Link Community Development International (Link) was founded in 1989. Originally a student-led movement at the University of Cambridge, known as Link Africa, the organisation has developed to an unprecedented scale over the course of the next two decades. Find out more about our history by reading through our timeline!
1989 – The Early Years: Link Africa Founded
Link initially existed as Link Africa, a student-led movement based at the University of Cambridge. Link Africa’s focus was on fighting apartheid within South Africa. The organisation began arranging short-term teaching placements for Cambridge students in Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Uganda, which soon became longer-term placements. This shift allowed Link Africa to begin focussing on more specific project work.
1993 to 1996 – End of Apartheid and the establishment of Link Community Development
The following six years saw the abolition of apartheid and Link continue to work with almost every education Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in South Africa. Link’s projects focused on rural areas, where the need for support was deemed the highest, this allowed Link to differentiate from other organisations at the time. In 1995 Link became a registered, independent, not-for-profit organisation – Link Community Development. As a result, the organisation once again shifted its focus from organising placement work, to working with governments in order to support access to quality education.
The Late 1990s – Link Begins Work in Ghana
During the late 1990s, Link’s reputation continued to grow in South Africa as the Department for International Development (DfID) granted funding for the formation of the Soshanguve Project. This project formed the foundations for Link’s work with entire districts, rather than individual schools. The project enabled an increased focus on improving school support capacity through better information and planning.
In 1999, Link Community Development Ghana was established as an NGO in the West African country, and Link’s work proved to be an influential period for the organisation. The introduction of the School Performance Appraisal Meeting (SPAM), which would ultimately form a key component in Link’s School Performance Review (SPR) programme, followed shortly after.
The New Millennium – Development of SPR and Work Begins in Uganda
At the start of the new millennia Link Community Development Uganda was established after receiving lottery funding to start work on the Masindi District Education Development Project (MDEDP), leading to a partnership with the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).
In 2003, Link won the Northern Cape contract for a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project – The District Development Support Project (DDSP). The database created by USAID to measure Link’s delivery and impact was developed to become a vital tool for Link’s work and led to the development of the School Performance Review (SPR), which has underpinned the majority of Link’s work ever since.
2004 to 2007 – Establishment of Ethiopia and Malawi Branches
Link Community Development began discussions in 2004 about beginning work in Ethiopia. Following successful talks, Link Community Development Ethiopia was established in 2006 with the first projects beginning in 2007. Funding from Irish Aid enabled work to begin, with the ‘two district’ model used in Malawi, applied in the Southern region of Ethiopia.
In 2006 Link was asked to expand into Malawi following funding from the Scottish Executive and successful Scottish School Links and Scottish Global Teachers. Link Community Development Scotland and Link Community Development Malawi were established allowing work to begin in Malawi and the establishment of the District and School Improvement Project.
A New Decade – HIV & AIDS Training and the Kampala Conference
In 2010, Link Community Development South Africa was awarded a $3.5m grant by USAID to develop and deliver HIV Peer Education training in four Provinces. This allowed Link to increase its focus on health as part of the core school improvement work. The programme provided information on the how the effects of HIV & AIDS profoundly impact access to education and how to effectively overcome the issues caused.
In 2012, Link and the Ugandan Ministry of Education hosted the ‘Achievable Education for All’ conference in Kampala, Uganda. The event brought together the Ministry of Education staff and Link staff from each of the countries Link works in to share experiences, set realistic goals and to debate the role of decentralised information in school improvement.
2014 to Present – Restructure to Link Community Development International and The National Education Standards in Malawi
In 2014 Link Community Development took the bold step to relocate the UK headquarters from London to Edinburgh in order to reduce overheads and streamline the functions of the organisation, but simultaneously enhancing the high quality professional support and capacity building for our partners in sub-Saharan Africa.
Late 2015 marked another landmark achievement for Link and education in Malawi, with the Ministry for Education, Science and Technology releasing the first National Education Standards in Malawi. The standards were a joint achievement between Link and the Ministry, with up to 5 million learners benefitting for a better quality education.