In 2017, the U.S. Department of State hosted its seventh annual Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) project competition. AEIF supports alumni initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges.
This year, out of 1,014 project submissions from 125 countries, 68 alumni teams representing 53 countries have been selected as finalists.* These alumni will support business development and economic opportunity, encourage civic participation and resilient communities, foster education and inclusion, and empower women and girls around the world.
Full summaries of these impactful projects below:
Business Development and Economic Opportunity
Armenia: ACT (Agripreneurs Creating Tomorrow) aims to shape the future of agriculture in Armenia by providing practical training to university students on starting a successful agribusiness. It will bring together aspiring young agripreneurs and successful agri-business (wo)men, as well as startup founders, and trainers to provide comprehensive mentorship through seminars and workshops.
Belarus: Inclusive School Social Entrepreneur promotes social entrepreneurship among young entrepreneurs and business school students, including young people with disabilities. The first social entrepreneurship school in the area, the project brings together more than 15 alumni and practical experts to serve as mentors for 100 youth who plan to start their own business. The participants will have an opportunity to pitch their social enterprises and compete for assistance to implement their ideas.
Cameroon: Counter Youth Extremism via Skills Development aims to equip 100 disadvantaged youth in Mogode, located at the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, with technical skills and entrepreneurship tools. The “learning by doing” workshops and mentoring sessions with successful local entrepreneurs will enable the youth to develop their skills and grow their businesses, creating additional revenue and providing jobs and/or internships to fellow youth in the community. The project will also foster peace and social cohesion across the communities by strengthening interfaith and intergenerational dialogue through talks with local leaders and community service activities.
El Salvador: Don’t Stop Dreaming aims to integrate at-risk youth into the labor market through bakery, banquet, and customer-service training, internships and English as a second language lessons. The beneficiaries of the project - 40 students, ages 16 to 18, from various high schools from the marginalized communities of the city of San Miguel - will learn technical and specialized skills to incorporate local tropical and exotic fruits into baking. The students will also have internships at local restaurants to practice their banquet and customer service skills. Additionally, they will participate in a series of leadership workshops to learn how to set up their own business.
Ghana: Agribusiness Innovation Hub – iHub will help youth develop profitable agribusinesses by providing them with training and agribusiness development services. The project will be implemented in ten communities in three districts across Northern Ghana, directly benefiting 1,500 youth.
Kenya: Ecobora will use green energy as a catalyst for poverty eradication by producing affordable clean wood pellets from waste sawdust for cooking in homes. The project will engage people in eco-literacy and eco-entrepreneurship training to encourage the next generation of eco-champions.
Philippines: Go Social is a series of digital marketing workshops across the Philippines to equip young social entrepreneurs and micro and small business owners with skills to create and execute digital marketing strategies for their enterprises.
Togo: Forum of Young Agricultural Entrepreneurs of Togo aims to facilitate access to business opportunities for 100 young agricultural entrepreneurs in Togo. In addition to business development training, they will benefit from guidance and mentorship on new agricultural technologies from agribusiness experts. Participants will also have the opportunity to pitch an agricultural project idea and secure support for their initiative.
Civic Participation: Building Resilient Communities
Algeria: Algerian Youth Voices seeks to train a cadre of motivated and engaged youth leaders in the production and broadcasting of quality digital media. By providing youth leaders with the tools and resources needed to create original and professional English-language podcasts, the project builds the capacity of youth who are committed to social change and increases their sense of agency, teamwork, and networking skills. Through a series of trainings, Algerian youth will learn the steps of radio production, from script-writing to interviewing, recording, editing and broadcasting.
Belarus: Urban Cycling Communities and Cycling Work will develop the urban cycling environment in five Belarusian cities by encouraging cooperation between public organizations, citizens, and local authorities. The project will reinforce the network of cycling organizations and advocate for the development of urban cycling infrastructure and regulations. A summer cycling camp will unite local leaders from various cities and localities in Belarus. Participants will then develop a proposal for local and state authorities to improve recreation infrastructure.
