Up in Columbia County, I settled into a wicker rocking chair on our screen porch overlooking a valley of pine trees, and in the distance the rolling Berkshires hills, and instead of doing something useful like organizing the socks in my sock drawer, I dipped once again into the 204 pages of Assessments and Recommendations slapped together by that Gang of Six consultants the Peace Corps hired: Maryann, Megan, Ken, Jean, Diana, and Carlos!
I wanted to see what they had to say about Recruitment and Selection that they titled (page 105) IMPROVING THE RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION PROCESS TO ATTRACT A WIDE DIVERSITY OF HIGHLY AND APPROPRIATEDLY SKILLED VOLUNTEERS.
Their descriptions of the ‘process,’ summing up, and recommendations for 25 pages and says virtually nothing. For example:
Recommendation VI- 3: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection develop a new recruitment strategy that has an integrated diversity recruitment component. The new recruitment strategy should focus on recruiting individuals with limited work experience but who have the personal attributes and non-technical skills necessary to be successful Peace Corps Volunteers.
They got paid good money for this utterly useless bullshit! They call that a recommendation?
Look at what Bob Gale told the Senior Staff, all those Mad Men and Mad Women back in 1963, after Shriver asked for new ideas and Gale listened to all the “naïve, ill-informed, even disastrous” ideas floating round the conference table on the 5thfloor of the Maiatico Building.
Off the top of his head, Gale said, “I’d send in some kind of team, not just one person. I’d send in senior staff. I’d send in famous names. I’ d made a big thing of it. I’d get the college administrators and the faculty fully on my side, get them involved. I’d alert the campus newspaper and the campus radio station. I’d try to co-opt office space in the Student Union-that’s where a lot of the action is at a big university.”
Now those are recommendations on how to recruit on college campuses.
And now, near 50 years later, the ‘new’ Best and the Brightest that the Peace Corps Director hired with big buck to come up with a comprehensive Agency Assessment, have only this dribble: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection develop a new recruitment strategy that has an integrated diversity recruitment component.
Com’on gals and guys, get off your collective asses and say something. Put meat on the bones of your ‘recommendations’… Or as Walter Mondale famously asked, “Where’s the beef?”
I hope that the Gang of Six ran to the bank and cashed their consultant money before the IG asked for an accounting.
First of all with regard to Recruiting, you are riding the tide of the times. Just as the Republicans can use the unemployment numbers to get back control of Congress, the Peace Corps can brag about their high number of Applications because of the economy. College grads can’t find work, young professionals are getting whacked in the job market, teachers aren’t being rehired. It’s a golden age for Peace Corps Recruitment. Everyone wants to get out of America and two years, and Peace Corps service will look great on resumes once these kids come home from the Third World, now with global experience, and an improved economy.
But the worm will turn and getting Apps won’t be like picking apples off the trees in the days ahead.
Well, here are some real recommendations that details what can be done for Recruitment and Selection. They’re yours for the taking, and I invite other RPCVs to come forward with your ideas, not that Peace Corps/HQ ever listened to what RPCVs had to say.
- Close the Regional Recruitment Offices and move Recruitment back to D.C. This will save money and involved HQ in recruitment.
- Make the Internet as the only way to apply to be a Volunteer. This will the streamline the process.
- Focus attention and dollars on social media outlines. Place ads where college students surf, not magazines or newspapers.
- Give monthly $$$ awards for the best essay that comes in from an Applicant. Post the essay on the site.
- Add blogs to peacecorps.gov. The Director should blog at least twice a week. He needs to become a personality, not a bureaucrat. Blog about his own Peace Corps; blog about who comes to see him in D.C., and what he hears from the field. Get CD directors and PCVs to blog about what is happening todayin their host country. Get HCNs to blog on the site about the Peace Corps in their country. Let them - let everyone - give the pros and cons of volunteer service.
- Get rid of the ‘official’ photograph of the Director that dominates the site. It makes Aaron look as if he runs a funeral home and not head of an vital volunteer organization that is working hard in the developing world. We need photos of Aaron Williams in the
Third World, with PCVs, withHCNs. We need photos of him as a Volunteer. Personalize the guy. Get him on television. Get him on t.v. Hire Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-88) and he’ll make it happen.
- RPCVs have proven time and again that they are the best recruiters. Hire RPCV college professors and other local RPCVs to recruit. Train them, pay them a % for the skilled Volunteers that join because of them.
- Make joining the Peace Corps special. Today, the outstanding college grads want to part of Teach For America, not the Peace Corps. We are seen as ‘old fashioned,’ out of date, history. Form a relationship with Teach For America, help them help us!
- Do joint advertising with AARP. The head of AARP once worked for the Peace Corps. Talk to him about seniors in the Peace Corps. Reinvent Yourself at 50…Be a Volunteers. It is what you always dreamed of doing? This sort of message.
- Make official arrangements with Teachers Unions that they give sabbaticals to their faculty members who join the Peace Corps. It will enhance the reputation of the local school district and bring back into the classroom teachers with new experiences and skills.
- Post the specific position on line so that the Applicant who is applying knows: 1) the country; 2) the starting date; skills required. For example:
Water and Sanitation Extension Volunteer: Niger
One year experience in construction, masonry, carpentry or plumbing, or BA/BS in any subject area with an interest in hygiene education /sanitation and an interest in hands-on skilled work as demonstrated by 3 months or more relevant work or volunteer experience in one of the following areas: mechanical repairs, construction, carpentry, set design, Habitat for Humanity, home repair and/or remodeling. Departure Date: 7/21/2010.
Links to the Peace Corps pages sites about the country-of-assignment, background details, history. Educate the Applicant before they apply for the position.
- Get rid of the Office of Selection. Turn the process over to the Desk Officer and the field. Give the Regions the authority to select PCVs, to bid on them against other Regions, to make their case to the Applicants why being a PCV in X country is better than what Y has to offer.
- Place the Regions (and the desk officers) in competition with each other, not the Applicants in competition with each other.
- We say: “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love!” Well, let’s present it to Applicants as a real job overseas. If you want “skilled” and ‘professional” PCVs, then treat them that way.
These are a few recommendations, suggestions. They are more than that toothless-tiger ideas offered by the consultants hired by the agency.
What do you suggest? Post your ideas in the comment section.