Applications for 2024 Reciprocal Exchange Component Now Open

A young woman wearing a mask looks at sticky notes stuck on a flip chart; she holds another note and a marker in her hand

About the Reciprocal Exchange 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders—the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)—was created to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Established in 2014, the Fellowship is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2024 and has supported nearly 6,500 Alumni from across Sub-Saharan Africa to develop their leadership skills and foster connections and collaboration with U.S. professionals. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.  The Fellowship’s Reciprocal Exchange component provides U.S. professionals with the opportunity to build upon strategic partnerships and professional connections developed during the Mandela Washington Fellowship.  The Reciprocal Exchange component provides funds for U.S. professionals to implement in-person or hybrid projects in sub-Saharan African countries to continue collaborative work with Fellowship Alumni on the continent.  U.S. professionals may include those met during the Fellowship through networking, the Summit, Professional Development Experiences, or other activities.     

Award Goal

The Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship aims to provide opportunities for U.S. professionals and Fellowship Alumni to form lasting partnerships, expand markets and networks, and increase mutual understanding between the United States and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Award Objectives

  • The Mandela Washington Fellowship will provide grants of up to $3,000 per selected project to support hybrid Reciprocal Exchange programs or grants of up to $5,000 per selected U.S. Participant to support travel to Sub-Saharan Africa and other program-related costs during the grant period. 
  • U.S. Participants and Fellowship Alumni will implement a short-term project that directly benefits individuals in the project country during implementation.  Projects should be no longer than four weeks. 
  • U.S. Participants and Fellowship Alumni will expand their professional networks, gain new business opportunities, build new knowledge or skills, and expand mutual understanding during their Reciprocal Exchange project planning and implementation periods. 
  • U.S. Participants will actively share skills and knowledge gained during their Reciprocal Exchange with other U.S. citizens in their home communities after implementing their Reciprocal Exchange. 

Award Timeline 

  • Application Deadline: March 8, 2024
  • Notification of Award: May 2024
  • Grant Period: July 1 – November 30, 2024


  • U.S. professionals: U.S. citizens who collaborate with Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni to apply for a Reciprocal Exchange Award. 
  • Fellowship Alumni: Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni who collaborate with U.S. professionals to apply for a Reciprocal Exchange Award. 
  • Participants: U.S. professionals who are selected to receive a Reciprocal Exchange Award. 
  • Fellowship Alumni Collaborators: Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni who are selected to receive a Reciprocal Exchange Award. 

Financial Provisions

A man on a large monitor addresses a group of people sitting at tables in a room
In 2020, Tom Marentette of Indiana (on-screen) participated in a hybrid Reciprocal Exchange.
  • Maximum Hybrid Grant Award: $3,000 per project
  • Maximum In-Person Grant Award: $5,000 per selected Participant 
Disbursement of Funds

Up to $3,000 per project will be provided to implement the Reciprocal Exchange and support approved program-related costs for hybrid projects.  Funds may be disbursed to Fellowship Alumni Collaborators for hybrid projects only.  For in-person projects with multiple U.S. Participants, the project team must select one Participant to receive the project funds.  Award funds are disbursed in two installments, contingent upon receipt of required deliverables.  Participants or Fellowship Alumni Collaborators will receive funds as a wire transfer to their personal bank accounts; as such, Participants and Fellowship Alumni Collaborators will be asked to provide IREX with their bank information as well as a signed Terms and Conditions document, which will outline the terms for the award. 

Procurement of Visa

U.S. Participants will be required to procure their visas through an IREX-preferred vendor prior to travel, unless it is impossible to do so.  IREX will cover the cost of the visa service as well as the visa fee itself. Please note that travelers to Nigeria are not able to use IREX’s preferred vendor for their visa procurement.  Please see the budget template and the Nigerian Embassy’s website for more information.

Definition of a Hybrid Reciprocal Exchange

Hybrid Reciprocal Exchange projects conduct activities in the Fellowship Alumni Collaborator’s community with the U.S. professional participating virtually via Zoom or another platform.  Hybrid Reciprocal Exchanges do not involve any international travel by the U.S. Participant.  Read this story about a hybrid Reciprocal Exchange that took place in 2021! 

Screenshot of a Zoom call; on the main screen, the title "4-Dimensional Pan-African Reading, Writing, Questions and Answering: How do we imagine our future?" is shown
In 2021, Robyn Murray Schreiner, Chris Graves, Michelle Hassler, and Lilian Kaivil organized a virtual Reciprocal Exchange.

Eligibility Requirements

U.S. professionals participating in the Reciprocal Exchange must be U.S. citizens currently living in the United States.  U.S. professionals may not be employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. Government (including a U.S. Embassy, USAID, or other U.S. Government entity).

Fellowship Alumni must be considered Alumni of the Fellowship by the U.S. Department of State.  They may not be employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. Government.  Fellowship Alumni must reside in the proposed project country and be present for the full duration of the project’s implementation.  Fellowship Alumni must also fill out the Fellowship Alumni Outreach Campaign if they have not done so in the last year. 

Fellowship Alumni from all cohorts are eligible to apply. 

