What we mean by active global citizens

AFS defines active global citizens as people whose informed, compassionate, and ethical compass drives them to lead lives and make decisions that contribute to a more just, equitable, peaceful and sustainable world.

Four dimensions of active global citizenship

AFS believes that becoming an active global citizen takes a lifetime of practice. In our view, global citizenship education programs and offers are about helping individuals to gain or increase their ability in four areas of development crucial for active global citizenship:
08_12_23 YA – social media 1521

Value & belong to a common and diverse world

Active global citizens know themselves and see themselves as belonging to a common and diverse world for which they care, responsibly committing to uphold values of human dignity and diversity.

Brothers learning at home 2

Inquire critically about the world beyond immediate environments

Active global citizens inquire critically about local, global and intercultural issues beyond their immediate environments, showing curiosity to manage information from reliable sources and being critical of how information is used.

08_11_23 YA WTC – social media1101

Understand and relate to others across differences

Active global citizens engage in understanding and relating to others across differences, being able to take perspective with empathy and compassion, and committing to dialogue and respect.

Accelerators 2

Take action toward collective well-being

Active global citizens are committed to taking action, considering local and global challenges, and often working with others to put into practice informed, ethical, and reflective actions (from small personal ones to collective community-level ones) that contribute to a more just, equitable, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Core educational principles

The AFS Framework for Active Global Citizenship builds on the longstanding AFS educational approach. It serves as core guiding principles in the development and implementation of all our educational programs and offers:

Active global citizenship intertwines socio-emotional, cognitive and ethical dimensions of a person’s human development.

From learning across borders to active global citizenship

Beginning with a wartime humanitarian ambulance service that evolved into a youth exchange program, the intercultural learning opportunities provided by AFS have expanded to address and support people of all ages and embrace multiple means through new program formats and virtual education offers.

At their core, all AFS efforts today aim to nurture the values and capacities for intercultural dialogue and active global citizenship. The AFS Framework for Active Global Citizenship reinforces our commitment to developing interculturally competent active global citizens. With it, AFS reaffirms our educational role in alignment with the core goals of education for the 21st Century.

This framework was developed in consultation with education experts who served on the AFS Education Committee, including Dr. Veronica Boix Mansilla (Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA), Dr. Roberto Ruffino (Fondazione Intercultura, Italy), Dr. Martyn Barrett (University of Surrey, UK), Dr. Ana María Velásquez (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia), Dr. Frédérique Brossard Børhaug (VID Specialized University, Norway), and Mohamed Abdel-Kader (Radial Global Advisory, USA).

The AFS Framework for Active Global Citizenship is also AFS’s contribution to the international education field and other educational organizations – both formal and non-formal – that seek to develop active global citizens.

Download the AFS Framework for Active Global Citizenship

Who are AFS active global citizens

Active global citizens are more than just students and participants in our programs. They also include AFS families, schools, educators, volunteers and staff.

Explore our curricula and key offers for different audiences:

  • The AFS Student Learning Journey: a comprehensive curriculum designed to engage and support students participating in our high-school study abroad programs.
  • AFS Global You Adventurer: a five-week virtual exchange program open to teens (aged 14-17) anywhere in the world. It aims to develop 21st-century global skills and build bridges across cultures.
  • AFS Global You Changemaker: a 12-week interactive virtual exchange program for young people anywhere in the world to develop global competence skills, create innovative social impact projects, and earn certification from the University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy.
08_11_23 YA WTC – social media1065

Assessing the impact of AFS

AFS is committed to research initiatives that help us understand our impact

  • What changes in a person’s life because of AFS?
  • How those changes are relevant to the world we live in?
  • How we can ensure that AFS makes a significant contribution to the development of active global citizens?

With decades of experience partnering with research experts, we have already made significant contributions to the fields of intercultural competence, study abroad, and virtual exchange.

These research initiatives explore a wide range of relevant topics—from the ways that technology affects cultural adaptation processes to the interplay between personality and culture—to help identify various factors involved in intercultural learning, global competence, and active global citizenship development.

Interested in collaborating with AFS on a research project? Contact us at education@afs.org  

Explore our research

AFS alliances & partnerships

AFS works closely and creatively with schools, universities, governments and other NGOs on the issues aligned with our mission and impact goal. Explore some of our key alliances and partnerships:
UNESCO recognizes AFS as an official partner


As of 2015, AFS is proud to have entered into a “consultative status” partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This status enables both organizations to collaborate on initiatives of mutual interest and social good.

Go to UNESCO's Global Citizenship Education site
changem 2

AFS & University of Pennsylavnia CSIS

Since 2019, AFS has collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS) for their expertise in social innovation and social impact. We have worked together on leadership development and strengthening the curriculum of AFS’s high school study abroad programs. CSIS has been a program partner for the AFS Youth Assembly, delivering the Changemaker Academy for young leaders.

Learn more about our collaborative curriculum
Screenshot 2024-03-11 at 09.10.42

AFS & High-Schools

Schools and educators are key AFS collaborators in implementing our programs and advancing our impact goal. Each year, we partner with over 10.000 high schools that host AFS exchange students, receive resources and training from AFS, and organize events and workshops.

Discover our Effect+ Program
08_11_23 YA WTC – social media1104

AFS & Higher Education

The AFS Global Competence Certificate (GCC) is a blended learning program that develops tangible global skills essential to live, work, and make a real social impact around the world. Different versions of this program meet the needs of: students, staff or faculty, professionals across a variety of disciplines from around the world whether or not they’ll have a study abroad experience.

Find out more

AFS Global Citizenship Education Agenda supports

UN Sustainable Development Goal #4

Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

Specifically, Goal #4 focuses on the knowledge and skills needed to promote “sustainable development” and “sustainable lifestyles,” human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Learn more about Goal #4

Meet the AFS Education Committee

AFS Education Committee within the Board of Trustees oversees strategic aspects of AFS’s educational agenda, goals, impact, and their respective deployment across the global AFS Network.

Find out more

Learn more about education in AFS

How can we help you?(Required)