Capacity Building in Kansas City
By Jonathan Pearson on Friday, May 3rd, 2013
As we began reaching out to National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) member groups to organize our cross-country road trip, Kirsty Morgan (Kazakhstan 1998-200), President of the Kansas City Area Peace Corps Association had a specific request.
Kirsty and other members of the group’s Leadership Committee were interested in holding a session on group capacity building and growth.
By setting aside time to consider challenges and opportunities, the group engaged in an animated 90 minute discussion back on April 27th that could lead to some additional strategies aimed at building momentum for a stronger group presence.
Here’s an overview and some observations:
Starting From a Position of Strength: The Kansas City Area Peace Corps Association is not a group on the brink of collapse. They have a good core group who make up their Leadership Committee. More than ten people came out for the group development session. By exploring ways to continue to improve when the group remains relatively strong (rather than when leadership dwindles down to two or three people) enhances the the prospects for sustainability.
Impediments: Comments during opening introductions led to a discussion on
impediments that may be preventing other members of the local Peace Corps community from getting more involved. Among the factors the group raised were a lack of knowledge about the existence of the group, a clear delineation of the purpose and goals of the group, financial restrictions that may prevent participation in certain events (such as group dinners at a local restaurant) and the time challenges many individuals face in their everyday life.
Good/Bad Gatherings: NPCA Staff led the group through a discussion of what makes for a good/fun meeting or gathering versus a bad get-together that might cause some to refrain from further participation. While centered mostly around the concept of a meeting format, the lessons could apply to events as well. For example, workshop participants noted that a good agenda is an important element of a successful meeting. But it is also important to have an “agenda” for any group activity. For example, if a group is holding a monthly dinner, do they have a plan for when and how to welcome new participants, announce upcoming activities, etc?
Brainstorming Solutions: Some time was spent to brainstorm ideas to address group challenges. One such challenge the Kansas City group faces (like many others) is successfully engaging members of the community who have children and many family commitments. An idea that came to mind was to have a summer picnic activity that might be more attractive to RPCVs with families. While that is not a new idea, further discussion led to an added twist: Creating an activity for the kids at the
gathering where they could pretend being Peace Corps Volunteers. Not only could that be a fun activity for the kids, it could also serve as a way for parents to further explain and share their Peace Corps experience with family members.
Getting Down to Business: The session served as only a starting point for the group. Along with sharing some examples of activities taking place around the country, NPCA staff and board representatives will be following up soon with further ideas on successful activities, and try to connect the Kansas City leaders with other group leaders who can share their best practices and offer suggestions and advice.
In general, group participants came away energized from the session. Our thanks to the Kansas City Peace Corps Association for all they already do to connect with their community and bring the world home. We hope this session will be the start of something even bigger!