Peace, Politics & Human Rights
Designed to connect hundreds of young people across the United States with peers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Palestinian Territories, and Yemen, The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service prepares participants to be more civically engaged and lead change. This fully funded eight-week summer virtual experience teaches high school students to formulate and implement service projects in their local communities.
Students come away from the program with:
- An enhanced understanding and practice of leadership
- Increased involvement in civil society and volunteering
- Mutual understanding between youth from different cultures
The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service, a pioneer in virtual exchange programming, launched in 2016. The program draws upon best practices in experiential learning accumulated over decades of Experiment programming. Originally launched to connect Experimenters with students in countries to which travel and traditional programs were not possible, The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service is now providing a critical outlet for global intercultural exchange in a time of crisis.
Upon successful completion of the program, participants receive a Certificate of Completion in Leadership & Global Issues Analysis, access to the U.S. Department of State’s International Alumni Network, unique project funding opportunities from the U.S. Department of State, and a $400 scholarship for summer 2022 towards participation in one of The Experiment in International Living’s programs around the world.
- The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service information Session recording: Password: Leadership2021
- The Experiment Digital Alumni Q&A event from October 27, 2020, including Digital Experimenters from summer 2020
PROGRAM AT A GLANCE
June 21-August 15, 2021
United States & the MENA region
The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service retains The Experiment’s longstanding model of experiential learning and emphasis on forming meaningful relationships and moves it into the virtual space. Using popular digital platforms for teens like Canvas, Padlet, Flipgrid, and Zoom, our virtual program model gives young people the opportunity to build international friendships online. Peer-to-peer engagement, combined with carefully designed activities, allows students to learn from one another and develop knowledge and attitudes that foster cultural understanding.
Virtual exchanges diversify the learning experience through accessible digital means, enabling an increasing number of young people to enjoy a meaningful intercultural experience as part of their education.
Experiential Learning Online
- Learning with The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service is challenging and fun. Participants learn how to facilitate digital discussions, lead online dialogues via video chat, and formulate and implement service projects in their local communities. Activities center around bringing students together to navigate scenarios that test their abilities and reflect on lessons learned through collaborative dialogue. Students practice collaborative problem solving, intercultural communication, and digital etiquette—all of which are important in our increasingly globalized world.
Safe and Intimate Small Group Spaces
- The participant to expert facilitator ratio is 5:1. This allows for small group conversations with authentic engagement. Students share their hopes, fears, and discuss gender norms and stereotypes.
Program for Youth Led by Youth
- Our facilitators are program alumni with experience in cultural exchanges. Community Facilitators manage “Neighborhoods” and were selected because of their experience working with youth and facilitating cross-cultural exchanges. They undergo an intensive month-long training for online facilitation. Peer Mentors, alumni of our previous digital programs, offer another layer of support to participants.
Robust Curriculum to Prepare Future Digital Citizens
- Through interactions with international peers, students practice collaborative problem solving, intercultural communication, and digital etiquette—all of which are important in our increasingly globalized world.
The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service community is split into “Neighborhoods” of about 35 participants and are led by one Digital Peer Mentor and one Digital Community Facilitator. Within those neighborhoods are small groups of 8-10 participants called “Families.”
The Experiment Digital includes four modules, each of which is two-weeks long and includes a variety of activities, discussions, and tasks—some completed independently and others in a team, with family, or neighborhood groups.
Module 1: Digital Citizenship
- In this opening module, participants will introduce themselves to each other. To set the norms for online communications and ensure a productive space for the exchange, participants will discuss phrases and emoticons that are polite and impolite to use in their cultures. They will also identify an issue that they care about in their communities and analyze its root causes.
Module 2: Leadership and Identity
- In this module, participants will formulate the issue they want to address in their communities into a problem statement that begins with, “How might we…” to narrow the scope of their projects. They will also engage in a collaborative problem-solving activity, where together as a group they will have to reach an agreement within a given timeframe while practicing leadership skills.
Module 3: Community Initiatives
- Participants will take the problem statements they devised in the previous module, and collaboratively brainstorm solutions together. Sometimes, it is helpful to learn how trash is recycled in Erbil, Iraq, and brainstorm how that may be applied to Washington, DC. In this module, participants will also share in small group dialogues how gender norms and societal expectations affect their lives.
