Following Juneteenth—a U.S. holiday which celebrates the notice to the slaves of Texas that they were now free individuals—and as we approach the end of what many countries observe as Pride Month, AFS International would like to share an update on our continued efforts to be a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.

As an organization that spans 55 countries, we aspire to reflect the amazing and beautiful diversity of the people of the world in our programming, our volunteers and our staff. We acknowledge that as an organization of people, the work of inclusion is never complete and must always be a part of our ongoing processes and growth.

Three years ago in the summer of 2020, AFS International made a joint commitment and began an intentional journey towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), when the Black Lives Matter movement brought an increased awareness to AFS of the need for not just diversity, but also the ideas of equity and inclusion. Out of that awareness, AFS International staff joined together to issue a statement on What We’re Learning from the Black Lives Matter Movement.

A year later, the DEI Committee of AFS International issued a statement on Holding Ourselves Accountable: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at AFS International.

Today, we can report progress in three key areas:

1.Training and Education

  • Creating more diverse and inclusive learning environments through content development, facilitation, and training
  • Expanding the diversity of participants in terms of gender, age, geography and social economics. Specifically related to expanding the diversity of participants, AFS was awarded significant funding to expand our reach through digital programs. In fact, for many of these programs, the funds provide not only scholarships for the programs, but also funds to promote equitable access to tablets, laptops, and internet connectivity. In particular, AFS Global STEM Accelerators provides full scholarships to young women who are interested in STEM with the chance to join other young women around the world in learning and preparing not only for careers in STEM, but also to see themselves as Global Citizens, caring with each other for the well-being of the world and their local communities. This program received the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion in International Education award by Diversity Abroad in 2022. This year, it is a finalist for the Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion award at the PIEoneer Awards.

2. Awareness and Outreach 

  • Expanding the audiences we reach by promoting offers beyond the AFS Network and leveraging connections with other organizations and networks
  • Enhancing our surveys to better capture the diversity in the stakeholder groups we serve
  • Striving to enhance awareness of various forms of diversity in our visual representation.

3. Promoting Belonging through HR Practices

  • Actively incorporating DEI principles into our HR practices for all staff and consultants for new roles including a transparent, inclusive, and fair hiring process
  • Supporting professional development interests in the overall equity in the learning experiences of both teams and individuals
  • Creating inclusive opportunities for the team to be involved in shaping policies and practices, as well as creating mentorships for new staff and consultants to foster a sense of belonging.

Our efforts related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, both within our office and expanding more broadly to the volunteers and staff of AFS around the world, continue. We are constantly seeking to learn more about what diversity means in other countries and cultures so that we can support efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the work of AFS around our shared world.