The Origin and Founders of CDA

The Collaborative for Development Action, Inc. was founded as a small consulting agency in 1985 by Mary B. Anderson and Catherine A. Overholt. They founded CDA, Inc. as a base from which they could initiate new approaches and promote effectiveness of international assistance, in collaboration with colleagues in the poorer countries and other international actors. CDA, Inc. was active in health policy, primary and secondary education, rural development, alternative technologies and evaluations, and gender dimensions of international assistance. 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 (which most people refer to simply as “CDA”) was created in 2003 as the continuing non-profit home for these efforts.

From Programs to Wings
Over the years, CDA worked through four discrete programs: the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program (RPP), Do No Harm (DNH), the Listening Program (LP), and the Corporate Engagement Program (CEP). 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 new staff structures, including an Advisory Services “wing” and a Collaborative Learning Projects “wing” which have replaced the four programs. The change enables CDA to take a more deliberate and focused approach to both collaborative learning and implementation of learning through advisory services.

Mary B. Anderson
Mary B. Anderson led CDA from its founding in 2003, until her retirement in 2009. An economist, Anderson has specialized in rural development strategies that build on local capacities; gender analysis in development programming; the relationships between emergency relief assistance and long-term development; and educational policies as these affect access to primary education in developing countries. Anderson has written extensively on the subjects described above, and taught students as well as practitioners.

Select Bibliography

Opting Out of War: Strategies to Prevent Violent Conflict (2012, with Marshall Wallace)

Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid (2012, with Dayna Brown and Isabella Jean)

Getting It Right: Making Corporate-Community Relations Work (2005, with Luc Zandvliet)

Confronting War: Critical Lessons for Peace Practitioners (2003, with Lara Olson)

Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace—or War (1999)

Rising from the Ashes: Development Strategies in Times of Disaster (1989, with Peter Woodrow)

Gender Roles in Development Projects: A Case Book (1985, with Catherine Overholt)