Stevens Initiative Virtual Exchange Grant Competition 2018 for U.S. and MENA region

Stevens Initiative Virtual Exchange Grant Competition 2018 for U.S. and MENA region

Deadline: September 13, 2018

The Stevens Initiative 2018 Virtual Exchange Grant competition is now accepting applications to fund innovative virtual exchange programs in the U.S. and MENA region. The Stevens Initiative invites qualified non-profit organizations and educational institutions to submit proposals to scale proven models of virtual exchange and seed new models connecting young people between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa.

The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange: online, international, and collaborative learning. The Initiative encourages proposals by consortia that include organizations with relevant and complementary experience, capacities, and networks.

Applicants should review the competition rules below and submit a Letter of Interest, the first step of the application process, no later than September 13. Organizations selected by an independent review committee will be invited to submit a full application this Fall. Virtual exchange program activities would be expected to begin during the Fall 2019 academic term and continue through the Spring 2021 academic term.

Priority Topics

Proposed projects are strongly encouraged to focus on the following topics:

  1. Technology and computing
    1. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields give young people skills critical to the 21st century workforce. Virtual exchange is particularly well suited to facilitating hands-on, collaborative projects ­– on a range of topics, including programming, web design, robotics, and many others – that help young people gain technology and computing knowledge and skills. Vocational and job skills training in technology and computing are encouraged.
  2. World affairs and global studies
    1. Courses in a range of disciplines or departments – particularly across social studies and the social sciences – focus on places and topics beyond the borders of the country where the course is being conducted. Global education is increasingly recognized as critical for young people, who need to understand global issues and trends as they prepare for jobs that involve international communication and cooperation and as they prepare to be informed, active citizens in their globally connected communities. Direct communication with peers from other places and backgrounds through virtual exchange gives young people the opportunity to see the world and their own society from new perspectives and with greater empathy.
  3. Business and entrepreneurship
    1. Virtual exchange can give young people the opportunity to practice the cross-cultural communication and digital skills, such as through international projects or case studies, they need as they enter the private sector.
    2. The Initiative is particularly interested in supporting programs focused on business and entrepreneurship at the higher education and young professional level.
  4. Language learning and practice
    1. Virtual exchange can give young people the opportunity to practice communicating in a world language, building confidence and communication skills alongside increased language proficiency. Proposals focusing on this topic may be designed to give young people in the Middle East and North Africa the opportunity to practice English, to give young people in the United States the opportunity to practice a language spoken in the Middle East or North Africa, or to give both groups of young people the opportunity to practices the language spoken by their peers abroad. Note that while the primary purpose of these programs may be language learning and practice, the subject or topic of the communication between participants should be any topic of relevance and interest to all participants.


  • The competition is open to organizations in the United States as well as the Middle East and North Africa.
    • Applicants based in the United States must be tax-exempt non-profit organizations, including educational institutions. U.S. applicants in the process of registration must submit proof that they are seeking non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service at the time of submission. Should the applicant be selected for an award, funding will be contingent on the organization receiving tax exempt status. Award recipients must be registered to conduct proposed activities in the countries where the activities would take place, if applicable.
    • Applicants based in the Middle East or North Africa must be non-profit organizations, including educational institutions, that can demonstrate current in-country registration. Other organizations are not eligible to apply, though they may be included as sub-awardees or contract recipients. Staff should be proficient in English, able to file reports and conduct evaluations in English as well as in Arabic or French as appropriate.
  • An organization can request no more than 80% of the amount of their Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget.
  • Organizations may submit more than one letter of interest or proposal if the proposed programs are distinct and do not involve any overlap in staff, curriculum, participants, etc.
  • Activities must be conducted in the United States and in one or more of the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Programs involving refugees from these countries who are currently in countries not listed above are also eligible.
  • Participants should be young people in the age range that corresponds to the middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate education levels, and young professionals under the age of 35.
  • Past recipients of Stevens Initiative awards are eligible to submit applications.
  • In-person exchange for young people, educators, facilitators, or program organizers is allowable to include to complement the virtual exchange activities.
  • Awardees will be expected to notify all participants that they are in a Stevens Initiative program and explain what the Stevens Initiative is and who supports the Stevens Initiative. Awardees will be expected to collect information about participants to share with the Stevens Initiative, and in turn with the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, as part of the Initiative’s alumni engagement.
  • Applicants will be asked to share more information about several aspects of the program plan – such as monitoring and evaluation, alumni engagement, communications, sharing lessons learned with the virtual exchange community, and other areas – at the full application stage, if they are invited to that stage after the review of the Letter of Interest.
  • As mentioned above, organizations are encouraged to collaborate to develop a proposed program. The Letter of Interest or full application should be submitted by one organization and may list partners as sub-awardees or contractors. The lead applicant should be the organization that will conduct the largest portion of the proposed work.
  • Applicants must demonstrate the capacity to meet U.S. reporting requirements as specified in the “Office of Management and Budget” and “Department of State” sections of “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards” (2 CFR sections 200 and 600).