Benin: Non-Violent Communication for resilient communities seeks to build religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence among Benin’s culturally diverse communities by creating clubs that promote non-violent social models to solve social challenges. Trained community, religious, and youth leaders will help build social cohesion by providing alternatives to practices that make communities vulnerable to violent extremism.
Bulgaria: The Balkan Youth Forum (BYF) will educate Balkan youth on the importance of regional cooperation and inspire them to take action. BYF will bring together participants, ages 16 to 18, from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey for an intensive week of lectures, debates, workshops, and simulations to understand the past and present of the Balkans. The program also combines peer-to-peer learning, edutainment, opportunities for volunteering, and meetings with representatives of the European Commission, and other relevant institutions and organizations. At the end of the program, the participants will present their own projects for sustainable cooperation between their communities, which they will later implement with the help of their BYF mentors.
Burma: Driven by Passion aims to reduce prevalence of drug use among adolescents and reduce the health, social, and economic impact of substance use. Adolescents will have the opportunity to engage in social activities, improve their leadership skills, increase their self-confidence and self-esteem, work in collaboration with a team, and learn to be change-makers in their communities.
Burma: Information Literacy for Ethnic Communities will promote information literacy among ethnic community members through trainings, outreach campaigns, focus group discussions, and community dialogue. It will inspire an active and vibrant civil society that can be passed down to future generations.
Cambodia: The YoungCam Leaders initiative addresses low participation in community service by youth in Cambodia. The project will bring together several hundred high school students from rural communities across Cambodia for a five-day training on volunteerism and then provide small grants to implement volunteer projects in their hometowns.
India: Kochi Public Transportation Day will raise awareness about the personal and societal benefits of using public transportation. This year-long campaign will promote the use of public transportation and seek solutions to the challenges of Kochi's public transit network.
Kyrgyzstan: Citizens and Government Unite for Clean Air will mobilize citizens, volunteers, and local municipalities to organize an information campaign to raise awareness about the negative health and environmental consequences of polluting the air by burning trash and leaves.
Liberia: Through Education for Peaceful and Participatory Elections, alumni will implement a voter education program in two of Liberia’s most highly populated counties. Sports will be used to engage young voters, who are most susceptible to messages calling for violence. Four thousand youth will directly participate in programs, while at least another 20,000 will be reached through local radio and social media outreach.
Mexico: ComparoVoto is a web platform that promotes civic participation and informed voting decisions, both crucial for ensuring transparency and democracy in Mexico. This tool will inform citizens of their civic and political rights, and allow them to easily compare and contrast the political platforms and candidates competing in the upcoming presidential election in 2018.
Mongolia: Democracy Ambassadors is an eight-month long training project for underprivileged youth living in Ulaanbaatar's "ger districts" (areas on the outskirts of the capital settled by rural families, with little-to-no access to piped water or other modern amenities). Through lectures, workshops, field trips, mentorship sessions, and micro-scale community project development, the project aims to help young people participate more actively in civic life, increase their understanding of democratic principles, and improve their leadership skills.
Nepal: Empowering the Nepali Democracy Movement aims to empower Nepali civil society activists through civic education, organizational capacity building, and training in civic mobilization, strategic communications, and planning. By teaching methods to prevent violence during civic mobilization, the project will encourage a culture of nonviolence and peaceful activism.
New Zealand: American History through Black Eyes will bring together African American historians and alumni in New Zealand to bring the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to life in New Zealand classrooms. The project will deepen students' understanding of U.S. history, draw parallels with similar experiences in New Zealand’s own story, and share important lessons about the value of citizen participation and civic engagement in a democratic society.
Palestinian Territories: It’s My Turn will address the lack of enrichment opportunities for youth in Gaza by organizing a three-week camp for 280 youth, including activities such as folklore dance, art, sports, English language activities, storytelling, and community service.
