By Douglas G. Schermer

Following the Reunion and Conference in Austin last May, it was evident to many that Peace Corps Iran Association was at a crucial junction as regards its future. Some who had worked for several months on the conference were ready for some R&R. On the other hand, before the conference concluded Saturday morning there was tremendous energy on the part of attendees for more. But what would “more” look like? What “more” activities? What “more” collaborations? Who would help by doing “more?” Would “more” involve advocacy as in support of the Iran nuclear agreement as reported in the last issue?

Those questions prompted the PCIA membership survey during August. Here is a summary of the survey results. Complete results, including comments, are posted on the PCIA website, www.peacecorpsiran.org.

It should be noted that the survey was completed during the time when the Joint Agreement regarding Iran and the U.S., Great Brittan, France, Germany, Russia, and China was under heated debate in the United States. As of this writing, it appears the deal will go through. I thought one comment from the survey might be appropriate as we consider the future of PCIA.

The Iran Agreement is only secondarily about the nuclear “deal”… It is part of a much larger picture, a rapprochement with Iran. (Emphasis added.) The Agreement and everything in it is not a “deal” like those you make to buy a used car, it is a Framework Agreement to be sustained over a period presently designated as 15 years, with a few dozen checkpoints and red flags along the road which will allow readjustment and even abnegation if necessary.

First some information about the survey itself. We used Survey Monkey which is a web based service. Approximately 140 people responded although not all were able to complete the survey because one question, #7, was confusing. In most cases I will report the combined percent of respondents who rated an item as either “important,” “rather important,” or “very important.”

Question 1 featured three items which people were asked to rate as to their importance for PCIA. Providing information and educational opportunities to expand the understanding of Iran and issues involving Iran-American relations clearly stood out as the top PCIA priority with 90% rating this activity as important or higher. Close behind was sponsorship of speakers and events to promote understanding of Iran issues (88%). Third ranked was the option of creating draft position papers for congressional representatives and media (75%). In the comment section, one person noted that “all of these ideas are important because there is a lot of misinformation about Iran out there.”

Question 2 asked people to indicate their willingness to help with various activities. Contributing to an anthology of writings by PCIA authors garnered 37% and 33% were interested in providing editorial assistance. In addition, 39% indicated an interest in contacting Iran RPCVs to be a part of PCIA. Resolving the issue of long-term archives for PCIA records had lower interest (27%).

Question 3 asked how important it is for PCIA to undertake a list of potential activities. The educational theme was again highly rated with “conducting educational, cultural, and/or professional exchanges between Iranians and Americans” at the top of the list with 82% considering this as important or higher. Close behind at 80% was the idea of developing educational materials for use in schools and the community. Planning a PCIA sponsored trip to Iran was considered important or higher by 70% while developing Sister City relationships was seen as important by 63%.

Question 4 dealt with outreach issues. Working collaboratively with other organizations with goals similar to PCIA’s was very highly rated – building alliances with Iranian-American arts and cultural organizations (81%), working with organizations that collaborate with Iranians in education, culture, and the arts and sciences (78%), and connecting with organizations that advocate in the U.S. on behalf of Iranian issues (77%).

Question 5 addressed interest in working on communications. Here the response scale shifts to “no, I am not able to help,” maybe, I might be able to help” and “Yes, I am willing to help.” Overall the most common response was, “not able to help.” Nevertheless, 46% indicated they might be or were able to help contribute photos to the PCIA website. In addition, many indicated possible or definite interest in helping write and edit content for the KhabarNameh (33%) and the website (40%). Nine people (8%) indicate they might be able to use their technical skills to help with the website.

Closely related to question 5 is question 8 which asked about interest in joining a PCIA committee. Once again the response scale is “no, I am not able to help,” “maybe, I might be able to help” and “Yes, I am willing to help.” And again, the most common response was “no, not able.” Here are the combined percentages of “maybe” and “yes” for several items: Outreach/Education (38.9%), Advocacy (37%), Legacy (35%), Communications (35%), Strategic Partnerships (21%), and Fundraising (16%).

Question 6 focused on finances for PCIA asking interest and/or support for various options. Using the total of “important,” “rather important” and “very important,” 54% thought PCIA should consider either modest or “pay-what-you-can” dues. Willingness to assist with grand writing was supported by 15% while 13% were willing to assist in finding other funding sources. One person commented that dues may drive people way while another suggested that it might be worth trying the “pay-what-you-can” dues. It was stated by several that there needs to be clear objectives and concrete proposals for activities to inspire donations.

Question 7 did not work as intended and therefore is not included in this analysis.

Question 9 involved a set of questions focused on member involvement in various PCIA activities. Here the scale shifts to “no, never,” “occasionally,” and “yes, frequently.” The percentages reported below are those for “yes, frequently.” The newsletter, KhabarNameh, was top rated respondents who reported they read it frequently (65%). This was closely followed by the President’s Newsletter (54%), which is sent using MailChimp. Questions on other means of communication indicated 17% frequently looked at the PCIA website and 10% the Facebook group page. In terms of attending PCIA reunions and conferences, the “yes” responses were Portland in 2011 (39%), Boston in 2013 (48%), and in Austin last May (50%).

You are encouraged to review the complete results and comments on the PCIA website and contribute to the future of PCIA by sending your thoughts and comments to Carolyn Yale at carolyn@peacecorpsiran.org.