Exchange program building skills for community leaders

Vision: Young people worldwide are in need of tools to build inclusion, tolerance, community cohesion, and social justice. Building a network of youth practitioners who support and augment each other’s work at the local level unifies those working diligently for positive social change in challenging settings. The exposure of European youths to diverse communities in the U.S. provides a holistic view of social cohesion, inclusion practices, and a wide array of interventions practiced here.  U.S. organizations and individuals actively building community cohesion campaigns, creating models of economic and social justice programs, countering hate crimes, violence and discrimination offer the young leaders new insights, methods and resources to address issues in their home communities.

Legacy International custom designs these exchanges for either high school (ages 15-17) or young adults (ages 18-24). Since 2017, we have hosted 32 young leaders from across the UK (in groups of 10-12) sponsored by US Embassy London. They travel to the U.S. for a 17-day exchange program, and receive 3 months of mentoring after returning home. Resources for facilitating community dialogues, building cohesion campaigns, and organizing advocacy training will enable each participant to expand skills and envision new models of intervention for local conditions. The 17-day program brings participants to four locations (North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) in two geographic regions (north and south), and includes a strong focus on community and person-to-person engagement with American counterparts. Participants visit both diverse and vibrant urban areas, and smaller communities struggling with loss of employment in traditional industries. Exchange activities demonstrate how federal, state, local governments, individual citizens, non-profit organizations, and community groups can address and create safe environments and support youth citizen engagement.


  1. Develop advanced understanding of community engagement as practiced in the United States and new models to adapt for use in the participants’ home communities.
  2. Equip participants to implement a new initiative or intervention learned during the program
  3. Increase  participants’ collaboration regarding ways to build inclusive community initiatives
  4. Increase participants’ engagement on a wide variety of social cohesion issues

Participants come from diverse backgrounds and are working in:

  • Citizen Participation/Engagement
  • Promoting Social Inclusion/Cohesion
  • Countering Violence/Extremism/Hate Groups
  • Gun Laws in the U.S.
  • Promoting Diversity
  • At-Risk Youth
  • Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups
  • Interfaith Work
  • Government/Policy
  • Voter Registration
  • Refugees and Immigrant Rights
  • LGBTQ Rights + Activism Grassroots/Small-scale Activists
  • Incarceration and Recidivism
  • Disability Rights and Inclusion

Blog Post

Building Social Cohesion

_ Steven Sutherland in Scotland – building civic engagement avenues for visually impaired youths