A Quantum Leap in Global Service
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
As the University of Michigan takes center stage this week to mark a key moment in Peace Corps history, leaders of many international volunteer sending organizations convened at the Michigan Union to advance the call for improved and expanded service opportunities.
For many of the organizations that make up the Building Bridges Coalition, the Peace Corps served as the inspiration and model from which to build alternative service programs. The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is one of the founding members of the coalition, which provided an update Tuesday on past activities and future plans.
Coalition President Steve Rosenthal (CEO of Cross Cultural Solutions) opened the meeting by noting how far the coalition has come in its brief history. He also recognized the work of RPCV Lex Rieffel (India 65-67), a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, for a paper written in 2005 on the important role international service can play in addressing foreign policy challenges. That paper served as a catalyst for the coalition, which in the past five years has grown to 300 member organizations, held a number of convening events and formed working groups to address a range of issues from advocacy to public awareness to effective practices for
volunteer sending organizations.
The newest working group, co-chaired by NPCA President Kevin Quigley, is designed to advance the Peace Corps goal of bringing the world back home to all volunteer organizations. Quigley says the three key components of this work will be to raise the profile of the continued work of international volunteers immediately after they return from service, extend the horizon beyond the short-term to recognize volunteers’ long-term contributions to service, and share best practices on advancing and highlighting these activities.
The coalition is also a lead proponent of the Service World initiative which is launching a bold agenda to advance service opportunities – including a goal of doubling the Peace Corps. Along with expanding the number of Peace Corps volunteers back to 15,000, the Service World initiative proposes to greatly expand the Volunteers for Prosperity program, initiate a Global Service Fellowship Program to close economic barriers to short-term international service and create an international social innovation fund to improve the work that is done to advance global development.
A key starting point to promote this international call to service will be a petition drive that will launch this week. Inspired by the activities of University of Michigan students fifty years ago, individuals will be asked to sign a declaration expressing their willingness to serve and support the goals of global service, as outlined in the Service World agenda.