Singapore: The Ground Up Community Aggregation Engine aims to build pooled resources and know-how, soft people networks, and replicable toolkits to support existing impact initiatives, and make it easier for new ones to get started. The work hopes to impact both large cities and also smaller towns and will begin its journey in Singapore and Nepal where the learning points will form frameworks which can be applied at various development stages. The project will employ cutting-edge technology to measure the social impact of this community aggregation work and through pooled physical and digital resources, improve the sustainability of a community's underlying ground up initiatives.
Spain: The Strengthening Communities through Prevention Networks project supports the Government of Spain’s engagement with the Muslim community by bringing together government, law enforcement, and civil society representatives. IVLP alumni will plan and conduct roundtable discussions on constructing inclusive societies, followed by town hall meetings with Muslim communities throughout Spain.
Sri Lanka: Upgrading Tamil Journalism in Central Sri Lanka will provide provincial-level Tamil language journalists with internship opportunities, mentoring by senior journalists, and professional training on topics including digital security, use of social media, and enhancing the graphic design of stories. Improving the quality and productivity of Tamil language journalists who serve the country’s largest minority community will increase information literacy as well as the ability of these journalists to exercise their watchdog role.
Suriname: Mission 21: Hand-in-Hand into Active Participation will encourage civic participation among young artists, ages 13 to 24. Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, youth often believe they do not have a role to play in looking for solutions to Suriname's challenges. Through this project, they will individually and collaboratively work on art projects designed to build their critical thinking skills and examine issues from multiple perspectives.
No Plastic Bag Challenge: The No Plastic Bag Challenge aims to raise awareness of young people, especially university students, regarding plastic consumption through a number of interactive activities including workshops, site visits, a plastic reduction footprint contest, a #NoPlastic challenges campaign on social media, student-initiated projects, and the formation of a No Plastic Club at the university. Thailand is one of the world’s leading plastic manufacturers and it contributes 60% of its plastic waste to the ocean.
Tunisia: For a Better Tunisia aims to foster civic engagement among Tunisian high school students. The participants will complete trainings on personal development and social responsibility, and will subsequently lead volunteering projects of their choice that improve their local communities. Participation in this program will guide these students into becoming global citizens and role models for their peers.
Education and Inclusion: Pathways to Success
Azerbaijan: iCAMP aims to teach STEM and English to 200 underprivileged children using innovative extracurricular methods. The participants will acquire new skills and knowledge on topics such as robotics, engineering, design, programming, decision making, and conversational English. The project’s overall goal is to help children better integrate into society by opening up potential pathways for success.
Bangladesh: Learning English-Pathway to Progress Indigenous will enhance the English language skills of minority students through reading, writing, speaking, listening, and grammar workshops taught by professional trainers and teachers. The project will help improve their academic performance while reinforcing the benefit of strong English language skills in the globalized economy. Developing the human capital of these marginalized populations will also contribute to their social, economic, and political integration.
Chile: A Teaching Online Channel for Rural EFL Teachers will facilitate the creation of an innovative online teaching channel to support English teachers from the rural communities of the Bío Bío region in Chile. The team will design an in-service training program based on a set of five teacher-training videos. These videos will address five subthemes including: meaningful language activities, effective teaching strategies, a review of lesson plans formats, classroom management tips, and students with special educational needs. The videos will be conveniently packaged into an online teaching channel to support English teachers in rural communities who have very few continuing education opportunities and resources.
Chile: Supporting First-Generation Indigenous Students aims to increase retention of indigenous students in Chilean higher education institutions through one-on-one counseling, mentorship, educational psychology, and cultural guidance. In addition to working with students in the target group, the team will also engage parents, instructors, and the local communities to generate a holistic change and narrow the gap between average Chilean students and ethnic minorities. These methodologies can be later replicated to support other disadvantaged groups such as immigrants, high-risk teenagers, LGBT youth, etc.
Ecuador: Building Inclusive EFL Teacher Training Networks provides an intensive English enrichment training program for 51 teachers from 17 districts in Ecuador so that teachers can develop the pedagogical skills and capacity to train other teachers in their respective districts. The project helps promote academic inclusion, the development of professional mobility, and addresses the shortage of public school English teachers in the provinces of Cañar, Azuay, and Morona Santiago through sustained in-service capacity building programs.
