"The commitment Americans have made, and will continue to make, to the Peace Corps is not an open checkbook. To be sure, Americans are a kind and compassionate people. But, they, too, expect that kindness and compassion will be more than empty gestures and inspirational prose.He is a strong supporter of the Peace Corps and President Bush's budget request of $359 million for FY2004 for the Peace Corps. Read the speech at:
I don't know what the answer is for developing a process for greater accountability - but, we need to be creative and determine what can be done to measure the success of the Peace Corps. I think that's important. I love the altruism of the Peace Corps - I also love pragmatic altruism - we should find a way to combine both, and, in the process, strengthen the argument with policymakers as to the long-term future of the Peace Corps."
|By bob utne on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 12:53 am: Edit Post|
I was an early PCV from Minnesota and shared correspondence with VP (and Minnesotan) Hubert Humphrey when I served in Gabon. It was Humprey, in fact, who originated the concept and suggested to JFK the start of the Peace Corps.
Norm Coleman is no Hubert Humphrey. The Peace Corps does not need to justify itself to Fed bean counters. I don't think he really gets what the Peace Corps is all about and what impact it has had and is having around the world.
More importantly, why so many pictures of Norm?
|By bob utne on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 1:08 am: Edit Post|
Sorry. Humphrey was not VP when I was in Gabon. He was the senior Senator from Minnesota. I actually worked for Humphrey when he was VP for a brief time when I was a Management Intern in the Executive Office of the President, along with Paul Wolfowitz. Paul was getting heat from his draft board so left and went back to school to get his deferment. The rest is 'sordid' history.
Yes, I'm ultra-pissed where this Administration has led us and even more pissed that no Democrats other than Byrd and Grahm have had the balls to call it like it is.
BTW, if it wasn't for a terrible plane accident in Minnesota (death of MN Senator Paul Wellstone), Norm would be just another loser. The guy even lost to Jesse Ventura!
|By Jeff Ankrom on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 10:33 am: Edit Post|
Narrow policies of "accountability" have torpedoed development work for ages. I remember USAID people in the 1980s complaining that truly helpful long-range projects couldn't get funded because they would not show the short-term results that legislators want. Short-term projects (especially building something BIG) looked better on political resumes, even if they actually made the "beneficiaries'" lives worse.
Accountability is already in place: the people in the host community will give the PCV better treatment if they seen the American as a good neighbor and someone who cares about doing a good job.
Introducing accountability components to persuade policymakers sounds like trouble. If some people in Washington don't value the Peace Corps already, that is no reason to reshape the PC in their image. Expanding the Peace Corps is not as important as being true to its goals.
The "why do they hate us" rhetoric doesn't make sense. (After 9/11, there were street demonstrations in Teheran in sympathy for America, remember?) "They" are no more uniform in character or opinion than "we" are. (Look around the table at Thanksgiving!) Maybe we need to do some "third goal" work with policymakers: as long as people in Congress are using "us"/"them" language, RPCVs have work to do at home.
The emphasis on accountability seems like the latest business-magazine trend--the notion that organizations will be more efficient if fear is exploited as a motivator. I think it is counterproductive.
|By Mackie Joseph Venet Blanton, Ph.D. (mblanton) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 2:12 pm: Edit Post|
I believe that the question underlying this issue is too abstract to pay attention to. We need to reframe the question away from an entity known as the Peace Corps toward the real minds and bodies of the volunteers of the Peace Corps, and toward the accomplishments of their individual presences in the world.
It's ironic that Senator Norm Coleman raises what I consider to be too abstract a question around delineating his own noteworthy, praiseworthy, laudable individual accomplishments. In this irony is the lesson or direction that we need to be following as we speak to the members of Congress. Let me explain what I mean.
I first encountered this practice of outcomes, measurement, and accountability in 1966 at the end of my Peace Corps assignment when Washington sent two former volunteers, then working in PC Washington, to debrief us. We all sat in a circle more or less in a huge room and were invited to express to our heart's content what we felt about our experience, our host country national colleagues, the host country itself, and the local Peace Corps staff, etc. However, we were not able to give information in a free-flowing way, which is what I had expected we would be doing. We had to respond to a set of pre-prepared questions. I pesonally found this very frustrating, in ways that during this period of my life before graduate school I did not have words to describe.
