Difference between pages "Peace Corps Survey Rankings Country-by-Country" and "NPCA: Declining to Empower Peace Corps Volunteer Applicants"

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(Created page with "One excellent indication of the health of a Peace Corps country program is the survey responses of the Volunteers. It is easy to take these rankings and rank the countries. Wi...")
 
(Created page with "Peace Corps Wiki has approached the National Peace Corps Association about posting the early quit rate data and the Volunteer survey responses on its website. It has also urge...")
 
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One excellent indication of the health of a Peace Corps country program is the survey responses of the Volunteers. It is easy to take these rankings and rank the countries. With the rankings from the Volunteer surveys, applicants are empowered to request to be posted to a high ranked country.
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Peace Corps Wiki has approached the National Peace Corps Association about posting the early quit rate data and the Volunteer survey responses on its website. It has also urged NPCA to post the data about the shortage of applicants. This information empowers applicants. Indeed Peace Corps Wiki said that if NPCA would do so, Peace Corps Wiki would be transferred to NPCA. NPCA has declined these invitations and offers – and refused to act to empower applicants – so Peace Corps Wiki has remained independent.  
  
The Peace Corps invites applicants to choose the country in which they prefer to serve. Peace Corps Wiki presents the rankings from the survey data on a country by country basis to enable applicants to make an informed choice.
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Founded in 1979, NPCA has struggled financially because so few of the returned Volunteers find it in their interest to become members. As a consequence, NPCA has become financially enmeshed with the Peace Corps and has no appetite to defend applicants and the Volunteers because this might jeopardize this financial life-line. NPCA’s entanglement with the Peace Corps is clear: from 2003 to 2010 the Peace Corps provided $790,639.44 to NPCA to pay for operating expenses. Source: FOIA Request Number 10-065.  
  
'''Peace Corps Wiki recommends that applicants request to be sent to a country with high ranked survey responses.
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NPCA’s annual report for 2013 reveals NPCA’s financially vulnerable condition. Its membership revenues were only $198,120 compared to membership expenses of $147,962. It raised $247,137 in donations but its fundraising expenses were $102,097. The bottom line is troubling: NPCA ran a deficit of $148,000. It comes then as no surprise that this annual report emphasizes the bottom line for NPCA: “A close and collaborative relationship with the Peace Corps is fundamental to our organizational goals.
  
Peace Corps Wiki recommends that applicants avoid any country which is ranked in the bottom third of the surveys. They should be cautious about any country in the middle third.  They should request to be sent to a country in the top third.''' 
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The NPCA won’t act to empower the applicants. It won’t defend the interests of the Volunteers in the field or press the Peace Corps to act more professionally in managing them. That’s too risky given its shaky finances and financial dependence on the Peace Corps.
  
Why would an applicant want to serve in a country with poor survey responses from the best source available, the Volunteers? Would an individual apply to a college with a poor ranking and poor graduation rates? Would he or she eat at a restaurant with poor rankings and poor health department inspections?
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===WorldView - A Peace Corps-Controlled Publication===
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If the Peace Corps will not agree to send an applicant to a country with the best survey responses, the applicant should put his or her applications on hold until the Peace Corps agrees to do so.
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Applicants can easily correlate the survey rankings with the ET rate rankings – also posted on Wiki. When the two sets of rankings correlate, the data speaks very powerfully as to which countries to request and which to avoid.'''
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NPCA’s vulnerability to Peace Corps pressure was most evident in December of 2007. NPCA has acknowledged that the Peace Corps, which bitterly opposed the then-pending Dodd Peace Corps reform bill, threatened to cancel its subscription to NPCA’s flagship publication – WorldView – if NPCA did not give the Peace Corps an opportunity to review the articles prior to publication to make sure that they did not offend the Peace Corps, e.g. did not include articles that criticized management or advocated reform.  
  
The Peace Corps has taken drastic action to deprive applicants of the survey rankings. In 2008 it released the rankings to Wiki and they were posted on line. (See below for the Wiki post regarding these rankings.) When Wiki requested the 2010-2011 rankings, the Peace Corps refused to do so. Apparently, it was horrified that Wiki had posted information that gave so much useful information and power to the applicants. Clearly, the Peace Corps does not want applicants to have access to data that enables them to be selective.  
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The Peace Corps purchases copies of WorldView to distribute to all of the Volunteers in the field. If it did not do so, the finances for WorldView would immediately collapse and NPCA would need to suspend publication. The article that led to the Peace Corps demand and threat apparently was an article given “final” approval to be published by the dozen-year WorldView editor, Dave Arnold, by Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff calling for Peace Corps reform, including protection for Volunteer whistle blowers.  
  
