Community Wisdom, Community Leadership

Starting in early June, we began a series of direct conversations with volunteers and supporters about the Peer Coordinator model. Currently, we have a couple brave souls who have agreed to be early adopters and we are looking at a November Launch date (although preparations and trainings will happen throughout the month of October). We are really excited about this and I can’t thank everyone enough for their insight and perspectives as we move forward with this.

In the past months, I’ve written about the need to adopt the Peer Coordinator model from a numbers perspective. I’ve briefly mentioned the economics of this. Simply put: We have more volunteers coming to us than we have resources to expand the program. Within the current model, we would need to raise $50,000 to effectively cover all the costs involved with supervising another 30 CASA Volunteers. While continuing to expand the program is on the horizon, and an important part of strategic planning, we can, through this Peer Coordinator model, add 30 CASA Volunteers for less—a lot less. Yet this isn’t simply amount efficiency and economics. It’s about truly improving the program by adding another level of support.

Yet an equally important theme for me is leadership. The Peer Coordinator model not only improves the program, but it also empowers volunteers (both at the CASA and Peer Coordinator level) to take a leadership role within the organization itself. What this means is that as more and more CASA Volunteers work within Peer Coordinator teams, they begin to have new perspectives about the program, its effectiveness, as well as its role within the system because of their interactions across cases. The new model develops new perspectives and a new base of knowledge, which comes with their own solutions. Assuming all of that happens, the broader question might be: How do we encourage and empower leadership across the CASA program? How do we anticipate these developments?

I don’t know the answer to that question right now—and that’s the exact point. I can look to common answers, like committees and advisory boards, but I suspect there are some ideas out there. Some truly profound answers that could drastically improve the lives of the children we serve. In the meantime, I strongly encourage all of our supporters to let us know what they think and to share any ideas they might have. Technically, I’m asking for input on two different things: (1) How to best develop volunteer leadership within the organization and (2) what ideas do you have about the program itself?

We might not be able to act or implement all of them, but we do want to hear about them. It’s important to me that everyone know how much we value your support as well as your suggestions.