We’re very proud of our history. Many thanks to Liza Coffin for compiling this look at major events and developments from the past two decades.


Development in Action sprang from a gap year scheme in which a group of students taught English as volunteers in village schools in Western Madhya Pradesh, India. The organiser was retiring, but one of the individuals hosting the students in India wanted to continue the programme. In February 1992, while still in India, the volunteers and locals began to plan a new scheme to continue the link.


Student Action India was set up by Mariana Goetz as a student society at Kings College London.


On 16 May 1994 Student Action India was registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales. The trustee board comprised of founder Mariana Goetz and Ben Fender.

Student Action India’s child sponsorship scheme was launched initially supporting 70 children in Amkhut Children’s Hostel, Jabhua District, Madhya Pradesh with the Church of North India.


Student Action India provided support to two mission schools in Madhya Pradesh–Amkhut in Jabhua District and Kharua Kala in Ratlam District. This included the expanding scholarship scheme for children from deprived communities who may not otherwise have entered formal education. Funds were raised to support establishment of a typing institute at Kharua school to help provide students with the opportunity to develop skills that would help them secure work upon graduating.

Student Action India’s child sponsorship scheme supported 126 children in Amkhut childrens’ hostels, and with the local government, jointly supported creation of an ecological awareness scheme with young people in the area.

Student Action India was given a Barclays Youth Action Award worth £670 which was used to finance the production of a short video about the charity’s work to form part of an exhibition for foyers of various colleges.

In November 1995 Student Action India won the national prize of Youth Clubs UK (now named UK Youth) for “International Awareness”, and received an award from Lord Westminster at St. James’ Palace.

Strahan Spencer went out to India in the summer 1995 and join the trustee board after returning to the UK.


Student Action India established an office in Indore with support of Rakesh Mittel, the organisation’s Indian Advisor. The aim was to support improved communication between the UK committee and the charity’s partner organisations and volunteers in India.


For the first time a paid member of staff (a UK Coordinator) was secured by Student Action India to support recruitment to and management of the India volunteering programme.  New placements included the Development Education Society in Bangalore, the mission schools in rural Kshipra and Dhanora, and Action for Social Advancement in Dahod.

Student Action India ended its sponsorship of children in Amkhut Children’s Home and began exploring the possibility of an alternative scheme with the Local Action Madhya Pradesh (or LAMP) Community Hostel Project. This wasn’t, in the end, taken forward.


Supervisors (previously described as roving researchers) were recruited for the first time in summer 2000 to support Student Action India’s overseas volunteers and support relationships with our partner organisations, as well as researching potential new placements. This role would later become known as India Co-ordinator.


Tension between India and Pakistan in the summer of 2002 meant that Student Action India had to cancel its summer volunteering programme as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was advising against travel to India. This had a significant impact on the charity’s income and Leah Waters (née Selinger) undertook the UK Co-ordinator role on a voluntary basis.


After Strahan Spencer stood down as trustee, Former India volunteer and committee member Rob Aldridge was appointed a trustee alongside Mariana Goetz.

Following a Future Directions meeting in the Autumn of 2004 at which the future strategy of the charity was discussed including the organisation’s identity and brand, Student Action India was renamed Development in Action.

In November, a 10 year anniversary celebration was held in the Palace of Westminster to bring together volunteers past and present and raise awareness of the charity among influential Peers and MPs. Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Tom Brake MP, addressed attendees and an Early Day Motion was launched in early 2005 to mark the occasion.


DiA joined the Make Poverty History coalition. DiA volunteers and committee members joined approximately 225,000 people marching in Edinburgh to promote the demands of the Make Poverty History campaign.


Dr Thiagarajan (known as Tiger) was the founder of long term partner organisation the Development Education Society (DEEDS) and sadly he died on 13 October 2006. His son John, a commercial pilot, took over running the charity but DiA’s partnership with the Karnataka based NGO came to an end.


Charity founder Mariana Goetz stood down as trustee and voluntary committee members Joni Hillman, Ruth Bergan, Liza Coffin and Leah Selinger were invited to join Rob Aldridge on DiA’s trustee board. Mandarin Giavany served briefly as a trustee before moving overseas.


DiA established a volunteer group in Cambridge among students of the university and in coordination with Harambee, the local development education centre. This was a pilot scheme for a more strategic and managed approach to our outreach work in the UK.


In November, six members of the Committee attended ‘The Wave’ march through central London in support of a safer climate future for everyone. They were part of 40,000 people marching ahead of this week’s international talks in Copenhagen on how to tackle climate change. In December, DiA launched its e-news bulletin to improve communication with volunteers. Rob Aldridge stood down as a trustee after many years’ involvement with the charity. Jen Hawkins joined the board of trustees.


In early 2010 DiA launched its blog and established a Twitter profile. Leah Waters and Ruth Bergan stood down as trustees.


DiA launched its Facebook page building on its growing social media presence. Joni Hillman stood down as trustee and the board were joined by Ian Simm and Carly Mortiboys. Following consultation with the committee and alumni DiA’s new five year strategy was agreed for 2011-2016.

Jimmy McGilligan, co-founder of the Barli Institute for Rural Women sadly died on 21 April 2011. While DiA had already ceased sending volunteers to this Indore-based charity, it had been a partner organisation for a number of years and many of DiA’s volunteers had visited the Institute during their orientation in India.


The Trustees and Management Committee made the hard decision to suspend our India Placement Programme for the 2012-2013 year in order to review the programme. This was a timely decision, coming in our 20th year and following the finalisation of our 2011-2016 5 year strategy. This break allowed us to carefully evaluate the programme to ensure it was still relevant to the aims, vision and mission of DiA.


At the end of 2013 we were pleased to announce the re-launch of the India programme. Many of the key elements of the programme remained the same, showing the continued relevance of the programme to both DiA and the young people we connect with. However, we took time to review our partner relations and volunteer support structure to ensure the programme remained beneficial to both our Indian partner organisations and UK volunteers.


We launched our new and improved website with the aim of ensuring that it can fully reflect and promote DiA’s activities and meet the needs of the organisation.


Our India Internship programme is featured in Lonely Planet’s guide to responsible volunteering: Volunteer: A Traveller’s Guide to Making a Difference Around the World.


We launched the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign, aimed at empowering supporters to more confidently tackle the most common negative assertions made about foreign aid, and international development more generally.