Wiki – with the support of one of the top law firms in the United States (Sidley Austin) filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court to secure access to the country-by-country breakouts of the Volunteer survey responses. The Peace Corps fought this lawsuit with wild and unpersuasive arguments about the need for secrecy. The Court dismissed the Peace Corps arguments and the Peace Corps was forced to produce to Wiki these surveys on a country-by-country basis.  
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Apparently because of the Peace Corps threat, the President of NPCA compromising the editorial independence of WorldView and the independence of NPCA – cancelled the offending article. He has acknowledged the Peace Corps’ threat but denied that the article cancellation had any connection to it. Immediately after the article was cancelled, Arnold left NPCA and refused to explain why he did so.  
  
The back-and-forth pleadings in the lawsuit are attached. They reveal the desperation of the Peace Corps to keep the survey rankings secret.  
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Cancelling the WorldView article was part of NPCA’s joint campaign with the Peace Corps to kill the Dodd Peace Corps reform bill. That bill included whistle blower provisions – designed to empower Volunteer whistle blowers. Sadly, two years later, after the bill had been killed, Kate Puzey, a Volunteer whistle blower, was murdered by those staff in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on them. At the time, the Peace Corps was the only agency of the government that did not grant its staff and employees whistle blower protection. It had no rules to protect Kate, to preserve her confidentiality, or to provide here with security protection. The shame that has blanketed the Peace Corps regarding this horrific incident also blankets NPCA.  
  
When Wiki won the lawsuit in Federal District Court, and before the Peace Corps began to produce the survey breakouts, Wiki offered to settle the suit, and not force the Peace Corps to produce the documents. The condition was that the Peace Corps agree to take the initiative to transmit the surveys – in rank order – to the applicants. The offer also required the Peace Corps to transmit the cohort ET rates to the applicants – in rank order. Under this scenario, Wiki would not post the surveys or ET rates or advise applicants to avoid the poorly ranked countries with the high ET rates. The Peace Corps would gain credibility with the applicants for treating them fairly. The Peace Corps ignored the offer and that is why Wiki is publishing the documents with admonitions to applicants to be selective. Wiki will continue to publish this information for the benefit of applicants until such time as the Peace Corps commits to doing so.
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===Developments During the Obama Administration===
  
This gruesome process for securing the survey rankings begs one question: Why would the Peace Corps give applicants a choice of where to serve and then deprive them of the information that enables them to make an informed choice?
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More recent developments under the Obama Administration make it clear that the Peace Corps opposition to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers runs deep. The 2009 Dodd bill (S. 1382) – as reported form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – requested that the Peace Corps prepare an assessment of 
  
In the lawsuit, the Peace Corps was successful in depriving Wiki of the survey rankings for each job assignment within a country. Wiki has seen that there can be substantial discrepancies in the job satisfaction of Volunteers in the different programs within a country. Why would the Peace Corps deprive applicants of the data that permits them to compare the survey responses from applicants in different job assignments? (Wiki has pending with the Peace Corps a request for the early quit rates on a job to job basis.)
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(Q) mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding--
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(i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps; and
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(ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including-- (I) staffing decisions; (II) site selection; (III) language training; (IV) country programs; and (V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries;
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(R) mechanisms for incorporating the views solicited in subparagraph (Q) into programming and management decisions…
  
Wiki believes that the survey responses and survey rankings mostly reflect the professionalism of the Peace Cops management. In a tough country, the enthusiasm and durability of the Volunteers is often high because Volunteers know that they have a tough assignment. They really do have the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” nothing less. Wiki finds that the key variable in the rankings is the leadership of the Country Director, whose values and management style dominates the Volunteer experience in that country.
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To be sure, Dodd’s 2009 call for a Peace Corps assessment of the whistle blower issues is a trivial gesture compared to the provisions of Dodd’s 2007 bill that mandated that the Peace Corps set up these listening mechanisms and protect Volunteer whistle blowers. But Senator Dodd did demand an assessment.
  
With these rankings – ET rates and survey responses – applicants can see which countries are well managed and which are not, which corps of Volunteers has high morale and which does not. It can see this in the actions and viewpoints of those with the most information, the current Volunteers.
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In June of 2010, responding to the Dodd request, the Peace Corps issued its “comprehensive assessment” of the Peace Corps. Not surprisingly, the assessment fails to mention the concept of whistle blower “confidentiality.” It fails to mention the word “whistle blower” or discuss protection of Volunteer whistle blowers. This report was issued after Kate Puzey had been murdered, so the Peace Corps was well aware of the consequences of not protecting Volunteer whistle blowers. No word of objection to this omission came from NPCA.
  
