5455RE: Value of PC
- Oct 10, 2009John,
I totally agree that any indicators have to be concrete, specific and measurable, not just broad-scale and feel good (seems like you're thinking along the lines of PC's 3 goals). I think you work in development, so you know exactly what I'm talking about. There's no reason Peace Corps should be held to a lower standard than any other development agency--USAID, NGOs, etc. Along those lines, I disagree with:
"We may have measured a program, but not its effects on where a country thinks it wants to go, which is often unclear."
I don't think that's necessarily true--it depends on the country. A strong program does measure impact. If you have active participation from the host country government (which every well-designed program should, almost by definition), then the project objectives are specific and move in the same direction of the country's sector-specific goals, whether that's environment, youth development, education, etc. A lot of time and energy has to be spent developing robust measurement tools, and it has to be done with participation and support from the host country counterpart agency. This is no different than how a good NGO project operates, with the exception that PC needs to (and in general tends to) have much closer involvement with host country governments--sometimes at the national level and sometimes at a regional level. The result of a "patchwork quilt of good projects [that] may help individuals, build endearing relationships" only happens when the PC office and host country agencies aren't doing their job of harmonizing all these individual, grassroots efforts and ensuring that they're all contributing to a larger goal/vision. If you haven't seen a well-designed and run PC program, I would encourage you to visit one--they're inspiring! (To me, a good litmus test is if the PCVs can explain to you the broader goals of their sector--both PC's and the host country's--and how their particular project ties into that.)
On a broad scale, PC can never, and should never, have specific goals on a global level, b/c it's very strength is that it doesn't take a cookie-cutter approach to development. Every program is tailor-made to suit the needs of the host country. That's PC's comparative advantage over other development agencies--it is not donor-driven development, nor are the strategies and priorities dictated by Washington.
My two (or ten) cents.
BTW, where are you now, and what are you up to?
Posted by: "John Patten" jppatten98@... jppatten98
Fri Oct 9, 2009 7:41 am (PDT)
Fair enough, but I would challenge this statement:
...helping to move the country in the direction it wants to go. The process...produces results.
The only way for that claim to be valid is through measures of effectiveness, rather than inputs and outputs. We may have measured a program, but not its effects on where a country thinks it wants to go, which is often unclear. It is ultimately the country itself that decides if they want to be rich or not through their policies to promote that through all levels of governance and line ministries.
A patchwork quilt of good projects may help individuals, build endearing relationships and be appreciated, but not to economies of scale. We have been in some of these contexts for 40-plus years and there is very current and valid critique of foreign aid not passing the so-what test. If we cannot identify what the objectives are in any meaningful sense other than in an idealistic way of making the world a better place, then any program or intervention cannot address that.
<deeparamesh@ hotmail.com> wrote:
From: Deepa Ramesh <deeparamesh@ hotmail.com>
Subject: [ujeni] Value of PC
To: "Ujeni" <ujeni@yahoogroups. com>
Date: Friday, October 9, 2009, 5:11 AM
I read the posts on the value/relevance/ effectiveness of Peace Corps in today's world (beyond the personal benefit to the PCV), and I'm feeling the need to chime in. First and foremost, it really varies by country and by program, and unfortunately much of it comes down to a cult of personality( ies), mainly Country Director and APCDs, but also training staff and folks in Washington.
As both an RPCV and a former APCD, I've seen really strong Peace Corps programs and I've seen some pretty loose ones. So much depends on the Country Director *especially* , the program/project design and how well it's run. With a well-developed and run program (i.e., focused objectives developed with input and buy-in from all stakeholders, adequately trained and closely supervised AND supported Volunteers), Volunteers truly are small-scale development workers, helping to move the country in the direction it wants to go. No, it's not just a pie-in-the-sky ideal. I've seen it in action, and it's impressive. The process has a lot of integrity, and it produces results. But it requires strong and focused leadership, not just for programming and training, but also when it comes to establishing, communicating and enforcing PC policies (e.g., time out of site, alcohol, drugs, etc.), and all PC staff--including admin and medical--have to be
rowing in the same direction. In a tightly-run program, Volunteers are a professional cadre of workers, take a great deal of pride in what they do and what they represent, and local and national officials appreciate the assistance and perspective they bring to their communities. Moreover, PCVs end up with a deep respect and appreciation for PC staff and vice versa (equally important).
Once you've seen how good a PC program can be, it's maddening to see how weak one can be.
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