Thank you for your interest in hosting a virtual screening of “A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps.” At a time when conversations around changes in the Peace Corps are coming to the forefront amid difficult social issues, it has never been more important to understand where we come from and where we want to go. These screenings invite the Peace Corps community to revisit history, but also encourage engagement with the public in sharing Peace Corps ideals, collaborating in positive change, and making a better world. This screening guide provides a roadmap to bringing our ideals home.
There are many forms a virtual Peace Corps documentary event can take, but these are the most common elements:
- The group asks its community to register for the event, then sends out a link to the film to the people registered.
- The link is available for a 24 to 72 hour window for participants to stream the film online.
- A scheduled virtual meeting (usually on Zoom) gathers the members of the group for a Q&A or discussion, putting the focus on what matters to the group and using the film as a springboard to engage.
This independently produced documentary about the history of the Peace Corps was directed by RPCV Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992–94) and has been distributed nationally and internationally through community screenings (during the pandemic screenings are virtual), film festivals, and a virtual theatrical release, with broadcast on the horizon. The documentary was envisioned to serve as a means to enhance public awareness of the Peace Corps and its value to the United States and the world.
Future of Peace Corps
As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps, we also recognize that the future of the agency is uncertain. March 2020 brought the evacuation of all Volunteers worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent years also brought repeated proposed budget cuts, threats to the independence of the agency, and the departure of dozens of bipartisan agency defenders in Congress. While Volunteers have yet to return to the field, 2021 presents us with the opportunity to help define how we reengage with the world. Capturing the history of both the agency itself as well as individual volunteer experiences, this Peace Corps documentary sets the stage for a conversation about the future of the Peace Corps in this current context.
“A Towering Task” is the flagship of multiple community-driven initiatives encompassed in the Campaign for Peace Corps Ideals. That campaign includes Peace Corps Place, the Peace Corps Commemorative, the Peace Corps Museum and Community Center, and the Peace Corps Foundation. And it complements the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” aimed at not only protecting the Peace Corps, but siezing this unique moment to reimagine, reshape, and retool the Peace Corps for a changed world. This is a pivotal moment in our Peace Corps community’s history.
When hosting your screening of “A Towering Task,” please bear in mind its overarching purpose.
Goals and Objectives
The Peace Corps needs to rebuild to be stronger, more inclusive, and more closely aligned with the current needs of a global community facing unprecedented problems. In 1985, Congress made it the policy of the United States to maintain a Peace Corps Volunteer force of at least 10,000 individuals. Although levels have increased since the 1980s, the Peace Corps has never reached the 10,000 Volunteer goal since the law was enacted. Now, with all Volunteers evacuated, there is an opportunity to re-envision the agency as it is rebuilt.
- Increase engagement of the Peace Corps community in RPCV groups and NPCA
- To accomplish this, the screening event should include a call to action in response to the current precarious state of the Peace Corps.
- Increase general public awareness of the Peace Corps
- To accomplish this, future screening events should be designed in a way that attracts, informs, and engages a significant number of attendees who are not RPCVs. (Having other organizations take the lead in future screenings will ensure more diverse audiences.)
- Increase awareness of the Campaign for Peace Corps Ideals
- To accomplish this, the screening event should include the opportunity for a Campaign representative to provide a brief overview of the campaign and distribute information.
The following best practices are drawn from prior screenings of “A Towering Task” and are provided as recommendations for your consideration.
An event (online or, in the future, in-person) around the documentary can be as simple or as complex as the needs of the group suggest. From small gatherings of a group’s membership to larger events that include more community members and increase the strength of the RPCV group, everything is possible.
To make a big splash and attract a diverse audience, some planning is required.
Leadership: Consider forming a dedicated committee to handle multiple aspects of planning, organizing, and marketing the screening event. As all screening events are virtual during the pandemic, gathering your team on Zoom calls to discuss logistics works well. Also, NPCA representatives and director Alana DeJoseph can help with suggestions and lessons learned.
Purpose: Everyone involved — including affiliate group leaders, panelists, speakers, and hosts — should be aware of the intended purpose of these events as reflected above.
