Peer Associate Internship Platform

Initially, our program had just enough budget to retain a single Peer Recovery Specialist on a part-time basis, solely. The situation quickly mushroomed to the point where Consumer Oriented concerns were prevailing on the affinities inherent in the Peer Movement model far beyond the meager capabilities of one Peer serving as a part-time resource. Though this is generally true of all our Personnel, the constraints of paperwork duties and traditional protocols found in PSR-based models left the door open to exhaustive involvement by the PRS, in the daily needs of our facility members. Over the course of time, as trust built, many Members (impressed with the Peer Movement affordances) began to ask how they too could become a Peer Movement representative.

Your part-time Peer Recovery Specialist recognizes two fundamental and revolutionary opportunities here:

  1. Motivation. When Members are inspired in the quest to follow in a respected role-model’s footsteps, there is a tremendous Learning Opportunity in the offering and the Member will put forth enhanced buy-in if he/she knows that there is a step-wise, progressive route to success and accomplishment. There is little if any motivating value in introducing students to a series of blind-alleys behind closed doors.
  2. Sometimes, opportunities such as this result from a combination of personality and talent, as well as experiential commonalities. This is simply the occasional fact. In which case, when the special personnel is gone, the program suffers loss as well. It is perhaps, a shame, that something can’t be done about this and as a matter of fact, perhaps there is.

The resolution to this dilemma lies in a two-fold plan, which I’ll briefly introduce in the following way:

  1. Promotional Opportunity. As noted above, people are visibly more motivated by avenues of promotion and opportunity. Unfortunately, we have none to offer. But we could, by easily creating several tracks of success and accomplishment with tangible rewards upon their completion. We’ll discuss this in greater depth below.
  2. As to the special personnel issue, those talents are largely frittered away if, by mundane necessities, we waste valuable time and opportunity in putting out fires day after day. There are always daily fires to tend. A far wiser approach is to involve the special personnel in the programmatic activity of training and education with the purpose of passing on his/her unique talents, experience, and abilities, while she/he is still there.

For these reasons, I’m prepared to make the quite sensible proposal that we alter slightly, the sub-structure of our programmatic interface, to include several actionable routes to sustained motivation and successful accomplishment. These might consist of:

  • A volunteer track (unpaid), for those who want to become more involved in the Peer Movement as a Peer Intern. This affords an experiential introduction to the rather extensive cultural repertoire of the Peer Movement (alongside its characteriological responsibilities). This is the introductory level.
  • Creation of a Peer Associate track (paid position: along the lines of the In-House SEP jobs). This track has greater learning requirements (such as successful completion of courses and practicum), successful maintenance of Personal Recovery, and carries with it certain duties such as assisting the Peer Recovery Specialist (who oversees the performance and achievements of the Peers).

I’m referring to this proposal with the general label of the Peer Platform, and a possible Organizational Chart might look something like the following…

Development & Logistics

In the chart above, you might have noticed that there are two routes leading toward the Peer Recovery Specialist. These represent the In-house channel and the Community channel respectively…

  • In-House: serves as an actionable motivator in that it results in a title of elevated honor for the Intern and also in that the Peer Associate is entrusted with a position of responsibility.
  • The Community channel is an open-sourced arrangement and results in entirely different goals and affordances. The purpose behind this track is completely different (and will be discussed below). The structure is the same (or very similar) however.

The Community Channel

Though the subject naturally becomes a personnel issue and I do not know the details of our Agency’s experience of it, corroborative reports all along the continuum of Virginia’s Peer Recovery network continue to inform me of the frequent peril in hiring for the Peer Recovery Specialist positions. Briefly; so many have been let go.

In looking around for why this might be the case, I can subjectively witness from my own perspective, that there can be a vast range in quality of personnel when drawing from the ranks of Recovering addicts, convicted felons, mentally unorthodox persons and other largely marginalized and socially stigmatized populations. Prudence would indicate that this might be a risky proposition for the human resources specialist (to say the least).

And in looking around, even as a Peer, I must admit that I see things that look like they might not work out (for what that may be worth). However, and this is the remarkable thing, I also witness ~live and direct~ some of the most capable, talented, unique, and special representatives of humanity that ever graced our community. So that’s the key then, isn’t it? You get a lot of iffy folks and sometimes you luck-up and get some very special folks. The question becomes: how do you know?

While nobody can guarantee 100% hits all the time, the Peer Platform makes it that much easier to pre-identify the exceptional candidates for co-opting into our environment of excellence leadership context. Think of it as ‘Asymmetrical Recruiting’.

Surely there are potential candidates drawn from the ranks of our programmatic continuum (such as PACT, and other aspects) who would also benefit and likely shine, if given the chance. The results could be life-changing and revolutionary.

What is needed to make this happen?

Because Commonwealth Standards have also been concerned with the hiring hazards noted above, there has been a growing interest in requirements for Training and Certification in the PRS field. There is little doubt that Peer modalities can address many of the Consumer Service needs, nearly as successfully (on an evidence-based comparison) and for a far more efficient ROI than more expensive Licensed positions. Therefore, more Peer involvement makes sense. 

Further, a loop-hole has developed because of the training and certification strictures, which affords untrained and under-certified entrepreneurs to practice as Peer Coaches and the like. So as not to abrogate our commitment to Leadership and Excellence, what needs to happen is to develop our Agency’s current Peer Recovery Specialists as Certification Trainers, and put them to work training our army of local Peers. This not only elevates the quality of our Agency’s Peer Specialists (and perhaps provides them with auxiliary career opportunities) but it results in the enhanced reputation and authority or our Agency as a Whole, in making us a local center for Training and Workshops. I know from experience that our only recourse is to travel at great length and expense to attend the training workshops in inconvenient locations.

The Peer Associate channel provides opportunities such as mini-workshops for the Agency’s incipient Trainers, affords unprecedented leverage with respect to Professional Network gravity, and will also serve as a Recruiting Conduit for pre-screened qualifiers, if we should ever need to replace our own beloved yet aging talent.

With respect to the Recruiting Conduit, you may have noticed that the Peer Platform Organizational Chart leads from the PRS to the Supportive Employment Program platform (and subsequently to our Human Resources department). These affordances are not trivial and play a powerful role in contributing to our dynamic sustainability when it comes to the robust holistics of our complex adaptive agency.

Concluding Remarks

The foregoing is an example of Platform Replicability (as mentioned here and elsewhere, for example here) and serves as a pragmatic example of our ability to harness Systems Complexity for the better and also how the Whole is Greater (than the sum of its parts). As a profound example, and in conclusion, I would add that what has been said regarding our Agency Peers (especially with respect to their uniqueness and special talents) could also be said with regard to all of our personnel (most notably my professional associates at the Harmony House facility).  And that if we fritter their abilities away on mundane urgencies without involving them in the teaching and training of our future leadership potential, we will have squandered our opportunities when the time comes and they have gone. And our Agency, alongside any context of Sustainable Excellence, will be profoundly impoverished along with it. Our Human Capital is deep and valuable. So this appeal, personal as it is, applies with replicability across all corridors of our hallowed institution.