Type Private
Industry Development
Founded 1970
Headquarters Bethesda, Maryland
Owner(s) DAI Employee Stock Ownership Program
Divisions DAI Washington
DAI Europe
DAI Jordan
DAI Mexico
DAI Pakistan
DAI Palestine
Website dai.com

DAI or Development Alternatives Inc. is a private development company based in Washington, D.C..

In 2010, it received $382,491,550.13 of contract funding by USAID to deliver development services.[1]

DAI operates offices in Central and North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. It has worked in 160 developing and transition countries in the areas of water and natural resources management, energy and climate change, governance and public sector management, private sector development and financial services, economics and trade, agriculture and agribusiness, crisis mitigation and stability operations, and HIV/AIDS and avian influenza control.



DAI was founded in 1970 by Charles Franklin Sweet, Donald R. Mickelwait, and John M. Buck, who met at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Prior to enrolling in the M.P.A program at Harvard in 1969, Sweet had spent five years working in Vietnam for both International Voluntary Services and the United States Department of State.

DAI's early work mostly consisted of analytical studies for government clients. In 1973, DAI won a contract to conduct a comparative study of 36 USAID projects in Latin America and Africa. Two years later, the company's study, Strategies for Small Farmer Development, established the concept of a "process approach" that enabled the pursuit of development objectives while allowing enough leeway to adapt to evolving conditions on the ground. The study consolidated DAI's reputation in the development community and led to further business.

In 1980 DAI opened its first regional office—in Jakarta, Indonesia. In 1985, Jim Boomgard, current CEO, then a Ph.D. agricultural economist, played a key role in developing an approach to small business promotion in developing countries. He managed a multicountry study on the emerging field of microenterprise development, which led to DAI winning a major new worldwide contract: Growth and Equity through Micro-enterprise Investments and Institutions (GEMINI).[2]

At the start of the 1990s, DAI moved its headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Bethesda, Maryland. In 1995, DAI invested in London, U.K.-based Graham Bannock & Partners Ltd., which as the now wholly owned DAI Europe would go on to give DAI a presence as an implementing partner for the U.K. Department for International Development, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other European clients. In South Africa, DAI established Ebony Development Alternatives in 1994 as a joint venture with Ebony Financial Services, the first black accounting firm in South Africa. This company was renamed Ebony Consulting International and subsequently ECIAfrica.[2]

Following the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan and DAI was chosen to lead a variety of development projects in the midst of the counterinsurgency. A Philadelphia Inquirer journalist who visited one of DAI's projects in 2010 described it as a "model of success".[3] After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, DAI won a project to help provide effective governance in the country. Other projects in Iraq covering agriculture and the restoration of the Iraqi Marshlands were to follow.[4][5][6][7] For his work on the later project, DAI's Peter Reiss was awarded the Lourdes Arizpe award by the American Anthropological Association.[8] The company established DAI Palestine in 2004.

Following the Asian tsunami in December of that year DAI was recognized for its efforts in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka by then USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios in testimony before Congress: “In this environment, the international relief community, including USAID, the U.S. military, and other U.S. Government agencies, displayed remarkable ingenuity. Despite the great size and complexity of the response, flexibility became the rule of the day. A good example of this is the partnership between USAID and two of its partners, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Development Alternatives (DAI). Prior to the earthquake, humanitarian organizations were not permitted into Aceh province without express permission by the Government of Indonesia. Despite this restriction, IOM and DAI had managed to retain a strong relationship with provincial officials through a network of local staff in every district. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, USAID and other donors capitalized on these relationships by providing relief funding to IOM and DAI to immediately move relief commodities into Aceh from Medan on 80 trucks contracted by USAID/Indonesia.”[9]

In 2005 the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) became the sole owner of the company. The ESOP, a retirement plan in which all corporate employees are automatically enrolled, now represents hundreds of employees, none of whom owns more than 3 percent of the company.[9] In 2006, DAI was named Government Contractor of the year in an annual award sponsored by Washington Technology magazine, the Professional Service Council, and GovCon.

At the start of 2009, Boomgard succeeded Tony Barclay as DAI's new CEO and the company, launched new offices in Amman, Mexico City, and Islamabad. The next year, Julian Lob-Levyt—formerly CEO of the GAVI Alliance—joined the firm to lead its international operations from the London office, DAI was named the #1 company in the state of Maryland,[10] and the company celebrated its 40th birthday with a series of community events at its locations around the world, publishing a history of the company to mark the occasion. In his foreword to the book, Jim Boomgard looked ahead to the next chapter in DAI's history: "The next 10 years will determine whether we can make an American success story into a global success story. Over the next 10 years, we’ll execute a new strategy designed to bring our strengths, our experience, and our commitment to a changing and in many ways expanding landscape of international development—a landscape that will see more development driven from the ground up, more decision making in countries that have traditionally been the recipients of donor assistance, and a more diverse and influential array of local actors in the development arena."[2]

In 2011, DAI was named a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator, one of only 10 consulting firms so honored globally. The award was based on a poll of 100,000 Devex members, who comprise the world’s largest network of international development professionals.[11]


Clients of DAI include development agencies, international lending institutions, private corporations and philanthropies, and governments. Among them: United States Agency for International Development, European Commission, U.K. Department for International Development, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United States Department of Defense, United States Department of State, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid), World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Food Programme, Asian Development Bank, and various private companies and national governments.


