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Announcement

Virtual Exchange for All: The Stevens Initiative Broadens Its Horizons

March 14, 2023

U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens believed that personal relationships across cultures have the power to build bridges and change lives. While he spent his career in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), he knew that these relationships, especially among young people, could lay the foundation for positive change anywhere.

As the leading funder and advocate for virtual exchange since 2015, we have long envisioned expanding into new geographic regions to increase access for many more young people to learn and connect online. Thanks to the generous support and partnership of the Bezos Family Foundation, this vision is becoming a reality. We’re also grateful for the support and guidance of Anne Stevens, sister of Ambassador Stevens, and her family. We thank them on behalf of the entire international exchange community.

We are thrilled to announce our evolution to a global movement connecting young people in regions around the world through virtual exchange, starting with pilot programs reaching Mexican and Ukrainian youth. These three programs – led by Empatico, Global Nomads Group, and MapWorks Learning – are a microcosm of the creativity, intrepidness, and responsiveness that will mark a new era of the Initiative and the global imagination for what virtual exchange can do.

We’ve seen how much virtual exchange enriches the lives of young people by bringing together different perspectives. To achieve a universal understanding of virtual exchange’s value, we will create and convene an ecosystem of private sector, government, nonprofit, and education leaders. With their partnership, we can fuel a pipeline of globally minded and skilled young people prepared to take on the world. We’ve already begun building these ecosystems, including through our collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Jalisco (Secretaría de Educación de Jalisco) and the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) through the Federal Education Authority of Mexico City (AEFCM), which has allowed us to successfully pilot two programs in Mexico.

We believe virtual exchange is the starting point for global peace. Our expansion into new places, supporting new learning opportunities for more young people around the world, is a concrete step towards that goal.

In this next phase of our work, we will expand our role as a global champion and advocate by investing in more programs, expanding capacity-building opportunities, and working to become more nimble in order to respond to the diverse and ever-changing needs of the virtual exchange field.

Since 2019, we have documented the benefits that virtual exchange has brought to young people in the U.S. and the MENA region. Our 2023 Virtual Exchange Impact and Learning Report illustrates the success of virtual exchange in preparing young people of diverse backgrounds to be active participants in a global world through skills including cross-cultural communication and improved understanding and acceptance of those with different cultural backgrounds from our own. We believe virtual exchange is the starting point for global peace. Our expansion into new places, supporting new learning opportunities for more young people across the world, is a concrete step towards that goal.

Thank you for being part of our engine of progress.

Read Executive Director Christine Shiau’s message to our network about this announcement, and subscribe here for future updates.

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