Stevens Initiative

Date: 2015 Description: Stevens Initiative Logo © Stevens Initiative

The Mission

The Stevens Initiative is a multilateral public-private partnership designed to achieve the largest-ever increase in people-to-people educational exchanges between the U.S. and the broader Middle East. A collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, partner governments, foundations, international organizations, and private sector leaders, the Stevens Initiative is committed to cultivating a new generation of globally minded and culturally sensitive youth.

The overriding objective is to develop young people’s understanding of other cultures and diverse perspectives, equip them with the tools they need to communicate and cooperate with confidence and respect, and help them to succeed in the global job market. We believe this work is critical to ensuring that the power of global connectivity is harnessed for good and lays the foundation for a safer and more secure world.

The Inspiration

U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was known for his uncommon goodwill toward others. Always gracious, fascinated by other cultures, and constantly asking questions, he engaged in open and respectful dialogue with everyone he met. His appreciation for the differences that make people unique was fueled by his early experiences abroad. Stevens studied as a high-school student in Spain and as a college student in Italy. As a young man, he volunteered to join the Peace Corps and taught English in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Morocco was his gateway to a life spent as a brave and intrepid diplomat for the United States. He served the majority of his career in North Africa and the Middle East — a region he grew to love — and rose to become U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Ambassador Stevens devoted his life to building bridges. He was killed by violent extremists in Libya in September 2012 as he continued this important work.

The Partnership

The J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative — conceived and developed in close partnership with Ambassador Stevens’ family — was inspired by the meaningful international exchange experiences that Ambassador Stevens had as a young man, which helped to shape the kind of diplomat he became. Such physical exchange experiences are highly valuable in today’s inter-connected world, yet less than 1% of young people have the opportunity to study abroad. The Stevens Initiative builds on the pioneering work of the virtual exchange community. Recognizing the potential for significant impact that this work promises and capitalizing on advances in technology, our aim is to make similar life-changing cross-cultural experiences available to unprecedented numbers of young people through programs that connect youth virtually in sustained and meaningful ways.

Partners of the Stevens Initiative include national governments, which provide funds to support and implement virtual exchange activities in the U.S., the Middle East, and North Africa; charitable foundations that serve as collaborative partners and have pledged to align a portion of their grantmaking with the goals of the Initiative; research organizations that provide technical and analytical services to ensure maximum impact and efficiency; and private companies and individuals offering both financial and in-kind support. Stevens Initiative founding partners — the J. Christopher Stevens Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the U.S. Department of State and the Kingdom of Morocco — have provided significant funding, resources, and intellectual guidance in support of the establishment of the Initiative.

For more information on the Stevens Initiative, please visit