Now that I now have the experiences I have as an academic, facilitator, trainer, and administrator, I have a more objective understanding of the need to control the flow of narratives that others hand us and am therefore no longer self-innoculated against the visual presentation of goals, strategies, objectives, outcomes, and measurements.
There is a place for these instruments in our bureaucratic lives.
However, I believe that there is a greater point that we need to get and that is that the above descriptions of Senator Nore Coleman's accomplishments, and the very personal narratives that he himself can engender, speak to and of the man -- to and of the person himself.
Accountability in this sense rests with the individual, with the man or woman who is empowered to do good and worthwhile things. It is our hope therefore that the Peace Corps as well as the nation will always have sons and daughters of this sort. The measurements must then be of individual accomplishers. When individuals accomplish good and worthwhile things, their collective goodness reflects back on the whole gestalt, on the nation as a whole. One does not need to boast about America when one speaks of its individual citizens.
We therefore do not need to sweat through adding up boasts about the Peace Corps as long as we regale the accomplishments of individual volunteers. The issue for me is therefore not the Peace Corps, for it only needs to be a presence in the world in as many nations as we can plant it. We must teach Congress not to see an abstraction called the Peace Corps but to see the concrete accomplishments of its individual volunteers all over the world. When I Stateside praise or critique, I do not praise or critique Congress, I praise and critique individual members of Congress.
Ankrom (7/29/03; 10:33AM) said it best above when he said, "Accountability is already in place: the people in the host community will give the PCV better treatment if they see the American as a good neighbor and someone who cares about doing a good job."
Mackie J.V. Blanton
Peace Corps Tunisia, 1964-1966
|By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 10:32 am: Edit Post|
Please find here a copy of a the letter I will send to Senator Coleman. I am also sending a copy to my congressional delegation and senators and every publication I can reach. I appreciate the comments which have already been posted. I urge all RPCVs to contact their Senators and Representatives and share with them your thoughts on accountability. I believe that this August recess may be the last time that RPCVs have the opportunity to directly influence the debate. I don't want this incredibly important issue of accountability to be reduced to the TV talking heads' blather ... "Don't those peace corps kids know there is a war on...let's stamp out those Kubaya campfires."
Dear Senator Coleman:
Thank you for calling for increased accountability for the Peace Corps. First, it is important to define who is to be held accountable. The United States Peace Corps is manned by federal civil service employees who act with administrative authority to spend money and direct employees. This agency should be the locus of any accountability measures. Volunteers are Americans who are deployed by this Agency. Volunteers are not employees. The ability of Volunteers to do work is a function of training; selection; placement and support. All of those activities are the responsibility of the United States Peace Corps agency and the agency should be evaluated by measuring outcomes of all of these activities.
The clarity of the Kennedy vision even today makes it easy to restate the accountability framework; consistent with the three goals he created.
1) The first goal, paraphrasing, “To fill the request of foreign countries for trained personnel” lends itself well to measurable outcomes:
What percentage of requests are filled?
What percentage of programs, once completed, met the goals of the requesting
nation, according to evaluation by that nation?
The answers to the above would then provide data to frame new objectives-ie
Increase percentage of requests filled by improving training and recruitment
Determine causes of nonsuccess and eliminate
NOTE: Reducing the attrition rate should be a future goal but set only after congressional hearings have been held to investigate the myriad problems described on the independent website -peacecorpsonline.org - suffered by serving PCVS and RPCVs. These problems, involving the provision of medical and other support services, appear to be so pervasive through time and space, that congressional hearings are in order to determine if legislative remedies are necessary.
2) The second goal is self evident -” to help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served”
The most important responsibility of the United States Peace Corps agency is to ensure its continuing independence so that the American Peace Corps volunteer does not appear to be other than what he/she says he/she is. Legislation is needed to make explicit what is evidently now only tradition and that is that the Peace Corps-its staff and volunteers will not engage in “intelligence gathering activities.” Such legislation should also prohibit other United States employees - civilian and military-from claiming a nonexistent relationship with the Peace Corps.
A measurable outcome, based on such legislation, might be an annual report from the State Department and/or Peace Corps Inspector General stating no activities have occurred which would have been in violation of such a law. It might be well, too, to establish an administrative apparatus which staff and volunteer might use to report any attempts or suspected attempts to breach this “firewall.”
