DAI was founded in 1970 by three graduates of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government intent on providing a more dynamic and effective brand of development assistance. This entrepreneurial approach would look beyond traditional philanthropy to embrace the virtues of the private sector, and build a company that delivers social and economic development on a competitive, cost-effective, best-value basis—a social enterprise that is self-sustaining because it is profitable.
Employee-owned DAI is now a global development company with a record of delivering results in 160 countries. But it remains today what it was as a start-up: innovative, alert, self-critical, and forward-looking—and driven by a powerful sense of corporate purpose. Our mission remains essentially unchanged from the days of the founders.
A Consistent Mission
DAI’s mission is to make a lasting difference in the world by helping people improve their lives. We envision a world in which communities and societies become more prosperous, fairer and better governed, safer, healthier, and environmentally more sustainable.
Incorporated in 1970 as Development Alternatives, Inc., DAI made its earliest mark through a series of analytical studies. In 1973, we won a contract to analyze 36 U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) projects in Latin America and Africa.
The resulting study, Strategies for Small Farmer Development, cemented the firm’s growing reputation, and we built on this momentum to seek more substantial assignments implementing projects in the field. Our first major project was to revitalize the agricultural economy in the North Shaba region of Zaire. Other implementation initiatives in rural and agricultural development followed in Sudan and elsewhere.
Among a new generation of DAI employees joining the firm in the 1980s was current CEO Jim Boomgard, a Ph.D. agricultural economist who played a key role in developing an approach to small business promotion in developing countries and managed a landmark multicountry study called Growth and Equity through Micro-enterprise Investments and Institutions (GEMINI).