On 26 September 2010, Linda Norgrove and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped in the Chawkay (aka Tsawkay, Sawkay) district of eastern Kunar Province. Ambushed by members of the Taliban on the main highway from Jalalabad to Asadabad, Norgrove and others were eventually taken into the Dewegal Valley within the Chowkai District by their captors.[12][13] Eventually, a rescue attempt was carried out by Navy SEALs, from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as Navy SEAL Team 6), a unit used for high-risk counter-terrorist operations. Norgorve was wounded in the action, received emergency medical treatment and was evacuated by helicopter, but died from her injuries.

In December 2009, Alan Phillip Gross was detained by Cuban authorities after attempting to distribute satellite communications equipment.[14] He was principal of a small business called JBDC, working as a subcontractor on a USAID project.[15] The Supreme Court of Cuba sentenced Gross to 15 years of imprisonment despite diplomatic pressure from high level American officials.[16][17]


Journalist Eva Golinger who publishes documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act claims that the DAI is a Central Intelligence Agency front organisation for their covert actions.[18] According to the Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch, former CIA officer Philip Agee has also suggested involvement by Development Alternatives Inc. in aiding opposition to President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.[19]

See also


  1. ^ [Developmentwork.Net (2010). SAID Top Vendors - Contractors and Grantees - FY 2010. Retrieved from http://www.developmentwork.net/resources/usaid-resources/206-usaid-top-vendors-contractors-and-grantees-fy-2010
  2. ^ a b c DAI. (2010). The first 40: A history of DAI. Source: http://www.dai.com/pdf/DAI-HISTORY-BOOK.pdf
  3. ^ Trudy Rubin, 05/02/2010. Successful model for foreign aid is IDEA-NEW, Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/trudy_rubin/Trudy_Rubin_Successful_model_for_foreign_aid_is_IDEA-NEW_.html
  4. ^ Naomi Lubick, Iraq's Marshes Renewed, Source: http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/oct03/feature_marshes.html
  5. ^ Economist, 02/24/2005. The Marshes of Southern Iraq: One-third of paradise, Source: http://www.economist.com/node/3690610
  6. ^ Michael Hopkin, 02/21/2005. Reflooding Bodes Well for Iraqi Marshes, Nature: http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050221/full/news050221-1.html
  7. ^ Curtis J. Richardson, Peter Reiss, Najah A. Hussain, Azzam J. Alwash and Douglas J. Pool, 02/25/2005. The Restoration Potential of the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq, Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5713/1307.abstract
  8. ^ American Anthropological Association, Source: http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/copapia/Arizpe.cfm
  9. ^ a b Congressional Testimony of Adnrew S. Natsios, USAID Administrator, on US relief efforts to tsunami-affected countries Source: http://reliefweb.int/node/164652
  10. ^ Gazette of Politics and Business, Source: http://ww2.gazette.net/PB53/
  11. ^ Pauline Zalkin, 03/23/2011. Employee Ownership and Development Innovation go Hand in Hand, Source: http://www.devex.com/en/blogs/innovators-blog/dai
  12. ^ "Rescuers may have killed hostage". BBC. 11 October 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11514010. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  13. ^ "NATO Probes Death Of Aid Worker In Afghanistan". NPR. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130494358. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  14. ^ Goldstein, B. (2010). What was Alan Gross Doing in Havana?. AOL Politics Daily. Retrieved from http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/11/what-was-alan-gross-doing-in-havana/
  15. ^ Haven, Paul. (2011). American Contractor found Guilty in Cuba. Associated Press. Source:http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/12/2111927/american-contractor-found-guilty.html
  16. ^ Ukman, J. (2011) Cuba rejects appeal of U.S. Contractor. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/cuba-rejects-appeal-of-us-contractor-alan-gross/2011/08/05/gIQAfT0ewI_blog.html
  17. ^ Padgett, T. (2011). The Alan Gross Affair: The US and Cuba Begin Their Dysfunctional Diplomatic Dance. Time. Retrieved from http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/08/09/the-alan-gross-affair-the-u-s-and-cuba-begin-their-dysfunctional-diplomatic-dance/
  18. ^ Golinger, E. (2009). CIA Agent Captured in Cuba. Centre for Research on Globalisation. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16533
  19. ^ SourceWatch. (2011). Agee on NED Interview. Center for Media and Democracy. Retrieved from Retrieved from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Agee_on_NED_interview

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