DHAN was a non-government organization with a difference. It was neither a philanthropic organization nor a service organization but a development organization focused on grassroots development aided by professional management. At the same time, it had a clear vision of being only an enabling institution rather than a directing agency. Dedicated to the mission of poverty eradication through grassroots development action, DHAN had made a significant impact on the Indian scene in the years since its inception in 1997. By 2017, it had touched the lives of 1.5 million households and was poised to reach out to another one million households over the next five years.
In its mission to combat poverty, DHAN initially employed two major thematic interventions, namely, community banking and water management. However, over a period of time, it forayed into several other domains such as healthcare, education and livelihood generation in response to the dynamic requirements of its community of beneficiaries, specifically, the marginalized and the poorest of the poor in India.
This case explores the theme of sustainable livelihoods and how interventions in this sphere need to be viewed and managed in an integrated manner with a conscious focus on the conservation of the larger ecosystem in which they are embedded. The case describes DHAN’s various initiatives and interventions in the sustainable livelihoods arena, the challenges it encountered along the way and its innovative responses to those challenges.
1. To communicate powerfully to the participants the contemporary relevance and criticality of the theme of creating sustainable livelihoods in the world, especially in countries buffeted by endemic poverty, frequent natural disasters and a shrinking natural resource base.
2. To bring out the strong interactions between climate change, global emissions, coastal conservation and livelihoods, and highlight the need to view them in a systemic perspective rather than as independent and isolated problems to be addressed separately.
3. To demonstrate how, sometimes, a fortuitous foray into an uncharted domain can be utilized as an entry point to expand or diversify into a new area where the organization can make a potential and worthwhile contribution, while sticking to its core competencies, principles and broad organizational purpose and mission.
4. To offer the insight that an organization can always find innovative means of identifying and nurturing eco-friendly initiatives in every sphere, provided there is an alert consciousness of and sensitivity to their importance.