I set out to study what could be done about the participation of under-represented groups in AmeriCorps programs and to determine how these programs could recruit and retain people statistically less likely to participate in community service. I looked for innovative practices that had proven effective in reaching diverse groups locally that could be replicated nationally.
Through the use of interviews and focus groups with both AmeriCorps members and program staff and directors, I examined what some of the issues affecting diverse participants have been. By listening to what the various stakeholders have said, I have some up with a variety of strategies and techniques to improve diversity and representation in the AmeriCorps programs.
Programs must design a systematic approach to addressing diversity (the many characteristics of individuals that define the groups to which they belong) and representation (involving people of diverse backgrounds in a program). They must begin by changing their organizational culture to be more supportive of diversity. Once they have achieved this, they can start addressing some of the diversity issues in their programs by implementing a series of strategies throughout their outreach and recruitment, training, and programming. As they take these steps, they must simultaneously be aware of different diversity issues that affect different groups of people.
Dealing with diversity is a complicated and extensive process, but by making a commitment to the process, directors can make their programs more more representative, thus truly reflecting the face of America - strengthening their programs and meeting one of AmeriCorps' national goals.
Barry, Rick, "Improving Diversity and Representation in AmeriCorps Programs" (1998). Capstone Collection. 903.