The Stevens Initiative Accelerates Global Movement for Virtual Exchange

November 8, 2023

Through strategic partnerships and expanded programs, the Stevens Initiative paves the way for global experiences to be part of every young person’s education

Contact: Maura Daley
Stevens Initiative

Washington, D.C., November 8, 2023 – Today, the Stevens Initiative, a global leader in virtual exchange, announced significant progress in its mission to foster international connections among young people worldwide. Earlier this year, the Initiative expanded its grantmaking beyond the Middle East and North Africa to include youth from Mexico and Ukraine, marking a pivotal moment in its commitment to providing global experiences for all. Now, the Initiative is catalyzing this work by collaborating with key stakeholders in the virtual exchange field to enhance accessibility and broaden the scope of its programs across Latin America.

Christine Shiau, Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute, expressed her enthusiasm for the Initiative’s trajectory, stating, “Earlier this year, the Stevens Initiative committed to reimagining what virtual exchange looks like. We remain steadfast in this effort and are doing so with the help of virtual exchange providers and strategic partners who share in our belief that every young person should participate in virtual exchange. I am confident that the ecosystems we are building, first in the Middle East and North Africa, and now in Europe and Latin America, will inspire more people to join our engine of progress.”

The Stevens Initiative has identified select virtual exchange providers that will serve as a centralized hub of programs available to anyone interested in participating in virtual exchange at no cost, thanks to generous support from the Bezos Family Foundation. These providers, along with strategic partners, will help identify individual educators along with entire schools, districts, and universities in their networks to integrate these virtual exchange programs into their youth communities.

Chris Plutte, Managing Director of Adolescence at the Bezos Family Foundation, commended the Initiative’s efforts, stating, “The Bezos Family Foundation is proud to see the strides the Stevens Initiative has made in the last year towards creating a global movement for virtual exchange. The Initiative has brought together virtual exchange providers and strategic partners to build up solutions so more young people around the globe can engage in meaningful international experiences.”

Notable virtual exchange providers include AFS Intercultural Programs, Educación para Compartir, Global Nomads Group, iEARN-USA, and IREX, with organizations like Digital Promise and Global Ties U.S. leveraging their networks to facilitate a pipeline for program implementation. The Stevens Initiative is also collaborating with respected international education organizations, such as World Learning, to develop tailored programming for youth-serving organizations globally.

These collective efforts aim to establish an ecosystem for virtual exchange, ultimately realizing the Initiative’s vision of providing every young person with the opportunity to learn and build friendships with peers from diverse cultures around the world. Through these programs, young people will explore challenging topics in spaces where they can authentically engage, aligning with the overarching purpose of the Aspen Institute.

To learn more about how to join these and other virtual exchange programs, visit

The Stevens Initiative is an international leader in virtual exchange, which brings young people from diverse places together to collaborate and connect through everyday technology. Created in 2015 as a lasting tribute to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Initiative invests in virtual exchange programs; shares research, resources, and promising practices to improve impact; and advocates for broader adoption. Learn more:

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit

The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action. Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programs, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children.



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