By Doug Schermer and Carolyn Yale

Following the Reunion and Conference in Austin last May, it was evident to many that Peace Corps Iran Association was at a crucial juncture as regards its future. The wrap-up discussion on Saturday morning showed us there was tremendous energy on the part of attendees for “more.” Suggestions ranged from more conferences and continuing to work on our Peace Corps legacy, to new initiatives such as travel, cultural exchanges and speaking out on political issues.

We welcome the support for expanding and deepening our activities—and also recognize we can’t do everything. How can we ensure that existing activities such as this newsletter and Peace Corps Iran history flourish in the future? What should “more” look like? Who would help by doing “more?” The Directors are organizing groups to focus on ‘legacy,’ ‘advocacy,’ ‘communications,’ and ‘education and outreach.’ Now, what should the groups do?

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. [A note: Approximately 140 people completed most of the survey. In most cases we will report the combined percent of respondents who rated an item as either “important,” “rather important,” or “very important.”]

Beyond PC history and legacy: 2015 will mark a turning point in international relations with Iran with the expected implementation of the Joint Agreement between Iran and the U.S., Great Brittan, France, Germany, Russia, and China. We anticipate new opportunities for PCIA to leverage our members’ experience and knowledge about Iran through programs that look to the future. The survey confirms interest in this new direction. We 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.

Advocacy: There was strong support for all aspects of advocacy. As one person noted, “all of these ideas are important because there is a lot of misinformation about Iran out there.” Activities included sponsorship of speakers and events to promote understanding of Iran issues (88%) and creating draft position papers for congressional representatives and media (75%).

Legacy: Roughly a third of responses indicated interest in contributing to an anthology of writings by PCIA authors. 39% indicated an interest in contacting Iran RPCVs to be a part of PCIA.

Education and outreach: There is strong support for education and outreach in many forms: “conducting educational, cultural, and/or professional exchanges between Iranians and Americans” (82%); developing educational materials (80%); planning a PCIA sponsored trip to Iran ( 70%).

Partnering and outreach to other organizations: Working collaboratively with other organizations was very highly rated. This includes 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%).

Communications: We were gratified that some people indicated interest in assisting with our newsletter and website. You’ll be hearing from us.

PCIA funding: In the past we have relied chiefly on donations to support a modest budget that covers ongoing expenses such as web hosting, postage, corporation fees, supplies, and insurance. A majority (54%) thought PCIA should consider either modest or “pay-what-you-can” dues. Some members indicated willingness to work on grants or find other funding sources.

Volunteer support: Counting maybe and yes responses, we have potential volunteers for Outreach/Education (38.9%), Advocacy (37%), Legacy (35%), Communications (35%), Strategic Partnerships (21%), and Fundraising (16%).

Conferences: Fully half of the people responding to the survey attended the May 2015 Austin conference. Although the survey did not specifically address conferences, we know there is interest in future gatherings. We also know from experience that conferences need funding and volunteers. You’ll hear more about this topic — and how we’re using the survey information — as we work on the PCIA strategic/activities plan in the coming months.

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.