Project Exchange's Digital Exchange Program

A free, 12-week online cultural exchange program where students learn about climate issues and sustainability from peers around the world.

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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Climate change is a global issue -- and sustainable solutions will require us to learn from and work with others across geographical & cultural boundaries. Young people currently do not have opportunities to collaborate with peers around the world to design solutions to climate issues that are community-based and globally-relevant. As a result, our actions to address climate issues are disjointed and often leave out frontline communities.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Project Exchange is a youth-led, 501c3 nonprofit that runs free, 12-week online cultural exchange programs for middle & high school students in 23+ countries. During the program, students engage in a unique curriculum that uses community journalism, design thinking, and the UN SDGs that helps students connect local community issues to the greater global narrative -- and design & implement a local community action project incorporating the ideas and perspective of peers around the world. Through this model, program graduates have gone on to organize SDG summer camps for youth in rural communities to global transition events for immigrants in their neighborhood. We plan to introduce a version of the Digital Exchange Program that is focused on exploring how climate change plays in students’ respective cultures & countries, and guide students to work with a peer abroad to create solutions that meet a local community need around climate & sustainability. For example, a student in the U.S. and their DEP partner from Pakistan may notice that plastic litter is a problem in both their communities, and work together to brainstorm and implement stronger solutions.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

We strongly believe that the root cause behind environmental challenges is a lack of education around climate issues & sustainability that is community-based AND globally-relevant. Project Exchange is using STEM to tackle this education opportunity gap by creating a free, 12-week online exchange program that is completely online. Our team is at the front lines of innovation in the online learning space -- we are dedicated to finding (and creating) technologies that will deepen students’ learning and create the small, intimate online learning spaces where our students thrive. Currently, our team uses a combination of Slack, Notion, Zoom, and other technologies to host the Digital Exchange Program (DEP). We’ve also built the world’s first-ever completely text-message based DEP for students who do not have access to stable internet -- which allows students in rural and developing communities still have opportunities to engage in a cultural exchange experience around climate issues & sustainability. We are using technology to design a portal for parents/educators to track student progress and to automate various program components (e.g., student matching, onboarding,).

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Growing up, I was intrigued by language & culture because it brought clarity to my identity as a Taiwanese immigrant. My dream was to study abroad, but it was always financially out-of-reach or otherwise inaccessible. In freshman year, that dream came true -- I was selected to serve as a U.S. Youth Ambassador to Uruguay, and that summer, spent three whirlwind weeks in the country studying social entrepreneurship. That experience helped me see the importance of cultural exchange not just to eradicate stereotypes and promote tolerance, but to empower students to learn from & work with people who are different from them. From recycling trash to connecting urban youth to nature, I didn't realize that our communities shared so many similar challenges -- and that putting our heads together and sharing our communities’ different strategies would result in such powerful ideas.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

Growing up, and learning about other cultures in school brought clarity to my identity as a Taiwanese immigrant. As a result, I’ve always wanted to study abroad, but I never thought I’d have the opportunity. It was always financially out of reach or otherwise inaccessible. Serving as a 2018 U.S. Youth Ambassador to Uruguay helped me realize it’s more than just building intercultural understanding—cultural competency is crucial to designing & implementing solutions that address global issues!

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

We have hosted four cohorts of our 12-week Digital Exchange Program which have empowered 300+ students from 23+ countries to design & implement community action projects that address local needs in their communities. We’ve designed multiple iterations of our curriculum and trained countless college students to facilitate 1:1 exchange, small group “family” activities, and cohort-wide interactions that replicate the authentic exchange experience online.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We offer the world's first-ever youth-led, online cultural exchange program that uses community journalism, design thinking, and the UN SDGs to help students connect local issues to the greater global narrative—and see how they can plug in their strengths and passions to make an impact. Not only is the program completely digital, we are dedicated to constantly iterating and designing WITH students and providing equal opportunity (we offer a text-message based program for students without sufficient internet bandwidth and focus on serving youth in rural + developing communities).

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

We recently launched our Spring 2020 cohort (4th iteration of the program), which serves ~150 students from 23+ different countries, with the support of 10 college facilitators from around the world. In only six weeks, students have built deep community bonds, sharing everything from how they’re prioritizing mental health while social distancing to Earth Day activities in their respective countries to a five-day exercise on identifying values. Last week, we introduced the UN SDGs and used systems thinking skills to create causal loop diagrams that dig deeper into the “why” of a problem in their communities. One student said, “I had never heard of the UN's Sustainable development goals until this week! This week's activity has got me thinking of ways to help us accomplish these goals.” We’re supercharging the next generation of changemakers, one cross-cultural conversation at a time!

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Moving forward, we are excited to bring our programs into world language classrooms and student organizations (e.g., Model UN, language honor societies) by aligning our curriculum with classroom standards. We’re launching a new Educator’s Advisory Council to provide feedback on curriculum design and shape messaging that will attract potential partners! Additionally, we’re ramping up to our largest DEP cohort ever this summer, where we will connect 1,000 globally-minded middle & high school students from around the world to design community-action projects that promote intercultural understanding and global collaboration specifically around climate change and sustainability.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Devangana is an Indian immigrant to the U.S. who matched with a partner from Northern Pakistan. They explored the tensions between the two countries, examining social, environmental, and economical issues -- and collaborating on those of common urgency. The DEP revealed to her the importance of intercultural understanding and working across differences to support immigrant & refugee families. She is currently organizing transition events for families from ~150 countries in her neighborhood!

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We believe in the power & energy of collaborative problem solving and are always looking for ways to supercharge Gen Z leaders. DEP alumni go on to launch their own initiatives, become facilitators, join our team -- and return to pass on their knowledge to the next cohort of students. We love bringing in changemakers as guest speakers & peer mentors, design themed exchanges around their passion (e.g., women in STEAM, climate refugees), while offering them a global platform to share their work.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

Sharing powerful stories of intercultural collaboration and community action projects designed by DEP alumni! Our world is becoming increasingly interdependent. Gen Z will address major global challenges from climate change to gender inequality -- and these global goals cannot be achieved alone. More and more people recognize that we need to learn from and work with people who are culturally, geographically, even ideologically different from us to create sustainable solutions!

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 60%

Probably - 40%

Maybe - 0%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 20%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 60%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 20%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 20%

4 - Yes, I think so - 80%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 100%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 80%

4 - Yes, I think so - 0%

3 - Maybe - 20%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so - 50%

3- Maybe - 25%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 100%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 0%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 66.7%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 66.7%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 33.3%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 33.3%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 0%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 33.3%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 66.7%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

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Attachments (2)

Just Because Poems (1).pdf

A sneak peak at the amazing work our DEP students do!

ONE PAGER Daniela.pdf

A sneak peak at the amazing work our DEP students do!


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