Meet the 2020 Winners


 CDAF 2020 Winners’ Announcement 

We are excited to announce the winners of the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund 2020 competition! 

In September 2020, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs invited U.S. citizen alumni of all U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program, the Gilman Scholarship, and Cultural and Sports Envoys, to apply for small grants of up to $10,000 as part of the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund 2020 funding opportunity. Exchange alumni from across the United States submitted proposals for public service projects that addressed the themes of media literacy education, building community resilience, and fostering alumni network development.  

Since the close of the competition in November, the U.S. Department of State has funded 38 projects that address issues faced by communities across the United States and around the world with international partners in countries such as Mongolia, Nepal, North Macedonia, and the Philippines. Exchange alumni are contributing to their communities in meaningful ways by sharing media literacy best practices that help mitigate the spread of disinformation, increasing access to virtual and at-home education for youth and their families, protecting the environment, bringing exchange alumni together to create stronger networks, and responding to other community needs. Winners this year include projects supporting mental health training in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, media literacy education in China, and food literacy in Indiana. 

“Congratulations to our exchange alumni who have received awards from the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund to lead public service projects in their communities,” said Matthew Lussenhop, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “These alumni will serve diverse communities in the United States and abroad through programs adapted to the realities of COVID-19. We are proud of these citizen diplomats.” 

We look forward to sharing the progress of alumni from the winning teams as they implement these innovative projects in cities and towns across the United States, and virtually with international partners.  

The Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and implemented in partnership with the Partners of the Americas. Visit for more information. 

Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund 2020 Winners 

2021 LGBTQ Fulbrighter Community Campaign will create a consistent, comprehensive, and global community for current Fulbright grantees and alumni around the world who identify as LGBTQ. They will engage in virtual education and community events, digital storytelling podcasts, and a virtual conference, building an inclusive personal and professional network. (Alumni Team: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, Fulbright Binational Internship Program, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Fulbright Summer Institute Program) 

Ancestral Food Stories for Community Healing will engage youth from New Mexico in leading a community driven effort to strengthen community connection and promote emotional and physical wellness through food culture. The project aims to combat social isolation brought on by COVID-19 and build resilience in the face of economic and racial oppression, empowering youth to share their stories and engage in conversations around identity, culture, and mental health. Youth and their families will create a cookbook with cultural stories behind each dish - learning more about nutrition and building community along the way. (Alumni Team: Peace Corps, Fulbright U.S. Student Program)  

Argentinean Sustainable Development Speaker Series will engage young Argentineans and local non-profits in sustainable development, learning about the various types of community-based work happening in the country. The virtual events will showcase innovative and interdisciplinary approaches that people can use to address social issues and foster new dialogue between different organizations. Topics include responding to COVID-19, economic development and wealth inequality, and climate change. (Alumni Team: Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, Youth Ambassadors) 

Art&Dialogue: Renforcer la Résilience à Nouakchott aims to address socio-economic challenges faced by underserved girls and women in Nouakchott, Mauritania. In a community-based approach, the project’s interactive workshops will make space for taboo topics and encourage self-expression (art) and empowerment through education (dialogue). 350 young girls and women will work collectively on knowing that their current socioeconomic status is not a reflection of their future in achieving their aspirations. (Alumni Team: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD)) 

Article 41 will promote civic mindedness and constitutional consciousness in young professionals, fostering constructive dialogue at a time where unemployment and lack of public services are on the rise in Ethiopia due to COVID-19. The name of the project comes from Article 41 of the Ethiopian constitution, which states the social, economic and cultural rights of citizens, including people with disabilities. With a platform to bring together Ethiopians, together they can navigate through this national crisis by fostering goodwill, civic mindedness and peace building.  (Alumni Team: Mandela Washington Fellowship American Reciprocal Exchange Program, The Mandela Washington Fellowship Exchange Program) 

BioSTEAM International: Space Messengers will engage youth in developing strong media and science literacy skills, which are critical to processing the overwhelming challenges of the 21st century. The project will connect middle and high school students in New Mexico, USA with students in Lisbon, Portugal as ‘STEAM Ambassadors.’ They will collaborate on an artist-led installation to raise awareness in their local and global communities about the urgency of protecting biodiversity on earth and in space. (Alumni Team: Arts Envoy, Youth Ambassadors) 

Bridging Backgrounds seeks to address youth brain drain and ethnic tension in Southeastern Europe by empowering ordinary young people to become extraordinary agents of progressive change in their communities. Selected participants will engage in workshops centered around critical thinking, tolerance and respect, history and human rights, and leadership. In the short-term, they will develop the skills to create extraordinary change through civil society initiatives. In the long-term, they will flourish as leaders who will drive progress across Balkan society. (Alumni Team: Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad) 

