September 7, 2003 - NPCA: Draft Minutes from NPCA President's Forum in Portland, Oregon

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Draft Minutes from NPCA President's Forum in Portland, Oregon

Karen Keefer (right), former President of the Washington DC RPCVs and "Friends of Nigeria," answers a question about her proposal to "right size" the NPCA's Board of Directors as Carol Rogers, the newly elected Presidents' Forum Coordinator looks on.

Read and comment on these minutes from the NPCA President's Forum held in Portland on August 2 and 3. These minutes are draft minutes and have not been approved by the President's Forum. We are providing them as backup material only for our special report on the proposed bylaw change that Karen Keefer, Ken Hill, and Chic Dambach made at the President's Forum. Thanks to the NPCA for allowing us to provide this backup information. Read the minutes at:

National Peace Corps Association *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

National Peace Corps Association

Presidents’ Forum August 2/3, 2003, Portland, Oregon

1. Mike Learned introduced himself and welcomed participants to the President's Forum at 9:05 am. He said that he had only learned on Tuesday that he would be leading this meeting due to the unexpected inability of the elected President's Forum Coordinator to attend. He introduced the facilitators: Peter Hansen as parliamentarian and Catherine Onyemelukwe as the recorder. He reviewed the agenda, copy attached.

Next, Mike reviewed the purpose of the President's Forum as stated in the NPCA bylaws:

• To facilitate communication and cooperation between RPCV groups.

• To facilitate communication from the RPCV groups to the Board of Directors of the NPCA and to provide advice to the Board of Directors.

• To provide direction to the Board of the NPCA on issues concerning the RPCV groups.

2. He reminded the group that participants must sign in and must be representing groups. All attendees can participate in discussion but only the representatives may vote. He said that he did not have access to agenda items that had been sent in ahead of time, but had prepared the agenda from last year's minutes. He stated that there were two things to accomplish today: to have nominations for the new President's Forum coordinator, and to hear a proposal for a bylaw change. There was currently one nominee for the Coordinator position, and the meeting could entertain others, so the vote may be held today or tomorrow. The second item would require overnight reading, so would be voted on tomorrow. This would give members time to question the proposer if necessary.

Katy Hansen moved acceptance of the minutes, Mike Dilibertie seconded. There was no discussion. The motion to approve was accepted by hand vote; there was no opposition.

Dick Roderick asked that a list of attendees be attached to minutes. He said he had made the same request last year. Mike answered that the list was available. He agreed that it should have been attached to minutes; this was an oversight.

3. Advocacy issues were addressed next. Mike asked for a report from Dave Hibbard on current advocacy work. Dave was not present, but Terry AmRhein reported. As a prelude, Mike reminded the group that there is no staff person currently responsible for advocacy work. Dave and Terry are both board members who have taken on this role. Terry said there are two current issues being addressed. The first is the Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century. This is legislation aimed at increasing the influence of the Peace Corps, both in size and reach. Terry said the outlook is good. It has passed the House of Representatives in this session, and passed the Senate in its last session. The second piece of legislation deals with the appropriations for the Peace Corps; both the House and Senate have far less funds that the President requested. They are working hard to get increased funding.

Dave Hibbard addressed the group next. He said that last year, he and Terry had decided that the organization needed a much stronger advocacy program, so they undertook the work. They have set up a database of people who are interested in supporting advocacy work, and he asked people interested to sign up. Mike Learned added that Dave and Terry have planned to put information out on the group leader listserve and will communicate in other ways as well. They are building the infrasturcture to do the advocacy so the NPCA can advocate for issues deemed important by the President's Forum and accepted by the Board. A participant asked for the web address, which was provided on business cards that Dave and Terry have. They stated that forms to sign up are available and were included in the Conference registration packet. They said there is also a Guide to Advocacy, 13 pages long, available at the website. One can also reach the advocacy website through the NPCA website,, and click on Challenge.

There was a question about the Charter legislation - did it still contain the provision, as originally provided, for funding for group activity? Dave HIbbard positively and said this is a very important part of the Charter legislation. It also includes provisions for the expansion of the Peace Corps, updated advisory group for the Peace Corps, and increased use of RPCV’s to promote Peace Corps, for example in going back in to countries to provide programs. This non-use of RPCV's was the original complaint leading to the Charter, he said. This legislation would encourage better use of the RPCV community. The Innovation Fund, $10 million, is part of the package. It has been authorized, though not appropriated. It can be used by individuals or groups to do projects within the U.S. He said that the way to get the funds is a little complicated, but the purpose is to have funds for RPCV’s to do things they do so well. The goal now is to get this extended to overseas work. Dave gave the example of David Schweidenback's Bicycles for Progress, which could have benefited from seed money.

Dave said that people have asked why they are spending so much time on advocacy for this legislation. His answer is that Peace Corps is a vital tool and resource for this country; without expansion it won't realize its potential, and without advocacy it won't happen. He expressed his personal belief: Peace Corps should expand not just for what it brings to countries where Volunteers serve, but the importance of reaching a critical mass of returned volunteers who will have ability to shape our country's interaction with other countries that is more tolerant and more peaceful than our current interactions. He hopes for reaching out as a friend and neighbor, rather than as we do now, and wants a better place for his kids. That's the passion driving him and Terry, he said. His comments were greeted with applause.

Mike stated that the effort is totally compatible with the NPCA's new vision, mission, and goals. A participant asked if there were specific goals, and the advocates answered that their goal is having 10 to 20 RPCV advocates in all 435 congressional districts. They would like to have the districts so well organized, that someone in charge in each district could arrange for rapid response when needed. There was a question about Senators, and Dave answered that advocates are active with them as well as for congressional districts. He answered another question about knowing who is on important committees affirmatively. Finally, he said there is a workshop today and all are invited to attend.

The next report, by Katy Hansen, was on environmental issues. She said that RPCV’s for Environment and Development have been working on this issue. She said that the national RPCV office is working with Rockefeller Brothers Fund on a potential grant that seems rather assured. It will fund 4-5 workshops around the country for the first year of the grant. During the second year of the grant there will be a major conference, probably in Washington, DC, to further the work on climate change. In addition, there will be a packet of information and targeting of specific states for climate change issues. She related a personal story. People who subscribe to the advocacy listserve will have noticed that some of the issues are coming from Britta Schnoor, who comes from an Iowa family. Britta is not an RPCV, but traveled with Katy and others as part of a United Nations group that went to South Africa for the Sustainable Development Conference recently.

Mike commented on other traditional advocacy issues that have come up. He mentioned HIVAIDS, which Jody Olsen, Deputy Director of Peace Corps, had refereed to in her comments. He said the Peace Corps is very involved, and has received a large grant from the Gates Foundation for this work. Mike said he has heard that the Peace Corps has the largest number of people anywhere working on this issue.

Mike invited Leo Cecchini to describe peace issues that are relevant to the group. Leo said that Peace Committee met yesterday, and discussed several issues. The first is ongoing work with Russia sending legal people to the U.S. for training. Second, he said there was a trip to Iran, and there is ongoing work so the group will have something useful to say about US policy vis-à-vis Iran when it is appropriate. A new area of activity is with Israel and Palestine, where the Peace Committee is working with RPCV's there who are seeking peace from both sides. In addition, he said that Friends of Nepal had been contacted by a businessman from Nepal, known to the group, who said the king had asked him to look for RPCV's to help his country. Liberia is also an area of ongoing interest with the question of how to use RPCV’s to engage in bringing peace to that war-torn country. He said there was the thought of asking RPCV's to lead a group of people to go there. Although it sounds outlandish at this moment, it revolves around the critical idea that RPCV's constitute the largest single constituency for peace in the United States and we should make use of this constituency.

Mike opened the meeting to discussion from floor. Someone asked what had happened to the question of developing world economies and debt relief. Mike Moore said that he is a board member, and he has a concern: advocacy issues are voted on, and we want them, then we sit back. People assume someone from staff is going to do the work. But we don't have staff to do this. He said the group needs to have thought through carefully this whole list of issues. Katy Hansen responded relative to the issue of developing countries and debt relief, there has been some work on what can we do, with emails going around, but no resolution. She said that support of the United Nations is also currently quite important. She invited participants to let her know if interested and has the passion to undertake the work.

Ed Willett asked about the recent New York Times Op-Ed piece suggesting that Peace Corps adopt a new role going into Iraq and Afghanistan. He asked if NPCA is making a response.

