January 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Someone posted a question on the LinkedIn Peace Corps Community Network, “Will the rush to expand Peace Corps result in a decline in quality? We all experienced the issues that arose with volunteers who lacked skills or enthusiasm. How quickly should we really expand?” My participation in the discussion is below.

Most of the hand-wringing I’ve seen with Peace Corps is over the debate over whether it’s a cultural exchange organization or a real poverty-relief and development organization. The answer is both, but we have to keep in mind, as long as the PC mission stays the same, that a volunteer can be successful if they’re integrating well into their communities and representing themselves and the US professionally. This is more of the ripple in a pond theory. On the other hand, you’ve got people who think Peace Corps is a training ground for future USAID and USAID contractor NGO’s, which in many ways it can be, but it’s just not set up for that.

Peace Corps Volunteers will always be integrating into their communities and sharing US culture, so the more the better on that front. But, to increase the real impact of our work, I think Peace Corps needs to do a better job of partnering with NGOs and USAID on a much broader and formal scale. At this time, there are a lot of PCV’s doing intern/program management with NGO’s in the field, but it’s ad hoc and dealt with in-country.

If we really want to make this increase effective, bring in a working group with the Peace Corps, USAID, the NGO Community (like InterAction) and maybe the UN, take a hard look at the Millenium Development Goals and where they meet USAID strategic objectives and the Host-countries’ development priorities (which are most paramount), and go from there.

There are more than enough people who want to serve as PCV’s – lets give them as many chances for success and learning as we can.


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