Top global development groups in Washington, DC: A primer

By Rolf Rosenkranz 21 September 2011

In international development, it’s hard to bypass Washington. Because it is home to some of the world’s most generous bilateral and multilateral donors, dozens of implementing agencies have taken root in the U.S. capital and its surroundings as well.

The city’s Dupont Circle area boasts what may be the highest concentration of nonprofits and think tanks anywhere, with groups such as the Center for Global Development, Brookings Institution, Aspen Institute, United Nations Foundation, Freedom House and, a few blocks north, the D.C. offices of FHI 360.

Downtown, Pennsylvania Ave. connects the U.S. Congress with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the White House and nearby Millennium Challenge Corp. The Department of State is just a short cab ride away near the Potomac River and historic Georgetown, an affluent neighborhood with fancy shops and eateries that is a government favorite.

In the triangle between U.S. Capitol, White House and Dupont Circle are two major multilaterals, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Many major implementing NGOs and consultancies, meanwhile, are based outside the District of Columbia’s borders in Virginia and Maryland, including Bethesda (DAI, Abt Associates), Arlington (AECOM, PA Consulting, Development & Training Services Inc., International Business Initiatives), Alexandria (Grant Thornton), Silver Spring (CHF International) and McLean (Booz Allen Hamilton). Catholic Relief Services is headquartered in Baltimore, a 45-minute train ride from D.C.’s Union Station.

Here are some of the largest development-focused organizations in Washington, D.C., based on staff estimates:


Type: NGO
Founded: 1963
President and CEO: Carl H. Leonard

ACDI/VOCA aims to promote broad-based economic growth and help develop civil society in emerging economies and developing countries. It offers technical assistance in five areas: agribusiness, enterprise development, financial services, community development and food security. It has 103 active projects in 40 countries and employs more than 1,500 in the United States and overseas. ACDI/VOCA implements 300-400 technical consulting assignments each year.


Type: consultancy
Founded: 1975
President and CEO: Richard Dreiman

Chemonics designs and implements projects in agriculture, conflict and disaster management, democracy and governance, education, energy, environmental management, financial services, gender, health, and private sector development. This ISO 9001-certified company has experience working in 135 countries. It currently holds the most live USAID indefinite quantity contracts, with 14.

Creative Associates International

Type: consultancy
Founded: 1977
President and CEO: M. Charito Kruvant

Creative is the second-largest women-owned company working with the U.S. government. It has a regional office in Kenya and field offices in 15 other countries. Its president, M. Charito Kruvant, is the chairwoman of the Coalition of International Development Companies, which brings together 51 companies seeking to better highlight their role in U.S. international development initiatives and have a bigger voice in development-focused debates.

Inter-American Development Bank

Type: multilateral donor
Founded: 1959
President: Luis Alberto Moreno

IDB is a multilateral development bank serving Latin America and the Caribbean. It provides grants and technical assistance as well as performs research. The bank has 48 member shareholders, including 26 borrowing members from the region, which also have a majority ownership of the bank. It affirms a strong commitment to measurable results, increased integrity, transparency and accountability.

International Resources Group

Type: consultancy
Founded: 1978
President: Asif M. Shaikh

IRG has completed more than 850 contracts in 140 countries, working with governments, U.N. agencies, multilateral and bilateral donors, non-governmental organizations, and other companies. Its areas of specialization: economics, resources, relief and reconstruction, governance, and capacity development. It has ISO 14001 certification, a recognition of its effective environmental management system.

Millennium Challenge Corp.

Type: bilateral donor
Founded: 2004
CEO: Daniel Yohannes

MCC is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency that partners with developing countries that it regards to be committed to good governance, economic freedom and investments in their people. It awards large, five-year grants to countries that it has signed compacts with. It likewise extends smaller grants to countries that come close to meeting MCC compact eligibility criteria and strongly commit to improving their policy performance.


Type: NGO
Founded: 1971
President and CEO: Mark Viso

Pact offers training, technical assistance and mentoring to build stronger grassroots organizations. Over the past two years, it has implemented more than 100 projects in at least 60 countries, focusing on democracy and governance, HIV/AIDS, livelihood, natural resource management and peace building. Pact also performs grant management, and over the past 17 years, it has managed more than $350 million in subgrants from USAID and other donors. Grant awards may be as little as $1,000 to as high as $5 million.

Population Services International

Type: NGO
Founded: 1970
President and CEO: Karl Hofmann

PSI offers lifesaving products, clinical services and behavior change communications, with a focus on malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health. It has a presence in 67 countries and operates a European office in Amsterdam. In 2009, PSI, a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator, reported revenues of $524 million.

U.S. Agency for International Development

Type: bilateral donor
Founded: 1961
Administrator: Rajiv Shah

USAID, which celebrates its golden jubilee in 2011, is the world’s largest bilateral donor. It is an independent U.S. federal government agency receiving overall foreign policy guidance from the U.S. secretary of state. Its work focuses on the following areas: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.

World Bank

Type: multilateral donor
Founded: 1944
President: Jim Yong Kim

The World Bank comprises the International Development Association and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and is part of the broader World Bank Group. It is the premier institution providing financial and technical assistance to developing countries. Its mission is “fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors.”

Other notable global development groups in the D.C. metro area include:


Membership groups and coalitions


Think tanks

Volunteer-sending organizations

Eliza Villarino contributed to this report.

Did we forget any major aid organization based in the D.C. metro area? Please let us know by placing your comments below.

About the author

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Rolf RosenkranzRolfRosenkranz

Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.

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