Dick Roberts asked if the advocacy network is going to continue after these 2 issues. Terry answered that we're establishing the mechanism and network to bring into play for any issues the NPCA decides to advocate for. When the Peace Corps Charter is passed, they can move on to another issue, but cannot do 8 or 10 issues at once. Mike said that prioritizing is very important.

Robert Bjerre said he believes the issue of Peace Corps being completely independent from military is very important and asked if the group can vote on a statement that we are opposed to being part of military. Leo said that the Peace Committee believes NPCA should not only advocate for peace, but also to undertake activities to promote peace. Dave Hibbard answered that the Peace Corps Charter states that the Peace Corps will continue to be independent. Richard Agerton asked what is the mechanism to decide what we advocate for. Pat Reilly, NPCA Board chair, answered that this body votes, and recommendations go to the board tomorrow. Peter Hansen commented that this body, the President's Forum, does have a procedure. No more than two issues, one internal and one external, are sent on to the board each year. Jim Schneider asked whether that doesn't indicate that we have priorities already established. Wouldn't the board look at this list? Peter reminded the group that the President's Forum is advisory only; the board can choose to adopt these issues, but they are not bound to them. Someone asked what issues are on prior lists. Katy Hansen provided history, and stated that she isn't aware that there can be only two issues. She said the purpose is to give the board an indication of what group members are interested in.

Erica Burman asked if is it even ridiculous to bring forth two issues every year. Realistically the organization cannot handle two new issues every year. William Brandon said he considers the group too inward looking, and asked if there is someone meeting with coalitions. He said there could be low level of effort, but some effort, so the group is ready to move when issues arise. Dave Hibbard replied that right now, Lauren Hale in DC is working with Interaction and another group, who tend to advocate for bigger issues. This is only happening because Lauren is willing and able. Pat Reilly said that by belonging to Interaction and the other group, we are tied into their information. They send information to the NPCA office. The NPCA president can consult the list of issues and ask the excom for approval if he believes he should sign letters of advocacy.

Collin Tong described Epic and other groups in DC who are doing a lot of work on Capitol Hill on what we do in the next phase of post-war Iraq.
Colin Tong described Epic and other groups in DC who are doing a lot of work on Capitol Hill, for example, what do we do in the next phase of post-war Iraq. He asked if there is interest in joining with them. There was further discussion of areas of interest to RPCV's. Karen Keefer said there is a reason for NPCA to be a coalition; this allows individuals to follow their own interests. Neil Ross raised a procedural issue; the list of past issues should be presented at each meeting, with date adopted, key person's name, email address if possible. Leo stated that we should not think all RPCV's think alike. This is not true!

Hugh Pickens said there should be accountability for the representation of President's Forum to the board. The person elected should be responsible at board to represent President's Forum, and should be accountable to us, and report back promptly. Pat will look for this list of past actions. Neil will work on it if it is not found. Neil said that he already had three notes about past issues and asked others to write down and pass to him what they remembered.

Mike said that item 5 requires some information and discussion, then reading. Lisa Martin introduced Karen Keefer, who handed out copies of her proposal to voting members only. Her proposal is attached. She said there used to be a working board, with no staff, and the board kept growing over the years to do all the necessary work. She said we now have staff. We've had Dane Smith who was an excellent president, now we have Kevin Quigley. The board is responsible for oversight. It's hard when things are micromanaged.

She said she is offering this to board for their input. She said she would get 25 signatures if necessary to bring this proposal to the full membership. Mike clarified that any member can propose bylaw change with 25 signatures. Karen's proposal is to right size the board; she is asking for a positive vote to bring this issue to the board for their consideration. She would expect feedback from the board by 2 months after their winter meeting. This would then appear on the ballot next April/May. Bylaw vote requires 2/3 of vote.

She opened the floor to questions; Mike asked to limit discussion to 10 minutes. Katy asked whom board members would represent in this proposal. Karen said they would represent groups. Terry AmRheim asked her to reiterate her view of how a board should function. Karen said boards are to set mission, goals, major objectives, and give direction. Then the strategic planning and day-to-day operational planning is done by the president and his staff. She believes the board has been too involved in each little thing and suggested that more credence and responsibility be given to committees, which can have non-board members. The committees should report to the board. Not every committee should require board member as chair. Board has oversight position, not day-to-day management.

