In February of 2020, I began my position with Faces & Voices of Recovery. With experience in grassroots organizing, working with RCOs and state systems, and peer training facilitation and curriculum development, I brought with me a passion to strengthen the national network of Recovery Community Organizations. As a woman in sustained recovery, I personally utilized peer services and had access to local RCOs. This personal experience helped to solidify my understanding of the vital role peers and RCOs have in building a foundation for recovery and across the recovery continuum journey.
I spent my first few months with the organization learning about our ARCO members. I learned from active ARCO members, members who opted to leave ARCO, and organizations who had unsuccessfully applied for membership. I sought a deeper understanding of their challenges and where Faces & Voices of Recovery, the RCO definition, and the 8 Criteria for RCOs and ARCO membership could improve. I grew my knowledge through rich and vulnerable conversations and by listening to understand. After a few short months, I submitted a proposal to complete a programmatic evaluation on our ARCO program with the intent to make changes that were responsive to challenges encountered by RCOs.
As the work on this evaluation began, Faces & Voices of Recovery became aware of how we as an organization, and many others in our national recovery network, failed to equitably represent Black; Indigenous; and people of color in our work to elevate and increase access to recovery. This was something I had already become aware of through the conversations I had been having with RCOs in our national system. The ARCO Programmatic evaluation grew from making responsive changes for developing RCOs into making responsive changes that were culturally congruent to BIPOC community members, LGBTQIA+ community members, People Who Use Drugs (PWUD), and harm reduction efforts that are inequitably welcomed and represented in recovery spaces.
A wise and brutally honest ARCO member expressed to me that Faces & Voices of Recovery, and the recovery movement as a whole, had a history of inequity and whiteness. This member had been a supporter of our organization for many years and continued to do so but was unabashed about his truth and experience as an African American, long-term recovering community member, and recovery advocate. This person committed to helping us do better if I committed to doing the work. You know who you are, and I thank you. It was with passion and empathy, along with support and access to resources to complete the ARCO Programmatic Evaluation from Patty McCarthy; Phillip Rutherford; and Joseph Hogan-Sanchez, that we began our journey to do better.
This report and the work conducted by our ARCO members is a mechanism to reevaluate our systems, embrace dialogue in the spirit of understanding, and challenge what we know to be true. It is a catalyst for change. It has changed our organization and ARCO membership, but more importantly, it has changed me, and I hope that it spurs change for you. Together, we can do better.
We are pleased to present to you the 2021 ARCO Programmatic Evaluation Report which can be accessed for online reading, downloading, and printing here.
Program Manager, Faces & Voices of Recovery