A New Peace Corps for a New Century

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Special Reports: Blueprint for a New Peace Corps: Four articles take a look at critical issues: A New Peace Corps for a New Century

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 10:11 am: Edit Post

Read the white paper on the Future of the Peace Corps by the Committee for a New Peace Corps:

The New Peace Corps

March 2000

The next President's first term will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Because the Director of the Peace Corps is appointed by and reports to the President, the new President will have an unparalleled opportunity to set a new course in a new millennium for this high profile, unique arm of American international service. Despite its broad and inherently flexible mission, the Peace Corps today rarely undertakes anything new or of significant scope. The agency has settled into a pattern of routine, volunteer-sending operations on a model established in the 1960's. The organizational culture resists change and innovation. In contrast, the world is undergoing radical changes in the context of a new global economy, rapid technological developments highlighted by the internet, and ongoing struggles in developing countries to advance the transition to democracy, prosperity, human rights and strengthened civil society. The time has come to infuse the Peace Corps with new ideas, new practices and new directions--to make it a better, more flexible and innovative organization and a high-impact player in breakthrough development initiatives at the grassroots of a changing world. In that spirit, our Committee for a New Peace Corps offers the following recommendations.

1. Appoint an experienced internationalist as CEO of the Peace Corps with a mandate for reform.

2. Launch a new agenda of high-impact programming

3. Equip Peace Corps Volunteers and their host country partners with the best new information technology.

4. Develop a new framework for continued service by Peace Corps alumni.

1. Appoint an experienced internationalist as CEO of the Peace Corps. In the past, the White House has reserved the Peace Corps Directorship for political appointees. The new President can put the top Peace Corps leadership position-- the CEO function--in the hands of an individual with first- hand knowledge of the volunteer experience and the world the Peace Corps serves. The Peace Corps Directorship should be a professional appointment, not a political one. The job should be held by an American with a track record of substantial achievement in international service. Equally important, the Peace Corps Director needs to possess strong CEO credentials with a millenial mandate from the President. This mandate should include retooling the Peace Corps with the latest benefits of the technological revolution and staffing the agency at all levels for a spirit of fresh thinking about a new, high-impact programming agenda.

2. Launch a new program agenda. As part of the Peace Corps 40th anniversary celebrations, the President should direct the agency to identify and pioneer visionary new programming themes of potentially high development impact. This "new program agenda" must be developed in close consultation with host country partners, perhaps by convening a broad-based planning conference in each country. New forms of collaboration with indigenous civil society organizations and social entrepreneurs should be an integral part of these initiatives. Further, the initiatives should be designed as sustainable public/private partnerships, including exploration of new connections with corporate sponsorships, philanthropy, international development agencies, the National Peace Corps Association and innovative alumni-led international ventures. Ten percent of Peace Corps Volunteers and agency resources should be allocated to the new program agenda at its inception, expanding step-by-step with successful implementation to as many as 25% of volunteer placements. These new program initiatives can also serve as themes of the new President's priorities in foreign assistance. They should be jointly announced by the President with heads of state of partcipating countries to lend them visibility and credibility. Central to the new program agenda should be the goal of spreading the ethic of service within host countries. In the 21st century, the ethic of service need not be limited to Western volunteers imported to developing countries, especially when leaving behind a sustainable legacy is a primary objective of the Peace Corps. In many developing countries, more than 50% of the population is age 20 or younger. An infusion of new civic attitudes and civil society participation to the youth of these countries would be a major contribution to the transformation of developing countries. The Peace Corps is in a position to play a leadership role in the development of indigenous youth service programs in the countries in which it operates. With host country partner organizations, Peace Corps staff can help plan and organize pilot youth service programs and Peace Corps Volunteers can help implement them.

* The focus of one stream of pilot youth service programming can be integration into secondary and higher education institutions (service-learning) in coordination with student placements with local NGOs and social service projects.

* The focus of a second pilot programming stream (youth service corps) can be older, out-of-school youth, especially the unemployed.

* The focus of a third stream of volunteer service programming (during school breaks or for longer-term assignments) can be multi-national youth corps, engaging young people from an entire region and from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds together in service projects to achieve, among other goals, resolution of ethnic hatred.

The mission of this initiative should be to reach indigenous youth ages 14-24. In participating countries, especially those from which Peace Corps will soon exit, planning assistance should be provided for creation of an indigenous nonprofit entity to manage forward planning, development of a policy framework, and building a sustainable infrastructure for indigenous youth service. The overall effort to develop international youth service should be a world-wide initiative of serious scale and numbers. The President can create a federal inter-agency council (including Peace Corps, USAID, and USIS) to coordinate allocation of existing American resources and establish goals. The President can call upon a wide range of foundations, corporations, philanthropists, international development institutions, and governments to participate in this international effort to spread the ethic of service among the rising generation of youth around the world. While this initiative will take years of dedicated effort to reach scale, it will be a Peace Corps legacy of potentially great and lasting impact in developing countries, as well as a world class foreign assistance legacy for an American President. Other bold new programming proposals should be reviewed by the Peace Corps Director, with the most promising piloted early in the new Administration.

