Grooming Young Graduates as Committed Development Professionals: Dhan Academy and the Dilemma of Doing Well By Doing Good
DHAN was a non-government organization (NGO) with a difference. It was neither a philanthropic institution 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 by 2017. It had touched the lives of 1.5 million households during the course of its nearly 20-year journey and was poised to reach out to another one million households over the next five years. While DHAN initially drove two major thematic interventions to combat poverty, namely, community banking and water management, it made forays into several other domains such as healthcare, education and livelihood generation over a period of time in response to the dynamic requirements of the community of beneficiaries. This case focuses on the story of DHAN's foray into education; more specifically, its pioneering initiative to create an innovative model of management education, which was distinctly oriented to the needs of the development sector. It traces the genesis and evolution of Tata-DHAN Academy (TDA), the process of institution building and the steady and gradual unfolding of its educational model. Finally, the case homes in on the strategic dilemma TDA faces after an eventful 17-year journey, as it stands on the threshold of a new phase, and captures the complexity of the challenges it could encounter going forward.