ECA Digital Connections Program

ECA Digital Connections Program

The Office of Citizen Exchanges at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) invites proposals for the FY 2023 Digital Connections Program (Digital Connections) in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Western Hemisphere.


The digital transformation of countries and communities has dramatically altered the context for democratic governance. New and emerging digital technologies have strengthened civic engagement in democracy through the open exchange of information and ideas, tolerance for diverse viewpoints, and the participation of engaged and informed citizens in the decision making processes.

Digital technologies have also enabled state and non-state actors to create, disseminate, and amplify disinformation and hate speech, or intentionally false or misleading information to manipulate public perceptions, increase polarization, erode confidence in public institutions, and poison public dialogue with falsehoods and distractions.

Malign forces threaten democratic institutions, processes, and values by distorting information environments, and positioning individuals, nations, and institutions against each other. Making progress on complex global challenges, increasingly exacerbated by digital technologies, requires a multigenerational, multi-sector engagement strategy built on transformational partnerships and coalitions of responsible digital citizens.

Digital Connections builds on a belief that protecting fundamental freedoms requires networks of likeminded partners, working across borders, to ensure that internet freedom, free expression, and democratic governance is accessible to all people.

The FY 2023 Digital Connections supports international exchanges, network development, and global activities, virtual and in-person, that harness the expertise of international and regional networks of academics, business leaders, digital entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, researchers, and other communication professionals.

Through the development of four to six “on-demand” or rapid response projects, including at least one U.S.-based exchange, Digital Connections programming will provide opportunities to crowdsource solutions to countering disinformation; learn new techniques, skills, and models for working in the digital and media landscape; share resources, products, and research within Digital Connection networks; and build coalitions and partnerships that amplify democratic messages, build societal resistance to disinformation and hate speech, and strengthen relationships with independent media, civil society and communication professionals, and other credible voices in direct support of democracy values and universal freedoms.

  • As a global initiative designed to foster networks and address new and emerging threats to healthy resilient information ecosystems, Digital Connections strives to:

  • Increase availability and access to public diplomacy resources related to emerging foreign policy priority issues;

  • Facilitate knowledge and expertise across borders, thematic areas, and generational divides to counter and build societal resilience to disinformation and online hate and harassment;

  • Expand skills and resources needed by a diverse group of multi-disciplinary professionals and civic leaders, both in the United States and around the world, to develop whole-of-society solutions to address complex global challenges;

  • Strengthen participant’s ability to use digital tools and products responsibly in support of democratic values and human freedoms;

  • Cultivate professional ties and sustained linkages with U.S. citizens and American institutions in ways that expand and strengthen the ability of the
    people of the United States and other countries to support free media and democratic principles and governance through the responsible use of digital tools and products; and,

  • Develop, connect, and harness the power of global networks to support, democratic values and human freedoms.

  • Applicant organizations must demonstrate their capacity to design and implement projects, programs, and international exchanges at varying points during the award period that achieve the objectives listed above. The dates of program activity and participating countries/regions will be determined following the issuance of the cooperative agreement. While the shape and dimension of projects will vary, for budget purposes applicant organizations should anticipate supporting approximately 20-50 individuals and/or project participants per project. Organizations must also demonstrate their capacity to support and manage projects through subawards, including but not limited to the DCN.

    Funding Information

  • Approximate Total Funding: $2,575,000

  • Approximate Number of Awards: One

  • Approximate Average Award: $2,575,000

  • Minimum “Floor” of Award: None

  • Maximum “Ceiling” of Award: $2,575,000

  • Anticipated Award Date: September 15, 2023

  • Anticipated Project Completion Date: December 30, 2025

    Eligible Regions

  • Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Western Hemisphere.

    Eligibility Criteria

    U.S. public and private academic and cultural institutions, exchange-of-persons, and other notfor-profit organizations 501(c)(3) may submit applications for this competition. Applicants must have nonprofit status with the IRS at the time of application.

    The following additional eligibility requirements apply to this NOFO announcement:

  • ECA’s grant guidelines require that organizations with less than four years of experience in conducting international exchanges be limited to $130,000 in ECA funding. ECA anticipates making one cooperative agreement, in an amount of $2,575,000 to support all costs required to implement this exchange program. Therefore, organizations with less than four years of experience in conducting international exchanges are ineligible to apply under this competition.

  • All proposals must comply with the requirements stated in the NOFO and the PSI; non-compliance will result in your proposal being declared technically ineligible and given no further consideration in the review process.

  • For this program, applicants MUST demonstrate significant expertise in network development including membership relationship, governance, compliance, monitoring and evaluation, and partnership development.

  • All proposals must have a stated commitment from the DCN to work with the applicant to utilize the $1,575,000 to implement activities to counter disinformation in Europe and Eurasia and support Ukrainian influencers and communication specialists through the creation of hubs.

  • Only one proposal will be considered by ECA from each applicant organization.

    How to Apply

    For more information and job application details, see; ECA Digital Connections Program

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