Who We Are
The J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (the Stevens Initiative), developed in partnership with the Stevens Family, and with significant involvement from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is a multilateral public-private partnership designed to increase people-to-people exchange between youth in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa as a lasting tribute to the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Through structured online engagements between youth in secondary through post-secondary education, the Initiative aims to increase mutual understanding and equip a generation of globally minded youth with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.
The Initiative is housed at the Aspen Institute and is a collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; the U.S. Department of State; the Bezos Family Foundation; the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Algeria; in addition to LRNG, Microsoft, Twitter, and Vidyo.
The Stevens Initiative will support organizations that run virtual programs to deepen the impact and scale up the reach of their programs in the United States and in the Middle East and North Africa. The Stevens Initiative may support in-person exchanges to complement participants’ virtual exchange experience. The Initiative seeks to equip young people with a sense of global citizenship and with 21st century skills, including digital literacy, leadership, cross-cultural communication and collaborative problem-solving. It will share best practices and support research to address which methods have a measurable impact and have the potential to reach all young people as the field grows.
The introduction of technology into the lives of young people is changing the way they engage with the rest of the world. Increased connectivity is inspiring global citizenship, driving young people to seek connections with peers outside of their local communities, and encouraging them to tackle local and global challenges. Yet virtual connections made in the unmediated space of the Internet also have the potential to fuel misunderstanding and division rather than foster mutual respect and cooperation. Developing young people’s understanding of other cultures and diverse perspectives, and equipping them with the tools they need to communicate and cooperate, is critical to ensuring that the power of global connectivity lays the foundation for a safer and more prosperous world.