2018: Future-proofing AFS for greater impact

2018 was a powerful year for AFS. Working together with donors, partners, schools and local organizations in 99 countries, AFS delivered on our three strategic impact goals, below, to expand our reach and be more diverse, inclusive and relevant to the communities we serve.

  • Develop active global citizens
  • Increase access to intercultural learning opportunities
  • Globalize schools and institutions

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2018 Impact

AFS Theory of Change

We believe a just and peaceful world is only possible when the global community respects diversity, embraces inclusiveness, and actively works towards advancing global understanding. This mindset transforms communities—and helps solve our most pressing challenges.

Going forward, we will enhance our current study abroad and exchange programs with new features and more theme-based, short-themed international and intercultural opportunities. These content-rich offerings will also address issues of importance to youth, while facilitating their growth as active global citizens.



Study Abroad: Provide young people with immersive international or intercultural experiences.


+ Learn

Global Skills: Support them with structured and facilitated intercultural learning journeys that lead to global competence.


+ Practice

Social Impact: Give them real-world social impact and changemaking exposure through training, activities and projects.


= Active Global Citizens

Have the essential global skills they need to live, learn, work and volunteer to contribute to society and change the world.

AFS prepares Generation Z to navigate the world

Preparing Generation Z to thrive and lead in an evolving and often turbulent world inspired AFS to reimagine our 71-year-old exchange program portfolio. Our research reaffirms that although cultural exploration is the primary motivator for Gen Z youth to study abroad, they also are determined to make their mark on the world by doing social good. That’s why we refreshed the AFS High School Exchange and Global Prep Programs to reflect our new experience + learn + practice approach to developing active global citizens. We haven been updating the intercultural learning tools used by AFS volunteers to cultivate critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration in our participants.

Since 2009, more than 2,300 students have participated in the European Citizenship Trimester Programme (ECTP) to learn about the rights and responsibilities of European citizenship and what it means to be active citizens. This three-month-long AFS secondary school study abroad program attended by 290 teens from 25 countries in 2018 was created by the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL is the umbrella organization for AFS organizations in Europe).

In 2018, EFIL and AFS organizations in Asia launched a similar trimester high school exchange program called PEACE (Peace in Europe and Asia through Global Citizenship Education). Twenty students from seven countries participated in the first round.

Global-ready schools prepare future-ready leaders

The United Nations projects that 1 billion young people will enter the workforce across all sectors in the next 10 years.  That’s why AFS bolstered our support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. SDG #4 also acknowledges the importance of global skills. AFS’s commitment to globalize schools and institutions includes intercultural training programs for teachers and curricula that transform classrooms and broaden the perspectives of future leaders who want to use these skills to reduce conflicts in the world and deliver on the SDGs.

In 2018, AFS provided hundreds of workshops to help educators develop intercultural skills and build them in students. Curriculum development work was also a major endeavor for AFS Organizations, such as AFS Czech Republic’s Complex Education Program for Teachers and AFS Germany’s Erasmus+ project Connect—Intercultural Learning Network. The Network will serve 100 higher education institutions in 30 countries. Teachers from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico received training from the association of AFS Organizations in Latin America (Alianza Latinoamericana de Educación Intercultural). Students in local schools also benefited from AFS workshops. AFS Argentina delivered 200 intercultural workshops reaching 5,600 students. AFS Hungary presented in 110 schools, reaching 10,540 students.

Commitment to the UN SDGs shapes AFS 2018 social impact agenda

True to the mission and humanitarian roots of our founding American Field Service volunteer ambulance drivers, AFS integrated social impact projects into dozens of our Global Prep short-term and sponsored programs, allowing teens and young adults to learn through first-hand experiences helping refugees, tackling sustainability and practicing environment stewardship. 

Launched by AFS Brazil, Effect+ empowers young global citizens to work together on SDGs in their communities. AFS Organizations in Brazil, Dominican Republic, France, India, Mexico and Peru hosted Effect+ events. To scale this program, AFS partners with influential international organizations, such as CISV (intercultural summer camps for young children), and private sector firms, such as Ibiritermo, a clean energy company. In 2018, Ibiritermo sponsored AFS Brazil’s Effect+ program at an Ibirité, Minas Gerais public school. The $20,000 grant from the clean energy company allowed AFS volunteers and staff to train 100 Effect+ students and 35 teachers. Two participants also received scholarships for a high school year exchange program in Italy.

AFS builds support for global competence education in 2018

AFS made significant progress advocating for global competence education by convening our first AFS Global Conference in Budapest and 11 AFS forums in Asia, Europe and Latin America. This included the ninth annual Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange in Belgium, which explored Intercultural Learning: A Whole School Approach. The forum was organized by Fondazione Intercultura (Foundation of AFS Italy), the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL) and AFS Intercultural Programs.

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Support AFS

Thank you to all our generous donors and sponsors for their commitment to advance intercultural understanding. Your scholarship donations and sponsorships funded many of the events and projects featured in this year’s Annual Report.

When you donate to AFS you become part of a global community of supporters of AFS in our work to connect lives and share cultures. Your donation will help to transform the lives of millions of AFS participants, families, schools and individuals that share a commitment to help build international understanding by helping people from different parts of the world live an intercultural learning experience.