Background to DSAI

Together we face an increasingly fragile and uncertain future. If the experience of the last two plus years has taught us anything, it is that societal challenges are global, systemic and have consequences for us all. Addressing the causes and consequences of poverty and hunger, climate justice, shrinking civil society space, disasters, violent conflict and gender inequality are international development concerns of direct relevance and consequence to us all. The shared salience of these issues highlights a blurring of boundaries, undermines comfortable dichotomies of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and reinforces the urgency of decolonising the ways in which we describe and analyse the world, understand how best to address challenges and organise ourselves to act in effective ways.
For international development researchers, practitioners and policy makers, recognising the ubiquity of these shared challenges comes with an understanding that inter-related social, economic and political processes do not impact everyone in the same way. Patterns of vulnerability and resilience differ across blurring but still salient boundaries, both between and within countries, communities and households, with life-altering and life-threatening consequences for the most vulnerable.

It is against this background that the Development Studies Association of Ireland (DSAI) continues to come together to provide shared space for development researchers, practitioners and policy makers based in and/or associated with Ireland to engage, exchange and debate in order to support a better future for all. Together, we aim to support a dynamic and proactive development community producing critical and challenging perspectives on development.

DSAI was formed in 2012 as an independent national association representing development studies in Ireland. Established as an unincorporated association, DSAI is governed by an elected steering committee whose powers and duties are set out in a written constitution. DSAI is a network of individual international development scholars, practitioners and policy makers from across the higher education, governmental and non-governmental organisation and policy sectors that come together to achieve a concentration of learning, reflection, knowledge exchange and influencing that no one Irish institution or organisation can achieve alone. DSAI is supported by contributions from members and from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and NGOs. DSAI has a well-established and broad system of alliances across the international development sector in Ireland and runs key strategic public events each year, including an annual conference, a summer school and numerous study group seminars. These meet the needs of DSAI members and the broader international development community by providing a space for research dissemination and high-quality debate on key issues in development studies theory and practice.


Our Vision is the creation of a vibrant and innovative development studies community, which focuses on cutting edge research, contributing to the reduction of poverty, inequality and vulnerability in the world.

Our Mission

Our Mission is to provide a national platform, which provides an open and participatory space for dialogue between researchers, policy-makers and practitioners, who have an interest in, or are working in the area of international development. We achieve this by 

  • Supporting cohesion and capacity-building in the development studies sector;
  • Promoting strategic alliances and partnerships to grow the development studies sector;
  • Harnessing research which supports and promotes coherent evidence-based development policy and practice aimed at the reduction of global poverty, the enhancement of all forms of equality and respect for human rights.

Through dialogue and engagement we strive to live up to our values, which include a shared commitment to integral human development within planetary limits, poverty reduction and attainment of UN sustainable development goals, being inclusive, reflexive and self-critical in our approach to learning and being supportive of debate, difference and the respectful exchange of views. We also believe that development research should be southern driven, respectful of individuals and communities, support the empowerment of women and other excluded groups in setting and implementing the agenda through participatory approaches without unduly raising expectations, that development researchers should adopt a ‘do no harm’ approach working in partnership with communities and agencies, respecting their independence and the integrity of the research and adherence to ethical guidelines targeting the practical needs of social action and transformation.

Organisational Structure and Individual Members

DSAI is an independent all-Ireland association of researchers, scholars, policymakers and practitioners working in the area of international development. It is a membership-based and membership-driven association with the following affiliates: individual members, institutional members, honorary members and subscribers. You can read more in Our Constitution here.

One year individal membership is currently offered as part of the Annual Conference fee. Individual members are eligible to stand for election and serve on DSAI’s Steering Committee and have the right to vote at any general meeting of the Association. Subscribing members pay no fee and hold no voting rights.

The Annual General Meeting of DSA Ireland is the sovereign body of the Association, electing the Steering Committee and agreeing to any substantial change in strategy. The AGM is held annual as part of the Annual Conference proceedings and elects a Steering Committee, comprising of up to 10 members, who in turn elect the officers of the Association, namely a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer for a term of two years. These officers can be re-elected for an additional 2-year term, with the exception of the Chair who will only serve for one 2-year term.

The management of DSA Ireland rests with the Steering Committee, which will meet on a bi-monthly basis. All members of the Steering Committee carry responsibility for specific briefs or portfolios contributing to the overall strategic development of DSA Ireland and to deliver on its commitments. The Steering Committee can co-opt two further members as required to meet the work commitments of the Association. The DSAI Steering Committee actively welcomes engagement by the membership and all ideas and initiatives that contribute to advancing the vision, mission and goals of the Association.

In between Steering Committee meetings, day to day management will rest with a Secretariat comprising of the DSA Ireland Officers (Chair, Secretary and Treasurer) and the Coordinator. If urgent decisions are required an electronic poll will involve the Steering Committee. Its work will, at all times, be guided by the Strategy of the Association.

Strategic Plan

In light of COVID-19, the DSAI Strategic Plan (2017-2019) was extended to 2021, with operational level workplans progressing in line with the organisation's annual planning and funding cycles. A structured process for the development of a new Strategic Plan took place 2021-2022 and was approved at an EGM meeting in September 2022. The strategic planning process consulted with stakeholders and took stock of the impacts of the pandemic to inform a revitalised strategic focus, priorities and ambitions for 2022-2027.

DSAI Strategic Plan 2022-2027 

DSAI Strategic Plan 2017-2019 [PDF
Previous strategic plan 2014-2016 [PDF].


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