Peace Corps Questionnaire

I made far too many drafts of this but I’m glad I went back and revised the first one because it wasn’t expansive enough. Here it is for anyone who cares. 🙂

Peace Corps Albania’s Community and Organization Development project has a broad scope that includes Volunteer placements with a number of different types of local organizations, with a primary focus on the development of capacity of those organizations to carry out local priorities. Your assignment will likely be with either a local governmental organization or a non-governmental organization (NGO). One of your fundamental first steps, no matter what the placement, will be to develop trust and confidence with your colleagues. Some of the ways that you do this are to say “yes” to requests small and large (as long as they are not illegal!), such as to help with English language, or with basic computer skills and usage. Being willing to take on these simple requests early in your service will build relationships from which opportunities to undertake more complex project activities later in your service will come forth.
The following scenarios represent a spectrum of possible situations and do not describe specific placements. Please note that an increasing number of Community & Organizational Development (COD) Volunteer placements will be made to smaller towns and villages.
Please review the scenarios and respond to this question.

What in your experience and background prepares you for working in scenarios similar to the ones described above?

 

Scenario 1: 
You are assigned to a small municipality (bashkia) (population 5,000 – 20,000) or large (population 50,000 to 100,000) municipality whose staff is university-degreed in their areas of expertise. Young professionals have good education, but lack practical experience, while the older staff has a lot of experience, but lack new approaches of functioning in market economy setting. This bashkia has expressed a need for Volunteer assistance in such issues as planning (urban, economic, tourism development, etc.), project development, public relations and fund development and mobilizing local resources for project support.  Under the decentralization process, the bashkia is increasingly responsible for managing and providing all public services and is struggling to implement better systems for doing so.  In addition, the bashkia is working to shift its internal information systems from a manual to a digital system and requires assistance in gathering and coordinating sometimes conflicting or overlapping information from its various departments.  You may be placed within one department to assist with a specific priority, or you may be placed at a level within the bashkia that allows you to assist various departments depending on how your skills match the needs and priorities of the organization.
Working in this setting requires a lot of self-initiative/motivation, open-mindedness, patience and adaptation skills.
Previous Volunteers working in this setting found that the main challenge was to find “meaningful” work, especially in the beginning. With time, and by conscientiously building trust with your co-workers, you will be more involved and busy with agency priorities and projects.   
My response:  
My first reaction to this scenario was implementing GIS to track characteristics of the population.  Systems could be developed to locate needs and create policies to deal with these needs.  A professor of mine studied the population of neighborhoods to help the school system better understand where to draw the school borders.  I have a marginal level of experience with GIS, however, I believe development of this program could be a positive resource for a larger city.
Other methods of gathering data should be investigated.  I believe I have the patience to gather information and am knowledgeable about and enjoy data entry.  If getting organized is the first step in the direction towards their goal of implementing better systems for public services, I will wholeheartedly devote myself to such.  Having a clear understanding of situations often requires organization. This helps identify what information one is seeking.  Research, gathering and data input will help me become familiar with possible solutions.
I have held several jobs where there was little overhead.  In my past three jobs, I successfully identified expectations, then investigated and developed programming.  Adoption of my ideas led to accomplished projects.
During a high school spring break, I accompanied my Presbyterian church group to D’Iberville, Mississippi to aid in the Katrina Relief.  We hung and taped drywall and I was quite ill through the whole trip.  I remember my pastor spoke one night about being unsure of the direction our relief effort was taking.  He wondered if we were truly making an impact on the larger problem of people being without homes and displaced after the hurricane.  Although I consider myself an atheist, rarely did I deter my pastor’s opinion.  He was a man I’ve always held in extreme high regard for his active, unusual methods of promoting good in the community.  But I was motivated to rebut his comment saying I’ve always felt that any step in the right direction is better than no progress at all.
Scenario 2:
You are assigned to an Albanian non-governmental organization (NGO) that fits one of the following types:
