Working with the Stevens Initiative to promote #VirtualExchange

By Amanda Faulkner

As a platform that values all voices, we think a lot of good can come from shared perspectives and experiences among people of diverse countries, cultures, and backgrounds.

Through the use of technology, students around the world now have the opportunity to interact with, learn from, and indeed, befriend their peers in other countries, even if separated by thousands of miles. If this opportunity is seized, we can expect future generations to be full of global citizens with a greater understanding of cultures different from their own. People who can empathize with one another, and work together.

That’s why today we’re pleased to share that we’ll be teaming up with the Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative (@StevensInit) in support of its robust efforts to facilitate #virtualexchange and promote cross-cultural understanding between students in the US and MENA regions.

The Stevens Initiative is an international public-private partnership aimed at bringing young people together to work on subjects such as science, communications, and social studies, while also learning to understand and respect each other. It is a grant-based award competition and will be a lasting tribute to the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

In its first round, the Stevens Initiative award competition was open to US nonprofit organizations who submitted proposals for virtual exchange projects. Today, ten grantees were announced. Examples of the work to be done by the first round of grantees include:

  • Online English, Arabic, and Kurdish language exchange between students in California and their peers in Morocco, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia
  • Using media tools, including virtual reality, as a springboard for conversation and social learning among middle and high school students in Kentucky, New York, and Jordan, including Syrian refugees
  • Environmental studies projects for students in the United Arab Emirates and the United States
  • A collaboration between high school students in Morocco and Chicago to research, design, and create a digital dinosaur exhibit for what will be a virtual, global museum
  • A virtual “study abroad” program for students in Iraq, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin

In its second round (expected late 2016) the competition will be open to applicants from the Middle East and North Africa in addition to the United States, and will aim to incorporate best practices drawn from the first round, as well as new investments and partnerships.

Be sure to check out the full list of newly announced Stevens Initiative grant recipients, and don’t forget to follow their progress on Twitter: