Practical learning for international action.

In 2019, CDA marks two significant and noteworthy milestones: the 20-year anniversary of the paradigm-shifting “Do No Harm” framework and our 25th year as an action research and advisory organization dedicated to positive, systemic change for people experiencing conflict and fragility.

Last month we launched the CDA 20/25 Campaign, a global outreach to say thank you to the CDA network, listen to and share stories of impact, and look together to the big questions on the horizon. It was a pleasure to hold the first 20/25 event in Nairobi, Kenya, and co-host with Local Capacities for Peace International, a partner on this journey from our first collaborative learning project. Colleagues from across Africa – working at the grassroots, in national government, and to blur the boundaries in between – continue to shape today’s collaborative learning. See their inspiringn stories in the video below.

Additional consultation and social events are being planned – from Manila to Washington DC – so please send us a message and we will share the details. We look forward to celebrating the CDA 20/25 milestones with as many of you as possible!


CDA is an action research and advisory organization that bridges the gap between theory and practice to improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding, development, and humanitarian organizations, and responsible businesses working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. By strengthening the work of our partners, CDA contributes to positive, systematic, and lasting change for people and communities.  CDA applies a unique collaborative approach to learning that prioritizes local perspectives, rigorous analysis, and evidence-based methodologies to produce practical guidance for policymakers and practitioners alike.

Almost twenty years ago CDA articulated the principle of Do No Harm and developed a framework for analyzing the unintended impacts of aid on conflict, both negative and positive.  Do No Harm has been widely endorsed and adopted in the policies and practices of aid agencies, donors, and select corporations globally, and has made aid programs and business operations more effective and accountable to local populations.

For over twenty-five years CDA’s work has been driven by the same two fundamental beliefs:

  • The perspectives and capacities of people affected by conflict are essential to constructive engagements in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.
  • Context matters. Effectiveness depends on a deep understanding of, and adaptation to, complex local dynamics.


CDA’s trusted expertise on effective engagement in complex situations is more relevant today than ever. Addressing the cascade of crises, from Syria and South Sudan, to Yemen and Myanmar, along with increased global fragility and rapidly evolving forms of political violence, requires the context-specific analysis and practical tools CDA has honed over two decades.   This is particularly true in the face of increasingly precarious donor support for international engagement.

The deadly, unintended consequences of efforts to counter violent extremism highlight the critical need for a more sophisticated understanding of local contexts and key conflict drivers, and more broadly rethinking the fundamentals of international engagements in fragile and conflict-affected states. Our work is, and always has been, grounded in a local and systemic understanding of fragile and conflict-affected contexts, based on evidence and context specific theories of change.


Celebrating our Past, Embracing our Future: Read CDA’s December newsletter for more information about CDA’s 20/25 campaign along with an Impact Spotlight on an exciting collaborative learning project.

In The New Humanitarian, December 2019, “To repair trust, we have to listen and then act” profiles CDA’s learning partnership with the IFRC. Relevant joint publications can be found here.


Systems change occurs when deep learning meets creative collaboration. That’s why CDA works in partnership at the nexus of peacebuilding, development, and humanitarian response to facilitate bold action wherever communities experience conflict.

Collaborative Learning initiatives leverage innovative and complementary partnerships to target some of the most promising opportunities for systems change.

Supporting Partnerships draw upon 25 years of collaborative learning to work with corporations, organizations, and funding agencies to invest in positive social change.

Collaborative Partners

Humanity United
peace direct
Search for Common Ground
Norwegian MFA
Total SA
International Alert

Supporting Partners

Global Affairs Canada
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Norwegian MFA
Norwegian MFA
Norwegian MFA
World Vision UK
Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)
Norwegian MFA
Paung Sie Facility
International Rescue Committee