Monday, October 31, 2005

Feel Good Corps

After 18 months or so, I guess a volunteer can offer an opinion about
the Peace Corps with some authority. At least concerning their

I entered the Peace Corps with great expectations and ambitions. After
living my life with one purpose in mind, my own happiness, I decided I
would make some sort of contribution to the world that was completely
altruistic. Well, I can't say that I am as self-actualized as I had
hoped but I have adjusted to a very meager allowance and humble living
conditions. In the states I would be at the bottom of the poverty
ladder, scrambling for the first rung.

Surprisingly though, when you are poor by choice it is easier to live
with than I expected.

But this experience isn't supposed to be about me. Ok, I am hoping to
gain some things (personal growth, blah, blah, blah), but I am really
here to help in transferring technical skills to Ukrainian businesses.
Frankly, it is a long, tough road.

And so it is for most of the business volunteers I know. The Ukrainian
business culture is so alien to western styles of management etc. that
it is practically impossible to get anybody to actually follow any of
your advice. Why? Grants.

Everybody loves grants. Organizations love to receive them,
organizations love to give them. In the end, everybody is happy. But
what good does it do? From my experience, organizations in Ukraine use
their PCVs to write grant applications. For what? Oh, they don't
know, They'll think of something. PCVs read about grants. PCVs study
grants. PCVs become experts in grants. And PCVs write the grants.
Some PCVs are successful in grant applications and receive great, and
well deserved praise, And commonly the money is misappropriated and/or
ends up in somebody's undeserving pocket.

And what does the organization learn? "Wow, let's write more grants.
Let's get the UN or George Soros to prop us up again next year!"

Is anybody doing follow up studies to see what the actual impact of the
granting system is? I don't mean some dry accounting of money spent,
but a study that evaluates the results of this system.

Is this money doing any real good? What is the percentage that is

But more importantly, how much harm does it do? How much do grants
keep Ukraine businesses and government mired in a system of begging for
money, stealing what they can and never going through the difficult
steps of building a real organization that is self-supporting?

What is our role here? Are we here to make measurable contributions or
is that really important? Do we care if we are effective or just
giving the impression of effectiveness?

Are we really just the Feel Good Corps?

I and many business volunteers supplement our time here in other
activities. I teach a management class and participate in two English
clubs as well as other such activities. But I would much rather be
providing the expertise that I have brought with me.

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