3. The third goal -- “to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people” is perhaps the most neglected by the agency and yet the easiest to implement. I would recommend; first, that recruiting activities be managed separately from third goal activities and then measurable outcomes should include:
1) All returning volunteers be debriefed, extensively, by qualified technical personnel as part of program evaluation and that such data be systematically archived and made available to the public.
2) All requests for information by the public about peace corps projects be fulfilled
3) The funds for RPCV activities, designated by Congress, be fully used for that purpose.
Finally, Senator Coleman, I hope that bizarre trinity committee - Peace Corps, Western Hemisphere, Drug Wars, in no way suggests that the Peace Corps would become entangled with any activities outside the three specific goals. I appreciate your comment about this committee designation “What were they thinking?” Thank you again for approaching Peace Corps accountability from a objective managerial perspective. Sincerely, Joanne Marie Roll Colombia 63-65
|By bankass.com on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 10:44 am: Edit Post|
Beautiful Joey, That is the Peace Corps Spirit. I am photocopying my past proposals and my suggests which some are very similar to your own. I think they will listen with paper work coming their way.
Recently, I have had alot of luck on the hill with these issues. People are finally listening. You GO for it Girl! Just Kidding.
|By RPCV on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 11:44 am: Edit Post|
Peace Corps is very accountable (the band, etc.). The financial results are there and so are the programs results. Peace Corps has been around over forty years and maybe it is time to end it. It is not something that should be replaced, but, we could work out of Universities, Think Tanks, and get our Masters and Doctorates, etc. through other programs.
Peace Corps does not need to exist because most of the Volunteers are not there in the interest of helping people. They have there own motives. Peace Corps is a federal program which is the only reason most of these people volunteer.
Please check the track records of the PRCVs.
Cancelling Peace Corps is not a new idea. It may be that it is just time to have this done.
|By bankass,com on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 6:11 pm: Edit Post|
You guys always throw that scare tactic out there when hearings on these issues may come. You should indentify yourself as an RPCV.
The Program's results are good in terms of serving others in developing countries and providing a relationship building organization. You must have worked for Peace Corps when Nixon was in office.
You know these are the real problems at Peace Corps that need reform.
That Government program arguement is for the birds. Insurance Companies act as governments in our country with health care, Municipal projects are government programs and if the government wasn't involved in this economy we would be in a depression. Don't start that stuff.
You joined Peace Corps and a Democrat started it.
That idea above as Robert Byrd would say is "bunk". That what it is "bunk".
Hearings are still coming and some will be held accountable. Are you one of these people?
|By bankass.com on Sunday, August 03, 2003 - 8:27 am: Edit Post|
Also, I would have to agree with Bob Utne. The Pictures of Norm are like he is campaigning on your website.
Besides that, we know he is involved with the money trail at Peace Corps. He is an Elected official and we will have to work with him.
Norm, here is a suggestion not mentioned by Joey, who I agree with.
You want more volunteers for recruits. More volunteers to fill positions. Between fifty to sixty thousand volunteers have gone through training and served, but did not finish for some reason or another. Resolving their separation issues would free up alot of individuals who want to complete their service.
Also, more volunteers will join when they are not at risk of being placed alone at a particular site. Many safety issues have arisen when a volunteer serves by themselves. If this is totally not possible, Peace Corps should be assigned the task of monitoring those sites more carefully and have them live with a host family which is a model in that village.
Resolving the past , can bring a bright future for Peace Corps.
|By Jeff Ankrom on Wednesday, August 06, 2003 - 11:09 am: Edit Post|
Although "piling on" in an electronic forum can irritate readers, I want to second Joey's thoughtful and clear-sighted posting. Please consider my earlier remarks an anticipatory "amen" to her message.
|By Ro Wietecha on Monday, August 18, 2003 - 11:53 am: Edit Post|
Why increase the perception of accountability? What's wrong with the Peace Corps? Based on volunteerism, how can it be "accountable"? Will anyone read this other than RPCVs?
With those questions in mind, what the senator seems to be advocating is an SAT exam for the Peace Corps- converting it from a volunteer opportunity to a Junior USAID. As such, "accountability" reform will be the standardized testing that will stifle implementation of the first goal and eviscerate the second and third goals.