Greece: Tech Talent School (TTS) aims to help young Greeks gain access to the labor market by helping them develop key digital skills, as well as create meaningful links between unemployed professionals and the private sector. By providing free Information Computer Technology (ICT) training courses, Tech Talent School enhances the employment prospects of young people between the ages of 15 to 25. Alumni will develop the curriculum in close cooperation with the tech industry, ensuring that participants acquire the key digital skills that prospective employers look for in candidates. Tech Talent School supports young Greek human capital and takes a decisive step to help reduce youth unemployment. It is part of Socialinnov’s “Tech Talent” program, which is also supported by the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative and foundation.
Indonesia: Emerging Future Community Teachers will provide pre-service training for English teachers in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, on key teaching strategies and leadership skills to help them improve education in rural communities.
Iraq: Kids and Codes will promote interest in computer programming for youth, training them to become the next generation of Iraqi computer science engineers. The project aims to empower and encourage youth, particularly girls ages 5 to 14 years old, to study STEM. In addition to being the first of its kind in the country, the project is characterized by diverse content utilizing best practices from NASA, Edutopia, and the California Institute of Innovation on how to develop a Project-Based Learning Environment for youth.
Morocco: The Oasis School will implement a permanent, agriculture-based ("permaculture") educational program for students in the Ait Baamrane region of Morocco. Through this program, youth will learn permaculture practices required to create and sustain a self-sufficient ecosystem and gain hands-on experience in growing and caring for gardens and seed banks.
Nigeria: Project Enable will promote the empowerment and social inclusion of persons with disabilities in Nigeria. Through disability-friendly technology and an entrepreneurship hub, 20 young persons with disabilities will be trained and mentored in technology-based skills. 250 people with disabilities will also have access to inclusive technology. The hub will provide volunteer opportunities to young people with disabilities while serving as a center for their continuous development in entrepreneurship.
Nigeria: SDGs Clubs in Secondary Schools is a 6-week program to promote the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Students will creatively engage with the 17 SDGs through small-group discussions, competitions, online resources, community activities, experiential learning, and critical thinking. The project will engage students with disabilities, prompt communities and environments to be more inclusive, enhance community relations through a school exchange program, and empower students to build a more prosperous future.
South Korea: Integration through Volunteerism for North Korean Refugees aims to facilitate the adaptation and social inclusion of North Korean refugees (NKR) in South Korean civil society by reinforcing their role as democratic citizens. This project seeks to accomplish this goal by including the refugees as active participants in the project’s development and implementation. Specifically, this project will build community-based volunteer networks within Busan-area schools, community centers, social welfare organizations, and other organizations, as well as develop a volunteer mentorship program that matches Busan-area college students with NKR adolescents.
Taiwan: The Project of Adaptive Screening, Streaming, and Instruction for Omni-Directional Nurturing (“PASSION-Fulbright”) seeks to improve English learning among low achievers, bridge learning gaps, and contribute to social justice. The project will use an innovative diagnostic assessment system for English levels and adaptive “learning by doing” teaching toolkits to address the urban/rural gap in Taiwan students’ English learning.
Tajikistan: Expanding Educational Opportunities for Orphan Children aims to improve opportunities for orphan children through English language instruction, computer training, and mentorship. This project will empower orphans to seek opportunities outside the orphanage and enhance their social skills and self-confidence.
Turkey: A Bus to Unimaginable Achievement will bring together a team of university students and instructors with expertise in different subjects to visit schools in rural areas, providing equal opportunities to students to take part in different hands-on activities and discover their potential in STEM fields. The activities will include science experiments, mathematics applications, robotics, and verbal skill development workshops.
