In a gesture to help the new Director so she or he can ‘hit the ground running’ I am outlining over the next two weeks 10 steps to be taken to change the Peace Corps, save the agency, and make a difference overseas and here at home. I invite everyone to add to the conversation with their suggestions about what can (and should) be done. Just add your ideas in the comments section below this entry. Many thanks.

Step #1: Close The Regional Peace Corps Recruitment Offices

To save money, and meet a budget crunch, two years ago the Peace Corps closed two regional recruitment offices. Now the new Director should close all of them.. Close the offices in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle San Francisco and Los Angeles. These regional offices have been replaced (like newspapers) with the Internet. We are a wired nation, from applying to college, getting a job, to finding someone to date. Add to that listing, joining the Peace Corps.

The truth is that the first information 90% of all PCVs have about the Peace Corps is in Middle School. Ask almost anyone serving overseas and she or he will tell you that they decided to join the Peace Corps when they were in Middle School and their teacher brought in slides from overseas. Sitting quietly in their decks these kids promised themselves: someday I’m going to be a Peace Corps Volunteers.

That hope and dream and aspiration was tucked away until sometime in college it came back and they typed “peace corps” into their laptop and up popped the government site. The Peace Corps website is increasingly more useful and sophisticated since it was developed in the mid-nineties by little Mikey Chapman, a political appointee in the Clinton years. While the site looks too much like a “boy scout” site–it needs  less ‘feel good’ stories and more hard edge information on life and work overseas–the site has come a long way.

Meanwhile, the Peace Corps Regional Offices were an outgrowth of the days in the 1970s when the Peace Corps was deeply buried in the bureaucracy of the Action Agency. In those years, Action’s recruitment offices were as numerous as peapods, and as attractive and as inviting as any army recruitment office. In fact, the New York Office was in Time Square, cheek to jowls with tourists, the army own recruitment center, and street walkers.

So, the next Director needs to close down the regional offices and move the  effort back to D.C. Appoint an Associate Director to supervise a new recruitment initiate for the agency.

One more change. Move World Wise School into recruitment.

The Peace Corps should foster and encourage the nascent interest of young teen agers Because of the Five Year Rule, because of the shell game of rotating staff, there is no real “history” within the agency and from one generation to the next, good ideas and programs disappear, forgotten and considered “old news.”

However, if you institutional World Wise Schools within the recruitment office, it is possible to expand the program, promote more knowledge about service with young people, and connected the desire to service with the Peace Corps.

As Jesuits are fond of saying, “Give us a child by the age of 6, and he will be ours for life.”

We’ll take the middle school kids and made them all PCVs when they finish college!!

[Tomorrow, Step # 2] Meanwhile, send me your ideas to improve the Peace Corps.