An "accountability" reform impact on the first goal would be to force mostly round pegs into square holes. First, it will require teaching that concept to host country nationals as part of its implementation (and then who's going to make THAT process accountable, and then who's going to make THAT process accountable, etc.) If we measure first goal accountability, then how do we know the host country isn't getting something better and ultimately of more value than what they asked for or we tried to deliver? Or, worse yet, what if a volunteer doesn't do what he or she otherwise would have in the absence of "accountability" measures and that undone activity would have benefitted the host country far more than the intended outcomes? The goals and milestones of current Peace Corps projects are purposely written so as to strike a balance between broadness and narrowness to both give guidance and allow for implementation in as wide a range of ways as possible. There's no way to simutaneously allow for diversity (both as static traits and as process) fully and be specific enough to articulate easily quantifiable outcomes.
But, I think it is the second and third goals that require the rejection of "accountability" reform. While the first goal will suffer by diverting volunteers' attention from the dynamic opportunities that arise during service by focusing too heavily on THE OUTCOMES, the second and third goals will have little meaning in an accountability-centered universe. Volunteers will be too busy with "Just do this this way so I can put you down on my list as a 'success' so that I can stay here" to bother to get to know people. Even if this happens just to a small degree, motivations are easily picked up on and host country nationals will get the impression Americans are only result-oriented rather than good people.
In terms of measurement, how do you measure the personal impacts volunteers have on their host country nationals or on Americans as RPCVs? For example, how do you measure (and for how long) the effects of a white person living in an all-black township in post-apartheid South Africa? In the end, isn't the impression that "you're not like the people of your color who have persecuted me and my family for decades" worth far more than any skills actually transferred to the host country nationals? Isn't it the personal contacts that have the biggest impact on the volunteer, the host country, the United States and the world? A PCV/RPCV becomes a conduit linking people around the world, creating markets for large US corporations, but more importantly fostering peace, harmony and a better world. How do you measure that? Am I supposed to give a survey to every person I meet and assess how they were affected by my RPCV-ness? Because, I know just as plain as day that I am different and that every interaction I have had and will have since service is influenced for the better by having served, but I don't know how and I'm sure nobody else does. The idea of increasing "accountability" mocks this and, personally, I'm offended (as if you couldn't tell!) You might as well try to correlate increases in Coke and McDonald's sales to Peace Corps programs to make them more "accountable" for goals 2 and 3.
I think the Peace Corps is as accountable as it can be and still fulfill the spirit of the three goals. If there's proof that massive amounts of fraud, corruption and exploitation are taking place, I could see reforming the system. But, in an age defined by the risk of terrorism, volunteers unhampered to make the most of opportunities to form interpersonal connections are the world's best hope for making our global interdependence a success rather than a tragedy.
South Africa '97-99
|By David Ziegenhagen on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 9:37 pm: Edit Post|
Senator Coleman's speech and philosophy show why many in the city of St. Paul are very happy he no longer is Mayor there.
If he wants accountability, he should ask the President of Peru about measuring Peace Corps output, success, value and worth. If Coleman insists on daily, weekly or yearly Peace Corps accountability, he should slip under his rock and go away.
Philippines II, 1961-63
|By PD Foote on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 2:13 pm: Edit Post|
Does it look like the assumption is that Peace Corps the organisation, and PCVs, are riding on a free meal ticket for a fun time and free travel at the expense of hard working tax payers? Or does it feel like someone is looking for an easy target to build public image?
It is appalling to hear a politician posturing about both accountability and growth of Peace Corps. These are not new issues, but where is the acknowledgment of how much change has happened? I humbly admit I get a little defensive. I served twice as a PCV and twice as a staff person, and once as a technical trainer. Between 1980 and this last spring , I can verify for a lot of changes implemented to improve training, placement, job development, and reporting (by both PCVs and staff). Staff performance, like PCV performance, varies a lot both with the individual and over time, so RPCVs will know that those changes are implemented differently.
Some changes work well, some are horrible. Some of the changes have been flip-flopped like fish out of water, whether good or bad. That's part of being a learning and transitional organisation.
Transition--the biggest challenge that Peace Corps faces is constant change --volunteers, staff, and political pressure are all changing every 2 - 4 years. Peace Corps is in the state of perpetual organisational change and that is exacerbated by the need to respond to these accusations as a form of accountability.
If we want to truly address Senator Coleman's (and many others') challenge, how can we do that?