Venezuela: The arTEA project will empower children and young adults on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Zulia State, using the arts as a means to integrate them into family and community life, and promote greater personal independence, interaction, and behavior. Through a series of artistic talent workshops and visits to art museums, this project intends to motivate participants, family members, teachers, and the public in the social, recreational, educational, and artistic development of the community facing ASD in Maracaibo. In collaboration with institutions experienced in assisting individuals with ASD, the team will develop and implement artistic resources that support learning strategies for people with ASD, a cycle of talks on sensitization of ASD, and a final event for the community to raise awareness and work against discrimination.
Empowerment of Women and Girls
Afghanistan: Empowering Women in the Working Environment will give 20 recent female university graduates the skills and confidence to find job opportunities in government and at non-government organizations through a job skills and capacity-building training and a six-month internship program.
Afghanistan: Increasing the Number of Girls at Universities aims to boost enrollment of Afghan women at universities by raising awareness about the importance of higher education for women in conservative communities. The main goal of the project is to help approximately 300 high school seniors prepare for the national college admission “Konkor” exam. The project also seeks to increase gender equality, decrease violence against women, and decrease the number of forced marriages of underage girls.
Argentina: WiDE will improve the gender balance of the digital ecosystem in Argentina by promoting specialization in non-technical roles such as tech policy analysts, tech journalists, researchers, and specialized lawyers. The alumni team will offer a three-day career development workshop for young women who want to explore the range of non-technical jobs in the digital economy.
Cameroon: Socio-Economic Integration of Displaced Women will economically empower 100 displaced women who fled the war in Central African Republic to help them integrate into the society where they are living. The women will receive training over six months in sewing, dressmaking, and fashion design to help them generate income and earn a living. These new skills will help integrate the women and their children within the society where they are living as displaced persons.
Ecuador: Young Mothers Lead: Social Actors Empowered will provide a series of training programs on access to education, entrepreneurship, and civic participation to 70 adolescent mothers in Quito and Ibarra. The project will establish a community network for the young women where they can share their experiences and inspire each other.
Egypt: Empowering Girls Through Sports (Girls Club) aims to empower girls through education, sports, workshops on communication, and leadership activities. The program will encourage civic engagement and build advocacy for girls' and women’s' rights.
Iraq: Healing Women from Invisible Wounds will provide psychosocial counseling to 100 internally displaced people (IDP) and refugee women who were victims of Da’esh violence. This project will target women from a variety of ethnic and religious groups from IDP camps near Sulaimaniyah (Sulaimani), including Bakrajo, Qrga, Qularaysi and Raparin, along with twenty women from the host communities. Trained doctors will administer the General Health Questionnaire to 500 potential participants to select those most in need of counseling services; survey results will also help shape local government’s approach to mental health care. The project will include pre-and post-assessment following counseling and partners with local hospitals, NGOs, and local government as well as media to shine a spotlight on mental health treatment.
Israel: Women's Cultural Leadership Program fosters dialogue and shared society values by bringing together religious female artists from diverse communities for a series of joint engagements, including listening circles, workshops, creative art development, and gallery installations. The project will also offer professional development opportunities for participants.
Jordan: Qudrati addresses three main obstacles faced by adolescent refugee girls: early marriage, social isolation, and personal health. These issues will be addressed by organizing two basketball teams in Jordan, one in Amman and one in Zarqa. Each team will be comprised of fifteen girls aged 14-18, and through practicing sport, this project will focus on empowering young girls and providing them with the necessary skills to tackle social issues.
Kenya: Mombasa Girls in STEM aims to increase girls’ interest in STEM-based subjects by challenging them to develop solutions to community problems. Their solutions will be displayed and presented to local leaders at the Girls in STEM Fair, with the aim that the local government will implement the winning solutions in the community.
Morocco: Empowering Female Agents of Change in Morocco. This project empowers young women in rural Morocco to be agents of change in their communities. Through training workshops and internships that focus on leadership and entrepreneurship, they will learn how to utilize their assets to create sustainable change in their communities and across Morocco.
Mozambique: Women Overcoming Obstacles through Entrepreneurship aims to provide training in micro-enterprise and management skills for 100 women and 50 girls from rural and suburban areas, as well as women working in informal markets. The project will promote the empowerment and leadership of women and young girls in order to reduce their vulnerability to HIV and increase their ability to be part of family decision-making.
