Applications for 2024 LINC Grants are Now Open

The U.S. Department of State and IREX are excited to announce the launch of the 2024 Leveraging Innovations in New Communities (LINC) Grant program, an exclusive opportunity for Alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The purpose of the Leveraging Innovations in New Communities (LINC) Grant program is to facilitate deeper collaborative engagement between Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni across countries and cohorts.  LINC Grants provide Alumni of all cohort years funds to pursue professional collaborations within the Fellowship’s Alumni Network.  Funds will allow Alumni to travel to each other’s organizations or communities or collaborate via a hybrid format to learn from each other’s best practices and expertise.  Examples of LINC collaborations include joint service projects or trainings, job shadowing or mentorship arrangements, and joint research or teaching.  By providing for the travel and program costs of joint projects and learning opportunities, LINC Grants remove some of the most daunting obstacles to cross-cohort, cross-regional collaboration among Fellowship Alumni.

Fellowship Alumni from all cohort years are eligible to apply for LINC grants of up to $4,000 for in-person collaborations in one partner’s home country or up to $2,700 for hybrid collaborations.  Applicants and collaboration activities must be based in Sub-Saharan Africa.  LINC-funded collaborations may not exceed four weeks

Some examples of successful LINC collaborations include:

  • 2021 Alumnae from Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda addressed disability inclusion challenges that many face across Sub-Saharan Africa by organizing a virtual Disability Inclusion Convention for 280 disability rights activists in 27 countries.
  • 2017 and 2018 Alumni from Cameroon led workshops to teach women farmers new hydroponic farming techniques.
  • 2019 Gambian Alumna and 2016 Nigerian Alumnus organized a hybrid workshop to teach deaf women skills to promote financial self-reliance.
  • 2017 and 2016 Alumni from Burkina Faso facilitated community trainings on peace and conflict resolution.

Learn more about previous LINC Grant collaborations.

Please review the Application Guidelines for more information on eligibility and selection criteria.

Application Information

LINC Grant Timeline

  • Application Launch | February 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline | March 8, 2024
  • Notification of Award | April – May 2024
  • Grant Period | June 1 – November 30, 2024


  • Team Lead: The principal point of contact for the LINC collaboration. LINC Team Leads are responsible for logistical and programmatic coordination with IREX.
  • Collaborator: The secondary point of contact for the LINC collaboration.  Please note: Collaborators must complete their own portion of the application. 
  • Project: A LINC collaboration with an event or program component requiring budgeting for venue rental, catering, marketing, etc.  Please note, not all collaborations will include a project that requires funding (e.g., a job shadowing or a joint research arrangement).
  • In-Person Collaboration: A LINC collaboration in which one member of the LINC Team (either the Team Lead or the Collaborator) travels to the other’s country or community
  • Hybrid Collaboration: A LINC collaboration with a mix of virtual and in-person components.  The Team Lead and Collaborator work together virtually.  They do not travel to each other’s countries or communities but may have limited in-person activities and events in their own community. 

Eligibility Criteria 

Applications meeting the following criteria will be eligible for LINC Grants:

  • Alumni (Team Leads and Collaborators) are from any Mandela Washington Fellowship year (2014-2023) 
  • Alumni and LINC collaboration activities are based in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Same-country collaborations (i.e., where the Team Lead and Collaborator live anywhere within the same country) are permitted, though collaborations between Alumni residing in different countries are strongly encouraged.
  • Alumni are not employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. Government (including U.S. Embassies, USAID, and other U.S. Government entities)
  • LINC collaboration does not exceed four weeks
  • LINC collaboration is consistent with one or more of the following strategic priority areas:
    • Cultivating Economic Prosperity through Women’s Entrepreneurship 
    • Fostering International Trade through Business Partnerships
    • Advancing Peace through Conflict Prevention and Reconciliation
    • Promoting Access to Quality Education with workforce preparation/job training
    • Innovating in Science & Technology
    • Promoting Inclusion through Disability Rights Advocacy
    • Addressing the Impact of Climate Change
    • Promoting Good Governance  
    • Fostering the Development of the Creative Economy
    • Public Health​​​​ (may not include direct patient care)

Selection Criteria  

Eligible applications will be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Clarity and feasibility of goals and planned activities
  • Relevance to designated strategic priority areas
  • Benefit to Team Lead and Collaborator’s communities, organizations, service initiatives, or professional or leadership development, or to the broader Mandela Washington Fellowship Community
  • Continued impact of collaboration after the grant period
  • Relevance of Team Lead and Collaborator’s experience to proposed activity
  • Persuasiveness of justification for need to travel (for in-person collaborations)

Preference will be given to applications that also demonstrate the following:

  • Previous collaboration or engagement between members of the LINC Team
  • Collaborations across different cohort years
  • Collaborations across different countries/regions
  • Budget cost-share
  • Team Lead, Collaborator, and/or project participants who represent traditionally underrepresented groups or communities
  • Team Lead and Collaborator who have not benefited from Reciprocal Exchange Awards in the same year as application


  • Alumni may only submit one LINC application per application cycle.
  • Alumni may submit as either Team Leads OR Collaborators (not both).
  • Alumni may apply for both Reciprocal Exchange and LINC Grants but may only receive one type of award per calendar year. 

To apply, Alumni are required to:

  1. Complete LINC Grant Eligibility Quiz (included in the LINC Grant Application Form) to confirm that your collaboration qualifies for a LINC Grant.  
  2. Explore the Fellowship Directory to identify possible collaborators.
  3. Complete and submit the online application by 11:59 PM EST on March 8, 2024.

Application Materials

All completed applications received by 11:59 PM EST on Friday, March 8, 2024 will be evaluated competitively against the eligibility requirements and selection criteria. 

Please e-mail with any questions.