The Initiative is particularly interested in projects that involve the following:

  1. Participants and institutions located in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and in the Palestinian Territories.
  2. Programs that would involve intra-regional interaction, such as between Israeli participants and those in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. These programs must still include participants in the United States.
  3. Community engagement and community service. Virtual exchange programs can include activities that bring participants outside the classroom and into their communities to better understand and make a difference in addressing local and global issues.

Selection Criteria

Letter of Interest criteria

  1. Feasibility of the proposed virtual exchange program/activities
  2. Capacity: Applicant and partner/consortium capacity to conduct the program
    1. Can the applicant and its partners reasonably conduct the proposed program? Does the applicant have sufficient prior experience and a foundation on which to conduct this program? Are the partnerships established?
  3. Priority topic: The applicant presents a compelling program that addresses one of the Initiative’s priority topics.
  4. Global competencies: The proposed program would contribute to participants’ global competencies, as defined by U.S. Department of Education global competencies framework.
  5. Practical skills: The proposed program would contribute to other skills that the participants need for a 21st century career, such as digital literacy, technical and vocational skills, and skills for a specific job sector.
  6. Reaching diverse participants: The proposed program has a practical plan to prioritize reaching young people whose access to international exchange has been limited.
  7. Need: The statement of need should encompass participants, their communities, and the participating institutions (i.e. changes to the institutions as a result of their conducting the program) in both the United States and the Middle East and North Africa.
  8. Appeal to proposed participants: Proposed programs should be interesting to the participants both in the United States and in the Middle East and North Africa, by providing them with skills or knowledge that they will value, and also by recognizing and incentivizing their participation and completion of the program, such as through offering academic credit, badging, a certificate (particularly a certificate that is recognized by the professional field they are training to enter), or providing unique opportunities to alumni for further international exchange (including virtual exchange and in-person exchange) or career advancement.
  9. Growth/Sustainability: Proposed programs should demonstrate a commitment to and vision for growth and sustainability after the award period.


When submitting a Letter of Interest (or if invited later, a full application):

  • Applicants should apply for either a Seeding or Scaling award, which have different parameters and selection criteria. Scaling award applicants are required to submit a response to the Initiative’s Survey of the Field (see form link below) alongside the Letter of Interest; this survey is optional for Seeding award applicants and open to non-applicants, as well.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to focus on one of the topics listed in the Priority Topics section below.
  • Applicants are expected to demonstrate how their proposed program would reach young people whose access to international exchange has been limited; see the Reaching Diverse Participants section below.
  • Applicants are encouraged to consider some of the Initiative’s particular interests listed in the Invitational Priorities section below.
  • Applicants may propose to conduct an impact evaluation of the program as a whole or of a specific program attribute. The evaluation component of these awards will be more intensive than the evaluation requirements of typical awardees. Applicants proposing to conduct an impact evaluation of the program as a whole or a specific program attribute are required to complete an Impact Evaluation Supplement included in the Letter of Interest (and subsequently full application) form.


Interested and qualified parties are invited to submit letters of interest by September 13. The Stevens Initiative will invite full applications from selected organizations.

Download the list of the questions and prompts for the Letter of Interest form (Scaling form and Seeding form) and the Survey of the Field form, which is required of Scaling applicants and optional for Seeding applicants.  Note that these PDFs are for your reference only; all forms must be completed and submitted through the online form at

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the Initiative at [email protected] to address any questions prior to submitting an application.

Click here to submit Letters of Interest.

For more information, visit Stevens Initiative.