Bill Brandon said one of the unintended consequences might be reduction in turnover. Karen said that her proposal limits board members to 7 consecutive years. Marian Beil said that usually nonprofit board members are major contributors; she asked if Karen had considered this. Karen said no. Ed Willett asked if this proposal could be on the NPCA website. Carla Galisin said there is a need to clarify expectations of board members, including the time commitment needed. Neil Ross asked why requirement of geographic representation was deleted from the proposal. Ken Hill who helped craft the proposal said that when it was discussed, they didn't consider all details. Details will be worked out along the way. He said this is a propitious time to rethink board composition. Karen gave an example of a very qualified person who knew well another region than where she had served as a volunteer; when people compete for board positions then we would see their qualifications.

Judith Whitney asked if regional directors would still be elected by their regions. Karen and Ken said no, as the proposal stands now, all members vote for all elected board members. Every board member's decisions affect all members, so every member should be able to vote. Someone asked how this proposal envisions active participation. Karen replied that this would be through your board member who represents you. Judy Smith said she would like to hear opinions from the board chair and the president on this proposal. Karen said that would be done during a period of discussion. Leo said that if voting is not regional then there is a contradiction; if members are voted for nationally, then they are not accountable.

Bob Terry said that boards do much else besides what Karen had described: they provide help to staff, choose chief executive, have fiduciary responsibility, oversight of stewardship of funds, and fundraising. His experience of the NPCA board is that it does not micromanage.
Karen said she was sorry for that choice of word, but having to serve on every committee is too much. Bob Terry said board members don't serve on every committee. Karen again said that, after 25 years, it is time for the board to consider a change. She deferred putting this forward as bylaws proposal now without board input, but if there is negative vote, she will do that.

Dick Roderick asked what are we voting on tomorrow. Karen said if you vote no, then I will go forward to general membership. Mike Learned asked members to read through the proposal and entertain a motion tomorrow.

Mike stated the bylaws mention a steering committee for the President's Forum, to coordinate with group leaders. He said there is no reason why we as group leaders can't play an active role throughout the year. He encouraged participants to take into consideration the important role the President's Forum can play as they consider electing a new Coordinator. He invited nominations.

Lisa Martin, President of Washington RPCV's, nominated Carol Rogers (above) as the new Coordinator of the President's Forum and she was elected without opposition.

Lisa Martin, President of Washington RPCV's, nominated Carol Rogers. She said Carol is brave, courageous, and dedicated. Carol was Lisa's predecessor as President of RPCV’s Washington, and had served on the Peace Corps staff. Charlotte Utting seconded the nomination. There were no further nominations and Katy Hansen moved that the nominations be closed. Bob Bruckman seconded. Mike called for the vote. There was a hand vote, with the majority in favor.

Bob Terry asked if there is a job description and is this person interested. Carol replied that this is her 8th President's Forum. She has had many conversations with Pat Reilly and others about the role of President's Forum Coordinator and had placed her statement of interest on the group leaders' listserve a couple of weeks ago. She clarified the role of President's Forum Coordinator as the representative to the board from the groups, and she said the forum happens throughout the year. She would like to move the group to this role and see active participation. She said has a lot of ideas and wants to make this effective. Leo reminded her of their earlier email, stating that there is a Groups committee of the board. Carol replied that she was happy to know that.

Dick Roderick called for division of the house. Peter Hansen said this requires a vote by sign, not voice vote. He asked how many were in favor of the motion to close the nominations and found 38 yes votes. Joseph Permetti confirmed that there were 52 eligible voters. The vote passed and Peter stated that Carol was elected by acclamation. Mike turned over responsibilities to Carol Rogers and closed the meeting.

Presidents’ Forum, 2nd Session

National Peace Corps Association
Presidents’ Forum, 2nd Session
Portland, Oregon, Doubletree Hotel
August 3, 2003

Carol Rogers, newly elected Presidents’ Forum Coordinator, opened the meeting at 9:20 am. She reported that she has had conversations with several people who know the history and the culture of the Presidents’ Forum, and she is ready for great things. She had no printed agenda, but a couple of announcements and issues to vote on.