  1. A branch of a capital-based NGO that works in the field of community development and organizing.  Their focus is developing rural communities by developing local community-based organizations (CBOs).  The main responsibility of the Volunteer working with this type of NGO is to serve as a “Capacity Building Focal Point” and to assist the local team of professionals in the implementation of community development initiatives as well as developing their managerial capacities.
  2. An NGO that coordinates and supports the development of other NGOs in the region,
  3. An individual NGO that requires institutional development and is well-linked with other NGOs in the community
Most of NGOs outside of Tirana have little capacity in project development, fundraising, board development or sustainable service delivery.
As you will be expected to outreach and coordinate the other NGOs in your community, you might be helping them to address needs in following areas:
·         developing and prioritizing projects,
  • aligning services with organizational mission and goals,
  • establishing sustainable funding, and providing effective services,
  • coordinating with other local agencies including other NGOs and the local government.
 My response:
I believe my strengths lie in researching the development of the community-based organization.  As a team member, I can help create studies to make decisions about the community’s needs and brainstorm with the group ways to best serve these needs. Although a young woman, one of my assets is deliverance.  Given a task, I will perform to the best of my ability.
In past job situations, I have been responsible for creating programs and systems for monitoring progress of interns.  I believe my strong managerial abilities could be relied upon to help achieve progress toward identified needs. The general concepts and processes I used could help but could be heavily advanced upon.
Another asset I believe I have is leadership and creativity.  I’ve successfully coordinated fundraising, social and professional events using original methods.  I’ve served on several boards of nonprofit organizations, often in a position of leadership.  As Secretary of the Public Art League (PAL) of Champaign-Urbana board, I assisted the organization in only 4 months to raise funds, organize a national call to artists, exhibit eight leased public art pieces, and host a concert celebration at the conclusion.  At a non-profit gallery, Indi Go, where I was the only employee; I orchestrated the installment of 34 arts shows and 19 additional events.  As well, I helped developed a movement called the South Downtown Arts District (SODO), a term a few of the art related businesses in our area have coined for an underground/city approved movement to increase the celebration of an area of town seeking to instigate the creation of street art, more physical presence, as well as collaborative art programming. These affairs required a remarkable amount of coordination between newspapers, city officials, additional nonprofits, and other organizations.  I believe I have obtained numerous skills that will assist me to communicate and coordinate with other NGOs in the area, which has been vital to gain and sustain Indi Go, SODO, PAL, and The I.D.E.A. Store.
While past experiences have helped me gain proficiency in project development, fundraising, board development and structure, I also believe I have strengthened my creativity skills through these programs.  I strongly believe in learning by doing (the 4-H motto, which I was a member of for 10 years) and have recently begun crafting.  I was inspired by the opening of a reuse, raw material, “scrap” store, The I.D.E.A. Store, which is an earned enterprise of the Champaign-Urbana School Foundation. I developed the store’s marketing via Social Media.  I look forward to using my experience and skills of practical application to teach others, as well as learning from those I will be serving.
I am familiar with the structure of and development of board operations.  Correct information gained from community input concerning their needs can facilitate prioritization of projects.  Scenario two seems to need creative, successful development of programs seeking sustainable systems and the capacity for funding opportunities.  I’ve reviewed my previous endeavors not to suggest that the situation in Albania will not be determinedly more difficult, but in an effort to showcase my experience and give relevance to what I hope to aspire to do.
Scenario 3:
You are assigned to a governmental organization in one of the main cities of Albania (outside of capital).  The principal activities of the organization are related to the preservation and restoration of cultural monuments.  A secondary role of this organization is to promote the cultural heritage of these monuments by collecting information about them and disseminating it to students, scholars and tourists.  To support this mission, a Peace Corps volunteer may be required to:
  • develop and maintain systems to track the costs and progress of restoration/preservation projects
  • establish and maintain a catalog of photographs
  • produce and edit films of monuments and cultural events
  • develop and maintain architectural drawings
  • develop and update a web site with information for tourists, students and scholars
  • assist in translating correspondence to and from English
  • installing and updating computer hardware and software
  • troubleshooting computer problems
  • link with other organizations in the community and country to integrate local activities with more  broadly-based tourism development efforts

My response:

