CDA Collaborative Learning Projects is a non-profit organization, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA). We are committed to improving the effectiveness of international actors who provide humanitarian assistance, engage in peace practice, and are involved in supporting sustainable development.
CDA operates on the premise that experience is a good teacher if we can take the time to learn its lessons. To that end, we organize collaborative learning projects to gather and analyze the experiences of international efforts and, from these, to identify patterns across contexts and types of programmes. Our experience shows that this kind of learning enables us to avoid repeating mistakes of the past and to continually improve the effectiveness of our work.
Collaborative learning projects have involved colleagues in humanitarian assistance agencies, development agencies, peace practice groups, and corporate enterprises.
CDA is best known for its development of the peace and conflict impact assessment tool known as "Do No Harm" analysis. DNH helps humanitarian and development assistance workers to identify the way their assistance interacts with conflicts in the societies where they work and to develop options for minimizing the ways aid can reinforce conflict and enhancing their positive support for peace.
CDA maintains a small group of core staff who have extensive experience in zones of conflict. They have worked in over ninety countries with several hundred international and local organizations, including European and North American governments, United Nations agencies, the World Bank, members of the Red Cross movement, universities and training centers, and many non-governmental organizations. In addition, CDA calls on a broad group of experts when specific regional expertise or language competence is needed.
The organization's work is funded primarily by governments and international financial institutions which support CDA because it combines rigorous analysis with pragmatic field-level work and delivers practical tools and techniques to field staff and international policy-makers alike.
Many individuals and agencies know of CDA through its Executive Director, Mary B. Anderson and her 1999 book: Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace - Or War.
CDA Collaborative Learning Projects is a direct off-shoot of the Collaborative for Development Action, Inc., a small consulting agency founded in 1985.
The Collaborative for Development Action, Inc.
The Collaborative for Development Action, Inc. was founded as a small consulting corporation in 1985 by Mary B. Anderson and Catherine A. Overholt. Both economists, Anderson and Overholt had worked for some years in international development and health policy. They founded CDA, Inc. as a base from which they could initiate and develop new approaches, in collaboration with colleagues in the poorer countries and other international actors, that would continually push the effectiveness of international assistance.
CDA, Inc. has been active in health policy, primary and secondary education, rural development, alternative technologies and evaluations.
CDA, Inc. worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to develop a comprehensive approach to programming for women refugees. Over a ten year period, and based on the gathering of extensive field-based experience, CDA, Inc. created what became known as the "People Oriented Planning Framework" (POP). POP has been widely used by UNHCR staff across many contexts to understand, and programme effectively for, gender differences among refugee populations. Following the development of this approach, CDA, Inc. developed a training program that enabled UNHCR to continue to integrate this framework into its operations without dependence on external consultants.
CDA, Inc. also provided the base from which the Do No Harm, Reflecting on Peace Practice, and Corporate Engagement projects originated.
As CDA, Inc. increasingly raised its funds from governments and developed the methods of collaborative learning, it became clear that a non-profit entity would provide a better base for its work. CDA Collaborative Learning Projects was created in 2003 as the continuing home for such efforts. CDA, Inc. continues on a small scale to carry out direct contract work, primarily in the area of strategic evaluations.
Catherine A. Overholt has retired from CDA, Inc. and continues her commitment to development by running a small farm supporting reforestation in rural Mexico.