Butanuka Community Preschool, Phase Two will support the development of early education in Butanuka, Burundi, doubling the capacity at a local preschool and engaging more children in education and nutrition. Throughout this phase of the project, more teachers will be trained, students will build healthy habits, and families will be encouraged to engage in their child's education. An enriched preschool education will provide these vulnerable children with the opportunity to develop the skills, abilities, and dispositions necessary to succeed in future schooling. (Alumni Team: Mandela Washington Reciprocal Exchange, Mandela Washington (YALI) and MW Reciprocal Exchange) 

Changu Women Fish Ponds will improve food security and nutrition, increase biodiversity conservation, and foster female empowerment in Mkachi Village, Malawi. In collaboration with Changu Women's Group, the aquaculture project will invest in pond development and sustainability leading to long term community health and economic growth for up to 290 direct beneficiaries. (Alumni Team: Peace Corps) 

Community Leader Fellowship for New York City will engage young fellows from communities at disproportionate risk for the impacts of COVID-19 in designing a project that improves individual and community health. Fellows will have access to partnerships with experienced mentors, technology to help close the digital divide, and cross-cultural conversations on wellbeing and resilience. This project is a sequel to successful Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund Rapid Response project Community Leader Fellowship for Eastern Virginia; both aim to empower young people to support their communities through leadership by enabling them with the tools and resources needed. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program) 

Community Training to Produce Organic Soap will train at least 50 women from Ilocos Norte, Philippines in organic soap-making using locally available materials. Soap is essential to health and hygiene, especially during COVID-19, but inaccessible for many families to purchase in Ilocos Norte. Participants will gain the skills of manufacturing organic soap to keep their families safe, as well as the knowledge to start a business to alleviate economic difficulties. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program) 

Community Waste Resilience in the Nilgiris will bring together hospital workers, Green Workers, and residents in the city of Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India to create an effective waste management system in a region that faces various environmental challenges due to waste increased by tourism. This community-based, multi-tiered project will develop and support a network of community members committed to building a sustainable, culturally appropriate tourist waste diversion system. (Alumni Team: Youth Ambassadors, Critical Language Scholarship Program) 

Dear Pandemic and Querida Pandemia: Combating the infodemic head on is a social media campaign that provides curated, comprehensive, and timely information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The project aims to combat the infodemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), by reaching more people who speak different languages, filtering out misinformation, and teaching the general public how to incorporate COVID-19 related news. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program) 

Digital Somali Educational Materials for At Risk Youth will be a sustainable, globally accessible learning platform; a YouTube channel of high-quality educational videos and corresponding websites and worksheets to assist learning and comprehension. Dozens of Somali students will develop educational videos focusing on math and language arts, with a highlight on Somali language content. This project aims to aid quality education and preserve Somali language and culture across the globe (Alumni Team: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, Peace Corps) 

Engaging Alumni Through A Community Led Think Tank will be a dynamic website and engaging conference for young alumni to think, debate, and offer policy suggestions while networking with a diverse group of global do-ers. Meeting the needs of post-exchange alumni, the project will empower and amplify non-traditional voices in international affairs, foster community in a virtual world, and offer a platform for participants to develop a portfolio for professional advancement. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program) 

Farm-to-Frame addresses the food security and sustainability challenge in Hawaii by supporting state and non-profit initiatives and driving social change and consumer behavior to support and buy local. Through the project’s online cooking show, social media challenges, and access to local ingredients, Hawaiians will have the opportunity to learn from passionate local chefs and engage in powerful dialogue on local food production. (Alumni Team: Peace Corps) 

Food for Thought: Food Security & Global Cuisine will promote financial literacy and culinary knowledge by fostering a digital community around food and prioritizing equity and inclusion of all cultures. COVID-19 has greatly enhanced the risk of food insecurity; this project aims to provide nutritious ingredients and recipes to those in need in Bloomington, Indiana, USA, as well as foster wider community engagement and multiculturalism. The project will culminate in a virtual symposium, bringing together speakers, chefs, and activists from around the world to discuss food insecurity and global cuisine. (Alumni Team: National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)) 

Global Exchange Programs Post Pandemic: Report will build on the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund Rapid Response project, Global Exchange Programs Post Pandemic: Conference to better understand the challenges and strengths of international exchange, both pre- and post- pandemic. The project will analyze recovery paths for exchange programs and continue to build partnerships amongst professionals in the global exchange sector. They will evaluate lessons learned and what tools and resources can be taken from international education’s engagement during the pandemic in order to continue developing an accessible, engaging, stronger global exchange. (Alumni Team: YLAI - Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative) 

