CDSA began its activities in 1976 when planning meant physical town planning and management meant commercial management. CDSA was and remains the pioneer institution which proposes that learning must be field based, in micro contexts and using local institutions which are self organized and self managed. CDSA has always proposed a rational balance between the roles of government and private entities, and remains the only social science research institute in South-Central Asia to be independent of government finance and control.

The focus of CDSA has always been on poverty alleviation, equality and sustainable development, and how these three goals integrate into development strategies. CDSA students not only undergo a rigorous academic programme, but are also immersed in selected field exposures where sensitization, knowledge accumulation and testing hypothesis are in the "laboratory of life". In the same vein the research, training and action projects are field based policy experiments with the people who are undergoing transitions in the development process.
CDSA is a multi-disciplinary research and training body addressing itself to problems of poverty and environment in the development process both in rural and urban contexts. With a greater emphasis placed on decentralisation, participatory decision making, Gramsabha and Wards Committees as primary statutory decision making bodies, district level, block level and watershed planning, there is a shortage of trained professionals. SDP (School of Developement and Planning) sponsored by CDSA, is concerned with filling up this gap by creating a cadre of professionals who have the skills, knowledge and sensitivities in the areas of planned change at the local level. This is a unique University level Masters Degree Course of its kind in the country. While focussing on rural and regional development, it emphasizes the inter-disciplinary nature of critical issues (social, economic, political, environmental and technical) pertaining to planning and development.


CDSA is located on the south-western fringe of Pune in Maharashtra, about eight kilometers from the heart of the city, near Bavdhan village, on a plateau of a hill overlooking the panorama of the Sahyadri mountains.

Historically, Pune city’s origin can be traced back to more than 1500 years. Over the years Punwadi village has developed into the city of Pune which has come to be considered as an important seat of learning, a cultural and industrial centre, and a market of industrial and agricultural commodities. Thus it has become the number two city (1991 population : 2.5 million) of Maharashtra, one of the most developed states in India. Pune is also the army headquarters of India’s Southern Command.

Pune is a city of institutions - ranging from colleges to research institutes - in varied fields such as Education, Economics, Armaments, Agricultural Research, Cooperative Movement, Bank Management, Computer Engineering, Development Administration and other branches of advanced learning.