The We for Village Alliance

How a network of rural entrepreneurs was supported by global partners to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in rural India.

COVID-19 has impacted every corner of the world. With more developed areas like cities, struggling to cope even with their existing infrastructure and support, rural areas are being hit hardest

Necessary government actions, such as lockdowns, have hit business and households hard.

Fake information and news have also spread due to panic and uncertainty

Examples of Fake News

In March 2020, COVID-19 hit India leading to the spread
of fear and misinformation in rural regions

Dharma Life Labs interviewed a number of the 139 million
internal migrant workers to learn about their displacement
due to lockdowns across the country…

“... work had stopped and they locked us up in a room. We had to call the police to make them let us go. Then we walked for days with limited food just to get home.”

- Migrant Worker, Bihar

… and surveyed our network of rural entrepreneurs which revealed
concerns about their finances and their child’s education


16,000 DLEs who are often seen as community leaders and are willing to help


A combination of purpose-built tech and public tools that allow implementation at scale


A global group of corporates, foundations, governments, academics, multilaterals and more

The Dharma Life Entrepreneurs (DLEs) were eager to help the
communities in their villages at this unprecedented time.
How could we maximise our collective strength?

Dharma Life started the We for Village Alliance, known in the
villages as Sangram, to repurpose the network of DLEs into a crisis
response network to address COVID-19 challenges

The response activities were organised under the four levers
of We for Village, each powered by DL ONE (Dharma Life’s
customised technology platform)


Real-time, two-way communication (e.g. through WhatsApp). Messages cover: Urgent COVID-Response, Behaviour change for aiding recovery, Building resilience


Analyze challenges at a hyperlocal/human level & monitor activity impact. Use insights to design and iterate and disseminate programs


Map demand and supply in villages and use existing DL distribution infrastructure to deliver and collect essential goods


Enable access to skills needed to survive and thrive. Provide access and guidance to securing means of livelihood to build resilience and future response capacity


COVID & Health Surveys

DLEs who have left the house increased from 14% to 43% from April to September. Most are buying food, working or visiting family.

Non-Monetary Consumption

"During lockdown, there was more difficulty as the availability of things and essentials were not easily available. Affluent and large size landholders help out the laborers whilst a barter system exists for excess produce."


5% of rural retailers are closed permanently and 20% of rural retailers are closed temporarily during COVID-19

Migrant Worker

"Even before lockdown, we were overburdened with work. I plan to find work in my village now.”

We implemented deep dive research studies into rural retailers,
migrant workers and non-monetary consumption…


Truck Series

A striking digital media campaign to teach COVID-19 preventative measures


Total # of whatsapp groups


A participatory art campaign to build collective unity


Total # of beneficiaries reached

…and we encouraged our entrepreneurs to create community WhatsApp groups to share
COVID-19 symptoms and preventative measures, and run behavioural change campaigns.


We distributed essential goods through the existing Dharma Life
infrastructure across 13 states…


Mask making


… and started a number of skilling programs including mask making
courses to address the immediate COVID-19 threat and Jaya, a long-term
plan to increase female participation in the workforce

Research specific DLE cohort

Dynamic, live reporting dashboards

Digitize and rollout communication campaigns on full range of Dharma Life SDG targets

App based sales with demand aggregation

Digital payments & financing offering

Thriving community of DLE owned businesses

Sustainable livelihoods for rural Indians

The We for Village Alliance has made a promising start but there is so
much more to do in the coming months and years

The We for Village Alliance brings together a network of incredible
global partners who provide the expertise, funding and skills needed
to accomplish our goals.