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DAI was incorporated in 1970 as Development Alternatives, Inc. The founders, all of whom had worked overseas in the 1960s, chose that name because they thought they could bring fresh alternatives and innovations to the way development was being done. That spirit remains essential to DAI, but over the decades we have come to be known just as often by the acronym, and in recent years for the sake of brevity and consistency we have opted to present ourselves simply as DAI.
We tackle fundamental social and economic development problems caused by inefficient markets, ineffective governance, and instability. And we do this by bringing together fresh combinations of expertise and innovation across multiple disciplines—crisis mitigation and stability operations, democratic governance and public sector management, agriculture and agribusiness, private sector development and financial services, economics and trade, HIV/AIDS and disease control, water and natural resources management, and energy and climate change.
DAI is a company, wholly owned by its employees. Our founders were determined to live or die as an enterprise, offering services on a competitive, cost-effective, best-value basis that is self-sustaining because it is profitable. They created a business model that would embrace the rigors of the marketplace—competition and innovation—plough its returns back into the organization and its people, and grow a company to serve as an engine for progress in the developing world. Competition is at the heart of this vision. We compete for 99 percent of our projects, going head to head with companies, nongovernmental organizations, and other service providers. For DAI, open competition keeps us sharp and tests our claims to quality and value. For our clients, for taxpayers, and for development as a whole, competition yields lower costs, better value, superior technical innovation, and more diverse technical choices.
DAI is wholly owned by its employees. All global corporate employees may invest in the firm, and more than 80 percent have done so. In 2016, at the annual conference of the Global Equity Organization (GEO), an organization dedicated to advancing understanding of employee share plans, DAI’s plan won the award for Best Use of a Share Plan in a Private Company. “DAI has raised the bar in achieving its corporate objectives and inclusively engaging its workforce as owners,” wrote GEO.
Given the churn of projects and the mix of long- and short-term assignments, this is a moving target. But as of January 2017, we employ approximately 3000 people worldwide, more than 70 percent of them local staff.
In terms of consultants, we tap an in-house database of more than 60,000 highly qualified individuals. Organizational partners vary from country to country, assignment to assignment, but all told we work with more than 200 institutional collaborators.
Our visual identity is built around our colors—brown, green, and blue—and the DAI logo, a flag. Brown stands for foundations and speaks to the fact that we try to strengthen the social, political, and economic roots from which stability, equity, and prosperity can grow. Green stands for results—the fruit of the work we deliver. Blue stands for aspirations, both our goals as a company and the vision our clients and beneficiaries hold for their own future. We chose the flag because we wanted an emblem we could put on any DAI deliverable anywhere in the world that would say we stand by this and take ownership of it.
As a rule, no. Typically we implement programs funded by international donors, national governments, private corporations, or major philanthropies. As part of those programs, we very often are charged with overseeing and disbursing program funds in support of civil society organizations, local institutions, or programs with development-oriented goals, but those disbursements are invariably on a local, program-by-program basis. That said, we do sponsor a service award for DAI employees who volunteer in their communities.