Who We Are

CDA engages complex questions to unlock positive, systemic change wherever communities experience fragility and conflict.

Sitting at the intersection of applied research, global policy, and local practice, we partner with humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding practitioners to develop practical resources and policy guidance for lasting change.

In 2023, we launched our Humans of CDA campaign to celebrate all of our people and partners who work toward more local leadership, accountability to affected populations, and systems change.

Hear from Millicent Otieno, Ruth Rhoads Allen, Roselyne Onunga, Neil Levine, and Nanako Tamaru on CDA’s collaborative learning process and impact across the sector.

We’re driven by two fundamental beliefs:

People belong at the center. The knowledge, perspectives, and capacities of people and communities affected by conflict are essential to constructive engagement in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

Context matters. Effectiveness depends on a deep understanding of and adaptation to complex local dynamics.

What We’re Known For

CDA is a leading voice in the global movement to shift power in international decision-making closer to the people and communities most impacted.

We develop useful tools and guidance for practitioners and policymakers alike, contributing to positive, systematic, and lasting change for people and communities, while also influencing policy and practice across the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding sectors.

Our Values

CDA is committed to practicing what we value most – listening, learning, and taking action to more explicitly incorporate anti-racist values and practices into our work.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at CDA

In October 2019, we launched the CDA 20/25 Campaign to say thank you to our network, listen to and share stories of impact, and look together to the big questions on the horizon.

This video is of the first 20/25 event in Nairobi, Kenya, co-hosted 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 level, in national government, and blurring the boundaries in between – continue to shape today’s collaborative learning.

What does CDA stand for?

The Collaborative for Development Action 1985 – 2003. CDA began as the Collaborative for Development Action, Inc., a small consulting agency founded by Mary B. Anderson (the founder of the Do No Harm approach) and Catherine A. Overholt. CDA, Inc. was active in health policy, primary and secondary education, rural development, alternative technologies and evaluations, and gender dimensions of international assistance.

CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, Est. 2003. As CDA, Inc. increasingly raised its funds from government donors, it became clear that a non-profit entity would provide a better base for its work. Consequently, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects was created as the continuing non-profit home for these efforts. While the “CDA” in our name no longer stands for the acronym, it is kept to symbolize the connection to the foundational learning projects that took place under CDA, Inc.

Our Memberships and Commitments

Land Acknowledgment

CDA recognizes that our office is located on the traditional and ancestral land of the Massachusett people. We acknowledge and are grateful to the Massachusett people as the original caretakers of this land. We pay our respects to their community, their elders both past and present, as well as future generations. In our presence in Cambridge, MA, USA and our work globally, we will continue to expand visibility about Indigenous Peoples, their stewardship and care for the natural world, and their knowledge, perspectives, and capacities for peace.