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The ways individuals and organizations communicate are rapidly changing. With new technologies, communication systems, and the emergence of global teams, virtual exchange programs are increasingly valuable and necessary to prepare young people for the future.  Virtual exchange programs enhance learning in global competencies and digital skills as well as promote the building of bridges between communities. 

Virtual exchanges are essential preparation for the future of work and youth entrepreneurship. The skills learned through virtual exchange are strategies for success in the 21st century found at the intersection of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), cultural competency, and digital literacy.

Read on for insights from Stevens Institute report and to see how 3DS is creating opportunity and building strong ties between diverse young people through our approach to virtual exchange programs.

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.” The initiative, in conjunction with The Aspen Institute, invests in virtual exchange programs between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); shares research, resources, and promising practices to improve impact; and advocates for broader adoption.

The 2021 report developed by The Steven Institute was created because of the need for diversifying the impact of programs that act as a touchpoint for youth who utilize technology in their communities to foster knowledge and cultural exchange. With this need in mind, the report highlights key findings of the survey that serve as urgent calls to action, from both universities and community members alike, for collaboration and leadership in these spaces. Additionally, the report list its key findings for their survey of virtual exchange programs and their effectiveness:

  1. Impacts of The Pandemic
    The recent growth and expansion of virtual exchange has been spurred, in part, by the ongoing global pandemic. With teaching and learning mostly shifting from in-person to online since early 2020, most institutions reported an expansion of their virtual exchange programming and anticipated future growth. However, the impacts of the pandemic are complex, and the challenges faced by some virtual exchange practitioners should not be discounted: even where virtual exchange programs were not cancelled outright, some saw a drop in participation.
  2. Where Virtual Exchange is Occurring
    When it comes to country-level participation in the survey, the U.S. is over-represented. There could be many reasons for this, including the possibility that other countries’ virtual exchange activity is not fully captured in the survey. At the same time, regional networks of virtual exchange programs are growing, with many institutions and organizations joining collaboratives or networks within their region.
  3. Common Content Areas
    The three content areas or topics that are covered most frequently in virtual exchange programs include intercultural dialogue and peacebuilding, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and global or international affairs. Nonetheless, virtual exchange programs can cover a wide range of content areas and topics beyond the top three, including current issues such as sustainable development, environmental issues, and racial and social justice.

To obtain more knowledge and explore their findings, read the report here.


3 Day Startup believes using design, innovation, and entrepreneurship education in virtual exchanges is the highest impact vehicle for creating impact through these experiences.  Youth, educators, and communities all benefit long after the exchange program.

The Global Innovation Exchange between 3DS, Oulu University, and Texas State will be a once in a lifetime experience for students.  Not only is this initiative led by exceptional faculty, the future focus on global megatrends makes this a worthy endeavor for students and our team alike.  I am equally excited about our Austria to Austin exchange scheduled for summer of 2022 which will focus on social entrepreneurship and circular economies.  

Young people pursuing design, innovation, and entrepreneurship are extraordinary.  When given the necessary tools, resources, and opportunities – they will create, build, and lead for a more equitable and inclusive future.  They’ll also find ways to collaborate internationally – regardless of the continent they live on, because they know we are all connected and our futures are interdependent.   I can’t help but be inspired . . . can you?”

-Erika Haskins, CEO of 3 Day Startup

In conclusion, as educators, we have the ability to use technology to connect young people from different regions of the world for education and the exchange of diverse cultures and perspectives.  Doing so develops global competencies and transferable skills for career success.  Virtual exchange is an innovative way to give young people the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need to address global challenges and participate in the 21st century workforce. 

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