Requirements: Be familiar with the screening licensure requirements and costs, and ensure that these can be met. Groups may fill out a form detailing plans for the documentary screening that includes a request for funding assistance from NPCA.
Timeline: Ideally, allow at least six weeks’ lead time prior to the date of the screening event.
Dates: Prioritize dates in which film producer Alana DeJoseph and/or NPCA CEO Glenn Blumhorst can attend. Check out the “A Towering Task” website for possible conflicts in scheduling.
For in-person events: Preference for a low-cost or no-cost venue, up to 400-person capacity.
For virtual screenings: A link will be made available for a 24-hour period during which audience members can watch the film online from the comfort of their own home. They can watch the film in segments or straight through. Then all audience members should be invited to a virtual gathering on Zoom or a similar platform to discuss the film, current issues of the Peace Corps, and issues important to the affiliate group and/or NPCA.
Peace Corps community as well as members of the general public with an interest in Peace Corps-related issues.
Suggestions for local outreach include:
- Affiliate group print and digital media
- Peace Corps Prep programs
- Coverdell Fellows Programs
- Campus Peace Corps recruiters
- Fulbright Association chapter
- World Affairs Council chapter
- Together Women Rise chapters (formerly known as Dining for Women)
- International Rescue Committee
- Hosteling International facilities
- Rotary Club(s)
- Newspaper, magazine, radio, and digital media
NPCA will promote the screening event through a geographically-targeted database email blast. In addition, NPCA can host the event registration on its website/membership platform.
Welcome and Introduction
Speaker (host group representative, NPCA representative, or venue representative): 3–5 minutes
- Talking points
- Extend welcome on behalf of local community
- Express appreciation for venue hosts
- Recognize distinguished guests in attendance
- Recognize documentary director, Alana DeJoseph
- Reference the overarching purpose of the film
- Remind attendees about the brief conversation to follow the film. (When we return to in-person screenings, be sure to ask people to stay steated!)
Maximum 30 minutes (20 minutes conversation and 10 minutes Q&A)
(For virtual screenings, the length of the Zoom call can be longer, since the audience will not have just been sitting for 1 hour and 45 minutes watching the film.)
- The emcee should be on screen/onstage to begin the program immediately as the credits roll.
- Recommended program: a panel discussion about the current state of Peace Corps and future distribution of the film (Who else should see the film? Which other venues should host a screening?)
Recommended speakers or panelists
- Film director Alana DeJoseph
- NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst
- Current or former members of Congress
- Former Peace Corps directors
- Campaign for Peace Corps Ideals representatives
- Local NPCA board directors or advocacy coordinators
- Local affiliate group leaders
Panel discussion questions (Illustrative)
- Sample Questions for Alana DeJoseph:
- Why did you decide to produce this film? What all went into it?
- In your opinion, what are some of the most important takeaways from your interviews and the process of producing this film?
- Sample Questions for Glenn Blumhorst:
- What is the current state of the Peace Corps? What are some of the issues it is facing?
- How does the Peace Corps community respond?
- Sample Questions for a past Peace Corps Directors:
- What will it take to ensure the future of the Peace Corps?
- What advice do you have for all of us who are concerned about the Peace Corps' future?
- Sample Questions for a current or former member of Congress:
- What is the Congressional environment like for the Peace Corps?
Reception (In-Person Events)
- Consider a 30–60 minute hosted reception either before or after the event, as it adds value by giving attendees more time to talk about the film, ask questions, and meet Alana, Glenn, campaign leaders, and/or distinguished guests. NPCA may be able to provide modest resources.
Printed Program (In-Person Events, Use Slides for Virtual Events)
- To the extent that resources allow, a printed program (one-pager or folded one to two pages) is beneficial. This will allow the event message to be clearly presented, speakers to be introduced, and campaign information to be shared with everyone. NPCA may be able to help with program design and printing.
Invite targeted major NPCA donors and/or prospects to a small group evening dinner or morning-after breakfast conversation about “A Towering Task” and the future of the Peace Corps. (This can also be done online.)
Please provide a list of attendees and email addresses to NPCA in order to send a follow up message that
a) thanks them for attending
b) invites them to join NPCA and the affiliate group
c) encourage them to make a donation to support the distribution of “A Towering Task.”