3. Equip Peace Corps Volunteers and their host country partners with the best new information technology. Since the Peace Corps's inception in 1961, the world has undergone an American-led technological revolution. The President should instruct the new Peace Corps Director to equip volunteers in the field with the best information technology. Through internet access and other emerging technologies, volunteers can be of maximum usefulness to their local communities and counterparts in accessing needed information, technical assistance, and web connection within the global economy. Current volunteers will be able to seek out Peace Corps alumni and others for advice and direction. Access to a data bank of former volunteers who served in the same country or region, and who wish to remain involved, will create multi-generational synergies for current projects, keeping former volunteers productively engaged with host countries and adding depth to the bank of knowledge within an organization notorious for memory loss. Infrastructure conditions for technology will vary by country and site, but a typology of technology options can be developed for diverse settings. Where no phone or electricity lines exist, satellite and solar technologies can be used. The President can call upon major American technology companies for corporate sponsorship of a Peace Corps "wired to better help the world."

4. Develop a new framework for continued service by Peace Corps alumni. Peace Corps alumni are potentially the greatest untapped resource available to the Peace Corps for direct assistance to currently serving volunteers and for innovative programming. There are approximately 150,000 alumni with 17,000 who are members of the national alumni association. Alumni interested in continued service might be linked back into the Peace Corps in a multitude of ways: roles in monitoring and evaluation of country operations, targeted short-term technical assistance support to overseas programming, as marketers, as donors, as planners and administrators of innovative projects, as Crisis Corps volunteers, as later reapplicants, as recruiters, and so on. A broader integrative framework for continued Peace Corps service by alumni should be a signature goal of a "new Peace Corps."

* One specific approach to a functional partnership is a joint project of the Peace Corps and the national alumni association to create an independently administered Innovation Fund. The purpose of this Fund would be to leverage private capital, including alumni community donations, to support innovative overseas projects of mutual interest to current and former volunteers. These projects could include a range of investments in host community development identified by current or recent volunteers. They might include new technology for counterpart organizations, market access schemes, technical training workshops, or innovative pilot programming ventures in host communities. The Innovation Fund would enable interested alumni to remain actively involved in Peace Corps work in the field and could well lead to significant spin-off ventures.

* The Peace Corps should actively support the most promising alumni-created international organizations in the form of a joint ventureship--with volunteer placements, collaborative planning and implementation, alumni donations, and by other means. Entrepreneurial former Peace Corps Volunteers have founded innovative international nonprofit organizations. Examples include the African Cultural Foundation, the International Women's Democracy Center, and Youth Service International. This new form of collaboration between the Peace Corps and its alumni is another creative way of integrating generations of Peace Corps service.

* Peace Corps needs to develop an entirely different relationship with its national alumni organization. Third Goal activities should be contracted out to the National Peace Corps Association. A far-reaching contract could be negotiated with the NPCA for a wide range of overseas and domestic technical assistance support based on mutual interest and alumni expertise.

The goal for the relationship between the Peace Corps and its alumni should be for former PCVs to become an integral arm of ongoing Peace Corps success, and vice versa, in the same way that university alumni continue to participate in the mission of their alma maters.

These recommendations as well as other innovative concepts chart the potential for a new era of creativity, service and impact in achieving the mission of the Peace Corps. The next President, through selecting the right kind of director for the Peace Corps and by defining specific new goals to be undertaken in a new administration, can create a new Peace Corps for a new Century.


Josh Busby (Ecuador, 1997-99)
Timothy Carroll (Nigeria, 1965-67)
Richard Harrill (Hungary, 1993-95)
David Hibbard (Nigeria, 1961-63)
Roger Landrum, Chair (Nigeria, 1961-63)
Stephen Lynch (Russia, 1996-98)
Edward Marshall (Ecuador, 1996-98)
Scott Osborne (Togo, 1980-82)
Jeffrey Schwartz (Nepal, 1981-83)
Katherine Thuermer (Mali, 1977-79)

By Carin on Thursday, January 03, 2002 - 4:40 pm: Edit Post

I completely agree with all of your ideas and suggestions. I also have an idea to add. While military operations and other federal agency missions are routinely reviewed through White House initiatives or Congressional Committee oversight and Peace Corps is seriously lacking these types of strategic planning resources, I would like to see the Committee for a New Peace Corps address this issue in its call for legislative actions. Legislative policy that requires routine review and planning of the function and organization of Peace Corps would make the work of your Committee for a New Peace Corps more sustainable and more adaptive to future changes and challenges.

Additionally, I am truly excited by the prospect of your visions becoming reality. I would like to know how to become involved in working with your Committee towards bringing these ideas into fruition. I also think that, as a relatively recently returned volunteer ('98-'00) who served in an Islamic country, I have an interesting and thought provoking perspective that could help in producing and promoting the ideas of a New Peace Corps.

Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.