Global Scholar will provide the opportunity for youth eager to build their skills and get involved in the greatest challenges facing the world today.  Throughout the project, participants will engage in workshops, developing skills in dialogue and empathy, diversity and inclusion, systems thinking, and articulating one’s values, vision, and story. They will put what they have learned into practice, creating community projects. Global Scholar will equip the next generation of young global leaders with the skills, network, and confidence to lead work around challenges in their communities. (Alumni Team: National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), Peace Corps) 

Growing Resilience with Community Action Networks in Cape Town, South Africa will increase ecological literacy, boost health and wellbeing, and strengthen community safety networks to reduce economic inequalities. Through building social connections across historical apartheid spatial divides and connecting people to nature and gardening, Community Action Networks will build social and ecological resilience. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program) 

International HBCUXchange will work with 2-3 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to increase student knowledge and participation in four international exchange programs: Boren, CLS, Fulbright, Gilman. A network will be built of HBCU international exchange staff, students, and alumni to create an HBCU identity within international exchange programs. Throughout the project, university staff will collaborate to improve student outreach and recruitment strategies and evaluate the current structures and processes of study abroad, fellowship, student scholar offices. Students will receive application reviews, alumni guidance, and exposure to opportunities of international exchange. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program) 

Lo-Fi Language Learning's EFL Teacher Training will connect arts educators and aspiring language teachers from underrepresented communities in Florida and Colorado, USA to government sponsored networks and opportunities, as well as K-12 English language learning students in Taiwan. Going beyond rote language learning, participants will deconstruct postcolonial norms in EFL education and sociocultural barriers facing minority educators. (Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Critical Language Scholarship Program) 

Mapping Fulbright Experiences will be a global online cartography platform for sharing writing, images, video and sound media that reflect Fulbright alumni experiences, building a network of alumni along the way. The project also aims to advance the professional development of international exchange alumni by hosting a series of online workshops focused on writing and media production training. This work would be shared widely, expanding the awareness of exchange programs and their life-long value.  (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Peace Corps) 

Podcasting for Democratic Development will engage with Mongolian media, setting industry best practices to avoid disinformation as podcasting is becoming increasingly popular. In collaboration with Remo Media and The American Center for Mongolia Studies, the project will develop a curriculum and training program for civil society podcasters as well as a signature media literacy podcast. (Alumni Team: Critical Language Scholarship Program, International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)) 

Published Authors will empower 264 students at Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA) in Cleveland, Ohio, USA to lead community-based change. Team members and teachers will guide students in considering the needs they see in their community, developing personalized social-emotional support stories and resources. Students will then be encouraged to implement a project to address those needs. Published Authors aims to amplify the voices of community members and authentically connect in a time of disconnection. (Alumni Team: Critical Language Scholarship Program, Peace Corps, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program) 

Race and Resilience Creative Workshops utilizes the power of art, storytelling, poetry, and comic books to facilitate a creative, genuine discussion about racism, inequality, resilience, and unity in our community. Engaging audiences in both the United States and South Africa, participants will grow in understanding the effects of systematic racism through segregation and apartheid, and what needs to be done to heal our communities. (Alumni Team: American Arts Incubator Program, International Writing Program) 

Raíces Learning Circle (RLC) aims to preserve and disseminate ancestral wisdom by utilizing technology to bridge communities. The project consists of a webinar series facilitated by local youth and led by Náhuat-Pipil women and community midwives in El Salvador, who are the last generation to hold Indigenous knowledge critical to the spirit of the Salvadoran people. t will provide financial relief and local and global connection to Indigenous elders who have been rendered isolated and more economically insecure by the pandemic, while simultaneously uniting the Salvadoran diaspora. This project will bring people from different generations and different parts of the world, but with shared roots, together amidst social isolation. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program) 

Reach: HBCU Global Institute will connect 400 Alabama HBCU students and recent graduates with seasoned returned exchange alumni through professional, cultural development and networking opportunities. The project addresses three primary challenges faced by southern HBCUs: funding for studying abroad, debunking the stereotype of who is global, and navigating how to utilize transferable skills and interests to excel in global opportunities. Exchange alumni and leaders across the United States and abroad will present unique virtual sessions to better students' understanding of, access to, and opportunity for fostering a career and community through international exchange. (Alumni Team: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), Youth Ambassador, Fulbright Program) 