The interest of applicants in the rankings is consistent with what they expect whenever they act as a consumer in other contexts. They expect rankings of colleges, professors, restaurants, books, movies, and everything else. The internet demands transparency. The consumer is king. The internet enables consumers to share information with one another – in this case the early quit decisions and survey responses of Volunteers. Purveyors of everything – including Peace Corps service – are being held accountable for the quality and price of what they are selling. No one – and no agency – is immune from these market expectations and pressures. That the Peace Corps insists on secrecy and refuses to be transparent with applicants is a sure indicator that it has not adjusted to the 21st Century and is out of touch with the largest cohort of applicants to the Peace Corps – young persons who are social media savvy. It seems as if the Peace Corps believes it can treat applicants – and also Volunteers – in a high handed, condescending, and bureaucratic manner. For the Peace Corps it appears that the Iron Law of Bureaucracy rules. The Peace Corps forces those with legitimate FOIA requests to sue it in Federal District Court to obtain information crucial to applicants, refuses to transmit this crucial data to applicants, provides misleading early quit statistics, hides the shortfall in applications, and refuses to divulge the survey breakouts on a job assignment by job assignment basis. Applicants have to ask whether this is an organization with the values and practices they want to live with for two years.
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Only when ABCs 20/20 program publicized the Puzey case did the Peace Corps finally issue (weak) rules protecting Peace Corps Volunteers. (It published these rules the same day the program aired.) It did not issue rules to protect Peace Cops staff whistle blowers. No word of objection to this embarrassment came from NPCA.
  
'''Because of the lawsuit, the Peace Corps was forced to give Peace Corps Wiki the breakouts for the 2010 and 2011 surveys, but we recognize these are out of date. Peace Corps Wiki has requested the 2012-2014 breakouts and will post them here in rank order – when they are available. Given the result of the lawsuit, it would be unconscionable and illegal for the Peace Corps to refuse to divulge the breakouts for these recent surveys.'''
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Rather than protecting Volunteers, a higher priority for NPCA is the construction of a “commemorative” to the Peace Corps on or near the National Mall with a budget of up to $7 million.  
  
When we post these breakouts and the rankings, the Peace Corps may begin to complain that these are not the most current survey rankings, but it has the option to take the initiative to publish the most current survey rankings. Wiki has found securing data from the Peace Corps under the Freedom of Information Act so difficult and painful that it will not be filing additional FOIA requests to secure updates of the survey breakouts. Wiki urges applicants to request the most current data from their recruitment officer. (Applicants must always ask for the survey responses in rank order!) If the placement officer won’t provide the data, applicants should put their applications on hold until the Peace Corps becomes transparent with applicants and enables them to make an informed choice.
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Wiki had hoped that the new management of NPCA would reconsider its priorities, starting with publishing the early quit rate data and survey rankings – and the shortage of applications. They have refused to do so. Wiki continues to invite NPCA to join it in empowering applicants and championing the interests of Volunteers, including Volunteer whistle blowers. It invites NPCA to post the early quit rate rankings and the country rankings found in the Volunteer surveys. Wiki invites the NPCA to explain to applicants why the shortage of applicants empowers those applicants who survive the medical screening process. The issue for NPCA is existential: Does it truly represent the interests of the Volunteers and applicants or serve as a lapdog to the Peace Corps?
 
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To be clear, the reason why Wiki is publishing this survey data is to encourage the Peace Corps to intervene to reform the poorly managed programs. If applicants use the data Wiki is providing, to become selective, the Peace Corps may reform the poorly managed programs. Wiki is attempting to use market forces – consumer demand – to drive reform. As Wiki explains in another box on this front page, the Peace Corps has no surplus of applicants among those who survive the medical screening process. This means that the Peace Corps cannot turn to other applicants to fill their quotas for the poorly ranked country programs with the highest early quit rates. Applicants have power, both to secure an invitation to serve in a well managed country and also to encourage the Peace Corps to overhaul the poorly managed countries.
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Revision as of 08:38, 29 September 2014

Peace Corps Wiki has approached the National Peace Corps Association about posting the early quit rate data and the Volunteer survey responses on its website. It has also urged NPCA to post the data about the shortage of applicants. This information empowers applicants. Indeed Peace Corps Wiki said that if NPCA would do so, Peace Corps Wiki would be transferred to NPCA. NPCA has declined these invitations and offers – and refused to act to empower applicants – so Peace Corps Wiki has remained independent.

Founded in 1979, NPCA has struggled financially because so few of the returned Volunteers find it in their interest to become members. As a consequence, NPCA has become financially enmeshed with the Peace Corps and has no appetite to defend applicants and the Volunteers because this might jeopardize this financial life-line. NPCA’s entanglement with the Peace Corps is clear: from 2003 to 2010 the Peace Corps provided $790,639.44 to NPCA to pay for operating expenses. Source: FOIA Request Number 10-065.