One of my three favorite classes of my Urban Planning courses was titled Historical Preservation and I have strong feelings for this subject.  In the class we learned how to locate where historical records were kept and how to access them.  At the local library, we studied the historical relevance of homes in the area and prepared reports of information about the history of these homes.  We also took tours of downtown historical buildings.
From September 2008 to September 2009, I assisted the Champaign Downtown Association in an internship position.  After the nonprofit organization’s executive director was let go, I acquired the part-time position of Staff Director until August 2010.  In this position, I was responsible for hiring volunteer interns, attending committee meetings about potential programming, keeping accurate systems of tracking membership and dues, maintaining an up-to-date and well-designed website.   Other projects I worked on for the CDA included attracting potential donors, working with several other community organizations to create multiple large scale downtown events, and creating promotional materials to attract shoppers to the downtown area.
The need for cultural heritage preservation should be a goal not only for community building but also for tourism and economic development.  The Urban Environment Committee of the CDA was dedicated solely to the goal of increasing the value of the downtown experience.  This group worked on all-sized projects from installing Christmas decorations to a massive downtown clean-up project as part of the University’s homecoming festivities. This later effort I completely led, with little oversight.
As director of the Indi Go Art Gallery in downtown Champaign, I created a program I called my event timeline.  This helped me keep track of project development, booking shows, and communicating with the artists about promoting their shows. As well as all of the necessary steps for completing promotion for each week long show.
I thoroughly enjoy taking photographs, and creating beautiful arrangements of information that is both professional and artistic.  As art gallery manager, I enjoyed taking photos of the exhibits, capturing each event as I saw it in my mind’s eye.  I’m emerging and learning more about brand imaging and message marketing.  I believe there is a developing market for cheap forms of promotion in relation to how it attracts the attention of students, scholars and tourists.
I’m not completely familiar with creating and editing films, but I don’t believe it’s beyond my abilities and I would enjoy learning this skill. Those in my age group are typically computer proficient.  I have the ability to install and update computer programs.  I also have experience in Adobe and Word programs as well as website programs such as WordPress, Blogger, and Wix.
I thoroughly am engrossed in art, and am developing myself as an artist. I feel historical preservation, marketing, and nonprofit management, are all forms of art. If this position is actually an opportunity, it would be my ideal placement.

Scenario 4:

You are assigned to a business association or a governmental organization that focuses on promoting business development and consumer protection in one of the towns of Albania (outside of capital). The organization is dedicated to providing increasing business opportunities for small businesses and farmers in the region, and improving the business management skills and practices of local business owners.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, your role is to support the improvement of the local organization staff’s project planning and management skills, as well as help the organization in its outreach efforts and to provide direct business technical assistance to local businesses and farmers.  Some of other potential responsibilities might be:
·         Linking with the stakeholders in community (knowing their activities and their interests)
·         Help the branch to effectively set up internal and external organizational systems; help the association’s manager to improve managerial and leadership skills; help in qualifying the new staff to effectively carry out their responsibilities; help to strengthen the branch and reach out clients in need;
·         Serving as a trainer/consultant to business clients on topics such as marketing, pricing, business planning;
·         Providing daily onsite technical assistance, based on specific needs identified
·         Helping local staff understand and implement the basic principles of community and stakeholders outreach
·         Conducting workshops for women that are focused on increasing their business knowledge and skills in order to empower them and provide them with a greater level of independence

My response: 

Working for the CDA gave me an opportunity to promote local businesses.  I believe I developed an interest in encouraging and became familiar with the efficient running of small businesses while growing up on a farm.  My sisters and I grew up assisting my parents with the farming as well as another small, seasonal business.  In addition, I was a 10 year 4-H member and raised animals for 4-H and FFA projects.  I grew up listening to conversations about agriculture and food politics; I grew up with home canning and daily commodity pricing markets.  This background gives me something in common to help me unite with other rural community 
individuals.
I look forward to applying my knowledge, or at least my hard-working, farm girl ethics to assisting businesses to grow themselves.  Being successful in a community requires diligent integration into the population.  My endeavors with the CDA and with Indi Go Art Gallery exposed me to frequent contacts with the local downtown businesses.  I widened my interests when I assisted in the start-up of a new company called Escape Locally.  The premise of this business is to promote tourism packages for East Central Illinois, an underdeveloped market. People often consider me to be a networker and reach out to me for assistance with projects due to the contacts I have created with these positions.
My past involvement in community work has taught me the importance of getting to know people as well as earning and deserving their trust and respect.  Marketing was one of the largest components of my responsibilities while working for CDA and Indi Go.  I would enjoy putting the knowledge I gained from these experiences to work assisting businesses.  My understanding of basic web development and computer programming would be of great benefit.

My college minor was in Gender and Women’s Studies and I would be delighted to focus on working with women to grow their potential.  The last exhibit I was involved with at the Indi Go Art Gallery was a combination a farewell for me and a senior project for my replacement.  Titled “Read Between the Legs: She’s in There” the show’s concept was women empowerment. Prior to the show we spent 65 hours creating 40 foot fabric streams.  Using recycled materials and with a minimal budget, I sewed 14 streams of fabric which covered the walls of the gallery.  The uniqueness and beauty invited passers-by to come in. In addition, the event was a fundraiser for the Rape Advocacy, Counseling, and Educational Services (RACES) Center.  I feel strongly about women empowerment and independence, these topics are ones I hope to work for throughout my life.

Enjoy ❤
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