Already in place: PC-Washington has more places on the PC website to showcase current positive experiences, and elicite specific Volunteer stories. They also put out, provided from the project managers, annual Project Status Reports that include numbers, and 'PCV vignettes' as examples. Last year, that office also put out a global annual summary that included strategic planning.
For every 'post', every time there is an official visitor (usually from Washington DC) the entire office shifts into a dog and pony show to provide specific examples of Volunteers in the field who are living examples of Peace Corps' vision, and how things are going now. It takes time, and makes a lot of volunteers and staff crazy, but it's important for accountability.
What other options are there? As I was reading through the latest issue of The Nature Conservancy's magazine, I came across a feature that suggests 'focusing on success stories instead of scare tactics,' to increase support. In their recent issue you can review short descriptions positive experiences done by region. Can that be done, and who should do it? Peace Corps the organisation, or friends of PC, or RPCVs?
We are lucky to have these challenges that make us look back and assess how things are going up to now. Peace Corps from the beginning has given great opportunity to Americans to live and work as development agents. Thanks to pressure from RPCVs and PCVs, the organisation is constantly under pressure to get better at what it does. I think that the many PCVs returning as staff (yes, like me) also play a role in that. We have made progress in organisational performance, at staff and PCV level both.
Again, how can we get that information-- of how PC is "accountable" --out to those who are not in the PC loop? Joey's letter is specific and right on target, and I would echo her encouragement for RPCVs and PCVs to communicate to their own Senator's and Representatives. Not just now, but on an annual basis. This challenge will keep coming, because a lot of people without experience (and some with) think PC is a glorified free-ride to play for two years.
And, as per David's suggestion, how can we get them to hear from the many leaders in our host countries who value PC because they have participated as students, counterparts and trainers?
PCV Nepal 1980-82
PCV Nepal 1991-1994
Technical Trainer Nepal 1996
Staff 1998-2000 Moldova
Staff 2000-2003 Malawi
|By Greg Heigel on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 5:14 pm: Edit Post|
Peace Corps is many different things at many times. In alot of countries, it is a political tool. In some programs in some countries it serves a real purpose, depending on what group the PCV is working for. Certainly important things are being done by PCV's presently in Africa fighting AIDS. Anytime PCV's teach high school english, math, and science, it seems like an excellent way to spend tax dollars. The farmers I worked with in Lesotho are no longer growing vegetables with irrigation - perhaps a bit tougher to see a big payback for American tax dollars. Some of the agricultural programs are in need of better long range foresight. Program preparation is everything. I would suggest that in today's world the United States Peace Corps is one of the best ways to spend American dollars. Security is more of a concern, but the things volunteers do to promote global understanding is head and shoulders above anything else in the world. My South African wife says the people of her country thought the American Peace Corps volunteers were American convicts who were sentenced to do time in poor countries. [Certainly global understanding is necessary :o) ]
|By Anonymous (brick.underwood.k12.mn.us - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, December 08, 2005 - 2:37 pm: Edit Post|
|By Anonymous (dpc691914041.direcpc.com - 220.127.116.11) on Monday, October 01, 2007 - 10:05 am: Edit Post|
To whom it may concern (Peace corp)
I am not completely sure yet what Mackie J.V. Blanton has been up to when he infiltrated a
Buddhist Sangha and used his students to destroy the harmony and work the scholars, members
and priest were doing? But we are conducting extensive investigative research efforts into this
In fact, to listen to you all it sounds like there is something very secret being discussed here, a
clandestine group indeed. A seemingly underlining arrogance that makes you think you have the
right to manipulate the individual spiritual places of good Americans. I am not sure who put you
up to such a communist and un-American act, but trust me we now have un-equivocal proof of
Mr. Blanton’s crimes.
You may think you are helping the world, when in fact you have become a subversive
organization tearing the true spirit that once lived in the heart of Americans completely apart.
It is the right of every American to have the equal opportunity to their own faith and spirituality
without subversive intervention. Mr. Blanton and his trainees violated that right beyond any
ethical standard, this was a sick act!. What absolute arrogance, therapist can be the most base
Awareness for Humanity takes these violation of this small Buddhist groups civil liberties
extremely serious and it will be exposed.
Mr. Blanton and company needs to immediately admit their crimes and offer restitution to all the
people you have violated in this manner across our nation, or face the legal consequences and the
exposer publically for your communist and subversive actions.