One important role for a VISTA Leader that I’ve just realized is reviewing VISTA action plans. I can not assume that the site supervisor who wrote the plan has put enough consideration when choosing how to select or word their performance milestones. It shouldn’t be assumed that the VISTA supervisor or the state office reps will catch something that may not be accurate.
For example, there is a VISTA who will be: “responsible for managing, guiding & overseeing the 16 student Fellows that will be doing financial coaching in English.” When asked what the indicator or evidence of progress is that this has been achieved, the site supervisor chose community volunteers recruited & hours of community service. Without having clear understandings of the terms used by CNCS, the measurement of achievement seems to match the milestone. But fellowships are not considered community volunteers. Instead, choosing participants in eGrants would be a more accurate way to report the achievement. There is clearly a need for more understanding with these terms as well as more emphasis on the importance of choosing the language used. (ok…Using community volunteers recruited would work in this case only if the fellowships were being trained to recruit volunteers)
DOES IT REALLY MATTER? of course it does!…read on…
So when the first report I encountered was due in October, the Progress Report Supplement, I did a great job at developing a method to easily retrieve the information from our VISTA sites. I thought it was a painless experience, but then I received an email form the state office asking why the numbers were so different than the last reporting period. The main reason for this was because the information submitted was incorrect data. Using the example above, if we were to count the fellowships as community volunteers, when the supervisor is asked to report how many community volunteer hours were done at their site for the year, the number would be hundreds of percents higher than what the actual number is!
Because action plans (also called work plans) and VADs (VISTA Assignment Descriptions) are sources that showcase the VISTA’s full year of work, make sure there is proper communication to go off of from the beginning. Expect to have a decent training session packet for VISTA site supervisors. I was advised by another VISTA Leader that if you want to raise attendance of a supervisor training, call them meetings instead.