Community Economic Development Connector

Project Description

Imagine watching rain fall while drinking freshly brewed coffee with your neighbor. Now envision yourself using Spanish as you work hand-in-hand with youth to support the development of their entrepreneurship skills and as they set goals for their future. Can you see yourself biking to the local market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for a new recipe, hearing boys and girls shout greetings to you, inquiring about when the next entrepreneurship lesson will take place? Do you see yourself supporting a group of rural entrepreneurs improve their business skills while helping them brainstorm names for their new business product? If your answer is yes, Colombians invite you to share your passion, curiosity, flexibility, and resiliency to support business and community initiatives by becoming a Community Economic Development (CED) Connector.

CED Connectors link, liaise, and support the capacity building of a wide array of stakeholders, including community leaders, Economic and Social Development Government staff, women and youth groups, teachers and students, local businesses, and community-based organizations. Volunteers work alongside these community partners to support their formal business training and economic development efforts by collaborating on activities in areas like:

• Entrepreneurship – Co-facilitating entrepreneurship sessions to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in youth and adults;
• Business Advising – Advising rural small businesses on basic management practices; and
• Personal money management – Promoting management of personal finances through Community Savings Groups (CSGs) and financial literacy training.

Whether a Volunteer is placed on the Caribbean coast or in the Andean region of Colombia, CED Connectors engage directly with the Colombian Ministry of Education (MEN). Volunteers work with teachers and youth from high schools to further their entrepreneurial vision, creating a culture of savings, soft skills development, and vocational orientation in their last two years of high school.

CED Connectors also work in close coordination with another Peace Corps Colombia partner, the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA), a public institution focused on the social and technical development of Colombians through training and support to identify and grow rural entrepreneurial opportunities. Volunteers will work alongside SENA trainers to promote and support entrepreneurship and business development with local youth, informal groups, and business owners.

In rural Colombia, a small business is sometimes described as a micro-enterprise. Volunteers may work with micro-enterprises or informal businesses such as an individual with a juice stand, a farmer selling yucca at a local market, or a start-up led by youth. In addition, Volunteers may be expected to work with newly-established local businesses that comprise of several partners. Sometimes it takes up to a year to build-up relationships in order to begin business consulting activities. Patience is essential for Volunteers!

During their service, Volunteers are encouraged to leverage their unique skills and interests. For example, Volunteers may contribute in specific ways to youth leadership groups, teach Information Communication Technology (ICT) practices applied to entrepreneurship and business management, lead environmental awareness workshops and school gardening projects, coach sports, teach English classes, or organize community-wide recycling projects.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field OR
• 5 years professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business or economics discipline OR 5 years professional experience in business management, marketing or sales
• Experience working with youth (involvement in schools, clubs or with youth groups in activities related to vocational development, entrepreneurship, employability, soft skills, financial literacy, or business skills in a mentor/co-teacher role).
• Work experience in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, small business and willing to work as a business mentor, trainer, or facilitator in high schools in rural and/or semirural communities, especially with youth and women.
• Community organizing experience (promoting community groups, using participatory community assessment tools, leading committees/community projects, project design and management, proposal writing, fundraising, etc.).
• Experience creating and maintaining local networks with different stakeholders and interest groups.
• Experience designing work plans and self-directing their project work, under minimal supervision.
• Experience working with diverse rural community groups and in grassroots development.
• Experience working with women’s economic empowerment and/or women’s groups

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position. A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Volunteers are required to work exclusively in Spanish. Trainees must demonstrate a minimum Spanish level of intermediate-mid after the 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training. Language acquisition will be a high priority for those who complete training with the basic required Spanish level. Volunteers will be expected to reach a high level of Spanish during service and acquire business professional vocabulary.

Living Conditions

Work sites are in small and medium sized rural communities typically located within six hours of a major city in the Caribbean or Andean regions. In the Caribbean region, communities are hot and humid throughout the year. Volunteers placed in this region may experience frequent electrical outages and water shortages. Seasons are divided into dry months and months of frequent rain and high humidity. The Andean climate is cooler, especially at night, with rainfall throughout the year and fluctuating temperatures (45-75 degrees Fahrenheit) depending upon the time of year.

Volunteers travel by public bus or mini bus to get around and to attend training or working activities. Some Volunteers also use bicycles. Significant walking may be required when implementing projects.

Volunteers live with Colombian host families for their entire 27-month service. The host family living arrangement can be one of the more rewarding components of Peace Corps service and an important means of cultural integration. As such, Volunteers are asked to be flexible and committed to building strong relationships with host families. Furthermore, Volunteers are expected to spend the majority of their time in the communities where they live and work. Because of this commitment to integrating into host communities, Volunteer travel and vacations are limited to when local schools are closed and/or organizations are not functioning.

Volunteers may be challenged to adapt to some unequal gender norms where women perform the majority of the domestic labor (e.g., cooking, cleaning, and childcare) and have limited economic opportunities. Generally, Colombia is a male-dominated culture, especially in rural areas. Female Volunteers may receive overt expressions of unwanted attention including catcalling and sexist remarks. Male Volunteers may also receive unwanted attention in more subtle ways. All Volunteers will be expected to navigate these situations effectively. In addition, Peace Corps will provide various strategies and training on how to adjust and respond in a culturally appropriate way.

Colombians are generally tolerant and Peace Corps Colombia is an open, non-judgmental place for Volunteers. Values and mores concerning diversity (e.g., race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, etc.) in communities may vary from those in the U.S. Volunteers need to be mindful of cultural norms and use their best judgment to determine the appropriate way to approach diversity issues in their communities. Volunteers are asked to be open to Colombian diversity, including approaching others’ cultural values and views on different aspects of life with respectful curiosity.

The Colombian diet primarily consists of corn, rice, potatoes, yucca, and other carbohydrates along with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It is unusual to find vegetarians in rural communities. Volunteers with dietary restrictions may need to be flexible and communicate their preferences to host families.

In the Caribbean region, loud music, and celebrations are common aspects of the culture. Introverted Volunteers may need to employ strategies to adapt to this environment. In contrast, the Andean region tends to be more quiet and tranquil. Embracing a flexible, resilient approach is key to adapting to the culture.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT CITIZENSHIP: Applicants who are dual citizens of Colombia and the U.S. or who were born in Colombia and became U.S. citizens after July 4, 1991 are not eligible for Peace Corps service in Colombia. Under Colombian law, anyone born in Colombia who became a U.S. citizen after 1991 or anyone holding dual U.S. and Colombia citizenship is considered a citizen of Colombia, and not of the United States. If an individual faced a legal, safety or emergency situation in Colombia, the Peace Corps' ability to intervene would be limited. We encourage applicants who fit these categories to look at Peace Corps Volunteer assignments in other countries.

Serving in Colombia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Colombia: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Peace Corps Colombia encourages couples to apply. Partners that qualify for Peace Corps service in Colombia will be assigned to live and work in the same community, but they will have distinct projects during their two-year service. Therefore, one partner must apply and qualify for the following position: Community Economic Development Connector.

During the 11-week Pre-Service Training, couples will each live with a different host family in separate homes in order to promote maximum language acquisition and cultural integration. During their 24 months of service, couples will live together in their own housing.

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couples placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process, recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit:”

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.

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