NPCA’s annual report for 2013 reveals NPCA’s financially vulnerable condition. Its membership revenues were only $198,120 compared to membership expenses of $147,962. It raised $247,137 in donations but its fundraising expenses were $102,097. The bottom line is troubling: NPCA ran a deficit of $148,000. It comes then as no surprise that this annual report emphasizes the bottom line for NPCA: “A close and collaborative relationship with the Peace Corps is fundamental to our organizational goals.”

The NPCA won’t act to empower the applicants. It won’t defend the interests of the Volunteers in the field or press the Peace Corps to act more professionally in managing them. That’s too risky given its shaky finances and financial dependence on the Peace Corps.

WorldView - A Peace Corps-Controlled Publication

NPCA’s vulnerability to Peace Corps pressure was most evident in December of 2007. NPCA has acknowledged that the Peace Corps, which bitterly opposed the then-pending Dodd Peace Corps reform bill, threatened to cancel its subscription to NPCA’s flagship publication – WorldView – if NPCA did not give the Peace Corps an opportunity to review the articles prior to publication to make sure that they did not offend the Peace Corps, e.g. did not include articles that criticized management or advocated reform.

The Peace Corps purchases copies of WorldView to distribute to all of the Volunteers in the field. If it did not do so, the finances for WorldView would immediately collapse and NPCA would need to suspend publication. The article that led to the Peace Corps demand and threat apparently was an article given “final” approval to be published by the dozen-year WorldView editor, Dave Arnold, by Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff calling for Peace Corps reform, including protection for Volunteer whistle blowers.

Apparently because of the Peace Corps threat, the President of NPCA – compromising the editorial independence of WorldView and the independence of NPCA – cancelled the offending article. He has acknowledged the Peace Corps’ threat but denied that the article cancellation had any connection to it. Immediately after the article was cancelled, Arnold left NPCA and refused to explain why he did so.

Cancelling the WorldView article was part of NPCA’s joint campaign with the Peace Corps to kill the Dodd Peace Corps reform bill. That bill included whistle blower provisions – designed to empower Volunteer whistle blowers. Sadly, two years later, after the bill had been killed, Kate Puzey, a Volunteer whistle blower, was murdered by those staff in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on them. At the time, the Peace Corps was the only agency of the government that did not grant its staff and employees whistle blower protection. It had no rules to protect Kate, to preserve her confidentiality, or to provide here with security protection. The shame that has blanketed the Peace Corps regarding this horrific incident also blankets NPCA.

Developments During the Obama Administration

More recent developments under the Obama Administration make it clear that the Peace Corps opposition to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers runs deep. The 2009 Dodd bill (S. 1382) – as reported form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – requested that the Peace Corps prepare an assessment of

(Q) mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding-- (i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps; and (ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including-- (I) staffing decisions; (II) site selection; (III) language training; (IV) country programs; and (V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries; (R) mechanisms for incorporating the views solicited in subparagraph (Q) into programming and management decisions…

To be sure, Dodd’s 2009 call for a Peace Corps assessment of the whistle blower issues is a trivial gesture compared to the provisions of Dodd’s 2007 bill that mandated that the Peace Corps set up these listening mechanisms and protect Volunteer whistle blowers. But Senator Dodd did demand an assessment.

In June of 2010, responding to the Dodd request, the Peace Corps issued its “comprehensive assessment” of the Peace Corps. Not surprisingly, the assessment fails to mention the concept of whistle blower “confidentiality.” It fails to mention the word “whistle blower” or discuss protection of Volunteer whistle blowers. This report was issued after Kate Puzey had been murdered, so the Peace Corps was well aware of the consequences of not protecting Volunteer whistle blowers. No word of objection to this omission came from NPCA.

Only when ABCs 20/20 program publicized the Puzey case did the Peace Corps finally issue (weak) rules protecting Peace Corps Volunteers. (It published these rules the same day the program aired.) It did not issue rules to protect Peace Cops staff whistle blowers. No word of objection to this embarrassment came from NPCA.

Rather than protecting Volunteers, a higher priority for NPCA is the construction of a “commemorative” to the Peace Corps on or near the National Mall – with a budget of up to $7 million.

Wiki had hoped that the new management of NPCA would reconsider its priorities, starting with publishing the early quit rate data and survey rankings – and the shortage of applications. They have refused to do so. Wiki continues to invite NPCA to join it in empowering applicants and championing the interests of Volunteers, including Volunteer whistle blowers. It invites NPCA to post the early quit rate rankings and the country rankings found in the Volunteer surveys. Wiki invites the NPCA to explain to applicants why the shortage of applicants empowers those applicants who survive the medical screening process. The issue for NPCA is existential: Does it truly represent the interests of the Volunteers and applicants or serve as a lapdog to the Peace Corps?