As a recognised key player in intercultural learning and youth exchange, EFIL has a seat in the Advisory Board of the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange (EVE) programme. The initiative has been launched in 2018, as a part of the Erasmus+ programme, providing an accessible way for young people to engage in intercultural learning. Working with Youth Organisations and Universities, the programme is open to any young person aged 18-30 residing in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean.
The programme offers a range of activities, focused mainly on technology-enabled people-to-people facilitated dialogues sustained over a period of time. It encourages and promotes intercultural awareness, employability, and citizenship, strengthening the youth dimension of the EU neighbourhood policy.
Virtual Exchange distinguishes itself from other forms of online learning in several ways:
- The focus is primarily on people-to-people interaction and dialogue whereas the primary focus in many e-learning programmes is on content.
- The learning goals or outcomes include soft skills that are often not formally recognised, such as the development of intercultural awareness, digital literacies, group work, etc.
- It is primarily learner-led: following the philosophy of dialogue where participants are the main recipients and the main drivers of knowledge; learning through dialogue means that participants will be seeking mutual understanding and co-creating knowledge, based on their own experiences.
- Finally, a key tenet of virtual exchange is that intercultural understanding and awareness are not automatic outcomes of contact between different groups/cultures, and virtual exchange programmes explicitly address intercultural understanding and engaging with difference.
Virtual Exchanges function in a synergistic and complementary way with physical exchange programmes. They can prepare, deepen, and extend physical exchanges, and, by reaching new populations and larger numbers, fuel new demand for physical exchange.
As a member of the EVE Advisory Board, EFIL brings to the table the perspective of a youth-focused intercultural learning network, which can both contribute and benefit from the scheme. For AFS, the EVE programme can be considered as an additional measure to strengthen other initiatives, such as volunteer exchanges. The programme provides also opportunities for youth workers, among which AFS trainers, to gain competence in online facilitation – both by participating in free online training and then by becoming facilitators of EVE exchanges.