AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program established ?as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Along with several other federally funded programs, Volunteers in Service to America or VISTA, as it was originally known, was created as part of a broad government effort to address economic and social inequality, known as the "War on Poverty." VISTA began implementing services in 1965 following its historic charge to "alleviate the effects and eliminate the causes of poverty in America." The VISTA program's singular defining activity was, and is, to recruit and place volunteers in poor communities to address, by whatever means practical and available, the needs of the poor.
This report critically examines and summarizes the efforts that VISTA has made to evaluate its impact on poverty both nationally and within the communities it serves, and it reviews VISTA's efforts to assess its outputs, services, and processes. Part 1 describes VISTA's administrative structure and the evolution of its policies and procedures over a 50-year period, including past and current policies that affect recruitment and volunteer characteristics, its project activities, and its focus areas. In addition, the report frames this review within a discussion of VISTA's competing and complementary service ideologies. Part 2 reviews the various evaluation methodologies, measurement issues, and the organization's structural factors that impact or limit evaluation and measurement of its services, and reviews all past and extant evaluation research. Part 3 summarizes the state of the evidence and suggests potential approaches and some necessary steps to implement future evaluations.