Pat Reilly, NPCA Board Chair, introduced Trina Janes from the 2004 Conference Committee. The Committee asked that each group designate someone who will be the contact between the group and the Conference Committee. This person should notify the Conference Committee about needs, interests, and planned events, so activities can be coordinated. The Conference Committee has information to pass out to Country of Service leaders. Pat also announced that there is a low-cost housing option available in Chicago, in a youth hostel nearby.

Carol asked for any other quick items of business. Several announcements were made.

Carol then said there is at least one issue from yesterday carried forward. She invited a motion to bring the issue forward. Friends of Nigeria moved acceptance of the bylaw change proposed by Karen Keefer. The motion was seconded by Lisa Martin, Washington RPCVs. Karen Keefer made some comments. She thanked the group for enthusiasm over the proposal. She believes from what she has heard that most people support re-looking at size of board. Karen said she wants to hear a consolidated opinion from the board, and she is willing to be used for any purpose to help with this proposal. She asked Kevin Quigley, newly appointed President of the NPCA, if he had an opinion to offer. He said he would like to make general comments. There are 2 million or so NGOs in the U.S., he said, and board size ranges widely. Boards are becoming smaller and more business-like. Membership NGOs tend to have larger boards. We need to ask ourselves if we can better organize our board to meet our needs. Kevin ended his comments by turning the floor over to Pat Reilly.

She reminded members that the board meets today after this meeting and can consider this proposal. Often such a new topic gets referred to committee or task force for consideration. Mike Learned indicated willingness to get input from group leaders but will ask for help to do this. Perhaps studies of other boards would be useful, for example. Peter Hansen clarified that defeat of this motion doesn't mean end of the question, since Karen can garner 25 signatures and put it on ballot herself. Dick Roderick moved that the amendment for board size change be forwarded to board, but stripped of bylaw change content. This motion was seconded by Jim Schneider. Bob Bruckman moved to cease debate, and Dave Wessel seconded. This motion passed.

A procedural question was raised. Peter Hansen reviewed where we are. A motion was made and seconded that Karen's proposal be sent to board for consideration. An amendment was moved and seconded that we remove the language of change and simply send the suggestion of consideration of change. Carol said she would be setting up a separate email address for this question alone. We must now vote on the amendment, Peter said. Hugh Pickens called for a role-call vote.

The vote was 34 yes, 7 no. The original motion then came back for a vote, but stripped of the bylaw changes. There was discussion. Chuck Frankel spoke against the motion, stating that this is a significant diversion, given the energy of the organization. We have a new president, finance issues, membership issues to be dealt with. World View is in the process of evolution. We need something significant that will galvanize the organization to greater success than ever before. This is not the kind of issue that should take up our time now. Chuck agrees there are times for this kind of review, but believes this is not the time. Carol called for the vote. There was a request to restate the motion: the proposal calls for the NPCA board to study the issue of the size of its membership and its composition.

A role call vote was called for. Twenty-three voted yes, 19 no, so the motion passes; votes are recorded in the second column above. Carol will send out an email to invite input on this question.

Katy Hansen brought forward the resolution she had hoped to bring to the NPCA’s AGM yesterday. She had not met the deadline of 5 pm of the prior evening. It has to do with support of peace issues. Peter Hansen called Katy's proposal out of order.

Katy asked to set aside rules; there was a motion to that effect, and a second. The vote on setting aside rules had twenty in favor, not the two thirds required. The rules are not suspended.

Neil Ross raised a follow up to discussion yesterday. He repeated his question asking what has this group forwarded to the NPCA board in the past. Pat Reilly has given him list of all motions before board back to 1980; he read back to 1983. He found 10 that indicated they are from President's Forum. Carol said she would work on this question and go back through previous minutes; Neil volunteered to help her.

Mike Moore said the only way any issue will be pursued is if the proposer or supporter has the passion to carry out the work, i.e., unless there is a champion.

Bob Bruckman commented that he is appalled that he hasn't heard a word about peace in this forum. Leo Cecchini commented that as chair of the Peace Committee, he had drafted a statement about Iraq, and found there were many opposing views about how strong the statement should be.

Carol asked for suggestion of items for next year's agenda. She reminded Group Leaders to make sure group representatives are known and their roles clarified. The meeting was adjourned.

Catherine Onyemelukwe, Recorder

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