Academy for Educational Development: A Catalyst for Change in Learning

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) was an American non-profit organization founded in 1961 that focused on promoting education and health in the United States and around the world. AED worked in all major areas of international development, including education, health, gender equality, youth development, environment and climate change, governance, and economic opportunity.

Early projects focused on education and youth development in the United States and technical assistance for developing countries. AED quickly expanded into other areas related to social change and human development globally.

Over its 50-year history, AED implemented over 500 projects in 150 countries, working in partnership with local communities, nonprofit partners, and governments. The organization was known for its role in designing, testing, and scaling up innovative development approaches. AED closed in 2011, but its initiatives and partnerships have continued through successor organizations.

Founding and Early Years

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) was founded in 1961 by Dr. Irwin T. Sanders in Washington D.C. as a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing critical social issues through education, health, and economic development programs.

Dr. Sanders served as the president of AED for 30 years, establishing it as a major institution for international development during the Cold War era. In the 1960s and 70s, AED focused on education projects in developing countries, providing teacher training, curriculum development, and vocational education programs. Key early projects included education programs in Brazil, Liberia, Colombia, and the Philippines.

AED was an early pioneer in leveraging research and evaluation to inform program design and implementation. From the beginning, the organization emphasized monitoring, assessment, and learning as core components of its programs. This evidence-based approach became a hallmark of AED’s programs and allowed the organization to develop innovative solutions to pressing development challenges.

Mission and Focus

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) was a non-profit organization founded in 1961 that focused on addressing inequities in education, health, and economic opportunity across the United States and around the world.

AED’s mission statement was:

To improve education and health, increase economic opportunities, and encourage civic participation and democratic reform in developing and transitioning countries as well as neglected areas in the United States.

Some of AED’s main focus areas included:

  • Improving access to quality education for underserved children and youth
  • Training teachers and education leaders
  • Designing curricula and education reforms
  • Implementing community health programs
  • Promoting social inclusion and civic engagement
  • Supporting economic growth through enterprise development
  • Harnessing technology for development
  • Strengthening civil society organizations

AED aimed to develop sustainable solutions to entrenched social problems by working collaboratively with local partners and communities. The organization placed a strong emphasis on research, evaluation, and utilizing evidence-based approaches in its programs.

Programs and Initiatives

The Academy for Educational Development implemented a wide array of programs and initiatives over its 50-year history aimed at improving education, health, and economic opportunity worldwide. Some examples of major AED programs and initiatives include:

  • The Basic Education and Policy Support (BEPS) Activity, a USAID-funded program operating from 1991 to 2011 that worked to improve early grade reading in national languages in several African countries.

  • The Health and Human Resources Analysis for Africa (HHRAA) project, which worked to strengthen health workforce information and planning in sub-Saharan Africa from 2006 to 2011.

  • The Global Learning Group, launched in 1997, which worked to improve early childhood care and education in over 30 countries.

  • The Global Technology Corps program, launched in 2000, which sent volunteer technology professionals to work with local partners in developing countries on projects aimed at bridging the digital divide.

  • The Leadership, Management and Sustainability (LMS) Program, funded by USAID, ExxonMobil and Chevron from 2003-2008, which worked to strengthen organizational capacity and sustainability of local civil society organizations.

Reach and Impact

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) had a broad and influential reach during its nearly 50 years of operation. The organization worked in over 150 countries, collaborating with local partners to improve education, health, civil society, and economic development around the world.

Some key examples of AED’s international reach and impact include:

  • Working in dozens of African countries on education, health, governance, and economic growth initiatives. Major partnerships included Education for All in Namibia, improving teaching quality in South Africa, and launching the Leaders of Tomorrow program across Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Implementing large-scale education reform projects in Asian countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Initiatives focused on curriculum development, teacher training, education policy, and building local capacity.

  • Partnering with organizations across Latin America on education, health, and civil society programs. Work included improving bilingual education in the Andes, promoting adolescent health in Brazil, and strengthening local groups in Colombia.

  • Collaborating with the MENA region on education, entrepreneurship, civil society, and women’s empowerment programs. Partners included government agencies, schools, non-profits, and community organizations.

  • Working with key international organizations like the World Bank, USAID, and UN agencies on major global development initiatives around the world.

Through these partnerships and projects, AED reached millions of students, teachers, health workers, government officials, civil society groups, and other key stakeholders. Its work empowered individuals and strengthened local capacity for ongoing change. While the organization is now closed, its impact continues through the people, communities, and countries transformed by its efforts over nearly five decades.

Leadership and Staff

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) had many notable leaders and staff members over its nearly five decades of operation.

Some of the key leaders included:

  • Stephen Moseley – Moseley served as President and CEO of AED for over 20 years, from 1982 to 2002. He helped transform AED from a small organization to one with 3,000 staff members working in 150 countries.

  • Charles T. Ireland, Jr. – Ireland was the founding president of AED, serving from 1961 to 1982. He was instrumental in establishing AED’s mission and approach focused on human development and social change.