Module 4: Public Narrative
- In this closing module, participants will take everything they have developed for their projects and put it into a form of an “action plan.” Many of our program alumni implement their action plans in their communities post-exchange and have received grant funding to sustain their initiatives. Participants will also learn the public narrative framework on how to tell a story about themselves—why they came to this exchange program, and what their responsibilities are, as alumni of The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service.
- Watch a video to learn how to analyze the root causes of an issue happening in your community (5 minutes).
- Share your perspective on why homelessness is happening in your city and respond to what your peers have shared (15 minutes).
- Post a photo of your favorite store in your city. (5 minutes).
- Discuss with your “neighborhood” (a group of 20–25) three of the best items to keep on a sinking boat in order to survive. (1 Hour)
Tuesday, 3PM (Example)
- Ask a community activist questions about implementing better street cleaning solutions during a live webinar. (1 Hour)
Saturday, 12PM (Example)
- Video chat with your “family” (a small group of 5) and your facilitator, on the intersection between gender and peacebuilding. (1 Hour)
You are eligible to apply if you:
- Are between the ages of 14–19 years old
- Currently enrolled in or have not yet completed high school
- Reside in the United States or the MENA region, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Palestinian Territories, and Yemen
- Have basic English language competency
- Have regular access to the Internet*
- Can devote 4 hours each week to the program
*Internet support may be available upon request.
Meenu is a digital facilitator and student in Madison, Alabama. The skills Meenu learned from
The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service helped her co-found two clubs: Young Advocates for Equality (YAFE) and the Interfaith Club which strive to further equality in communities and represent the diverse faiths in the community. FromThe Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service, she learned the importance of communication and techniques for civic engagement. She is a volunteer at the International Institute, working with students from different backgrounds.
Djamila is a 2019 digital facilitator and master’s student from Algeria. Prior to serving as a facilitator, Djamila was a mentee in the Maharat Mentorship program with World Learning. She also serves as a communication manager for a community project that aims to help university students who live far from their homes during the school year to eat healthier and save more money.
“I believe that one thing I gained from being a part of the program is the people whom I had the chance to meet. In one way or another, they all left an impact on me. Some taught me lessons and gave me guidance; some inspired me and some I even learnt from their mistakes. By the end of the program, I found myself having a whole new group of friends from different countries and backgrounds with whom I am still in touch with today.”
The Experiment Digital was a one-of-a-kind experience! It helped me improve my leadership skills, my critical thinking, my confidence, and my ability to express my thoughts. It also opened my eyes to things that I didn’t know were happening in other countries.
— Ferial (Algeria)
I think that our responsibility in this increasingly globalized, yet divided world is to make it less divided by making people connect more. We can use the skills we learnt from experience to make people see how easy it is to connect with each other despite the borders that separate us. I believe that we are all connected on certain levels that can’t be touched by segregation. I didn’t think that it would be possible to get along with people from different countries and backgrounds, but here I am, a month later, thinking how easy this whole process was.
— Tala (Iraq)
I didn’t feel the difference between us or the boundaries. No discrimination or false expectations. I felt like we were from the same place. We were all from Earth and talking the same language of the heart. Thank you for making me feel at home!
— Safa (Yemen)
I learned that friendships can truly transcend cultural and geographical borders; that love can exist with people who you never thought you’d be able to be in contact with – they live in Iraq and I live in the US. I’ve gained both tangible facts and emotional connections.
— Noah (U.S.)
What do I get from completing the program?
- By participating in The Experiment Digital, you will receive a Certificate of Completion in leadership and global issues analysis, access to the U.S. Department of State’s International Exchange Alumni network, unique project funding opportunities up $1000, and a $400 scholarship toward participation in one of The Experiment’s programs around the world.
How do I become a Digital Community Facilitator?
- Applications for the Digital Community Facilitator will open in early 2021. Sign up for our newsletter to receive a notification when the applications are open.
When does The Experiment Digital take place?
- It takes place for 8 weeks over the summer and will require 4 hours of time each week. Of the 4 hours, 3 hours will be carried out on your own time. You can choose when to complete those activities, and how they fit into your schedule. For the remaining hour, you will be joining a scheduled video call with your small group, the timing of which will be predetermined in advance.
How do you select your students?
- During our application review, we look for participants who: (1) Demonstrate a commitment to the program and its goals; (2) Are passionate about developing their leadership and cross-cultural communication skills; (3) Have an open-minded attitude and are willing to learn from others; (4) Have a strong desire to create social change in their communities; (5) Have not had extensive travel experience.
The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.