The Peace Corps’ Agency Equity Plan

On the first day of the Biden-Harris Administration, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. This Executive Order calls for a comprehensive approach for the Federal Government to transform itself—for fairness and equity to become more than ideals, to be principles embedded in the daily practices by which the Government serves its people. It also outlines a vision of equity that promotes fair and just treatment of all individuals, including those historically underserved, across a range of dimensions from race, gender, and sexual orientation to geography, income, and disability.

The work extends to the Peace Corps, an agency that is powered by people who bring their individual culture, identity, and life experience together in the spirit of world peace and friendship. The Peace Corps is acutely focused on promoting Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Accessibility (ICDEIA) at every level of the organization – among Volunteers, staff, and in the communities in which Volunteers serve.

This work is not just an initiative nor a process with an end. The agency’s very mission depends on fostering a deliberate practice and culture of ICDEIA until it is inseparable from our way of connecting, doing, and being.

Key to that work is:

  1. Achieving a Volunteer corps and workforce that looks like the United States and who honor the diversity of all cultures
  2. Enhancing staff and Volunteer capacity to work more effectively and appropriately across differences with intention, humility, and respect
  3. Creating fair, transparent, and equitable systems

The Peace Corps’ very mission depends on fostering a deliberate practice and culture of ICDEIA until it is inseparable from our way of connecting, doing, and being. Over the last two years, we have received thoughtful feedback and important ideas from the Peace Corps network about how we can better reflect the diversity in American society and be more inclusive for all who answer the call to serve.

Carol Spahn, Peace Corps Chief Executive Officer

The Peace Corps’ Agency Equity Action Plan

The Peace Corps’ Equity Action Plan [PDF] focuses on five main areas:

  • Volunteer recruitment and retention: Recruiting and retaining a diverse volunteer corps to model how individuals from many different backgrounds can unite to address communities’ important and challenging goals.
  • Equitable overseas post operations: Systemically addressing structural barriers in Peace Corps’ policies, processes, and procedures organization-wide and standardizing, integrating, and measuring equitable and inclusive processes across Peace Corps’ core business practices.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Improving engagement with underserved populations in the U.S., especially with the Peace Corps’ Third Goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
  • Equitable agency procurement and contracting: Advancing equity through data-driven and evidence-based decision making that will better assess and address barriers to government contracting and procurement opportunities that are faced by people of color and other underserved populations.
  • Advancing civil rights: Employing an ongoing, data-driven, barrier-analysis approach to continuously assess the state of equal opportunity. The barrier analysis process is used to uncover and remove barriers to equal employment opportunity at all levels of the workforce.

Key accomplishments

  • Issued the Diversity Task Force Report [PDF]: A study of Peace Corps network feedback and recommendations on examining and addressing the institutional, structural and daily implications of systemic racism and how they affect staff and volunteers at the agency.
  • Published the agency Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026 [PDF]: A cornerstone of the agency’s four-year strategic plan is advancing equity. Advancing equity is both a standalone strategic objective and included in the Peace Corps’ two other objectives to ensure it is fully incorporated into agency work.
  • Enacted mandatory unconscious bias training for all staff globally.
  • Established the Diversity Dashboard, an analysis of attrition rates by race and ethnicity in the application process – from application receipt to entering on duty.
  • Defined ICDEIA competencies that Volunteers should expect to hone and grow during their service.
  • Strengthened mental health services for Volunteers, particularly preparing for managing race and other social identity based stress.
  • Expanded responsibilities of the Chief Diversity Officer, and added staff, to review key business processes, support efforts to increase the diversity of the agency’s workforce and Volunteer corps, and coordinate ICDEIA work globally.
  • Added the Chief Diversity Officer as a voting member on the Senior Policy Committee (SPC), a body that develops, reviews, and approves Peace Corps policies and procedures.
  • Established an ICDEIA section in the Volunteer recruitment section of our website.
  • Incorporated into key business systems, the Administrative Management Control Survey (AMCS) and Integrated Programming and Budgeting System (IPBS), ICDEIA metrics to gather data.

Members of the Peace Corps network and the American public can provide feedback on the Peace Corps’ Agency Equity Plan and overall ICDEIA work, on an ongoing basis, by contacting the Office of Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at [email protected]. In your outreach, please provide your relationship to the Peace Corps (returned Volunteer, staff, community member, etc.). It is optional, but welcomed, to share respective demographic information (such as race and gender).

The Peace Corps’ Agency Equity Council

Behind the Agency Equity Plan and many of the agency’s equity-related accomplishments since January 2021 is a group of more than 30 dedicated interdisciplinary staff members, the Peace Corps’ Agency Equity Council. This Council facilitates, informs, and advances progress on equity assessments, action planning, and other agency actions. They also work alongside stakeholders, including members of communities who have been historically underrepresented.

The Agency Equity Council participates in interagency policy committees and learning communities and helping inform the Office of Management and Budget’s study of equity assessment tools in support of the federal government’s work to advance equity and diversity.

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