Project Exchange

Talk about culture. Promote mutual understanding. Tackle today’s critical issues through cross-cultural collaboration.

Photo of Ashley Lin
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  • Education

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Date You Started Your Project Started


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

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

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

Access to global education empowers students to think globally and act locally to create sustainable solutions to today’s critical global issues, from climate change to gender equality. But, barriers to quality study abroad programs such as rising costs, documentation, and lack of community awareness prevent deeper cross-cultural learning—especially for minority students whose voices need to be amplified in global and intersectional platforms.

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

Project Exchange decreases barriers of access to global education through digital programs. Through digital exchange programs, virtual field trips, an online multimedia storytelling platform, and more, we bring together middle & high school students around the globe to talk about culture, promote mutual understanding, and tackle today’s critical issues through cross-cultural collaboration. For example, our Digital Exchange Program matches students with a peer abroad, and they then participate in our 12-week curriculum of a weekly video call and activity. The entire program is conducted on Slack, where participants are organized into #family channels in groups of 6-8 (3-4 student pairs) with a college facilitator. During the video call, student pairs build deeper relationships and circulate cultural understanding on platforms from Google Hangouts to Whatsapp. After each call, students continue strengthening their cultural understanding through individual follow-on activities. By the end of the program, students are prepared to circulate global awareness with their community—whether that’s hosting a world cultures fair at school, or joining a global movement like Fridays for Future.

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

I grew up in a bilingual household, and constantly grapple with marrying my American identity with traditional Taiwanese values. The hyphenated American part of me introduced a creed and values that were greatly different from my parents—and learning about the nuances of culture in school helped me understand this seemingly fragile relationship. It brought clarity to my own perspective. Nonetheless, I lacked access to deeper forms of cross-cultural learning, due to a combination of finances, documentation, and family awareness. It didn’t take long to recognize that I'm not alone. In fact, only 29% of U.S. students studying abroad in 2016 were non-white. Barriers to global education disproportionately affect minority communities. After serving as a 2018 U.S. Youth Ambassador to Uruguay—which fundamentally redefined my sense of self—I felt called to help others access global experiences.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

In eighth grade, I became naturalized as a U.S. citizen, which opened up unexpected opportunities. The summer of my freshman year, I served as a U.S. Youth Ambassador to Uruguay, an experience that fundamentally changed my perspective: not only does quality global education promote peace & cultural understanding, it is crucial to cross-cultural collaboration and sustainable solutions to today’s critical issues. I felt a sense of responsibility to circulate this new worldview in my community.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Students find Project Exchange in many ways, from social media to word-of-mouth to teachers and adult leaders in their community. In Ecuador, our students were identified through a partnership with Manna Project International. The Project Exchange team first sat down with the Manna Project staff to see if the Digital Exchange Program (DEP) would be a good fit. The adult leaders at the Manna Project then shared our application with students they believed would benefit most, and our team matched students based on language & culture preferences (in our Ecuador site, there was a slight English language barrier) and individual hobbies & interests. The Ecuador students were paired with a Spanish-speaking facilitator, onboarded on Slack, and off they went with the DEP curriculum. By the end of 12-weeks, students are prepared to think globally and take creative local action to make a difference!

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

Project Exchange is the first ever for-youth, by-youth intercultural learning organization offering digital strategies to overcome gaps in access to global education, directly informed by youth needs. Furthermore, few organizations offer quality digital exchange programs that 1) is comprehensive in content, 2) emphasizes active global citizenship, and 3) provides facilitator & peer community. Furthermore, we combine traditional digital exchange components (video calls, online dialogue, etc.) with in-person activities to enhance the global learning experience—so students get the best of both!

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Project Exchange launched our first cohort of the Digital Exchange Program (DEP) in Spring 2019, engaging 20 students from 7 different countries. For some students in this program, it was their first time speaking with an individual outside their country. Using participant feedback, we’ve redesigned our 12-week curriculum and internal structure to better support students. We’re currently in the Fall 2019 cohort of the DEP, helping over 75 students and 10 facilitators from 18 different countries access quality global learning experiences. Not only have participants made new friendships well beyond the program length, they’ve created innovative solutions to global challenges, from gender discrimination to climate crisis to inequitable education, through cross-cultural collaboration. Ultimately, Project Exchange is developing a generation of global citizens to use culture for good!

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

Beyond expanding the reach of our Digital Exchange Program by establishing robust partnerships with NGOs bringing education into under-resourced communities abroad, Project Exchange plans to launch a campaign to address the digital divide as a barrier to global education. Many of the student communities we are trying to reach may not have access to digital devices/broadband, which means they are unable to join our online community. We seek to partner with donors (e.g., HP, Intel) and organizations working on the digital divide (e.g, Project LISA, to bring quality global education opportunities to the most under-resourced students. We will also align our curriculum to learning standards, for better implementation in the classroom!

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. 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

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Recommended by others
  • T-Mobile page or contact
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 33.3%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Savannah

Hi Ashley, this is awesome! Very well-written. When you get the chance, it would be great if you could check out my submission. I think we have a lot in common and could accomplish great things together! Thanks.

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