ECA is committed to exploring new and innovative opportunities for international experiences, with the goal of promoting mutual understanding through culture and shared values. One way that ECA has been meeting this challenge is through virtual exchange, which has become an efficient way to connect young people around the globe. Virtual programs complement the traditional exchange programs of ECA, allowing thousands of additional people to collaborate with Americans.
ECA’s premiere virtual exchange program, the Stevens Initiative, was launched in 2015 to continue the legacy of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. The Stevens Initiative provides an opportunity for American youth to connect with students in the Middle East and North Africa, building career skills and enhancing their global knowledge through virtual interactions.
The Stevens Initiative has reached approximately 25,000 young people worldwide through 22 programs organized by non-governmental organizations and proposed as part of competitive open competitions. As bandwidths increase and platforms get more sophisticated, virtual exchange opportunities will continue to increase, connecting hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions, of people.
Recently, ECA’s Collaboratory published the Virtual Exchange Toolkit, containing examples of best practices and guidance in the design, implementation, and evaluation of virtual and blended exchange programs.
Using the hashtag #worldclassconnection, please share your virtual exchange experiences and reflections with us on social media. Throughout the year, these stories will be amplified to shed light on the power of virtual exchange in facilitating world-class connections within and beyond the classroom.
To learn more about the Stevens Initiative, which is funded by ECA and administered by the Aspen Institute, visit: https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/stevens-initiative. Additionally, for examples of how ECA has used virtual exchanges to connect Americans to the world visit, https://eca.state.gov/programs-initiatives/initiatives/collaboratory/virtual-exchange-programs.