Reducing Adolescent Pregnancy (RAP) in Malawi is an information-oriented, trauma-informed, and girl-centric initiative to empower girls in Malawi with the information they need to take charge of their health and protect their futures. Engaging participants as leaders in their own communities, each girl will grow in knowing they are not alone and can be an advocate for women’s health and girls’ education. (Alumni Team: Reciprocal Exchange Component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders) 

Resilience through Representation in Missoula aims to create a space for reflection and representation of Native American, BIPOC, and low-income Montanan youth in this difficult period of our history. The project will do so through facilitating a series of workshops in Missoula County, Montana, USA led by local and BIPOC artists. Material created from these workshops will be shared in an exhibit where young people underrepresented in the dominant history narratives can express their experience of COVID-19 through reflection—in the form of art, writing, and oral history. This exhibit will contribute to the public history of Missoula by broadening the historical narrative, enforcing that representation and the stories of young people matter. (Alumni Team: Critical Language Scholarship Program, Professional Exchanges - Mike Mansfield Fellowship Program) 

Resilience through Youth Entrepreneurship is a youth entrepreneurship development camp that empowers black and brown youth in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA and Mérida, Mexico to define and proactively address the challenges and opportunities within their communities. Through this camp, participants will have equitable access to technology and resources to delve into ideation, innovation, and entrepreneurship whilst engaging with, and learning from, a different culture. (Alumni Team: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, Peace Corps) 

Skills for Success will empower underserved communities who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic. Given that the pandemic has exacerbated existing mental health problems for many, the project will serve as an intervention that is urgently needed to educate teenagers about mental health problems and provide them with skills to address these needs in their schools and communities, thereby building community resilience. (Alumni Team: Fulbright Specialist Program) 

The Global Educator's Resource Bank will host a virtual summit that guides Fulbright educators and their language students in design thinking, digital storytelling, and various art forms from the U.S., Brazil, and Japan. The project platform emphasizes a sense of 'bank' value of shared experiences, educational networks, and peer-to-peer learning. (Alumni Team: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, English Language Fellow Program) 

Through the Eyes of Black Folk seeks to build cohesion and cross-cultural awareness within the African Diaspora, which includes self-identified black persons from the U.S., Africa, and the Caribbean through a 12-week interactive online course that provides cross-cultural exchange between American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) and current and prospective African and Caribbean immigrants. The project provides participants with a safe space to have difficult conversations about race, racism, identity, and other topics that have historically divided both communities. (Alumni Team: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Peace Corps, AmeriCorpsVISTA, Mandela Washington Fellowship) 

Training Youths in Snow Leopard Conservation intends to engage indigenous youth in snow leopard conservation. Participants are from Dolpo, Nepal, a mountainous region where human communities are intimately and intensely involved in and affected by snow leopards. By providing educational opportunities on snow leopard tracking and conservation, youth in Dolpo will also be able to participate in the economic opportunities provided by snow leopard conservation, mainly in the ecotourism sector. (Alumni Team: Fulbright U.S. Student Program) 

US-China Student Exchange Conference will address the rampant educational disparities that exist today, whereby many study abroad or other foreign linguistic and cultural exchange opportunities are accessible only to students of privileged backgrounds. Through a virtual conference, the project will facilitate student exchange between 25-50 American, Chinese, and Taiwanese students, offering an unprecedented opportunity to connect and learn first-hand the intricacies of daily life, customs, and values of each country. (Alumni Team: Critical Language Scholarship Program, National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program) 

World Alumni LINK! will bring together highly engaged Exchange Alumni and change-makers within their home communities, who work in cultural, educational and civil society fields, to build a centralized platform to build cross-program partnerships. The project will facilitate the construction of a worldwide Alumni collective who will, in turn, build new Public Diplomacy collaborations, apply to funding opportunities, and deepen their ties to other alumni through synchronous gatherings and opportunities. (Alumni Team: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange, Arts Envoy, PAS Annual Program Grant Recipient) 

Youth Activism Movement Builder Fellowship will support teens from under-resourced backgrounds in building civic leadership skills by training them to launch youth-led civic engagement groups. The project will offer a 7-month virtual program for a diverse group of 10 aspiring teen activists to learn how to build the skills, networks, and resources to transform their community, addressing issues impacting them. Through weekly group training and personalized mentorship, Fellows will learn about team management, building team capacity, crafting issue and advocacy campaigns, delivering a call to action, and other public speaking and leadership skills. (Alumni Team: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program) 



Do you have questions about this competition?

Interested in applying for a future Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund grant? Learn all you need to know about the application process, proposal writing tips, and important eligibility requirements in our CDAF Information Session on Tuesday, June 15 and Proposal Writing 101 session on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Register here.

Click here to see a page of Frequently Asked Questions.

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Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by Partners of the Americas in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.