  • Irene Zola – Zola became President of AED in 2002 after Moseley. She helped lead the organization until its closure in 2011. Under her leadership, AED expanded initiatives in global health, education, and social change.

  • Daniel C. Walsh – Walsh served as AED’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer starting in 2003. He helped manage AED’s worldwide operations across numerous programs and initiatives.

Some notable senior staff and fellows included:

  • Evangeline Javier – As Vice President and Director of AED’s Center for School and Community Services, Javier oversaw many major education programs.

  • Elaine Murphy – Murphy served as Vice President of AED’s International Education Division which managed education projects in over 30 countries.

  • Jeffrey Puryear – Puryear worked as a senior fellow at AED focusing on education reform and workforce development programs.

AED employed many other accomplished professionals and leaders who helped drive its mission and expand its programming globally. The organization’s staff was known for expertise in international development, education, health, technology, and research.


AED has partnered with many prominent organizations over the years to further its mission and expand its impact. Some of the major partnerships include:

  • USAID: AED has collaborated with the United States Agency for International Development on education, health, democracy, environment, and economic growth programs worldwide. This includes initiatives like the Leadership, Management and Sustainability program to strengthen leadership capacity.

  • World Bank: Working with the World Bank, AED has provided technical expertise and support for education projects across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. This includes the Education For All Fast Track Initiative to accelerate progress on education goals.

  • UNICEF: In partnership with UNICEF, AED has worked to improve early childhood development and education access for marginalized children globally. Initiatives have ranged from community schools in Egypt to inclusive education for children with disabilities.

  • PEPFAR: AED has partnered with PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to strengthen the impact of HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care programs in over 30 countries. AED provides training, capacity building and technical expertise.

  • Nike Foundation: AED and Nike collaborated on the Girl Effect initiative, using communication platforms and grassroots programs to empower adolescent girls in developing countries through education and opportunity.

Through these partnerships and more, AED has expanded its reach and furthered its mission of improving education, health, civil society and economic opportunity around the world. The partnerships have enabled AED to implement large-scale, meaningful programs worldwide.

Recognition and Awards

The Academy for Educational Development received numerous awards and recognition for its innovative work and impact in international development. Some of the major awards AED received include:

  • The Chairman’s Call to Service Award from the CNCS in 2006 for making outstanding contributions in answering President Bush’s Call to Service.

  • The Fast Company Social Capitalist Award in 2005 for innovative and impactful social entrepreneurship. AED was consistently ranked in the top 25.

  • The Wise Giving Alliance met Charity Standards from the Better Business Bureau starting in 2004, indicating transparency and commitment to accountability.

  • The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership in 2002 for pioneering work in leadership development in the social sector.

AED’s culture of excellence, innovation and commitment to education and development led to widespread recognition and numerous prestigious awards over the years. Its impact changed lives worldwide.


In 2011, after nearly 50 years of operation, the Academy for Educational Development (AED) abruptly closed down. The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit had been a leader in international education, health, and economic development, but was forced to cease operations due to financial troubles.

AED had accumulated a substantial amount of debt in the years leading up to its closure. The 2008 economic recession had significantly impacted AED’s funding sources, as many government agencies and private foundations cut back on grants and contracts. Additionally, USAID funding delays created cash flow problems for AED.

In an effort to reduce costs and repay debts, AED made significant staff and program cuts in 2010 and 2011. However, these measures proved inadequate. In March 2011, AED announced it was closing immediately and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Overnight, nearly 2,000 staff members in 100 countries lost their jobs.

The sudden shutdown of such a large and renowned organization sent shockwaves through the international development community. Many questioned how an organization like AED could collapse so abruptly. There were concerns about the continuity of AED’s programs and impact on beneficiaries.

Ultimately, the closure highlighted the financial vulnerabilities of nonprofits relying heavily on government grants and contracts. For AED, the perfect storm of recession-era funding cuts, cash flow issues, and accumulated debts over decades proved insurmountable. The once-thriving organization was forced to cease operations within a matter of months.


AED left behind a strong legacy of international development work and educational programming that continues to have an impact today. Though the organization itself closed in 2012, many of the programs and partnerships it pioneered during its nearly 50 years of operation live on.

Some of AED’s most influential work focused on improving early childhood education and literacy rates in developing countries. Initiatives like the Early Grade Reading Assessment helped strengthen reading instruction and assessment in over 40 countries. AED also worked extensively on education policy reform, teacher training programs, and public-private partnerships to support education in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Educational resources and curricula developed by AED continue to be used by schools, nonprofits, and governments worldwide.

In the health sector, AED made strides in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and destigmatization. The organization worked closely with PEPFAR and local partners to expand HIV services and support vulnerable populations. AED also developed health training programs, communication campaigns, and technologies that increased healthcare access across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Beyond direct programming, AED served as an incubator and support system for a network of over 150 alumni who went on to leadership roles in global development. It provided connections, resources, and professional development opportunities that helped shape and advance the field.

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