Am I eligible to apply for a Reciprocal Exchange? I have done…

  • 2 in-person projects: Yes! You are eligible to apply for a hybrid Reciprocal Exchange.
  • 1 in-person, 1 hybrid/virtual project: Yes! You are eligible to apply for an in-person or hybrid Reciprocal Exchange.
  • 2 virtual or hybrid projects: Yes! You are eligible to apply for an in-person or hybrid Reciprocal Exchange.

Selection Criteria 

Eligible applications will be reviewed using the following selection criteria: 

  • Demonstrates impact on the Fellowship Alumni Collaborator’s home organization, community, and/or country; 
  • Demonstrates impact on the U.S. professional’s home organization and community; 
  • Demonstrates joint engagement between the Fellowship Alumni Collaborator and U.S. professional in project design and implementation (i.e., it should be clear to application reviewers that each applicant contributed equally to the overall application); 
  • Provides measurable goals and specific project activities during implementation; and 
  • Demonstrates continued impact of the project after implementation. 

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

  • Concrete benefit to U.S. companies, communities, or organizations (e.g., identification of new business markets or export opportunities, development of institutional partnerships or student/scholar exchanges, presentation of findings to U.S. professional, community, or academic audiences, etc.) 
  • A history of collaboration between the U.S. professional and the Fellowship Alumni Collaborator as a result of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 
  • Proposals for the implementation phase of project execution 
  • Project teams with professional expertise relevant to the proposed activities 
  • Interest in both the cultural and professional exchange aspects of the collaboration 
  • Contribution to furthering a pre-existing project or initiative 
  • Budget cost-sharing 
  • Engagement of Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni networks 
  • Inclusion of Participants, Fellowship Alumni, and/or project beneficiaries who represent traditionally underrepresented groups or communities  


  • Reciprocal Exchange-funded project components may not charge a participation fee from intended beneficiaries. 
  • Proposed Reciprocal Exchanges activities must not involve direct clinical patient contact, which may include, but is not limited to: contact with human or animal patients; human or animal remains; corpses; cadavers; or carcasses; and/or the practice of medicine or other licensed health sciences, including practical exposure to the fields of medical and veterinary sciences, nursing, dentistry, psychological counseling, or any other field that requires direct clinical patient contact and/or prescribing or administering medication.  
  • Project funds may not be used to cover salaries or consultancy fees. 
  • The Fellowship team reviews all projects for safety, including relevant U.S. Department of State travel warnings, when approving in-person projects.  
  • Fellowship Alumni may apply for both Reciprocal Exchange and LINC Grants but may only receive one type of award per year. 
  • U.S. professionals may only participate in one Reciprocal Exchange Award per calendar year (i.e., implementation dates between January 15 – December 31 of a given year).  

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

IREX reserves the right to verify all information included in the application.  In the event of a discrepancy, or if the information is found to be false, the application will be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.  Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Reporting Requirements 

All Reciprocal Exchange Participants and Alumni Collaborators will be required to submit a final report to IREX following the implementation of their project.  More information about reporting requirements will be included in the Terms and Conditions documents signed by Participants and Fellowship Alumni Collaborators. 

General Application Instructions 

Reciprocal Exchange applications must include the following attachments. Applications missing any attachment will be considered incomplete and therefore ineligible. 

  • Completed Application Form (click “Apply Now” to begin)
    • Both the U.S. professional and the Fellowship Alumni must work together to complete an application form.  The application is available at the link below. All responses must be in English.Include your full legal name as it is spelled in your international passport. 
    • Provide complete contact information, including postal index codes for all addresses and country and area codes for telephone numbers.
    • Answers to essay questions should not exceed 300 words (approximately 2,000 characters) per question.
  • Completed Work Plan (download)
    • Eligible work plans must use the template provided and comply with the requirements outlined in the template’s Guidelines tab. 
  • Completed Budget Form (download)
    • All costs should be in U.S. dollars.
    • Eligible budgets must use the provided template and comply with the requirements outlined in the template’s Guidelines tab.
    • Budgets should reflect total estimated costs of project implementation, inclusive of expenses that will be provided in-kind and/or through cost-share.
  • Professional Resumes: Resumes for all candidates should demonstrate that the applicants are well-qualified to implement the proposed project.  They must be submitted in English and may be no longer than two pages.

Please note the following: 

  • Applications must be received on or before the due date.  Applications received after the deadline may not be considered.
  • Fellowship Alumni and U.S. professionals must collaborate on all application materials, including the work plan and budget.  Questions in each portion of the applications are similar but require individual answers from the Fellowship Alumni and U.S. professional(s). 
  • For projects with multiple U.S. professionals or Fellowship Alumni, the primary U.S. professional and primary Fellowship Alumni should complete the application together.
  • Please do not leave any space blank.  If a question does not apply to you, write N/A (not applicable). 


If you have any questions about the Reciprocal Exchange application that were not addressed above, we encourage you to review the Frequently Asked Questions for Reciprocal Exchange Applications. Please also feel free to direct your queries to

On February 28, the Reciprocal Exchanges team hosted a Q&A webinar for interested applicants. The webinar aimed to provide more information on the application process and best practices for a successful application. Watch a recording of the webinar.