Nepal: The Inclusive Sports Festival for Women with Disabilities will empower girls and women with disabilities aged 10 to 30 to compete in cricket, boccia, basketball, swimming and running. By demonstrating their physical and mental abilities, the participants and the communities will better understand that disability is not a barrier to realizing one's potential.
Nicaragua: Empowering Low-Income Girls through Coding and Robotic aims to promote science and math to girls, equipping them with coding and tech skills that will make them more competitive and employable in the 21st century. The project will improve their analytical skills and encourage teamwork. It will complement existing industries while building skills that will lead to a more sustainable economy.
Romania: Empowering Roma Girls through Community Art seeks to create a more inclusive Roma community and improve their image to others. The project will gather Roma women and girls to paint a mural wall that promotes their contributions to the community, enhancing their community engagement, and empowering them to serve as social change agents. The Roma community in Eastern Europe makes up the largest and most vulnerable minority group in the region and faces various forms of exclusion and marginalization.
Sri Lanka: Girls Are Not Weak! - Empower with Self Defense will train girls and young women in the martial arts, traditionally considered a male sport. It will both empower them and raise awareness about gender-based violence. With a focus on girls who are at risk of physical and sexual violence living in three areas of Colombo district, the project will challenge conventional gender stereotypes and attitudes by engaging with the community and general public.
Tanzania: Brides with Skills will empower young girls in Tingatinga and Enduimet Secondary schools in the Longido district to finish their secondary education while equipping them with practical skills relevant to the Maasai community for income generation. The project seeks to increase the skills of girls, giving them an alternative to early marriage if they do not perform well in their final secondary school exams.
Tunisia: The Women Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) will introduce unemployed women over age 20 to the basics of how to run and launch a sustainable business. WEI will connect women with investors, micro-finance agencies, and business incubators to help them build and improve their businesses. WEI will also coach women in rural areas on using new technologies to generate business ideas and market their handicrafts.
Turkey: JIYAN-Songs of Displacement will document and preserve the songs and oral histories of migrant and refugee women of Istanbul, Mardin, Mersin, and Berlin. Through music and storytelling, this project will illustrate the perspectives of women living through war and conflict and the challenges of seeking acceptance in a new society.
Uganda: Bussi Response To Improve Girls Chances to Succeed aims to keep young girls in school on Bussi Island. Many children, particularly girls, drop out of school to support their families through farming and fishing due to high poverty rates. Lack of education creates a skills gap, which increases unemployment. By teaching new methods of income generation, this project will expand economic opportunity on the island and enable parents to keep their children in school.
Venezuela: Shama Tech aims to reduce the gender gap in the tech field by providing specialized training in social media, mobile application design, web development and computer programming to 200 girls ages 14 to 19 in urban areas. The girls will also attend workshops on leadership, self-esteem, and entrepreneurship to better prepare them for the job market. Taking what they learn from this training, the girls will develop a final project a prototype app, to address a challenge facing their community.
Zambia: Nileleni is an education campaign that aims to send 10,000 girls in Zambia back to school by 2018 by applying the concept of Participatory Rural Appraisal, which will change the narrative of girl’s education in rural areas. In school and out of school, girls will be organized in clubs to learn about their reproductive health, make re-usable pads to reduce absenteeism due to access to famine products, and learn various life skills that will empower them to choose education over practices that have traditionally kept girls out of school. The project will also denounce early/teen marriages through campaigns with traditional and community leaders, marriage counselors, and teachers.
Zimbabwe: Conversations With Our Fathers will inspire dialogue, challenge unequal power relations between men and women, and confront the perceptions, norms, and values that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential. The project aims to increase dialogue with men and build their support as women engage outside the private sphere, running for political office, serving as breadwinners, and attending institutions of higher education.
*Please note status as a as a finalist does not construe final approval; final approval is contingent upon finalization of all grant documentation and receipt of an official notice of award from the Department of State.