The Centre for Development Studies and Activities (CDSA) was established in August 1976, registered as a non-profit Trust and Society under the relevant Acts of 1860 and 1950 respectively in India.

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.