Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: Tonight, you will visit one of the most respected and admired of all government agencies, it’s the Peace Corps. Started by President Kennedy back in 1961. It’s an interesting organization in that most employees are limited to a maximum of five years of employment with the agency. That creates a distinct corporate culture as you will learn.
Tom Garity: The five-year rule and people — you others might disagree on this — but I feel like working within that tight timeline, it really motivates you to get things done quickly. We work really well to build consensus around new ideas, but there also is a constant motivation to keep pushing and keep striving to make things better both for the Peace Corps volunteers that we work with and support, but also the communities that they support by that proxies.
Clarissa Hughes: So, that’s what drew me here and I’ve loved working here. It’s amazing. You work with so many people that are returned volunteers that are motivated not just by their work but a real spirit of service in this agency; I think it’s what drives us all to come work every day.
Clayton Kennedy: The cool thing to have at your desk or in your office are cultural artifacts from around the world. For jewelry or your scar, it’s very global, and that’s the cool chic thing to be wearing and to have a part of your personal space and environment, and that’s fun. It’s colorful and vibrant. You combine people who are driven to do the work because they believe in the mission with an environment that is attractive and global and simultaneously highlighting some of the elements of that mission. It makes it just a really nice space to be.
Dominic Abreu: One of things that I kept hearing about government agencies and what it was like to work there as I started my job search was that, you have a lot of people who seem really entrenched, really stuck in a loop. We hear about the inefficiencies of the federal workforce, and that hasn’t really been something that I’ve seen here at least not to the degree that I was expecting, and I think that’s because you constantly have fresh people cycling through with new ideas, and I think there’s something really exciting about that. It makes us a pretty unique agency.
Matt Shehee: So, coming here is a dream come true. I’m impressed every day by the level of commitment that I encounter as my team moves about this building and gets to know all the various components of this bigger Peace Corps community. So, I’m really excited to have this opportunity to spend time with people in offices like Third Goal where people help return volunteers and current volunteers communicate their experiences to the world and help the American public gain a deeper appreciation for the impact of Peace Corps here at home.
Rachel Boyda: I have a long history with Peace Corps, and I think one of the things that draws people here is the sense of family and community. It is really something to be part of the share experience that a lot of us has had through the Peace Corps. People who work here at headquarters who haven’t served, they do have that same spirit of service and commitment to our goals which is really special,
Tom Garity: I think it’s unique to the Peace Corps and distinct from other federal agencies in that, the Peace Corps has a program called Employee Volunteer Program where staff are incentivized to go out for up to 52 hours in a given calendar year and give back to different programs or other operating entities that do different kinds of activities to really enhance the community that we work in.
Matt Shehee: I said that I felt a spiritual impulse to live with and serve people in the developing world. They asked me why don’t you just find a mission group and serve in that way. I hadn’t really thought about that. I realized that being a Peace Corps volunteer was an opportunity to meet that need that I felt but also to serve my country and to be a representative of the United States of America abroad in a place where people may have never met an American.
Rachel Boyda: I do also really appreciate the employee resource groups. I’m the president of the Women’s Employee Resource Group. It’s a really great opportunity to again draw upon the sense of community as well as provide professional development opportunities to our colleagues.
Clarissa Hughes: One of the things I found about Peace Corps especially with the five-year rule, there’s a lot of opportunity to move into new positions and to move into new roles that you might not have a lot of experience in but you’re really valued and encouraged to move around the agency and learn different departments. I think in that way, Peace Corps is very different from other government agencies in that you can come in and have a few different jobs during your tenure and maybe they don’t all match up with what you thought you were going to do or with your background but because we have a lot of turnover, the opportunities that Peace Corps especially for people just coming in to the agency are really less.
Clayton Kennedy: Peace Corps has something called credit hours where generally staff works on a maxi-flex schedule where you can be somewhat flexible in meeting the 80-needed hours every week but if you work more than 80 every two weeks, you can essentially save up to 24 hours and then cash them in whenever you want which for me, coming from nonprofit where I would regularly work 60-70 hour weeks; that just blew my mind.
Dominic Abreu: One thing that I saw really up close while I was there was just how much collaboration they had with other posts in the region and even outside of their region who were working with similar projects. I think that really is the essence of the Peace Corps mission. Sharing culture, exchanging ideas, because there is no one answer to solving the development challenges that exist in the world.
Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this segment: Tom Garity, Clarissa Hughes, Clayton Kennedy, Dominic Abreu, Matt Shehee and Rachel Boyda. To hear this again, read the transcript and see pictures of the participants and the offices of the Peace Corps, just come visit denver-frederick.com
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