About CDA

CDA Collaborative Learning Projects (CDA) is a non-profit organization committed to improving the effectiveness of those who work to provide humanitarian assistance, engage in peace practice, support sustainable development, and conduct corporate operations in a socially responsible manner. Through our collaborative learning process, we combine rigorous analysis with pragmatic field-level work and deliver practical tools to field staff and policymakers alike. CDA is based in the United States, and also has an office in Myanmar, which was established to support local application of conflict-sensitivity practices.

CDA’S Theory of Change

Guiding Principles

Local Capacities are more effective and sustainable as the basis for policies and practices.

Context matters, and all interventions have impacts on the societies and people involved.

CDA sustains its impartiality with multiple interest groups by refraining from becoming an implementing agency.

CDA maintains relationship of respect, accountability, fairness, and transparency with those we engage with.

The voices of people affected by aid and conflict are an important source of guidance for improving future practice.

CDA preserves its independence and integrity by working with international organizations in a spirit of partnership.

CDA is a signatory on, and supports, the Doing Development Differently Manifesto.

Our Vision

Our vision is a future where communities and nations demonstrate resilience, drive their own development, and resolve conflicts without resorting to armed violence.

Our Mission

CDA’s mission is to support the application of lessons from collaborative learning processes to improve effective and accountable engagements that result in significant, positive, lasting change for people and societies.

Our Expertise

Throughout the years we have worked in more than seventy conflict-affected and fragile contexts. CDA’s established expertise in the below practice areas is rooted in evidence-based collaborative learning projects, and in the extensive advisory work, that we have completed and continue to perform. CDA’s core staff has extensive experience in zones of conflict. They have worked in over ninety countries and travel regularly to field locations. They have worked with several hundred international and local organizations, including governments, United Nations agencies, the World Bank, universities, training centers, corporations and non-governmental organizations.

Foundational Books



Support CDA’s Critical Infrastructure

If you, or someone you know, is the trustee of a grant-making body we would welcome the opportunity to discuss our work and how you or they might become involved. Please contact Executive Director Peter Woodrow at pwoodrow@cdacollaborative.org or call 617 661 6310.

We need your support to continue …

… guaranteeing accountability, transparency, and wellbeing. CDA has a highly motivated administrative staff that forms the backbone of the organization. They ensure CDA’s work is transparent and accountable by navigating reporting requirements, and supporting our audits. Our administrative staff make our Cambridge, MA headquarters and Yangon, Myanmar field office productive, healthy, working environments for program staff.  Frequent travel enables us to keep our learning and advisory processes grounded in field experiences and responsive to changing realities and needs.  CDA’s administrative team ensures staff are safe, informed, and connected when traveling – whether to conflict-affected regions or to partners in capital cities. 

… developing seed funding for emerging Collaborative Learning Processes. The collaborative learning process is at the heart of CDA’s mission. It requires dedicated staff time for identifying emerging issues with partners and constituencies, determining the questions to guide our learning processes, convening initial consultations, scoping the field to affirm the relevance and urgency of the topic among practitioners and policy makers, identifying appropriate learning partners, and securing full funding.

… closing the organizational feedback loop. We practice what we preach by engaging in our own internal learning processes. CDA focuses on the effectiveness and accountability of international engagements. Monitoring and evaluation keep our collaborative learning and advisory engagements true to our mission. We apply the lessons from our constantly growing experience to improve future engagements and ensure that our learning and advisory functions enrich one-another.

… ensuring access to collaborative lessons learned. We are committed to sharing the lessons from CDA’s collaborative learning at no cost through our website. Over the years CDA has developed a wealth of knowledge, practical tools and guidance for policymakers and practitioners alike. Our Communications Associate maintains CDA’s resource library, makes sure resources are accessible, and helps to disseminate them to practitioners and policymakers. As leaders in our respective fields, our staff are honored to be invited to share their expertise at conferences, seminars, and workshops and to support different learning communities.

Annual Reports

Financial Audits

Memberships and Consortia

International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)
European Evaluation Society (EES)
American Evaluation Association (AEA)
Feedback Labs
Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium (PEC)
Conflict Sensitivity Community Hub

Frequently Asked Questions

How We Got Our Name

The Collaborative for Development Action 1985 – 2003. CDA used to stand for the acronym of our legal name between 1985-2003: The Collaborative for Development Action. The Collaborative for Development Action, Inc. was founded as a small consulting agency 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. In similar fashion, since 2003, our legal name is: CDA Collaborative Learning Projects.

What Is Our Structure

Until December 2014 CDA worked through four discrete programs: The Do No Harm Program (DNH), the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program (RPP), the Corporate Engagement Program (CEP), and the Listening Program (LP). Each program conducted its own collaborative learning processes and also engaged in accompaniment and advisory work in partnership with local and international NGOs, private sector companies, donors, bilateral agencies, and multilateral institutions.

Since January 2015 CDA has been operating under a staff structure including an Advisory Services “wing” and a Collaborative Learning Projects “wing.”  The change from programs to wings enabled CDA to take a more deliberate and focused approach to both collaborative learning and implementation of learning through advisory services.